Feeling Stuck Trying to Learn Calligraphy? Here Are 3 Reasons Why Your Lettering Might Not Be Worki

Updated: Dec 2, 2019


Calligraphy is a tough skill to master. I've been studying for 7 years and I am still learning and practicing every day, constantly working on becoming better!

But don't let its difficulty discourage you! Learning calligraphy is a fun hobby, and a great skill to have in your creative toolbox. There are several things you can do to make sure that things go smoothly as you start your calligraphy journey...and I'm sharing them right here! Read on to find out 3 possible reasons why learning hand lettering might be more frustrating than it needs to be!

Reason #1 -- Community is Key

As with many things in life, finding some fellow humans to commune with on the subject of your new hobby can be a crucial step to make learning easier more enjoyable!

I highly recommend taking an in-person class when you want to start learning calligraphy (or if you've already started). Having an instructor to demonstrate and give you personalized assistance makes all the difference. I can't tell you how many of my students come to class and share that they've tried learning via online videos and how-to guides....and wind up frustrated and full of questions. And I've been there too -- In a previous post, I shared with you that I started out the same way, with a Speedball book and some YouTube videos and things didn't go well.

Don't get me wrong -- online tools and resources are amazing, and we are truly blessed to live in a world where so much information is at the tips of our fingers. But to build a good foundation, you really need some good, ol' fashioned, in-person instruction!

In my classes, I split our time between teaching and demonstrating to the group as a whole, and then walking around as everyone practices, answering questions and giving personalized instruction. Having someone be able to physically move the pen in your hand, help you position your paper, and generally observe your technique can help you master the basics more quickly!

Reason #2 -- Materials Matter

Calligraphy doesn't have to be an expensive hobby to start learning, but once you get a bit more serious, you definitely don't want to skimp on quality of materials to save a buck.

As with many arts, working with sub-par materials will make your experience more frustrating and your results less satisfying.

For example, a plastic $3 Speedball holder may be a great way to try out calligraphy inexpensively, but once you decide that you'd like to address your holiday cards this year, it's worth the extra investment to upgrade to a better holder (and there are a lot of great options under $20, so it still won't break the bank!).

Nibs, Paper, and ink are also important. Begin with a stiffer nib, to help you control varying your pressure. Don't start off with waterproof inks -- they will dry quickly on your nib and impede ink flow, which gets frustrating fast. Notebook paper isn't great for calligraphy, because your ink will feather and bleed as it sinks...go with drawing paper specifically designed for markers, or some cold-pressed watercolor paper. You'll thank yourself later for a slightly higher investment now!

Reason #3 -- Slow and Steady Wins the Race (thanks Aesop!)

The final key to keep your calligraphy looking its best is to S-L-O-W D-O-W-N. (read that in a Kool-Aid Man low voice... "OHHHH YEAH"... haha!)

We are so used to writing quickly in our daily lives, but calligraphy should be more intentional...like drawing. We should focus on each individual stroke as we make it, and use a steady pace.

Speed is the enemy of consistency, and consistency is the key to beautiful hand lettering.

Keep the pace slow and concentrate on the ink you're placing on the page, one stroke at a time. One of the greatest things about calligraphy is how meditative it is -- concentration on each stroke as you're drawing it means that you can't be daydreaming about your weekend plans, or mentally adding to your grocery list. Embrace the "zone" and create your own steady rhythm as you letter stroke after stroke after stroke...

Thanks for reading! If you like what you see, here are a few other posts you might enjoy!

Check out my "Back to Basics" series, where I take you through all the options (and my recommendations) for paper, inks, and how to prep nibs!

Click here to read the 5 Things I Wish I'd Known When I Started Learning Calligraphy

Psssst.... do you live in the Twin Cities? If so, check out my calendar for upcoming (beginning) calligraphy classes!

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