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Modern Calligraphy 101

Updated on June 22, 2016

Learning About Calligraphy


Learn Calligraphy From A Pro

I was invited to attend a #creativehour class at the Mondrian Los Angeles to take a class on learning about calligraphy. It was taught by professional letterer/calligraphist Erica Tighe. This native Arizonian learned calligraphy while living in New York. It's a craft where one can be creative in a small space with a limited amount of materials. Getting started costs around $100.

She perfected the craft and started her own company 'Be A Heart' creating unique wedding invitations, dinner menus, announcements and party invitations. Word spread about her penmanship and soon she was working full time creating announcements and teaching classes.

Erica Tighe was recently featured in ELLE magazine for her invitations made for a celebrity wedding.

Sitting in the SkyBar at the Mondrian Los Angeles pool area, Erica taught a group of 12 students the fundamentals of calligraphy. Each place setting had tools and a workbook to practice in and to take home.

We sipped Lillet spritzers as she walked around the table offering one-on-one help when needed, while learning how to press down lightly and be fluid with our lettering.

Proper Tools are Important


Calligraphy Tools

There are a few basic supplies and tools to get started. Here are Erica Tighe's favorites to use:

1. Yasutomo Black Sumi Ink.

2. Bristol Smooth Surface paper

3. An oblique pen holder

4. A straight pen holder

5. Two nibs - A Leonardt Extra Fine Principal nib and a Nikko G Pointed nib

6. Graph paper

Hand Calligraphy and Painted Invitations


Let's begin Calligraphy 101

1. Choose a pen holder. I prefer the straight pen holder.

2. Take a nib and insert it into the base of the circle part at the end.

3. Hold the holder close to the nib for better control.

4. The nib has four parts - the base, shank, vent hole and tines.

5. Dip the tines into the well of black sumo ink to fill the vent hole. It's an art to figure out not to fill it too much, but you also don't want to dip it too little. It takes a while to get the right dipping method.

6. What I learned to remember is Upstrokes are hairline strokes, while downstrokes are thicker. Moving your pen down puts more pressure on the nib and seperates the tines. This releases more ink when you are moving down. Upstroke closes the tines allowing a nice, thin line.

7. Before working on a project, you should practice in a workbook or on paper until you feel comfortable with your strokes.

Erica Tighe Teaches Calligraphy Classes


Fun Projects with Calligraphy

One of your first projects should be to address envelopes. Your family and friends will be so impressed. You may want to draw a faint pencil line to keep your letters straight in a line and not drop up or down. Erase the line once you are finished.

Next time you throw a dinner party, design place cards for each guest. They will be thrilled to learn you created them. Also, if your still feel creative, create a menu with your new tools and skills.

Write a letter to a loved one in calligraphy letters. It's so romantic!

Teach children cursive and calligraphy. Before computers, kids loved to learn cursive. Now some schools don't bother with this dying art form. Don't let it die! Calligraphy will challenge children to develop a skill that not many their age have learned. I bet they post their creations on Instagram and SnapChat!

Write love sonnets in calligraphy to give to your spouse.

Create a Dinner Menu


Calligraphy As A Career

Once you have practiced and feel confident with your new calligraphy skills, you may want to take this one step further as a part-time or full-time career.

I learned that the rates for addressing an envelope range from $2 to $5 each. That can add up when you are addressing 250 envelopes for a wedding.

A good site to get started is on Erica Tighe's website -


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