#1 -Do you have a Quick-Start Guide to learn Calligraphy?
Last Updated: 10/17/2019

Introducing You to Calligraphy and the Art of Fine Writing

This guide offers some great tips in how to get started using different Calligraphy Pens, information on basic supplies, dip pen nib styles, and descriptions of the more common Calligraphy Alphabet Styles.

Getting Started:

Calligraphy is concerned with the visual expression of words. Nostalgic Impression’s Calligraphy Sets will help you share in this rewarding activity, learning the basic techniques, developing your own style and then creating original calligraphic designs. As you gain in confidence and experience, an endless range of project opportunities opens up to you e.g. menus, name tags, wedding invitations, family trees and presentation certificates.

Calligraphy should be fun, so it is a good idea to practice using your own favorite texts - poems, proverbs and amusing quotations will add to the pleasure of your work.

There are many excellent books to show you how to develop your natural ability. However, the following guidelines have been prepared to help you get started right away.

Begin by sitting comfortably. You may find it helpful to work on a drawing board or similar surface angled at 30 degrees. You will need a pencil, smooth finish paper and a ruler. Start by ruling up a framework for your lettering. The height of a particular style is set at a specific number of nib widths, and varies according to the size of nib selected.

For practice, draw horizontal parallel lines about ¾” inch apart from each other on a piece of paper. Shake the ink bottle before use. Dip your nib into the ink and tap lightly on the bottle rim to free it of excess ink that would stain the paper when you first begin to write. Before tracing a definite mark, always try a rough draft to verify the right ink quantity and the absence of any foreign body on the tip. For a smooth and constant release of ink from nib to paper, the pen should always be held at a 20-45 degree angle.

When you have chosen a nib size and lettering style, make a scale on a piece of paper to establish the x-height of your letters. X-height is the height of lower case letters without ascenders (upstrokes) and descenders (downstrokes). Mark this down the edge of your writing paper, allowing the same space as x-height for ascenders and descenders. Now rule horizontal guidelines across the paper. Draw the lines in pencil so they can be erased when the ink is dry. Numerals may be either uniform or variable height, depending on the numeral and the style you select.

Design Considerations:

Your work should be legible and pleasing to the eye. Study the text then think about lettering styles and sizes, their weight and texture, the spacing of lines, margins and paragraphs. Make a thumbnail sketch of your design - to help determine general shape and balance. Try out different solutions and redraw one or two as a full size rough layout.

Spacing and Margins:

The spacing of letters and words, and adequate margins, are important to the balance of your layout. Arrange letters so they appear to have equal space between them - not equal distance. This varies with vertical, rounded and open sided letters. Space between lines depends on letter-style, but should be sufficient to ensure readability. Generous margins make the text appear well balanced and add visual interest. Use your judgment to determine suitable margins. Consider dividing the text into columns and blocks to aid legibility and add variety. Use white space as a design element to emphasize a word or phrase and introduce contrast.


Color can add variety to a design. It can contribute to a mood you wish to convey or highlight parts of the text. A second color can be used to infill lettering and borders drawn with a scroll nib.


Forget about the discipline of forming letters and enjoy yourself by creating repeat patterns so that you become familiar with numerous effects that can be achieved with your pen.

Work with bold fluid strokes

Avoid tightening your hand, wrist and forearm. Extend the hand motion to most of your arm. An upstroke will produce the finest line possible with a nib, while a down-stroke will make the broadest line possible.

Cursive Uppercase Letter Guide

Gothic Lowercase Letter Guide

Gothic Uppercase Letter Guide

How to insert a nib correctly into a dipping pen:

Nibs are inserted against the shaft (NOT in the middle of where the crossed shafts meet). This is usually counter intuitive, but it will hold much better when the nib is correctly inserted.

Click this link to learn about the different Dip Pen Calligraphy Nibs here

Calligraphy Alphabet styles:

There are several different alphabet styles that Calligraphy encompasses, and we have listed the most commonly found ones.

The Foundation Hand:

An ideal learning alphabet is the Foundation Hand. It is based on the Carolingian script, which flourished as the dominant European hand from the 9th to the 11th centuries. Proportions are: Capital height 6 nib widths, x-height 4 nib widths and an ascender/descender height of 7 nib widths. The nib edge should be held at an angle of 30 degrees to the writing line.

The Italic Alphabet:

The graceful Italic alphabet evolved during the Renaissance. It is characterized by a gentle slope to the right and the letters are compressed so that round letters form an ellipse rather than a circle. Proportions are: Capital height 7 nib widths, x-height of 8 nib widths. For most Italic hands the pen nib should be held at a 45 degree angle to the writing line.

Gothic or Black Letter:

This is a condensed style widely used from the 13th to 15th centuries. Extremely decorative but not so easy to read. There are more kinds of Gothic than any other hand.


The earliest Uncial is found in the 4th century, various forms of it were used from the 5th - 8th centuries. Its chunky appearance gives it unique character. There are only capital letters, so for emphasis and variety versals can be used with it

For more detailed information to the world of calligraphy, why not visit your local library or purchase a book to learn more.

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