Modern calligraphy is beautiful, and it's everywhere! Free from the structured constraints of traditional calligraphy, modern calligraphy accepts and even encourages mistakes to become a part of your creation, celebrating the hand-crafted nature of the art. So, can you teach yourself modern calligraphy, and how hard is it?
Learning the Basics of Modern Calligraphy and Hand Lettering
In its simplest form, all you need to practice modern calligraphy is a piece of paper and a marker. But, how do you go from a blank page to a creative typographical design? The most efficient way to get started is to trace letterforms (a fancy term for individual letter shapes), and then to move on to copying those same shapes without tracing.
Why start with tracing? A key to modern calligraphy is learning how to hold and tilt your marker throughout the stroke. Tracing allows you to gain a sense of how much tilt and pen pressure is necessary to achieve a particular stroke shape. Tracing also allows you to get comfortable with the shape and spacing of letters. In short, tracing builds skills and confidence!
Search for examples of modern calligraphy you'd like to practice, or purchase a guidebook with tracing examples to follow. Remember, if you are tracing someone else's work, be sure to respect the copyright of the original creator, and only use the tracings for practice, never to sell. Modern calligraphy guidebooks can be very useful, because not only will they have letters and phrases to trace, they will also contain lined pages. Calligraphy pages, which look much like elementary school handwriting pages, have rows of three lines, showing you where the top of a letter can reach, where shorter letters begin and end, and how far below to dip your descending letter elements (like the bottom of a y, for example).
Ready to Practice on Your Own?
After you've developed your skills managing pen strokes and tilts, it's time to move on! Tracing helps get you started, but eventually you will want to discover your own, unique style. Continuing to use lined practice pages at this phase is key to creating a natural, consistent letter shape and size, so try branching out and writing letters, words, and phrases using the letterforms you practiced by tracing.
It can be easy to get frustrated at this point, especially when you see the work of very talented calligraphers on display. Don't forget, those same people started out just as you did, practicing each letter until they felt confident and had acquired marker-handling skills. It takes time!
Once you've grown confident with one marker type, you may want to try other types! Chisel-point markers are a great starting point, but try brush markers and regular markers too. Get used to how different marker tips create different results. You are likely to develop a preference for one type of marker, but there is no wrong way to do modern calligraphy!
How to Graduate to the Blank Page
Remember, learning modern calligraphy is a practice in patience...and practice! Be kind to yourself. You may want to even make your first free-form attempts encouraging sayings! Practice in this case really does make perfect, and it's just paper, so don't be afraid to make mistakes.
The other behind-the-scenes secret to moving on to a blank page is to sketch out your work lightly with a pencil, or to lightly draw guidelines with a pencil and ruler to help manage your letter size and spacing. You can simply erase the pencil marks after your design is complete. This will help you build confidence with your pens, since your first attempt can be easily erased and redone until your sketch feels right.
Consider also sharing your work with the world-wide community of modern calligraphy enthusiasts! It can be very gratifying and helpful to find others doing the same work online. Hashtags like #moderncalligraphy and #calligraphersofinstagram can help you connect with others, and see inspiring examples of work at all levels.
Our Modern Calligraphy Guidebooks allow you to learn four different lettering styles, with room to trace, practice, and develop brand new designs. Start your calligraphy journey today!