Getting Started in Calligraphy

By now you all probably know that we do a lot of calligraphy and hand lettering in our studio at Antiquaria. Whether it’s for wedding clients, our rubber stamps, greeting cards or just to send snail mail to friends, we’ve got a pen in hand every day. In the spirit of back to school, we thought it would be really fun to give you a little jump-start into calligraphy in case you want to take on a little studious action of your own! This post has a trove of info about the tools, resources and basics you’ll need to get started in practicing calligraphy. We hope you have fun and use your newfound skill useful in your daily life too! Bailey and Emma of Antiquaria

Getting Started in Calligraphy / Antiquaria for Oh So Beautiful Paper

If you’ve never done calligraphy before, you may find it all a little daunting. No lies…we did too. Simply speaking, calligraphy materials are not common anymore (because they are not at all necessary to daily life).  Most of the tools that are being made now are sub-par and you will never, EVER succeed with them, especially if you are a beginner.

Bailey learned this the hard way (even though she was told as much by her very first teacher). It was only a day after her first class when she sought out the nearest art shop and bought hundreds of dollars worth of “calligraphy” supplies. How much of that has she used over the years? Not a darn thing. What did she use? What her teacher gave her. Consider lesson learned. We’re here to set it all straight and hopefully get you started on the right path to calligraphy success!
Getting Started in Calligraphy / Antiquaria for Oh So Beautiful PaperThe basic supplies that you need to get started in calligraphy are pretty simple and inexpensive.

You’ll need:

  • a pen (otherwise called a pen holder); this is what you insert your nib into and hold while writing, we also have a whole blog post dedicated to picking a pen, here.
  • nibs those little pointy metal things that flex to create gorgeous letters (we like the Nikko G, Zebra G, Brause EF66 and Leonardt Principle)
  • paper the key is that it’s well sized (so that ink doesn’t bleed), arches, rhodia and canson make great papers. DO NOT BUY THAT ART-STORE CALLIGRAPHY PAPER. It’s bad news bears. Just because it says “calligraphy” on it does not mean it’s good for it.
  • sumi ink many things work for black ink and many don’t, we like sumi ink best for practice (and reproduction)
  • white ink it not necessary but it’s super fun to use, we like Dr. Martin’s Bleedproof white
  • ruler  for making straight lines to letter on
  • pencil great for practicing letter shapes, making lines, marking corrections, taking notes
  • storage box it’s not crucial but definitely helps keep your nibs together so they don’t get lost
  • writing surface writing with a dip pen is so different than normal writing – as anyone that’s practiced the art-form well knows. One thing that is very different is that you need to have a good writing surface so that the edges of the nib connect properly with the paper, giving you lovely letters.
    For beginners, we suggest writing on a stack of paper, so that you have a nice padded surface. Another option is using a craft foam pad, like this one. This is what we used for years…until discovering the awesome leather ones, made by Mr. M.G. Ward, shown below.

Resources

Books: Mastering Copperplate Calligraphy (still use this one ALL the time), by Eleanor Winters
Mastering Calligraphy: The Complete Guide to Hand Lettering (which features our very own, Bailey Rivera!!) by the lovely Gaye Godfrey-Nicholls
Our friend Molly Suber Thorpe of Plurabelle’s beauty, Modern Calligraphy

Online: The IAMPETH (or The International Association of Master Penman, Engrossers and Teachers of Handwriting) website is a trove of amazing resources from the best calligraphers in the world. This site could easily suck up days, even weeks of your life. They also have awesome teaching videos too! This one’s too good to miss.

The Flourish Forum has rapidly grown to be a massive community of calligraphers sharing resources, tips, and exemplars both new and old. It can be a little bit overwhelming since it has such an immense amount of material – but it’s a fabulous place to get involved. There are always snail mail exchanges to keep you practicing and connecting with other stationery and calligraphy enthusiasts. The mastermind behind the site, Erica McPhee, also publishes a calligraphy magazine that is wonderful, called Dasherie! It’s totally worth a read.

The Curious Calligrapher is a gorgeous site dedicated to ALL this calligraphy, servicing the calligraphy community. Here you’ll find more resources, forums and gorgeous eye candy!

Locally: You never know, you may just have a calligraphy mentor down the street! Google-ing “__your city__ calligraphy guild” is the best and fastest way to find local letter-lovers nearby. Plus, these non-profit organizations also offer workshops, get togethers and moral support (when you just can’t get your letters to look quite right).
Getting Started in Calligraphy / Antiquaria for Oh So Beautiful Paper

Warm Ups: Before diving into letterforms, it’s good to get familiar with your pen and ink. It will feel weird, really, really weird in your hand. That’s okay and totally normal.

1. Make thin lines (no pressure) and thick lines (full pressure) seeing just how thin and thick you can possibly flex your nib.

2. Next, make “waves” where on all of your upstrokes you have no pressure (a thin line) and on the down stroke you have a thick line (with pressure). The key to beautiful letters will be smoothly transitioning from thick to thin.

3. Lastly, we’ll make “loops” where again your upstrokes will be thin and the downstrokes will be thick. Pay attention to the transitions again and repeat these warm ups until the pen feels normal in your hand.

Getting Started in Calligraphy / Antiquaria for Oh So Beautiful Paper

Getting Started in Calligraphy / Antiquaria for Oh So Beautiful Paper

Getting Started in Calligraphy / Antiquaria for Oh So Beautiful Paper

Getting Started in Calligraphy / Antiquaria for Oh So Beautiful Paper

Getting Started in Calligraphy / Antiquaria for Oh So Beautiful Paper

Getting Started in Calligraphy / Antiquaria for Oh So Beautiful Paper

Getting Started in Calligraphy / Antiquaria for Oh So Beautiful Paper

This little exemplar is the “nuts and bolts” foundation to all pointed pen calligraphy. If you’ve never seen one before…you may be scratching your head thinking, “How does this differ from the cursive I learned in grade school?” 

Well, the main difference is the in the flexible nib pen. This awesome tool is what allows you get those desirable, lovable and gorgeous thick and thin lines we started playing with in the warm-ups. Without writing a book here, getting the thick and thin lines in your letters is both simple and difficult. It’s simple because all it takes is PRESSURE. It’s difficult because you have to learn how the pen behaves and make the pressure smooth. Only then will you have swoon-worthy letters.

To use the this exemplar, follow the directional arrows (from left to right), and press down on the pen when the line is thick and lift off of the pressure when it’s thin. Below, we show you how to “construct” the letters. There’s a lot of stopping and starting when doing calligraphy, which is certainly different from writing normally. Need more help? You can watch Bailey letter a-z in real-time in this video! Happy lettering folks! We’ll leave you with our favorite Calligraphy Truths…

Calligraphy Truths

Calligraphy takes Practice. And not just a little…but a whole lot.

You’ll know within a few hours of classes (or practice) whether or not calligraphy is for you.

It takes LASER-LIKE focus – especially if you want to spell things right.

Writing something meaningful is much more inspiring than the alphabet. Get the basics down and move onto “real” words. (Like a song, poem, recipe, ode to your cat…whatever speaks to you)

You’ll never, NEVER stop learning. Calligraphy is a vast and fascinating subject. Once you start…it’s like getting sucked into the rabbit hole with no turning back.

Buy quality supplies. It make all of the difference.

Calligraphers are the most friendly and awesome bunch of folks on the planet (kinda biased here) – but they’re truly the best resource out there. Find a mentor and ask questions!

DIY “Happy Tears” Hand Painted Handkerchief

We’ve collected vintage handkerchiefs here at Antiquaria for years. There’s something so sweet and sentimental about the delicate fabric and pretty designs. For today’s DIY tutorial, we repurposed a few of them as gifts for some brides-to-be in our lives. This simple and fun project is the perfect thing to make for a loved one on their wedding day, or for you to give your mom or gals on your own wedding day. Bailey and Emma of Antiquaria

DIY Happy Tears Hand Lettered Handkerchief / Antiquaria for Oh So Beautiful Paper

Materials

Vintage handkerchiefs

Printed “For Happy Tears” design (or a design of your choosing)

Vertex Screen printing Ink, we used black

High quality pointed paintbrush

Jar of water (for mixing and cleaning paint)

Iron and pressing cloth

DIY Happy Tears Hand Lettered Handkerchief / Antiquaria for Oh So Beautiful Paper

Step 1. Print out the “For Happy Tears” download (available here) or design your own to fit the handkerchief you’d like to letter. Lay the design underneath and set something heavy toward the top to weigh down the fabric. Luckily, most vintage handkerchiefs are made of pretty transparent fabric so seeing the design is very easy.

Step 2. Prep your paint. We used a water based screen printing ink that we had on hand and diluted it with water so that it would flow nicely through our brush. Test the ink consistency on a scrap piece of fabric. Too much water will make the paint spread and not give a crisp line.

Step 3. Carefully trace the design. It’s always best to write on the very (thin) tip of a paintbrush. For the thicker portions, come down a bit to give the line some weight. Want to see the lettering in action? There’s a video of Bailey lettering an entire handkerchief on our blog.

Step 4. Heat set the design to make it waterproof. Simply follow the manufacturers instructions using an iron and a pressing cloth.

DIY Happy Tears Hand Lettered Handkerchief / Antiquaria for Oh So Beautiful Paper

DIY Happy Tears Hand Lettered Handkerchief / Antiquaria for Oh So Beautiful Paper

DIY Happy Tears Hand Lettered Handkerchief / Antiquaria for Oh So Beautiful Paper

DIY Happy Tears Hand Lettered Handkerchief / Antiquaria for Oh So Beautiful Paper

DIY Happy Tears Hand Lettered Handkerchief / Antiquaria for Oh So Beautiful Paper

All artwork © 2015 Antiquaria and is made available for personal use only.

Photo Credits: Antiquaria for Oh So Beautiful Paper

How to Create Calligraphy and Floral Frames

We design lots of calligraphy frames in the studio for wedding invitations, art prints, stamps… we just can’t get enough! We thought it would be fun today to show you a little bit about the process of making a frame with a pointed calligraphy pen and a brush pen. You can really explore this topic in so many variations, which is what makes it so much fun! We hope that this little lesson helps springboard you into making designs that are your own! Bailey and Emma of Antiquaria

How to Create Calligraphy and Floral Frames for Wedding Invitations and Art Prints / Antiquaria for Oh So Beautiful Paper

Materials

Hot press watercolor paper

Calligraphy pen, pointed nib, and Sumi ink

Brush Pen

Monogram Rubber Stamp – we used our Handwritten Calligraphy Names Monogram

Stamp Pad

Pencil

How to Create Calligraphy and Floral Frames for Wedding Invitations and Art Prints / Antiquaria for Oh So Beautiful Paper

There are endless techniques you can use to make illustrated borders, and today we’re only going to dip into a few of the basics. We recommend taking a few minutes (or hours) to peruse IAMPETH, which has amazing resources and inspirations for pointed pen work, since that is the tool that we’re going to primarily use today. Most of these decorations start with a compound curve (the main stem that will border your image) and are decorated off of that curve. Here’s a little bit about each decoration:

How to Create Calligraphy and Floral Frames for Wedding Invitations and Art Prints / Antiquaria for Oh So Beautiful Paper

For this plume-like decoration, you want the thick stroke (using pressure) to be on the inside, next to the main stem, as shown above. Make the little loops smaller as you go up the stem.

How to Create Calligraphy and Floral Frames for Wedding Invitations and Art Prints / Antiquaria for Oh So Beautiful Paper

This decoration resembles a feather. With a pencil, draw a shape on the side of your main stem, as a guide. Then fill in the shape with light compound curves, moving up the stem.

How to Create Calligraphy and Floral Frames for Wedding Invitations and Art Prints / Antiquaria for Oh So Beautiful Paper

This simple little leaf decoration just has arches up the side of the stem. In the middle of each, we drew in little dots.

How to Create Calligraphy and Floral Frames for Wedding Invitations and Art Prints / Antiquaria for Oh So Beautiful Paper

The abstract floral border is done off of a pencil line, with no main stem. Start with a pencil line. Then, using a brush pen, or a small paint brush and ink, make little petal shapes up the pencil line.

How to Create Calligraphy and Floral Frames for Wedding Invitations and Art Prints / Antiquaria for Oh So Beautiful Paper

Next, add in your leaves.

How to Create Calligraphy and Floral Frames for Wedding Invitations and Art Prints / Antiquaria for Oh So Beautiful Paper

Lastly, add in some details with your calligraphy pen. Outline around the shapes to define them and add the centers of the abstract flowers.

Decorated Monogram. In the series of pictures below, we use the above techniques (specifically the abstract floral border) to embellish one of our Monogram Stamps (our Handwritten Calligraphy Names Monogram). You could do the same thing around an invitation, single initial monogram or to address an envelope!

How to Create Calligraphy and Floral Frames for Wedding Invitations and Art Prints / Antiquaria for Oh So Beautiful Paper

How to Create Calligraphy and Floral Frames for Wedding Invitations and Art Prints / Antiquaria for Oh So Beautiful Paper

How to Create Calligraphy and Floral Frames for Wedding Invitations and Art Prints / Antiquaria for Oh So Beautiful Paper

How to Create Calligraphy and Floral Frames for Wedding Invitations and Art Prints / Antiquaria for Oh So Beautiful Paper

How to Create Calligraphy and Floral Frames for Wedding Invitations and Art Prints / Antiquaria for Oh So Beautiful Paper

How to Create Calligraphy and Floral Frames for Wedding Invitations and Art Prints / Antiquaria for Oh So Beautiful Paper

Calligraphy Wall Art. After lettering a phrase, we decorated the border using the same pointed pen that it was written with (mainly the plume technique). Alternatively, you could use a fine tip Micron pen to draw any of the lettering or borders that we’ve shown here. You could also use color or gold to embellish your work!

How to Create Calligraphy and Floral Frames for Wedding Invitations and Art Prints / Antiquaria for Oh So Beautiful Paper

How to Create Calligraphy and Floral Frames for Wedding Invitations and Art Prints / Antiquaria for Oh So Beautiful Paper

How to Create Calligraphy and Floral Frames for Wedding Invitations and Art Prints / Antiquaria for Oh So Beautiful Paper

How to Create Calligraphy and Floral Frames for Wedding Invitations and Art Prints / Antiquaria for Oh So Beautiful Paper

How to Create Calligraphy and Floral Frames for Wedding Invitations and Art Prints / Antiquaria for Oh So Beautiful Paper

How to Create Calligraphy and Floral Frames for Wedding Invitations and Art Prints / Antiquaria for Oh So Beautiful Paper

How to Create Calligraphy and Floral Frames for Wedding Invitations and Art Prints / Antiquaria for Oh So Beautiful Paper

How to Create Calligraphy and Floral Frames for Wedding Invitations and Art Prints / Antiquaria for Oh So Beautiful Paper

We hope you have tons of fun playing around with the techniques! Be sure to show us your interpretation on Instagram by tagging us @antiquariadesign! We can’t wait to see what you come up with.

DIY Printed Fabric with Rubber Stamps

We had a ton of fun experimenting with today’s tutorial. After hearing feedback from clients over the years that have used screen printing ink and an ink brayer to print with their stamps vs. using a stamp pad, we figured that it was high time to try it for ourselves. The process and results are fun and the options for using the technique are endless. Today, we’re using three of our pattern stamps on linen fabric to make a gorgeous, custom floral print! Bailey and Emma of Antiquaria

DIY Printed Fabric with Rubber Stamps / Antiquaria for Oh So Beautiful Paper

DIY Printed Fabric with Rubber Stamps / Antiquaria for Oh So Beautiful Paper

Materials

Fabric (we used linen – but cotton fabric would also work)

Camellia Pattern Stamp

Daisy Pattern Stamp

Small Leaves Pattern Stamp

Ink

Brayer

Disposable spoon (or one you don’t plan to eat with again)

Disposable Palette

Scrap Paper

Iron & Scrap of Cloth

DIY Printed Fabric with Rubber Stamps / Antiquaria for Oh So Beautiful Paper

Step 1. Spoon some of ink onto the disposable palette. With the back of the spoon, smear the ink in a rectangle, down the center. Using the brayer, roll the ink onto the palette until you get a thin film of ink in the center. Now you’re ready to start printing!

Step 2. First test your overall pattern on a small piece of fabric. Lay the fabric over a scrap piece of paper to protect the table from ink stains. Lightly use the brayer to roll ink onto your stamp. Start with the largest (most dominant) stamp, before using smaller stamps to fill in the pattern. Place the stamp down, and stamp it as if you were printing on a sheet of paper using moderate and even pressure. Lift the stamp and re-apply ink.

Step 3. Begin stamping on your fabric. Start with the largest stamp (we used our Camellia pattern stamp) until you’ve covered your entire piece of fabric. Use the next smallest stamp (we used our Daisy pattern stamp) to start filling in the negative spaces. The last stamp was our Small Leaves Pattern stamp. Because it’s small, it make a wonderful filler and allows you to really balance the overall design. We found that dipping into the thin layer of ink works best for the small stamps vs. using the brayer.

Step 4. Heat set the ink once you’ve finished printing all of your fabric according to the manufacturers instructions. In our case, we used a dry iron and a scrap piece of fabric.

DIY Printed Fabric with Rubber Stamps / Antiquaria for Oh So Beautiful Paper

DIY Printed Fabric with Rubber Stamps / Antiquaria for Oh So Beautiful Paper

DIY Printed Fabric with Rubber Stamps / Antiquaria for Oh So Beautiful Paper

DIY Printed Fabric with Rubber Stamps / Antiquaria for Oh So Beautiful Paper

DIY Printed Fabric with Rubber Stamps / Antiquaria for Oh So Beautiful Paper

DIY Printed Fabric with Rubber Stamps / Antiquaria for Oh So Beautiful Paper

DIY Printed Fabric with Rubber Stamps / Antiquaria for Oh So Beautiful Paper

DIY Printed Fabric with Rubber Stamps / Antiquaria for Oh So Beautiful Paper

DIY Printed Fabric with Rubber Stamps / Antiquaria for Oh So Beautiful Paper

DIY Printed Fabric with Rubber Stamps / Antiquaria for Oh So Beautiful Paper

This technique excites us so much and we can’t help thinking of all of the possible uses for our very own customized fabric! Imagine stamping your monogram onto linen napkins for your wedding, making tote bags for your bridesmaids, incorporating the print into your handmade wardrobe or even making custom print fabric envelopes for your invitation!

Photo Credits: Antiquaria for Oh So Beautiful Paper

DIY Southwestern Cactus Wedding Invitations

We’ve always had a love affair with different varieties of cactus and Southwestern scenery as a whole. Just take Emma’s wedding invitation as an example! This colorful design is a fresh take on the theme. Splurging on one stunning letterpress piece for the invitation and adding in your own DIY pieces is a great way to have a luxe invitation for less. Plus, now that we finally launched our brand new wrapping sheets, we finally have paper large enough to be used to make your own gorgeous pattern envelopes to coordinate! Hooray!

DIY Southwestern Cactus Wedding Invitations by Antiquaria for Oh So Beautiful Paper

DIY Southwestern Cactus Wedding Invitations by Antiquaria for Oh So Beautiful Paper

Materials

Old West Letterpress Invitation

Vintage Calligraphy Reply Card Stamp

Horseshoe Return Address Stamp, No.2

Out West Wrapping Sheet, 20″x 29″ 

Envelope Template

A7.5 Envelope, in Pool

4bar Envelope, in Pool

4bar Card, in Paper Bag

Stamp Pads, in Turquoise and Brown

Fine Leather Cord

Pencil, Scissors and double stick tape

DIY Southwestern Cactus Wedding Invitations by Antiquaria for Oh So Beautiful Paper

Step One: An inner envelope can be an awesome way to incorporate a lot of pattern and personality into your invitations. For this design, we made our own using our Out West wrapping paper. You’ll get three (3) A7 envelopes per 20″ x 29″ sheet. Simply trace the template (if pattern is directional, make sure the template is oriented correctly) using a pencil and cut it out with scissors. Once it has been cut out, fold in each side.

DIY Southwestern Cactus Wedding Invitations by Antiquaria for Oh So Beautiful Paper

DIY Southwestern Cactus Wedding Invitations by Antiquaria for Oh So Beautiful Paper

Step Two: Using the photo above, apply double stick tape or stick glue to the sides of the lower envelope flap. Fold it up and press to adhere.

DIY Southwestern Cactus Wedding Invitations by Antiquaria for Oh So Beautiful Paper

DIY Southwestern Cactus Wedding Invitations by Antiquaria for Oh So Beautiful Paper

For this design, we decided to use one of our premium letterpress pieces for the invitation to keep it luxe. You could also stamp this piece if you preferred, using our Old West Invitation Stamp and a white A7 card.

DIY Southwestern Cactus Wedding Invitations by Antiquaria for Oh So Beautiful Paper

Step Three: Stamp your remaining pieces. We used our Vintage Calligraphy Reply Card to make the overall feel a little more formal. For the return and reply addresses, we used our Vintage Horseshoe Return Address, No.2. Please watch this video for more information on inking and stamping an oversized stamp.

DIY Southwestern Cactus Wedding Invitations by Antiquaria for Oh So Beautiful Paper

Step Four: Believe it or not, all that’s left are the finishing touches! We tied the suite together with a lovely, thin (1 mm) leather cord in a natural color. We also addressed the envelopes to our guests using a calligraphy pen and a whimsical style! We know your guests will be thrilled to receive this gorgeous piece of mail in their mailbox!

DIY Southwestern Cactus Wedding Invitations by Antiquaria for Oh So Beautiful Paper

 

Photos by Antiquaria for Oh So Beautiful Paper