Overview of Calligraphy Techniques

In order for you to enjoy Calligraphy, it is a good idea to put some time and thought into the setting up of a comfortable work area, which has a good light source and allows for a good sitting posture.


In order to avoid casting shadows over your work, people who are right handed should have the light source on their left, while those who are left handed should have the light source on their right.

The ideal time is during the day as the light will be even and constant which will help prevent straining your eyes This is also preferable for accurate colour work.


Most people are used to writing on a flat surface, but to control the writing instruments used in calligraphy you need to have your body in an uncramped position which will give your writing hand the freedom of movement to form the letters.

Sit in a comfortable position with both feet on the floor and the writing surface positioned as close as possible to you. Adopt a relaxed posture that will allow your arms to move freely.

View Starting Calligraphy video by Paul Antonio

By sloping the writing surface you will help ease back strain and prevent blots from the dip pen, the ideal writing surface angle is between 5 and 10 degrees, some information I have found has indicated up to a 45 degree slope. (it will be best if you experiment with different angles to find a slope that is the best for you).

There are many ways of making a board from manufactured boards, lapboards or placing some books under one end of the writing board.


In order to make the writing surface soft, you can use several layers of newsprint covered by a sheet of white paper placed on top and secured by masking tape. If you are planning on using a t-square to lay-out your guide lines then leave a smooth straight edge on the writing board.

Holding the pen

Wide nib pens will make a thick or thin line depending on if you pull it down the paper or across the paper. While copperplate pens are pointed and require the writer to apply pressure on the pen in order to produce a thick line.

Note: If you experience writer’s cramp then this is a sign that you are holding the pen to tightly.

Hold the handle of the wide nib pen between your thumb and first two fingers and twist the handle till the nib is in full contact with the paper.

Holding a copperplate pen (offset pen) is different as the line thickness is made by pressure on the downward stroke. Holding the elbow or offset nib directly in line of the slope of letter with the handle pointing towards your chest. This pen is fashioned to assist the right hander in twisting the pen further to the right.

Using the pen

Place the ink on your writing side, this will allow you to refill the pen without reaching over your work, it is recommended that you secure the ink to the table to prevent spills (masking tape works).

If you are using a new or different pen then do a little practice with it to familiarize yourself on how the new nib “bites” on the paper and how the handle feels in your hand.

If you are new to Calligraphy, it is recommended that you use a fountain pen, and if you are new to using dip pens use a 2 mm (1/16 inch) nib as this will allow you to see what is happening with your pen strokes.