An expert guide to modern calligraphy and beautiful hand lettering

Looking for a new hobby as we move into the autumn months? Calligraphy is a relaxing and productive way to spend your time, whether you’re planning a wedding or looking to spruce up your Christmas gifts.

Welcome to The Curiosity Academy, Stylist’s new learning hub where you can access workshops, how-to guides, new research and learn the most up-to-date skills from the UK’s most in-the-know people.

Finding a hobby that’s relaxing and functional can be difficult, particularly if you’re looking for something creative. Studies show that taking up hobbies like gardening and art can be beneficial for your mental health, which is perhaps why so many people discovered new hobbies during lockdown

But as we start to return to the office and our social lives start to go back to normal, it can be more difficult to find time to continue exploring new interests. Thanks to this new time deficit, hobbies with a practical purpose can seem more appealing than ever, which is perhaps why calligraphy is so popular. 

Calligraphy is the art of decorative handwriting. It’s a great skill to have, whether you’re looking to spruce up your gift-giving or fancy penning your own wedding invitations.

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Practising calligraphy can also be a really relaxing way to spend your time. “I started learning calligraphy in order to help my friend with her wedding invitations but I found it so meditative,” says Sneha Narayan, the founder of Paint Pots and Quills, a calligraphy blog and kit supplier. 

Sneha is a full-time doctor and she started calligraphy as a hobby alongside her career. “I try to embrace my inner child when doing calligraphy so I don’t worry about the result. This means it’s really mindful because I don’t feel like I’m wasting time even if I don’t like the end result,” Sneha says.

Here, Sneha shares her guide to getting started with calligraphy, including the equipment you need and the basic skills you should learn to get started.

What you’ll need to get started with calligraphy

  • Calligraphy nib holder
  • Calligraphy nib
  • Good quality paper (smooth, silk-finish paper works best)
  • Ink  

You can buy Sneha’s calligraphy kit on the Paintpots and Quills website.

Basic calligraphy strokes to learn as a beginner

To master the basics of calligraphy, the first step is learning strokes that go in different directions. Once you have learnt these, you should be able to write every letter in the alphabet. “The key thing to remember is that your down strokes are always thicker than your upstrokes,” Sneha says.

Here are the basic strokes you should learn as a beginner:

calligraphy strokes
Sneha's guide to the basic calligraphy strokes.

Sneha’s expert tips for learning calligraphy

Figure out which kind of calligraphy you want to learn

There are various different kinds of calligraphy, most of which can be divided into ancient or modern styles. Sneha practises and teaches modern calligraphy, which allows more creative freedom than ancient calligraphy, as there are fewer rules.

The tools you use will also affect the kinds of calligraphy you create. “I teach nib and ink calligraphy but there is also brush calligraphy and it’s definitely worth experimenting with both,” Sneha says.

Find inspiration

If you don’t know where to start with calligraphy, Sneha suggests finding inspiration from other calligraphers online whose styles you feel drawn to. “I’ve come to know the calligraphers I like and I can now recognise them just from looking at their calligraphy,” she says.

“You will develop your own calligraphy style because there are 26 letters in the alphabet and so many variations of each of them,” Sneha says, adding that your style will develop without you even realising.

Train your hand

Once you have learnt the basic strokes, Sneha explains it’s important to practise them regularly. She calls this practice calligraphy ‘warm-up drills’. “The more you practise your basic strokes, the better your hand will be trained for calligraphy. It will know when to apply more pressure and alter your muscle memory so calligraphy feels easier for you,” Sneha says.

You can find more expert-led guides and tutorials on The Curiosity Academy’s Instagram page.

  • Sneha Narayan

    Sneha calligraphy
    Sneha practices calligraphy alongside her full-time job as a doctor.

    Alongside her full-time job as a doctor, Sneha Narayan is the founder of the calligraphy blog Paint Pots and Quills. She also creates her own calligraphy kits.

Images: Sneha Narayan