Getting Started

If you’d like to follow in my calligraphic footsteps, here’s some things you’ll need to get started.

Reference Material:

Any of these books will be a great starting point. I lean more on the first two as they break down the x-height which will be important to know as you dive deeper into various Scripts. I recommend starting with Uncial or Textura Quadratta (Blackletter). Play with both a little bit and see which feels more “right” to start with, you can always pick up the other later. The key here is once you start practicing, stick with ONE script to begin with. Each script has it’s own nuances, and you don’t want to start getting confused from the get go.


I highly recommend a Pilot Parallel 2.4mm fountain pen.

I also recommend Mitchell, Hero, or Brause dip nibs (John Neal Books). I urge you to steer clear of Speedball for now, As the built in ink reservoir can be a pain to clean. You will need to scrub and prep the nibs before use to get the manufacturing oils off.


This is going to be a tough one, depending on your budget and location. You’ll want a quality paper that you can still afford. If you’re using guideline sheets (linked further down) it’ll need to be thin enough to see the guidelines through, but still not cause the ink to bleed and feather all over the place

DO NOT USE RUN OF THE MILL COPY PAPER! I can’t stress this enough! Copy paper is only good for guideline sheets that go behind your work surface. It will feather and bleed. It’ll leave ink marks on whatever is under it, and most importantly you’ll lose the details of your letters. This will make learning from your mistakes (and you will make them) that much harder.

I’d recommend hunting around and looking for Rhodia, Clairfontain, or other blank notebooks with 90gsm paper. Blank books with good paper come and go, so keep your eyes out.


ALWAYS GUIDELINES! ALWAYS! Horizontal at the very least! Depending on the script, you’ll want vertical lines thrown in there as well.

You can measure your own, based on the with of the nib and the x-height of the script.

Here are a few PDFs with guidelines for the 2.4mm pen.

X-Height 4 2.4mm pen

X-Height 5 2.4mm pen


For me I found that frequent small practices, literally a word a day, was what help me the most. Find some way to work it into your routine.

As you start, you want to copy the shapes and get familiar with the ratios, taking note of how each stroke fits together. Study the reference(s), look at where the examples touch or overlap the guidelines and try to hit those same marks.

Make sure to go slow, you’re building the muscle memory.


This may sound a little confusing, but work with me here.

You want to hold the pen easily, so you don’t try to push the pen through the paper.
Lock your wrist. Bending the wrist will only throw off the angle of your nib and mess up your letters.
All of your major strokes will be done from the shoulder and elbow.


You’ll get there, keep at it. If it helps, think of it as a tangram puzzle.