3 Big Calligraphy Mistakes Most Beginners Make + How To Fix Them

February 13, 2021


Are you interested in learning calligraphy basics? Wondering why your final products just aren’t turning out the same as the pros? I’m breaking down 3 of the top mistakes I see beginners making that compromise their final product and keeps them from matching up with professionals. 


Let’s dive into these mistakes and how to fix them!

Mistake #1: Using The Wrong Tools

The biggest mistake I see people making with their calligraphy is using the wrong tools. Calligraphy basics 101 is that there are some tools that just won’t work. Don’t hear what I’m not saying. I am not saying you need to spend a ton of money on the highest quality. No no no. 

I’m just saying that there are some tools that you really can’t compromise on. I’ll tell you the 2 tools that I think are the most important to get right. Again, I am not saying to get at a high cost. But understanding why some tools work and some won’t is KEY to taking your calligraphy to the next level. 

Okay Abby, so what tools do I need?

Great question! The biggest one is paper. If you use regular copy paper out of your printer or even cardstock, more than likely your ink will bleed and you will lose your beautiful, crisp lines. Then everything you worked so hard on is gone. Or if you are using brush pens, rougher papers like regular copy paper will fray your nibs (the tips of your pens) and again, you will lose the crisp edges of your letters.


You really need smooth paper! You may not know what “smooth” paper really means until you have been properly introduced. You are looking for a marker pad, inkjet paper, or even tracing paper. Those are going to give you the best results. 


This is less about WHAT nibs you use and more about remembering to change them. Once you have rinsed them too many times or worse, forgot to rinse them too many times (we’ve all been there!) they start to get rusty or sticky. The ink can’t flow through them the right way anymore after that starts to happen and it is time to change them out!

Mistake #2: They Don’t Know What Strokes To Apply Pressure To

This next mistake is really common and totally understandable. Here are THE calligraphy basics: light pressure up, heavy pressure down. Thin upstrokes, thick downstrokes. This basically means that every time your hand is moving UP the page, you want to use the lightest pressure possible. When your hand is traveling DOWN the page is when you want to use a heavier pressure.

There is a finesse to this of course that sets seasoned pros apart from the rest. It has to do with the way your lines transition and how straight and consistent they are. 

Mistake #3: Not Practicing!

The last big mistake that I see beginners making all the time is not practicing! Calligraphy is like riding a bike. These muscles that you are using (YES you are using specific muscles to calligraph anything) require toning and practice to build up muscle memory.

This is where your hand remembers how to create a beautiful flourish in a single motion without fault and how it will remember exactly how much pressure is needed for each stroke.

If you don’t practice, you won’t get BETTER. It’s not that you actually can’t do it but just that you won’t ever be able to do it well. I know this really well because I am a self-taught calligrapher and I have had times where my practice has taken a backseat to other things going on in my life. When I pull my pen and ink back out, I can tell I’m a little rusty. I need more reps than usual to get back into it. 

Even the pros practice. Just like in major league sports. Practicing and perfecting their craft is just as much their job as playing and performing when people are watching.

Same goes for your calligraphy basics. You need to practice them all the time and keep them fresh and getting better in order to see any growth.

I hope you have enjoyed this post and have learned something about calligraphy basics and what NOT to do as a beginner. These mistakes are so common but also really easy to avoid if you have someone guiding you! I’m happy to be that person.

3 common beginning calligrapher mistakes and how to fix them with calligrapher, Abby Powell.
3 common beginning calligrapher mistakes and how to fix them with calligrapher, Abby Powell.

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Photo credit: Amber Tice

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