Before we start playing with creating greeting cards and phrases using calligraphy, let's work over the lowercase letters of the alphabet as a warm up. Download the worksheets and follow along.
In my YouTube video that goes with this blog, I start the lowercase letters using a soft pencil. Soft pencils will be marked with the letter B, we usually write with an HB pencil, so if you are able to find one that is softer than that it will say 1B or 2b on the side of it. If you can it will give you a better contrast between the downstrokes where you are pushing heavily and the light upstrokes.
As I show you a couple of letters using small brush pens, using a Pental touch brush pen in blue, and my Sailor pen’s small brush you can see that the scale is simular to when you use a nib. If you use the large brush of the Sailor or any other larger brush pen, the scale of these worksheets will be too fine so you won’t be able to create letters that look the same. Visit our Amazon Page for all these pens.
You don’t need to swap the tool you are writing with like I do, I am just demonstrating that all of these could be being used for doing calligraphy. If you do choose to work with the pencil you do need to apply quite a bit of force to give the downstroke it's weight. You aren’t able to get the same thickness that you can with the nib or brush pen, but a pencil makes it a great tool when you are learning as you need to be very deliberate when you change of the pressure you apply, which will help you to reproduce these movements without conscious thought, which is referred to as muscle memory. Muscle memory is acquired as a result of frequent repetition of the movement, so the more you do these simple alphabet drills, the sooner you will change the pressure without even thinking about it.
If I go back to using the KB Sailor brush pen I can demonstrate how the opposite is true with this. Making the thick downstrokes is easier, it is the delicate upstrokes that are the challenge. Keeping them fine and consistent is hard with brush pens. I use my fingers nearest the paper to steady my hand to help make these fine strokes.
Just as with the nib, I make the change of pressure very gradually when I need to make a curved shape, using those fingers to help lift the pen to its tip smoothly. I am careful about the release or increase of pressure so that the thick part is always to the side of the letters, never dropping to the bottom or continuing over the top of an arch. There's more on this in our book Secrets of Modern Calligraphy and join me on Instagram for lots of tips and tricks to help you improve your lettering skills.
Remember to move the paper, so that it is comfortable for you to write. Slide it upwards as you get to the bottom, and keep thinking about that smooth sensation for the downstroke. When using a nib, the tines need to hit the paper equally so they can open easily. Hold it flat with your other hand, mine keeps crumpling up because I am trying to keep my other hand out of the way so you can see what I am doing in the video.
Get the position of the paper right, I keep saying this because it so important. Everything depends on it!
As you work over the grey letters, you’ll notice the arrow guides have gone. Think about the direction you need to go to make the different thicknesses of the lines.
The two words on the first line are the same word, both written in capital letters. However they are very slightly different, this is because modern calligraphy doesn’t require you to make every letter identical. Instead, we can play with their shapes the suit our design.
Once you have worked over the top 2 words, move to the next line, and work over the top of the words underneath. Now we are mixing capital letters and lowercase within the words. This more playful way of working with words allows you to choose the SHAPE that works for what you are doing, so you might decide a lowercase t is best to begin your greeting, but the shape of the capital H looks more dramatic than the lowercase. Modern calligraphy enjoys playing with the shapes of the letters to make a pattern with words.
To really go to town with this you could try substituting one of the letters for a doodle of a similar shape like I’ve done here. Make the doodle a similar enough shape to the letter it's replacing so that the word can still be read. Keep the pressure and release happening when you work over the heart shape because if you treat your drawing in the same way as your lettering, they will fit in perfectly with the design.
One way to add interest to the design is by swapping the tool I write with or the colour for each letter if you have some coloured inks you could try using those.
The next version leaves the word you empty for your interpretation, For this, I am blending two colours. I put both coloured inks near me, open, so I can dip easily into them.
Beginning with the blue I write, once it’s stopped flowing, rather than returning to get more blue I go to the cerise ink and dip into that. There will be a tiny deposit, which will if you do this a lot will change the colour slightly, so if that will annoy you, pour a little of each of the colours into smaller pots so your main ink isn’t altered. You need to get back to what you have written quickly so that the inks blend together, because for them to do that they both need to still be wet. The colour gradually changes as you write and I love this effect.
I hope that taking the first step into calligraphy has inspired to carry on and that you have enjoy the worksheets & are eager to take your skills further.
Until next time, happy lettering