8 Modern Calligraphy Books For Beginners

Do you have a modern calligraphy book wish list like me? Even if you have gone to in-person classes or have taught yourself modern calligraphy, it’s always good to have a few good books to refer to whenever you need help. Do take note though, that these books are all about pointed pen modern calligraphy and NOT brush lettering. I’ll have a roundup on that soon!

Here are some common things that you need a modern calligraphy book for, from my experience:

GETTING STARTED IN MODERN CALLIGRAPHY
Have you forgotten how to prepare your tools? Do you need help on how to write your strokes? A book for beginners will more often than not have an overview of how to get started.

FINDING ALTERNATIVE WAYS OF WRITING A LETTER
This is one of the reasons why you need a book—for the exemplars! Some books have multiple alphabet guides that you can replicate when you’re stuck in a rut.

GETTING INSPIRATION FOR CALLIGRAPHY PROJECTS
I adore calligraphy books that have beautiful pictures and instructional how-to’s. Aside from teaching a beginner how to write in modern calligraphy, a good book also gives inspiration on how to use the newly-learned craft!

Here’s a list of books on modern calligraphy that helped me get started, peppered with some that are high on my wish list. You might see that there are a couple of books by Molly Suber Thorpe, because I just absolutely love how she shares calligraphy in her book. This list is not sponsored and is purely my honest opinion. Enjoy!

8 Modern Calligraphy Books For Beginners via Happy Hands Project

1:: Modern Calligraphy by Molly Suber Thorpe | 2:: Modern Calligraphy: An Intensive Practice Workbook by Kestrel Montes | 3:: Mastering Modern Calligraphy: Beyond the Basics by Molly Suber Thorpe | 4:: The Gift of Calligraphy: A Modern Approach to Hand Lettering with 25 Projects to Give and to Keep by Maybelle Imasa-Stukuls | 5:: Flourishing: Incorporating Modern Flourishes into Your Lettering by Jarrin Cheng | 6:: Modern Calligraphy Workshop by Imogen Owen | 7:: Modern Calligraphy: A Step-by-Step Guide to Mastering the Art of Creativity by Lucy Edmonds | 8:: Secrets of Modern Calligraphy by Kirsten Burke

Looking for lettering books instead? Here’s a roundup of lettering books from the Happy Hands Project.


3 WAYS TO MAKE YOUR BRUSH LETTERING UNIQUE

Make Your Brush Lettering Unique via Happy Hands Project

Hello brush lettering beginners! How do you make your brush lettering pieces unique? You have mastered the technique of using the brush pen and you’re even able to write beautiful lettering with it. The next step now is to make your brush lettering unique and different from your usual pieces.

I started out just writing in straight lines. I would centralize the words then that’s it. That’s what beginners normally do. But how do you make your brush lettering unique? Here are 3 ways that I use to give my pieces a bit more oomph:

FORM A CURVE

Make Your Brush Lettering Unique via Happy Hands Project

Sketch some curves lightly on your paper so you can plan where to place your words. Keep the hierarchy in mind—the most important word should be biggest to create more impact. Write your words in a slight curve to make it more interesting. Make the curve a bit wide for easier readability. Steeper curves might be more difficult to write on and read.

WRITE DIAGONALLY

Make Your Brush Lettering Unique via Happy Hands Project

Draw your guidelines either freehand or with a ruler. You can position all your words in the middle or stagger them slightly. The most important thing is to pack your words close enough so you don’t create big gaps that would be noticeable. Fill those negative spaces!

BOUNCE YOUR LETTERS

Make Your Brush Lettering Unique via Happy Hands Project

If you haven’t tried this before, it may seem tricky because you would need to create a balance even when the letters do not touch the baseline. Draw your straight lines first. These will serve as a guide so you will still have letters that touch the baseline. The first letter of the word should touch the line first, then try raising and lowering the next few letters. Stop every so often to check the balance. If your letters seem to be going up, lower the next letter.

Bouncing letters requires some getting used to, but it’s a fun way to make your usual brush lettering style into something different.

There are endless styles that can make your brush lettering even more unique, so I’ll make sure to compile a new set next time. Now it’s time to practice! Looking for brush pen recommendations? You can hop here to see my favourite pens.

Calligraphy and Lettering Classes on Skillshare

Have you thought about taking online classes to learn lettering, calligraphy or any other creative skill? I’ve rounded up 4 of my favourite online creative classes that I’m sure will kickstart your journey on lettering or calligraphy!

I’m excited to let you guys know that Happy Hands Project has partnered with Skillshare to bring you 2 MONTHS OF FREE PREMIUM MEMBERSHIP! With a premium membership, you can stream more than 18,000 online classes on subjects like design, business, and tech. What I like most about Skillshare is that students are learning alongside more than 3 MILLION members who are as passionate as we are. Members can share their work, give each other feedback and share insights and learnings through group discussions. And I’m telling ya, it could be a pretty great experience.

Use the gift code HAPPYHANDS2 when you register to get 2 months of free premium membership.

I have taken some classes on Skillshare when I was starting out with modern calligraphy. Each class has a project to be completed at the end of the course which makes it exciting. You’d want to learn as much to be able to get that project done the right way.

Now it’s time to check out these awesome classes!

Pen and Ink Calligraphy via Skillshare

Pen and Ink Calligraphy: The Art of the Envelope
Bryn Chernoff

Ooh, envelope calligraphy. Learn how to choose papers, mix and match ink colours, and create a neat and centred layout for a beautiful calligraphed envelope.

 

Take me to class!

Digitizing Calligraphy from Sketch to Vector-Skillshare

Digitizing Calligraphy from Sketch to Vector
Molly Suber Thorpe

After learning the basics of modern calligraphy, it’s time to make something digital out of them! Digitized calligraphy can be used in print and online in the form of logotypes, advertising, title treatments, printed stationery, and beyond. In this course Molly will walk you through four steps—sketching, flourishing, inking and finally, digitising.

Take me to class!

Hand Lettering Essentials for Beginners-Skillshare

Hand Lettering Essentials for Beginners
Mary Kate McDevitt

The distinct Mary Kate style will be taught by her in this beginners’ class. In this 2-hour class, Mary Kate reveals the first steps of hand lettering and shares how to concept, design, and letter phrases for any use—a poster, magazine, t-shirt, or anything else you might imagine. There are very useful downloadable resources, too, which will help you in conceptualizing your very first lettering piece.

Take me to class!

Storytelling Through Lettering-Skillshare

Storytelling Through Lettering: Exploring Different Styles
Martina Flor

I’ve been following Martina’s lettering work for a few years now. This class is all about different lettering techniques and styles and is perfect for beginners or advanced students of lettering that want to expand their stylistic palette when drawing letters.

Take me to class!

If you’re interested in any or all of these classes, it’s definitely worth it to check out Skillshare. Skillshare’s giving away a free trial to my lovely readers. Just sign up using my link, or use the code HAPPYHANDS2 and you’ll get 2 months of unlimited online classes for free. No commitments and you could cancel anytime.

Thanks Skillshare!

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Calligra-freebie: Calligraphy Guidelines

Free Calligraphy Guidelines via Happy Hands Project

A few weeks ago I made the ultimate calligraphy checklist available for download. Now it’s time to practice, so whip out your beginners’ tools because it’s time to start writing! Here’s another calligra-freebie—guidelines you can download for free and print so you can practice on your letter forms.

True story: I was teaching a workshop where the participant did not care about the guidelines on her practice sheets. I told her that for starters, making the base of the letters touch the baseline would make her writing legible and the sizes consistent. She replied nonchalantly, “I’m trying to bounce my lettering”. I insisted that she MUST follow the guidelines provided (nicely, of course). Let’s start by following the basic rules, people.

These free guidelines come in 2 sizes—A4 and letter. The x’s on the sides mark the x-height of the letter (which is the size of the lower case x) and the slants are based on Copperplate‘s 55° angle. It’s a challenge to keep your slants consistent, hence the slant guides. The best way to use these guidelines is to print them on your practice paper, or print one sheet and place tracing paper over it. Use paper clips to secure the sheets in place.

Is learning calligraphy one of your goals for 2018? No time to waste then, my friends. Download these guide sheets for free.

Send me the calligraphy guidelines, please!

Oh, and if you’re looking for a modern calligraphy exemplar, you can download one here.

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The Ultimate Calligraphy Supplies Checklist

The first rule in learning pointed pen calligraphy is this: PRACTICE WITH THE RIGHT TOOLS. This blog post has a free download of the ultimate calligraphy supplies checklist, and I have listed the tools I used myself when I was starting out. Nobody taught me at first—I was at my wit’s end—and so I’m passing to you what I’ve learned so you wouldn’t be pulling your hair in frustration just like I did so many years ago.

Ultimate Calligraphy Tools Checklist via Happy Hands Project

Practicing with the right tools saved my (calligraphy) life.

See, 6 years ago, modern calligraphy wasn’t so popular yet. There were no workshops to go to, even online classes were zilch. I had no choice but to read blogs and scour Pinterest for any little tip I might find. I ordered some of the basic tools on top of the kit my husband got for me. It was from Paper and Ink Arts (circa 2012, before they updated their website!) and I had to wait more than 2 weeks to receive the items.

When I learned about the right tools for beginners, I was able to practice and make progress. I realised that having the right tools is the key to getting started. The paper, nib, ink and holder you choose need to work well together so you can concentrate on your letter forms.

Calligraphy beginners, let’s get started, shall we? I have prepared the ultimate checklist for calligraphy supplies, and it’ll be delivered straight to your inbox! Don’t forget to check your Bulk or Marketing folders just in case that’s where it ends up (ouch!). Here ya go!



If you’d like to have all my recommended tools and work pad in a box, you can check out the Beginners’ Calligraphy Kit at my Etsy shop.

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Review: Khadi Handmade Paper

Khadi Handmade Cotton Paper Review via Happy Hands Project

Khadi handmade paper is made of cotton rags and handmade in South India. I’ve purchased a few packs of the handmade paper I’ve been seeing all over Instagram for years—and it did not disappoint. The sheets have natural deckled edges and beautiful texture.

Khadi Handmade Cotton Paper Review via Happy Hands Project

I wanted to use the Khadi Papers with what I’m most familiar with, and that would be watercolours, gouache and Finetec metallic inks. The paper may look oh-so-prefect, but don’t be deceived. For those who will be writing on Khadi paper for the first time, be prepared to encounter some minor hiccups.

Khadi Handmade Cotton Paper Review via Happy Hands Project

Due to its handmade nature, the paper is wonderfully textured. This means pointed nibs like the Gillotts or Hunts will snag on the upstrokes. Fibres will accummulate during the downstrokes, so there is a need to frequently wash or wipe your nib before the upstroke. I’ve found that the Blanzy-Poure 2552 nib works well with gouache or Finetec.

Khadi Handmade Cotton Paper Review via Happy Hands Project

Write slowly, slower than you normally would. Tread lightly—do not write with a heavy hand,  and you will be BFFs with your Khadi paper in no time.

Khadi Handmade Cotton Paper Review via Happy Hands Project

100% cotton papers tend to absorb more water compared to cellulose ones (non-archival, student-grade paper). So painting leaves and florals using Khadi means you need more water on your brush. It works very well for wet-on-wet techniques as well, which will give you beautifully-blended washes.

Khadi Handmade Cotton Paper Review via Happy Hands Project

In conclusion, writing on Khadi handmade paper needs a bit of trial-and-error, but when you get the hang of it, you wouldn’t want to stop. There are so many types of paint that you can try, and I’m sure there are a lot of pointed nibs that work as well.

Khadi Handmade Cotton Paper Review via Happy Hands Project

Khadi Handmade Cotton Paper Review via Happy Hands Project

Have you tried Khadi? How do you like it?

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Calligraphy Nib Review: Leonardt 40

Calligraphy Nib Review: Leonardt 40 Blue Pumpkin via Happy Hands Project

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a nib review here on the Happy Hands blog. During the recent Modern Calligraphy workshop, I got asked several times how different the Leonardt 40 nib was from Nikko G. These 2 nibs are usually the ones included in my workshop kits. However, I always advise to use this blue nib only when they’re already used to the G nib. So how different are these 2 nibs, really?

MORE FLEXIBLE THAN THE NIKKO G NIB

The Leonardt 40 is also called Hiro 40, or Blue Pumpkin. Similar to the Brause Steno Blue Pumpkin in appearance, this is a large nib with an equally large ink reservoir. It’s very flexible, so the pressure needed to get a thick swell in a Nikko G is not necessary with the Leonardt 40. Because it’s softer, just a bit of pressure makes the tines open up—allowing the ink to flow and form thick swells.

The Nikko G is stiff and somewhat tough, but the Leonardt is soft and more flexible.

Calligraphy Nib Review: Leonardt 40 Blue Pumpkin via Happy Hands Project

Because it’s more flexible, putting a lot of pressure results in a very thick downstroke. This thickness cannot be achieved using a Nikko G nib. The only downside is that the upstrokes are not very thin, which is essential to Copperplate calligraphy.

THE BLUE PUMPKIN GIVES THICKER SWELLS

For those who love to write modern calligraphy and aim for super thick swells, then this is the nib for you.

Calligraphy Nib Review: Leonardt 40 Blue Pumpkin via Happy Hands Project

For beginners, it’s always best to start with the stiff Nikko G nib (or Tachikawa G, which comes from the same manufacturer). Once you’ve mastered the concept of the pointed pen (pressure on the downstrokes, release on the upstrokes), then you can proceed with using the Leonardt 40.

Calligraphy Nib Review: Leonardt 40 Blue Pumpkin via Happy Hands Project

I’ve also noticed that my ink lasts longer with the Nikko G. I get to write more letters with one dip of ink with the Nikko than the Leonardt. Again, this is due to the flexibility of the latter. Because it produces thick swells, the Leonardt 40 needs more ink. So I dip this nib more often in ink when I’m writing.

I’d say this nib is worth a try if you haven’t done so yet. Nibs behave very differently with every calligrapher, so a nib that works well for one may not do wonders for another. But the paper and ink used also play a part, so make sure all your tools work well together. All in all, this nib is still one of my favourites. Check out my other favourite nibs in this roundup.

So have you tried using the Leonardt Blue Pumpkin? Yay or nay?

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4 Tips for Getting Better at Calligraphy: Learning From Your Mistakes

Getting Better At Calligraphy via Happy Hands Project

Are you a beginner who wants to get better in calligraphy? I’ve a question for you. Since you began your sojourn, have you become better and more confident with your pen? Or do you think there are too many mistakes and you’re ready to give it up?

I’m telling you—don’t give up just yet.

In 2011, modern calligraphy was starting to infiltrate my Pinterest feed, and I was curious. I was lucky enough to receive replies from popular calligraphers, telling me what tools they used. I excitedly ordered them from the US (this was a time when there were no calligraphy tools here in Singapore; Straits Art didn’t even have Higgins Eternal!). When I started using those so-called awesome nibs and inks, I realised I couldn’t get them to work.

But I didn’t give up. I learned from my mistakes. And here I’m sharing with you how I’ve learned from the mistakes I’ve made so that you, too, would get better at calligraphy.

1:: Keep your first few calligraphy attempts

You’d think the first time you tried to write a few strokes was terrible, right? I did, too. There were no workshops at the time in Singapore so I had no choice but to self-study. My experience with dip pens were in college, but we used broad edge. That’s a different beast right there, so when I used the pointed pen, I was floored.

But I kept the pad I used at the time. That jotter pad that didn’t know anything else but feather everything I write on it. I even tried to write what nibs I used (which of course, didn’t help). It’s good to keep your first attempts at writing calligraphy, so you can go back and see how far you’ve come. That in itself, is enough to give you the inspiration to keep going.

Getting Better At Calligraphy via Happy Hands Project

Eeep! If I stopped here, I wouldn’t know that I wasn’t a hopeless case.

2:: Write the dates on your practice sheets

The good thing about writing the date is that you will look at it a few months later, and realise you have improved. And for those who don’t practice often, it’s a good reminder that you should DO YOUR DRILLS!

3:: Mark your mistakes

I have learned that writing continuously is pointless if you don’t refer to an exemplar. This Engrossers’ Script exemplar from IAMPETH is perfect. Always have your alphabet guide in front of you so you can compare it against your own. Then review your practice strokes or words, and make little notes on your sheet. This will help you remember which parts have to be improved. It can be as simple as a loop that’s too big, or a descender with a line variation that wasn’t done smooth enough. Mark it, and make it better.

4:: Join A Calligraphy Community

This is also called, ‘find your tribe’. Or form your own cheering squad. Join a local guild if there’s one, or socialize with like-minded enthusiasts on social media and take it to the next level and meet in person! Having friends who like the same things you do are priceless human beings who will contribute to your growth as a calligrapher. Heck, they will also help you grow as a person. Friends who support each other in sickness and in health, through group purchases and art jams, are the best kind of friends if you ask me.

They will tell you when your letter form just ain’t right, the logo you made looked funny, or convince you that yes, the Blanzy nib works well on handmade paper.

If a local community is non-existent, connect with other calligraphers online instead. Flourish Forum is an amazing online community where everybody lends a helping hand.

So there you have it. Challenges in the world of calligraphy is never ending, that’s why learning is contiuous, too. If you’re just starting out, keep on practicing and don’t give up. Use the mistakes to your advantage and trust me, after a months of serious practice, you’ll laugh at how your first attempts looked like. I sure did. And it felt good.

Good luck and happy inking!

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Digitizing Your Calligraphy: Adding Seamless Patterns

Adding Digital Patterns to Your Calligraphy via Happy Hands Project

So you’ve digitized your gorgeous calligraphy. It’s pretty. You can print as many pieces as you want to give to friends and family. But have you ever wondered what’s the next step to scanning your calligraphy and adjusting the contrast in Photoshop? Well, I got news for y’all, and it’s something I’ve only done recently. How about adding (digitally) some seamless patterns on your calligraphy?

This requires some basic knowledge in either Photoshop or Illustrator, but once you get the hang of it, this will make your calligraphy extra pretty. The digital version of the above calligraphy piece was all done in 10 minutes, tops, excluding the writing part which takes waaaaayyy longer.

This is really easy-peasy, take a look at the steps below. Please note that a working knowledge on Adobe Illustrator is required to be able to follow the tutorial. We will be using a pre-made vector pattern downloaded from the internet. I got mine from here. First thing you need to do is have your seamless pattern open in AI (this will be in either .eps or .ai format).

1 :: Copy and paste your vector pattern on a new file. I used an A4 sized art board. If the graphic’s too big, use the Free Transform tool from the left tool bar to scale to your desired size.

Adding Digital Patterns to Your Calligraphy via Happy Hands Project

2 :: Make the vector graphic into a pattern. Click on the Object pull-down menu from the top, select Pattern, and click on Make.

Adding Digital Patterns to Your Calligraphy via Happy Hands Project

3 :: Save your pattern. Click OK, and delete the existing graphics from your art board. This will give you a clean slate.

Adding Digital Patterns to Your Calligraphy via Happy Hands Project

4 :: Create a full background using your newly-created pattern. Wee!

Adding Digital Patterns to Your Calligraphy via Happy Hands Project

Now this background is ready for use! For the Elizabeth Gilbert quote I’ve written, I just placed a black rectangle over the background, pasted and live-traced the jpeg scan of my calligraphy, did a bit of clean up, and saved it as an A4-sized poster. There are so many possibilities with patterns and I cannot wait to try them out!

Hope you’ll have as much fun as I have! Here are some of my favourite premium patterns from Creative Market:

Full disclosure: I've recently become part of Creative Market's Partner Program, and I get commissions for purchases made through the links below.

Patterns via Creative Market

Patterns via Creative Market

Patterns via Creative Market

Happy digitizing!

Raw & Regal: Industrial Themed Wedding

Industrial Wedding Theme via Happy Hands Project

The past two years have all been about vintage and rustic weddings, with white, blush and champagne. It’s a very pretty, pleasing theme and I always enjoyed designing invitations in such a warm colour palette.

Last year, I was approached by Wedrock Weddings and Ideal Weddings Magazine for an Industrial-themed wedding styled shoot. It would be mostly grey, with hints of magenta, copper and forest green. So it’s cool, with hints of warm tones to balance everything. Without a thought, I said I was in!

The venue was at a restaurant in the East, with raw grey walls and marble countertops — perfect for an industrial wedding, indeed. For this editorial shoot, I provided lettering and calligraphy for an invitation suite and envelopes, framed signage, and menu.

Hope you lovely couples who are planning a wedding would find inspiration from these stunning photos from the shoot!

Styling: Wedrock Weddings
Venue: Mad Nest
Photography: Visual Artisans
Makeup: Makethisout
Flowers: Lavender Love Florist
Cake: My Fat Lady Cakes

Industrial Wedding Theme via Happy Hands Project

Industrial Wedding Theme via Happy Hands Project

Industrial Wedding Theme via Happy Hands Project

More photos of the shoot over here. Enjoy!

 

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