With the right tools and a little bit of practice, anyone can learn how to write calligraphy. In today’s video (and its accompanying article), I’ll walk you through the top eight pointed pen calligraphy beginner mistakes and how to avoid them. Whether you’re starting with the wrong supplies or struggling to hold the pen correctly,…
Calligraphy is a beautiful art form that requires patience, practice, and the right tools. If you’re just starting out with pointed pen calligraphy, though, there are a few common beginner mistakes that will hinder your progress. Today, let’s discuss the top eight pointed pen calligraphy beginner mistakes — and, importantly, how to avoid them.
1. Starting with the Wrong Supplies
One of the most common mistakes beginners make is starting with the wrong supplies. It is tempting to buy the cheapest set of calligraphy pens and ink you can find, but that almost always results in frustration and poor results. Instead, invest in supplies that will ensure your success! You can find a list of the best pointed pen calligraphy beginner supplies here. (If you haven’t watched the video that goes with this article yet, I encourage you to do so! In it, I try out a generic calligraphy kit that was purchased on Amazon.)
Using poor quality paper for pointed pen calligraphy can result in feathering, bleeding, and unpleasant writing. Look for paper that is smooth, has minimal texture, and is thick enough to handle the ink without bleeding through. My pick for practice is 32# HP Premium Laserjet. It’s nice to use that economical loose-leaf paper because it’s perfect for printing worksheets or blank page freestyle practice. You can also buy a premium paper pad like Rhodia, Tomoe River, or Clairefontaine.
3. Not Holding the Pen Correctly
A common mistake beginners make is trying to write with the pointed pen like it’s a regular pen. Pointed pens require a specific grip and angle to achieve the desired effect. Hold the pen at a 45-degree angle and use light pressure on upstrokes and heavier pressure on downstrokes. Remember that the pen shouldn’t wiggle as you write. Your hand, wrist, forearm, and elbow do all the work. The pen is just along for the ride!
Short term, dipping your nib too far in ink and water can result in excess ink on your paper. Long term, that ink and/or water cause damage to your pointed pen holder. Try not to dip your nib in ink past the reservoir (the hole in the center of the nib), and shake off excess ink before starting to write. When you go to clean off the nib, only let water interact with the nib up until the point that you dipped your nib in ink. In short: only the nib should interact with any sort of liquid. No water nor ink should ever enter the pen.
5. Not Practicing in a Way That Works for You
Calligraphy practice is not a one-size-fits-all sort of thing. You have to experiment to find the right practice for you. For some people, that will mean writing alphabet letters over and over again in a calligraphy worksheet. Others might find calligraphy drills more engaging. Still others may prefer making calligraphy-focused projects. It’s all about finding joy in your calligraphy creation. The more fun you have, the more likely you are to practice. The more you practice, the more your skills increase. It’s a gratifying cycle!
6. Being Impatient
Improving your calligraphy skills takes time and patience. Don’t expect to see progress at an exponential rate. Instead, focus on small improvements and celebrate your successes along the way. Remember, if pointed pen calligraphy were easy, then everyone would do it. No one would think twice about seeing a pretty envelope or an elegant invitation! I have a vital tip for you: take progress photos. Otherwise, you likely won’t notice how much improvement you’re making.
As you become comfortable using your calligraphy supplies, you may find that you need to tweak them to make them work for you. Many inks start to become viscous and need to be diluted with water, for example. If you’re using an oblique pen and can’t exert balanced pressure on your nib, you might need to adjust the flange (as shown in this video). One vital tweak includes prepping new nibs for use. In short: don’t be scared of your supplies. Remember that your supplies are here to work for you, not vice versa!
8. Writing Too Quickly
For most people, calligraphy’s appeal lies in the mindfulness it requires. Calligraphy necessitates slowing down, concentrating, and detaching from distractions — an experience that has us pointed pen enthusiasts hooked! As a beginner, however, it’s common to try to write calligraphy quickly, as though it’s everyday handwriting. Resist the urge to rush. Instead, take your time to focus on the pressure you’re exerting on the pen. If you don’t, you’ll end up with uneven strokes and a messy result.
Learning pointed pen calligraphy can be a journey filled with ups and downs. But, armed with the knowledge of these common beginner mistakes, you’re better prepared to avoid those pesky pitfalls. Keep honing your skills, keep practicing, and watch as your calligraphy (literally) flourishes!