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The Beginner's Guide to Calligraphy

History of Calligraphy

Calligraphy has been around for centuries, but many more artists continue to discover and embrace this art form today. Here’s a modern calligraphy guide that covers everything you need to know about this craft.


A Short History of Calligraphy

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines calligraphy as an “artistic, stylized, elegant handwriting or lettering.” The word is derived from the Greek word kalligraphia, a portmanteau of kalli (beautiful) and graphia (writing), which directly translates to “beautiful writing.”

Calligraphy refers to the art of ornamental handwriting, according to the New World Encyclopedia. Unlike in typography, the characters in calligraphic works are “disciplined yet fluid and spontaneous.”

While calligraphy has been around for centuries in the West, it has existed in many other cultures, such as Indian, Persian, East Asian, and Islamic cultures. In East Asia, brush calligraphy is one of the most celebrated forms of art.

Learn more about the history of calligraphy through these articles:

What is Calligraphy? Discover Different Types of Writings
This article looks around the world for different types of calligraphy, as well as examples of the craft in modern times.

History of Calligraphy
Here are samples of calligraphy from antiquity, dating from the Roman period.

Understanding the Influence of Calligraphy in Religions
A contemporary work of calligraphic art can be found on social media, wedding invitations, and ad copy. But calligraphy used to be exclusively practiced as part of a religious tradition.

The Religious, Historical, and Cultural Development of Islamic Calligraphy
The Fountain Magazine explores the history and culture that surrounds Islamic calligraphy, and how it has become a symbol of the rich diversity of the Islamic world.

Calligraphy in Islamic Art
This article by the Met Museum shows objects from different periods and regions that use calligraphy in their overall design.

The Evolution of Calligraphy
This article traces the roots of calligraphy and how it has been used in various cultures for centuries.

Who Invented Calligraphy (+ When, Where & Why)
How far back does the history of calligraphy really go? This article on 9Mousai explores which culture could have developed the art of calligraphy.

Modern vs. Traditional Calligraphy

What is Calligraphy Really?
“Reading calligraphy is the closest you can get to hearing music with your eyes,” according to this article. Learn how experts define calligraphy, and what key features define a piece of calligraphic work.

The Beginner's Guide to Modern Calligraphy
Wondering how to create modern calligraphy? This guide covers all the basics – from what tools to buy, how to hold your pen, and what to write.

What *Is* Modern Calligraphy?
How does modern calligraphy differ from traditional calligraphy? Here are quick definitions and examples of the different styles that emerged in the past century.

Traditional vs. Modern Calligraphy: What's the Difference?
Another article that tackles the differences between modern and traditional calligraphy.

Modern Calligraphy Resources and Tools

8 Tips for Anyone Who Wants to Learn Calligraphy and Hand-Lettering
Ready to start your calligraphy hobby, but don’t know where or how? Start here!

Brush Calligraphy for Beginners: Modern Calligraphy 101 Guide
Here’s a comprehensive step-by-step guide on how you can get into the beautiful world of brush calligraphy.

Selecting Calligraphy Inks: Tests and Reviews
How do you know which ink is right for you? This article compares and reviews several ink options.

How to Do Modern Calligraphy (3 Popular Styles in 2021)
What tools do you need for modern calligraphy and how do you actually get started? This in-depth article covers all the basics and more.

Calligraphy Warm-Ups: A Beginner Calligraphy Tutorial
A short video on how to practice the different basic strokes used in modern calligraphy

Top 8 Reasons to Learn the Art of Calligraphy

1. It’s a wonderful stress-reliever.

Calligraphy is a great way to unwind and relax. Even watching calligraphy tutorial videos can be relaxing and soothing! Creating a piece of calligraphy can be a useful way to relieve stress.

2. You’ll find your tribe.

With calligraphy, you'll likely make a lot of friends with the same interest. There are many online groups that share a common love for the craft. It’s always more exciting to do something when you have friends you can do it with – even virtually.

3. Calligraphy will teach you perseverance and patience.

Unlike other hobbies, it's easier to see how much you've progressed with calligraphy because of its visual nature. Once you get the hang of it, you'll be able to look back on your previous works and see how far you've improved.

4. Anyone can learn calligraphy.

You don't need any fancy tools to begin learning – any writing tool that you can apply pressure to paper with will do the trick. (If you’re more comfortable with digital tools, there are many apps you can use on the iPad like Procreate or Adobe Fresco.)

5. Add a personal touch to your invitations and letters.

Making personalized gifts is easier when you know calligraphy! It's one of the most popular ways to use calligraphy, and it's also a quick way to create something special for your loved ones.

6. It’s good for you.

Calligraphy and any form of handwriting is a great form of exercise and will significantly improve your handwriting. It can be a welcome break from typing or texting on phones, which can be bad for our hands and wrists when done excessively. It’s also a good way to get better hand-eye coordination.

7. Calligraphy is beautiful.

Even if you don’t find it useful in your job or studies, learning calligraphy can bring you a sense of fulfillment and happiness. The beauty of this art form itself is worth pursuing, if only to fill our days with joy and calm.

8. It’s a great exercise in mindfulness.

In today’s busy world, mindfulness is a superpower that we should cultivate to make us more resilient – and calligraphy can be one way to achieve that. If you need a little Zen, calligraphy can force you to slow down and be present in the moment.

Read more about the various benefits of learning the art of calligraphy, and why you should consider it today.

Why Learn Calligraphy?
What can you get out of the practice of calligraphy? This article from the Melbourne Lettercraft Lab lists all the fun reasons why calligraphy is worth learning.

6 Benefits of Learning Calligraphy and Handwriting
Explore the different benefits of learning calligraphy and how it can be a worthwhile hobby.

5 Reasons to Learn Calligraphy
Why does anybody want to learn calligraphy? For this blogger, the art of calligraphy has been a relaxing and therapeutic exercise.

The Rebirth of Calligraphy: Beautiful Handwriting That Makes Our Body and Mind Healthy and Relaxed
Handwriting has many benefits associated with better coordination, motility, and language skills. Learn more from this article by TechnoGym.

Reasons to Learn Modern Calligraphy
According to this article, the process of creating calligraphy is a joy in itself. Read and learn what makes calligraphy a great hobby for anyone to pick up.

13 Powerful Benefits of Learning Calligraphy
How does learning modern calligraphy benefit those who want to practice it? This article lists all the ways this art form can benefit us.

Get Started on Calligraphy: Five Helpful Video Tutorials for Beginners

How to Write Calligraphy With Any Pen

Beginner Hand Lettering Tutorial: If I Were a Beginner, I'd Do This

How to Do Faux Calligraphy for Beginners

Calligraphy For Beginners: Basic Strokes

Modern Calligraphy for Beginners

Frequently Asked Questions on Calligraphy

Is calligraphy hard to learn? How long does it take to learn calligraphy?
Like any art form, there’s no end to how good you can get with calligraphy. While you can learn the fundamentals of lettering in two to three hours, mastering the basics takes most people over a year or so. With structured learning and constant practice, you can learn calligraphy in two months.

How do I start doing calligraphy?
If you find calligraphy a little intimidating, try starting with faux calligraphy. It’s a way of creating calligraphy with writing tools that you already have. You can also read this useful guide for beginners to find out what materials you need to prepare.

Which type of calligraphy is best for beginners?
For complete beginners, most artists recommend starting with faux calligraphy. This is the most accessible type of calligraphy. Here’s a comprehensive tutorial on faux calligraphy.

Is calligraphy a dying art?
Not at all. Calligraphy remains to be relevant in our time, and it is one of the most popular topics on social media. Here are some compelling reasons that prove that calligraphy is not a dying art.

Is there a career in calligraphy? How much money do calligraphers make?
Like any other craft, you have to be exceptionally good at calligraphy to make a living out of it. It takes years of practice, but it’s something that has been done before, and you can certainly do it, too.

In the US, calligraphy artists can make around $64,490 a year. Here are a few articles that you can check out to learn how to make money – or even a career – out of your passion for calligraphy:

Want some inspiration? Here’s a list of calligraphy stars on Instagram curated by the New Yorker. You can also read about this chemistry teacher who works as a professional calligrapher in Malaysia.

Glossary of Calligraphy Terms

Visit these pages and resource links to learn the key calligraphy terms and phrases that you need to know.