Beginner Brush Calligraphy Tutorials, Resources and Classes

This post is meant for my Brush Calligraphy Camp friends and anyone who is ready to try this great way to make beautiful writing. Here you'll find the supplies you need to get started, some great exercises and tutorials and more inspiration to keep you going.

Gather your supplies!

Aquash Pens (medium tip)
Watercolor Paints
Pencils and Pencil Sharpener
Line Templates
Tracing Paper
Copy Paper
Water Color Paper
Butcher Block Paper (for posters!)
Crayola Broad Tip Markers (for Fauxligraphy!)
Small Wood Plaques

Getting Started - The Basics

  1. Always make sure your brush position and pressure are correct for the type of stroke you are making.
    • Upstroke Position and Technique: Hold your brush upright with just the tip of the bristles touching the paper and a very light touch for an upstroke.
    • Downstroke Position and Technique: Angle the brush so it lays in the crook of your hand so most of the bristles is making contact with the paper as you drag the brush downward to make a nice wide downstroke.
    • Finger position: For both upstrokes and downstrokes you will keep your fingers on the barrel of the brush using a 3 finger pinch technique. 
    • You need to do what works best for you! So use a position that lets you create nice thin lines on the upstrokes and big heavy lines on the downstrokes.
    • Here is a great detailed article by Pieces Calligraphy on brush calligraphy technique, including brush position and finger grips.
  2. Don't forget to Warm Up! Get all of those bad lines out during practice, right? Not on your real project -so Go Warm Up! 
  3. Our Typography Terms and Warm Ups

    • Plus warming up helps build that muscle memory and will make lettering easier every time you do it. 
    • Warm up with 10-15 each of upstrokes, downstrokes, uphills, downhills, right circles, left circles, curves and waves. 
  4. Practice Makes Perfect! Practicing within a group of similar letter-forms will make your practice more effective. Remember - we are building muscle memory here so you won't have to think about your letters, you hands will just remember how to do it.
    Our Letter-form Groupings for Better Practice Results

    • The Letter-form Groupings:

      • The Straight Line Family: i, j, l, t, f
      • The A-Shape Family: a, c, d g, q, u, y
      • The B-Shape Family: b, h, m, n, p, r, k
      • The Leftovers: o, e, v w, s, x, z

Ready to Letter a Design? 

    • Start with a few thumbnail sketches. Tryout several different layouts of your design using just pencil. From there choose one or two and rework them at your final scale. 
    • Don't be afraid to use a template or lightly draw your lines in with pencil before you start. You will be much happier with your end result if you take a little time to plan your layout.
    • Want more information on the process of hand lettering a quote? Read this great article on HandletteringForBeginners.com

Brush Lettering Templates, Books, and Classes*

The website Random Olive was the base source for our brush lettering technique. I learned my technique from her Brush Letter Practice Guide. She provides beginner's kits and templates and some great inspiration in her Instagram feed.

Eleanor Winter's book Calligraphy for Kids  provides simple instruction on how to use traditional nib pens and chisel edged markers. It provides nice templates for each lettering style which are great for practice.

Molly Suber Thorpe's book Modern Calligraphy shows several styles for each letter of the alphabet so you can mix and match to get the look you want.

The Typographer's Glossary - Grab this great resource from PLAYTYPE to learn about the anatomy of letters (what's a serif?). You'll find information on the basic styles of letters and more details on spacing, letter weights, dummy text and more.

My calligraphy journey started with an in-person class taught by Maghon Taylor of All She Wrote Notes. If you are in the Raleigh area, check out her class schedule - she offers several types of classes and they fill up quick!

More Inspiration

Fake it with Broad Tip Markers! 
We did a little Fauxligraphy aka Fake Calligraphy at camp. There is a lot of weird hand positioning and pressing hard with the markers to get this technique to work.  (Of course if you really wanted to take the easy route - simply coloring the downstrokes in) Whatever works for you! If you want to see the master of Fauxligraphy at work - check out Colin Tierney's YouTube Channel. (He calls this technique Crayligraphy.)

Peggy Dean of The Pigeon Letters has a great web site and Instagram Feed. When you are ready to take your lettering to the next level with flourishes and flowers you will want to explore her classes on Skillshare.

* This post contains affiliate links. In the case that you would purchase something using my link, I receive a small commission from Amazon which helps support my work here.