How To Learn Calligraphy in 5 Easy Steps

Posted on March 11, 2017 by Arvind Saxena •

fountain-pen-447576_1920Many people admire the beauty of calligraphy and enjoy doing calligraphy. It's no wonder why they do!

Calligraphy is a wonderful outlet for artistic expression and also an extremely enjoyable hobby because it is deeply therapeutic and meditative. Not to mention that you can create stunning calligraphy masterpieces that impress your friends or which can be given as gifts too!

But... Calligraphy is really difficult to learn, right?


In fact, it can't be further from the truth. Calligraphy is simple, fun and easy if you know the exact steps to learn it. In fact, you can discover how to learn calligraphy by following a simple, proven 5-step method.

But First, Which Calligraphy Hand Should You Learn?

Before we start, you have to first decide the calligraphy hand that you want to learn.

There are many calligraphy hands: Spencerian, Copperplate, Italic, Gothic etc. and each has it distinctive style and characteristics.

However, my favourite would be the Italic Hand, because:

  1. It is very versatile - it can be adapted for a more contemporary modern look, or written in a more classic style.
  2. It has dynamic, rhythmic strokes
  3. Can be used for almost any occasion - addressing envelopes, wedding invitations, cards to friends, creating art pieces, etc.
  4. It is easy to learn, unlike other styles such as Copperplate or Spencerian.

Here's one of my own calligraphy pieces, which shows how Italic Calligraphy can be given a more contemporary look and a more personal style:

Failure defeats losers BUT inspires Winners - Learn Calligraphy Example

An example of a Italic calligraphy piece that I made in only 10 minutes. This is the reason why many people around the world have chosen to learn italic calligraphy, and you will find this blog exceptionally useful if you want to know how to learn Italic Calligraphy.

Just to help you appreciate the mesmerizing rhythm and beauty of Italic calligraphy, here's a short video demonstrating Italic Calligraphy in a more dynamic style (Read on after the video to find out what the 5 simple steps to learn calligraphy are):

However, that being said, you should choose a hand (style) which you like or wish to learn.

If you decide to learn Italic calligraphy, the following 5 simple and proven steps will be particularly useful in showing you how to learn calligraphy.

If you want to know how to learn calligraphy of other styles, these 5 steps are still generally applicable.

How To Learn Calligraphy With The 5-Step Method

These are the 5 steps that you take to learn calligraphy:

Step #1: Gather your supplies
Step #2: Learn how to hold your pen
Step #3: Learn how to form letters
Step #4: Keep on practicing!
Step #5: Correcting your errors and perfecting your craft

Step #1: Gather your supplies

If you are still figuring out how to learn calligraphy, here's the first thing you've gotta do:

Get the things you need.

1. Pen

If you want to learn calligraphy, you will need a broad nib calligraphy pen.

The good news is: you do not need fancy, expensive pens and tools to start learning how to do Italic calligraphy.

Now, there are mainly two types of calligraphy pens: dip pens, and cartridge-loaded ones.

As the name suggests, the nibs of dip pens have to be dipped into ink bottles before they can be used to write. You will have to dip it again after every few strokes once the ink on the nib has been used up.

Using a dip pen might be something you want to try later on, but for those who aren’t ready to make the jump, it is best to start off simple.

However, when I first started out figuring out how to learn calligraphy, there was no way I was going to buy those Rs. 1950/- (or even Rs. 6500) pens. They cost way too much and I wasn't ready to make that jump yet.

If you're like me, then it would be best to first start off with a cartridge-loaded pen or one which is pre-loaded with ink such as a calligraphy marker. It is cheap, fuss-free, and really easy to use. Not to mention that they are of great quality too! Cartridge-loaded pens can also produce amazing calligraphy pieces.

A wonderful cartridge-loaded pen that I would recommend is the Pilot Parallel Pen.

how to learn calligraphy - pilot parallel pen

A 3.8mm Pilot Parallel Pen (Photo credit: pigpogm / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA)


  • It is an excellent pen for both beginners and experts
  • The ink-flow is really smooth and even
  • It is darn cheap (it costs only $9, and refills only cost 5 in packs of 6 cartridges)
  • It is totally mess-free
  • Using and refilling it is idiotproof
  • They come in a variety of nib widths for different visual effects
  • The ink cartridges come in different colors - you can create colorful calligraphy masterpieces!

I use them extensively too and I highly recommend that you use them as well.

(Disclaimer: I don't make any money by making recommendations - I recommend only things which I've used and like and which will probably benefit you too).

2. Paper

Now, there's no way you can do calligraphy with only a pen.

There's another 'essential ingredient' you'll need..

And that's paper.

To learn calligraphy, you need to have an ample supply of good quality paper that does not bleed when written on with ink (i.e. no feathering occurs when you write on the paper.)


How to learn calligraphy - good paper and feathering

Strokes are crisp when the paper does not feather


How to learn calligraphy - bad paper and feathering

When the paper feathers, it becomes unsightly


As usual, you don't have to burn a hole in your pocket if you want to discover how to learn calligraphy. High quality A4 printing paper that you can find at home would do just fine.

However, if you wouldn't mind spending just a little more, I would highly recommend the affordable, high quality Kokuyo Campus Notebooks.

Step #2: How to hold the pen

Now that you have the things that you need, it's time to move on to step #2.

Once you have the right tools, you can start practicing how to hold your calligraphy pen correctly. You should ensure that it is always held with the nibs point away from your body, upwards and slightly left. Keep it at a 45-degree angle constantly.

Once in awhile, you may realise that you have the pen slightly a little to stay comfortable, and the angle is no longer at 45 degrees.

That should be fine, as long as it does not go past the 35-degree mark.

How to learn calligraphy by pen angle 45 degrees

Hold your pen at a 35-45 degree angle


If you want to create a thick line, you will need to use the wider part of the pen, do the opposite to create a thinner line. You should be able to do this by holding your pen firmly in a 45-degree angle:

how to learn calligraphy by practising your pen angle

Your pen magically makes the thicks and thins for you!


If you want to know how to learn calligraphy, you must remember this point. It is absolutely important and one of the most fundamental aspects.


Step #3: Letter formation

Having your supplies in hand and knowing how to hold your pen are both important, but you can never do beautiful calligraphy if you do not grasp the letterforms.

In forming letterforms, remember this! Each letter has an order of strokes - follow that order!

Also, always pay attention to your pen angle - always keep it at 35-45 degrees to get the most desirable effect.

Also, it would help if you have diagrams of how letters should be formed.

For example, instead of just completing an "e" in a single stroke, the right way the letter "e" should be formed in calligraphy is:

how to learn calligraphy - forming an "e" stroke-by-stroke

An "e" is made up of 2 strokes - a big one, then a smaller one to complete it

If you want to learn calligraphy successfully, then it is absolutely important that you know how to form each and every letter the right way.

If you need more a detailed explanation, I have included a simple effective strategy that you can use immediately to learn calligraphy letterforms in my eBook "How to Learn Calligraphy in 5 Easy Steps". It's all yours for free at the sidebar or bottom of this blog post.


Calligraphy Rules

How to learn calligraphy by using guidelines

When learning calligraphy, calligraphy rules (guidelines) are extremely important and useful.

They keep your letter size consistent and even - bid goodbye to uneven, chaotic calligraphy!

Practice rules generally consist of 4 lines - the ascender line, waist line (or x line), base line (or writing line) and the descender line.

These lines are typically separated by a distance equivalent to 5 widths of the pen nib that you are using.

When you learn calligraphy and practice your letters, calligraphy guidelines ensure that your letters are all level and not one higher than the other. It makes sure that the letter sizes are consistent and accelerates your progress when you practise with it.

Here is an absolutely fantastic tutorial video by the wonderful Paul Antonio which teaches the basics of forming calligraphy guidelines.


Step #4: Keep on Practicing!

If you want to learn calligraphy, you've got to practice.

There is no way round that; there is no shortcut that takes practice out of the equation. However, if you follow these 5 steps and practice accordingly, you'll be able to create your very own calligraphy masterpieces in no time at all.

There are 3 important things to note here:

  1. Always pay attention to the way you are holding the pen. This way, you'll always get the thicks and the thins of each letter right. Make sure that you are holding it firmly with the nib to a 45-degree angle and let the pen do its magic.
  2. Don’t stop in-between strokes. When you make a stroke, finish it all at one go. For example, don't make a long "l" by joining a few smaller strokes. Also, try not to touch where you have written until the ink as dried to avoid smudging or causing abrasion to the paper.
  3. Take it slow. Treat calligraphy as a drawing. 'Draw' each stroke and focus on drawing a perfect stroke. You will be amazed at how this small paradigm shift makes a huge difference in your calligraphy. Doing calligraphy is not a race, take it slow!

Step #5: Correcting your errors and perfecting your craft

You've got your basics, you know how to form letters, and you're practicing hard.

Can you now create beautiful calligraphy pieces or crafts worthy of being gifts?

Possible, but probably not yet.

You need to get to the last step - which is learning to detect and correct the errors in your calligraphy.

This is the part where you learn to become an independent calligraphy who is perfectly capable of coaching himself. Your eye learns to recognize what beautiful calligraphy is like and automatically guides your hand.

In the course of learning calligraphy, you will make mistakes. How fast you are going to learn calligraphy will depend on how fast you can detect these mistakes. Many beginners waste lots of time and effort practicing without knowing that they are doing it wrongly.

So if you want to save time and spare yourself all that unnecessary frustration, it is very important that you are able (or have someone help you) to identify your mistakes early so that these mistakes do not turn into habits in the future.

Trust me, calligraphy habits are hard to 'unlearn' once you have 'perfected' them, so make sure that you detect and correct those mistakes early.

There are many types of errors that you can make in calligraphy and there are always the common few that beginners make. One example would be the arches of "m" or "n" being too rounded:


How to learn calligraphy by spotting mistakes

Forming overly-rounded arches is a common mistakes many beginners make



And so, if you want to know how to learn calligraphy, these are the 5 simple steps you can take.

To recap, here are the 5 steps:

Step #1: Gather your supplies
Step #2: Learn how to hold your pen
Step #3: Learn how to form letters
Step #4: Keep on practicing!
Step #5: Correcting your errors and perfecting your craft

Now that you know the 5 proven steps to take and how to learn calligraphy in the comfort of your own home... All that's left to do is to practice, practice and practice!

Before you know it, you will be able to write beautiful calligraphy.

Knowing how to learn calligraphy is not all that difficult at all!