It is beautiful to see such a trend  in creating beautiful art and lettering by hand starting to emerge again.  Now, I do enjoy creating unique designs with the many different forms of digital technology we have at our fingertips, however, working with pen and pencil has such a wonderful feel, a grounding and balancing effect.

My love for this started quite young when I was first introduced to calligraphy.  I have played with different pens and styles, on and off, for years, but always drifted back to illustrating my letters starting with a pencil.  I love playing with a design for ages, before I settle on the one ( or two or five or more) that I like.

In this post I want to show you how I use a pencil to achieve the gorgeous look of calligraphy.  This gives you the freedom to doodle this art anywhere, anytime with only a pencil and paper.



Learning how to do calligraphy by pencil isn’t a difficult technique.  It does require practice to understand the letter movement and a basic understanding of the principles of the calligraphy art form.  To simplify it down, in calligraphy, the general rule is thick downstrokes, thin upstrokes.  This is due to the type of nib or pen tip that was used.  These days there are numerous tools you can use to create lettering, including many different nib shapes, brushes and art pens.

You can watch a video of my lettering process through a speed drawing, and I will also lay out my process below with images explaining my technique.

There are a wide range of styles of calligraphy originating from many different time periods and world cultures.  There are also a lot of modern takes on the style including brush lettering technique which has become quite popular with the large variety of brush pens available on the market.  In general though there are a few simple rules most styles follow.  The most basic of these is thick on the down stroke, thin on the upstroke.  From there you can experiment and play to your hearts content.


When I start my design, it begins with choosing a phrase and playing with various layouts.  These I will just work out thumbnails or sketch small versions of ideas on another sheet of paper.  Once I find what I like, I lay out my guidelines and start working in the framework of my lettering.  The “skeleton” of the lettering I will do in a script or cursive style.  This gives me the basis that I will on when I start to create the calligraphy “look”.


Then I will build up the body of the letters.  Still working in pencil,  I will create a thicken downstroke and leave the upstrokes thin. I do this by sketching in an outline and sometimes fill it in to help me determine the curve and size of my strokes.  While I am doing this I try to remain aware of the spacing between the letters.  You can build up either side of your original stroke, just make sure to try and keep the spacing balanced.  This may mean adjusting your original framework, that is ok, this is the phase to make the “messy” part.  We will start our good copy on a new sheet later.


Once I have the letters looking how I like, I will place a clean sheet of paper over top.  You can use tracing paper, or regular paper and a light box.  As long as you can see your outlines through the new sheet.  If you are going to scan the work in for digitizing later, often a piece of good tracing paper will be fine.  Then you can use your pen to trace your new letter outlines.  a fine pen will work great for this.  Here I used the Pitt Artist pen by Faber-Castell in a size S which is equivalent to a .3mm technical art pen.


Now that I have the outline, I will proceed to fill in the letters.  You can use the same pen or you can choose a different size.  Depends on how much you have to fill in.  Be sure to keep the line edges crisp and the fine lines clean and clear.  The beauty of calligraphy is the crispness and the distinct and clear variations in the line thickness.




When you are done with your lettering, you can add some illustration around it to give it a complete design look.  You can get creative with your lettering and add them to an art piece, or use it on invitations or greeting cards.  There is no end to the creative ideas you can use once you master the art of hand lettering.

If you would like to learn more about my hand lettering technique you can check out  my class Hand Lettering turning Words into Art available on skillshare or any of my other classes on my hand illustration techniques. JSPCREATE CLASSES


Good Luck with your designs and please share your art by tagging me on instagram @jspcreate or with the hashtag #jspcreate.   In the meantime, keep drawing, keep creating!

Jane xo