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.
It’s that time of the year again. January is a very important month for Happy Hands Project and myself because I will be celebrating three things—my birthday, the HHP blog anniversary, and my wedding anniversary!
This modern calligraphy starter kit was launched last December 2017 and has been available for sale in my Etsy shop. It took me months to finish designing everything—from the instructional booklet to the note cards to practice on. This kit has everything you need to get started in modern calligraphy. This is an absolute labour of love and I cannot wait to share a kit to ONE LUCKY WINNER.
Curious about what’s in the box? Each modern calligraphy starter kit includes the following awesome tools:
1 beginners’ booklet with premium practice paper and stroke-by-stroke instructions and a full alphabet examplar
instructional tips & techniques
1 A5 guidelines card
1 A5 drills card
1 wooden straight pen holder
1 Palomino Blackwing pencil (my favourite!)
2 pointed flexible nibs
1 pot of black ink
8 sheets of A5 tracing paper
1 screen printed tote from the in-person workshops
an assortment of decorative cards
blank kraft gift tags
personalized name tag
Good luck everyone! Let’s keep on spreading the love for calligraphy and all things handmade!
RULES: Absolutely no purchase necessary. This giveaway is open internationally. The giveaway starts on 23 January at 12am, and ends on 31 January at 12 am (Singapore time, UTC+8). One winner will be generated randomly through Rafflecopter. Should a winner fail to reply to the notification email within 48 hours, the prize will be forfeited and a new winner will be generated. Happy Hands Project will be paying for the shipping costs, but will not be responsible for any customs fees in the recipient’s country.
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.
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!
I am beyond excited to announce that after months in the making, the Make Your Own Happy Hour Modern Calligraphy Starter Kit is finally ready!
I know there are a lot of you who are not in Singapore and have always wanted to come to the in-person workshops. Here’s the next best thing! The starter kit is similar to the kits given out during the Happy Hour workshops, though the booklets were downsized from A4 to A5 for more affordable shipping costs. You will receive the tools to get you started—2 flexible nibs, a pot of black ink, a wooden straight holder, my favourite Blackwing pencil, a writing booklet, instruction guide, and practice tips. The kit also includes a screen printed tote and an assortment of cards and kraft tags for you to show off your calligraphy skills.
I’ve spent months planning what goes into this box, and re-designing the booklets and instruction guides. I hope this will help kickstart your journey in pointed calligraphy. It also makes an awesome gift for that guy or gal who has always wanted to try their hand at modern calligraphy but did not know where to start.
Each kit is hand-assembled and peppered with a lot of love (from me, of course!) so I hope you’ll love this as much as I do.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Here’s what happened during the latest Modern Calligraphy workshop for beginners here in Singapore.
Last September, The Happy Hour: Beginners’ Modern Calligraphy workshop is back! I love teaching this class because almost 99% of the time, the participants have not tried their hand at pointed pen calligraphy. Why do I love this, you may ask? Because they leave the class truly inspired by what they learned, and are able to write the alphabet using the beginners’ tools.
The special ‘Make Your Own Happy Hour‘ booklet is a wonderful workbook to get started, printed in premium, super smooth paper. It has stroke-by-stroke instructions on how to write the letters of the alphabet. This is the pad that we use in class and will be used for further practice when at home.
I always tell the story of how I started out in class. When I started modern calligraphy in 2012, there were no classes here in Singapore at all. The struggle was real, my friends. When I finally got the hang of it (after 2 years!), my friends convinced me to try to teach this craft. Needless to say, I felt very unsure. I finally took a shaky step and taught my first class—and I’m still having a wonderful time teaching modern calligraphy after almost 4 years!
It’s the first modern calligraphy class hosted by the awesome people at Fika Swedish Cafe, who prepared this delectable canapé spread for all of us. We had the cozy second level all to ourselves, and on a sunny day, the natural light is just perfect for writing with pen and ink.
My advice to beginners is still the same. Practice makes pretty! Here are some photos of our most recent modern calligraphy class. Upcoming classes are posted here. Enjoy!
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
2 :: Make the vector graphic into a pattern. Click on the Object pull-down menu from the top, select Pattern, and click on Make.
3 :: Save your pattern. Click OK, and delete the existing graphics from your art board. This will give you a clean slate.
4 :: Create a full background using your newly-created pattern. Wee!
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.
Last January marked my first modern calligraphy workshop in Manila, Philippines. It was a lovely Saturday with absolutely no traffic jam. It was sunny, and bright light was streaming down the floor-to-ceiling windows of The Picasso‘s function room. I’ve set up without a hitch, with fairy lights nicely hanging on the glass wall.
I brought all tools and workpads from Singapore, so the class in Manila was basically the same Happy Hour Workshop that we have in here. Thanks to my kids who have airline baggage allowance for themselves (even infants get 10kg!), I did not have to pay extra for more than 20 sets of workshop kits! Yay!
We were packed to the brim that day. These amazing ladies got to work, practicing their letter forms, as I went around to see how each of them were doing. It’s so satisfying to see them struggle during the first strokes of the drills, then start improving as they start filling the pages with more letters.
Of course, a workshop is not complete without coffee and pastries, so we stopped mid-way to refuel and mingle. It was great to get to know each and everyone of them, find out what they do for a living and how they stumbled upon this workshop (someone said Google, which was awesome).
Thanks to everyone who came to the Beginners’ Class — hopefully I’ll be back later this year for an intermediate one, or even brush lettering! We’ll never know. Hugs to the ladies who had to travel quite far just to get the workshop. Lastly, high fives to the amazing team at The Picasso Boutique & Serviced Residences for giving in to my requests and setting up so nicely. I can’t wait to be back! Now here are more photos of the class. To those who weren’t able to come, hope to see you guys next time!