On my journey to learn calligraphy and develop my own hand I have read many, many books. I have taken a private lesson with a master calligrapher, but regrettably it was terrible timing for me with work + moving and I was only able to get in the one lesson. I also took a class at Paper Source, which was fun but didn’t turn me into a calligrapher in the 2 hours I spent there. I had my ‘aha’ moment when I recently took Melissa Esplin’s Modern Calligraphy Course. I am a visual learner (a lot of individuals are), I found watching her create the letters was very helpful for me. One of the things I had read previously that clicked when coupled with Melissa’s class was that in calligraphy you are ‘drawing’ the letters. This makes sense when you realize you need to pick your pen off the paper multiple times to create one letter; unlike with traditional cursive where you are told to keep your writing instrument on the page. Another tip I found very helpful in my practice is to reference alphabet specimens. The alphabets I appreciate the most (at the moment), are ones that give a very clear diagram of the stroke order. Before when I viewed these diagrams, I thought I would have to create the letter in one fell swoop (impossible), now that I know that it is okay, neigh, encouraged to lift my pen, I know that I can create the strokes in steps, which results in an actual letter (a huge achievement in my book). I have found a slew of reference alphabets for you. What is the absolute best calligraphy/lettering tip I can give you today? Practice. You really need to practice to achieve your goals in this discipline, but the best part is that with practice you can achieve a modicum of success. I love Copperplate, but Spencerian is what was taught in schools before the Palmer Method took over. Spencerian is the reason why so many of the American 19th century letters, ledgers and every day notes were so elegant. I have been asked how much I practice and I have challenged myself this month to practice every day for an hour. I usually can’t do this until late at night, but it is a very meditative practice so I find it works well before I go to bed. I also don’t always practice with dip pen and ink, a pencil works fine to get familiar with the strokes (so for those putting off learning until you can afford tools you can actually start tonight). Practicing with the sample alphabet specimens will help with one day developing your own hand. Most of all have fun!
//ONLINE SPECIMEN RESOURCES//
Iampeth-This stands for the International Association of Master Penman Engrossers Teachers of Handwriting. Here you will find a treasure trove of antique specimen books that have been scanned and that you can view for free! It is a wealth of resources, plus there’s free videos showing you how to create Copperplate letterforms as well.
The Palmer Method-If you are of a certain age and went to Catholic school there is a great chance that you are familiar with this hand and learned it at school. It is casually elegant. There’s a font here that is pretty spot on if you can’t wait to master this hand.
Ames Historical Society-You’ll hear the name Ames a lot in calligraphy circles, this link is a beautiful scanned guidebook and some interesting history thrown in to boot.
The American Instructor-A lovely antique alphabet specimen.
Finnish Penmanship Sample-Simple + elegant letters both Majuscules (uppercase) and miniscules (lower case).
How to Write Like an Architect-This isn’t calligraphy, but is lettering. This is one of my favorite hands and when I print I try to always re-create it.
//BOOKS WITH CALLIGRAPHY ALPHABET SPECIMENS//
The Technique of Copperplate Calligraphy-I love this book because it gives multiple variations on uppercase letters which I really appreciate. There are certain letters that I have a hard time with or just plain don’t like the way they look and to have an option for an alternate makes me very happy.
Mastering Copperplate Calligraphy-This is a large manual with tons of samples. Even if you don’t want to learn but love calligraphy this is a beautiful tome to see. It doesn’t have the stroke order, but she explains creating letters very well and I think the novice can follow along easily.
//VINTAGE ALPHABET SPECIMENS//
Etsy has some wonderful and affordable vintage specimen and guidebooks. I highly recommend them if you are interested in procuring some. Not only are they useful but would make a beautiful collection. Try search words like penmanship, calligraphy books, alphabet specimens.
Ebay-If you get serious about collecting penmanship guidebooks Ebay has some super rare and yes, expensive ones. Just looking through the listings of them is fun too!
Potboiler Press-Some great antique calligraphy books.
I Still Love Calligraphy-Melissa is a wonderful teacher and she does provide both a downloadable alphabet and guideline sheets for her students.
Miss Tristan B. is the co-creator of the world’s best + easiest product photography tool-Foto Rx | Shopkeeper’s Helper and one of the writer’s of this delightful blog. Her lofty goal here is to make this a creative resource repository and to inspire you to fall truly, madly, deeply in love with your life.