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The basics of Modern Calligraphy or Hand Lettering Part 1

Updated on April 30, 2019

Everyone can learn to handletter or use modern calligraphy.

Horrible handwriting is one reason many people avoid the opportunity to learn hand lettering. But there is a difference in handwriting vs. hand lettering or modern calligraphy. I will share some basics that everyone can learn.

Although I have been complimented on my handwriting prior to learning this artistic form, good handwriting is not a prerequisite.

I'm starting this series to share how I taught myself this art form. In this first article I will share some of the most common used materials as well as some of my favorite Instagram feeds for your inspiration.

Lettering Artist #1

This is the first lettering artist, Kate Coogan, who I really began studying. On her Instagram page: P & H Chalk, she shares a lot of tips and tricks on a daily basis. You can even scroll back through her feed to learn each letter individually. Her primary tools of choice are paper & calligraphy markers which I will also link to on Amazon. She also hosts and instructs classes in Southern California and occasionally releases a lettering manual.

Tombow Markers

Here are the easiest brush markers for learning modern calligraphy. In this 2 pack, one has a hard tip and one has a soft tip. I found the hard tip was easiest for me to practice using when I first learned modern calligraphy. But now I prefer the soft tip. It is up to the user preference, but try both--and don't give up after the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd try. I promise you will get there!

Lettering Artist #2

There is also a lovely chalk artist, Shannon Roberts, who uses chalk as her primary lettering medium. She has grown from an etsy artist to a published art author with reproductions of her artwork sold in stores like Hobby Lobby & Hallmark.

Lettering Artist #3

If you'd like to try your hand at painting your words, then Cari at Caris Canvas is your girl. She has monthly sales on Etsy, but she has also begun selling reproductions of her pieces in mass through Kirklands.

My Lettering Art

All three of these artists inspired me to start pursuing lettering. Since becoming a lettering artist, I have sold my art at craft shows and have recently started selling on Etsy.

How to Handletter

The basics of handlettering are simple. The downstrokes of each letter are thick and the upstrokes are thin. This can be accomplished with any writing utensil. But brush markers are the easiest medium for most people starting their lettering journey. The number one key to improving your letter shapes and forms is the same as with learning any art form...P.R.A.C.T.I.C.E. It will take time but you can do this!

Below is a simple sketch of what exactly the upstroke and downstroke is. Follow the arrow up and you have the upstroke. When the arrow goes down, this is the downstroke. Every single letter is made up of upstrokes and downstrokes. Learn these steps and you are on your way to being a lettering artist!

Example of upstroke & downstroke


Basic Modern Calligraphy lowercase alphabet and three words to learn

Once you are comfortable writing the thin upstrokes and thick downstrokes, you can begin practicing your letters. If you study several artists, you may see similarities, but every person has their own unique letter forms. Next you will see my simple and basic cursive lowercase alphabet and a few words using these letters.

Basic Lowercase Handlettering Alphabet


Find your Lettering Style

Remember, practice is what will bring the most improvement. Even though I've practiced art for 30+ years, I was very shaky and uncertain when I first started using brush markers. Find a word or phrase that you love and write it 20 times a day everyday for 2 weeks using this method and you will notice an improvement drastically. If you don't like the way a certain letter looks, go to Pinterest and search lettering for that specific letter. There are tons of pages and examples you can find for free. There are also lots of Instagram pages and Youtube videos that go over all types of fonts. Start with the basics though, you don't want to overwhelm yourself. And when you feel confident in your first alphabet, start experiencing with other font styles. The lettering world is your oyster! I have taught these basics to many people and they all were skeptical they could do it at first. Then once they overcame their fear of trying something new, they said "Wow--I didn't realize I could do that!"

I'm hoping to make this a series and will provide more lettering content in the near future. If you feel this would be a benefit or if you learned something from my experience today, please leave some feedback. I'd like to provide info that you find beneficial. And I look forward to hearing from you! <3


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