Developing Your Own Calligraphy Style

Calligraphy is the art of beautiful handwriting. The word calligraphy comes from the Greek words kallos, meaning beauty, and graphein, meaning to write. The origins of calligraphic writing can be traced back thousands of years to ancient cultures like China, Japan, and Islamic societies.

Early calligraphy was often used for religious, ceremonial, and official purposes. Scribes and monks would hand letter sacred texts, royal decrees, and other important documents. Over time, calligraphy developed into an artform and spread to other parts of the world. Different styles emerged in various regions and cultures, shaped by the tools and materials available.

Today, calligraphy continues to be practiced and appreciated globally as both an art and a craft. Developing a personal calligraphic style allows writers to create unique letterforms and visual expression in their writing. Though its origins were functional, calligraphy remains valued for its blend of aesthetics, creativity, and communication.

Evaluating Existing Styles

As you begin developing your own calligraphy style, it helps to start by examining some of the most common existing styles to understand their key characteristics. According to, some of the most popular styles include:

Copperplate – Known for elegant, thin strokes with fine hairlines and dramatic contrast between thick and thin strokes. The style has a very fluid, smooth rhythm.

Spencerian – Characterized by soft, delicate, curving strokes with subtle variations in width. The overall look aims to be graceful and ornamental.

Italic – Features elegant but more upright letters, usually made with a broad-edged pen held at a consistent 30-55 degree angle. Strokes often have subtle thick and thin variations.

Blackletter – Very dramatic, bold style with strong thick and thin stroke contrasts. The letterforms have a fractured, sharp look rather than smooth curves.

Studying how these fundamental styles utilize different tools, stroke techniques, letter shapes, flourishes, and more can help provide inspiration and knowledge to draw from as you develop your own creative style.

Finding Inspiration

Trying to develop your own calligraphy style can feel overwhelming at first. An excellent way to find inspiration is by looking closely at forms, textures, and designs found in the natural world and manmade environments around you. Pay attention to architecture, nature, decorative arts, fashion, or any imagery that you find visually compelling. Notice interesting shapes in leaves, patterns in bird feathers, delicate latticework in iron gates, or the swooping curves of architectural molding (source). Study repeating motifs in textile prints, rhythmic waves in the ocean, or meandering vines. Sketch or photograph anything eye-catching so you can refer back to it later.

In addition to observing your physical surroundings, look through art books, magazines, websites, and social media for calligraphy, lettering, illustration, and graphic design that intrigues you (source). When analyzing other artists’ work, pay attention to the characteristics that draw you in, whether it’s creative flourishes, balanced spacing, inventive color palettes, or something else that sparks inspiration. Take notes on techniques, tools, layouts, and stylistic details so you can experiment with applying those strategies to your own developing style.

Immerse yourself in a diversity of aesthetics across time periods, cultures, and artistic movements. The broader your visual exploration, the more original combinations you can make when crafting your own creative signature. Let inspiration pour in from everywhere, keeping your mind open and eyes attentive.

Developing Your Letterforms

The key to developing a unique calligraphy style is crafting distinctive letterforms. This involves making decisions about the spacing, slant, thickness, and other attributes of each letter (Designmodo, 2023). When developing your letterforms, it’s important to start with the fundamentals. Study the anatomy and proportions of basic letterforms to understand the key strokes and shapes that form each letter (Pinterest, 2023). From there, you can begin customizing your letters by making them thicker or thinner, increasing or decreasing the slant, adjusting the spacing between letters, and adding your own flourishes. The goal is to create letterforms that flow together with a natural rhythm while still being distinctive. Experiment on practice sheets until you settle on letterforms that feel like an authentic expression of your personal style.

Choosing Tools and Materials

Selecting the right tools and materials is crucial for developing your personal calligraphy style. The key supplies you’ll need include:


Fude pens with soft nylon tips are excellent for beginners learning pointed pen calligraphy as they are forgiving and create thick and thin strokes easily (My Recommended Calligraphy Tools – Pens, Paper, Ink, …). Other popular options include dip pens with flexible steel nibs such as the Nikko G or Zebra G nibs. The right pen allows you to add flair and variation to your letterforms.


Along with pens, you can practice calligraphy using dip pens fitted with nibs. Nibs come in a variety of styles and materials, including steel, glass, and felt. Steel nibs offer rigidity while felt nibs have more flex. Try out different nib sizes and shapes to achieve different effects.


Look for paper with a smooth, heavyweight texture that can handle calligraphy ink without bleeding or feathering. Top choices are HP Premium 32lb and Rhodia pads (My Recommended Calligraphy Tools – Pens, Paper, Ink, …). The right paper elevates your work and allows ink to glide effortlessly.


When starting out, use black ink as it’s the most forgiving. India ink and sumi ink are specifically formulated for calligraphy. Over time, experiment with colored and metallic inks to add personality to your writing. Always choose high quality, waterproof inks to prevent smearing.

Practicing Consistency

Consistency is one of the most important elements of developing your own calligraphy style. Without consistency in your letterforms, spacing, slant, and size, your handwriting can appear disjointed and messy. Practicing drills and exercises focused on consistency will help train your muscle memory and technique.

A good place to start is with basic letter drills of the lowercase alphabet. Write each letter repeatedly on practice sheets, focusing on making each one uniform. Pay attention to the letter size, slant, spacing within the letter, and spacing between letters. Refer to exemplars and guidelines to check your work. See: How to Develop Consistency in Calligraphy.

Don’t forget to practice the uppercase letters as well, especially the letters with a prominent stem. I promise you, having a consistent letter slant is going to make the biggest difference in how polished your final piece looks. Consider setting a goal of filling 1-2 pages per practice session. How long it takes to develop consistency depends on the individual. Some may progress faster with daily practice while others will need more time. The key is persistence and being mindful during your practice sessions. See Reddit discussion: How Long to Achieve Consistent Lettering.

Adding Flourishes and Decorations

One of the best ways to make your calligraphy style unique is by adding flourishes and decorations. Flourishing refers to the embellishments and swoops added to letters or words to make them more ornate and decorative (source). There are many different types of flourishes you can experiment with such as swirls, banners, leaves, vines, feathers, and more. Start by practicing basic flourishes like swashes, tails, loops, and dots. As you get comfortable, try combining multiple flourish elements and adding them in different parts of letters and words. For example, you could add a swirl flourish to the uppercase letters and a banner tail to the end of lowercase letters.

When deciding where to add flourishes, aim for balance and rhythm in your designs. Flourishing every letter can look too busy, so try flourishing just the first, last, or emphasized letters in a word. Also pay attention to the direction of your flourishes, using a mix of left-facing and right-facing elements. This creates visual interest and energy. Don’t be afraid to let your creativity run wild and develop your own unique combinations of flourishes that become part of your signature style.

Achieving Flow and Rhythm

One of the keys to developing an appealing personal calligraphy style is mastering the flow and rhythm of your letterforms. Calligraphy should have a graceful, rhythmic quality to the strokes that connects each letter smoothly. As you gain more practice, you’ll develop an intuitive sense of the proper spacing, slant, and proportions to allow your writing to flow effortlessly across the page.

Be sure to focus on the connections between letters as you write. The transition from each letter into the next should be smooth and natural. Avoid abrupt changes in slant or awkward shapes in the joins. With broad edge calligraphy, the nib can be manipulated to create thin strokes that lead nicely into following letters.

Aim to create a visual melody in your writing. Vary the thick and thin strokes, add flourishes on ascenders and descenders, and leave appropriate spaces between letters and words. Experiment with speeding up and slowing down your writing to find the right cadence. Always write at a pace that allows control and accuracy. You may need to write a word or phrase several times to perfect the flow before moving on.


Analyzing and Iterating

Continuously evaluating and improving your style is key to developing a unique and polished calligraphy aesthetic. Set aside time each week or month to analyze your recent work. Look for areas where your letterforms and flourishes are inconsistent. Identify letters or word shapes that need more practice. You can also scan or photograph your work to see it from a new perspective on a computer screen.

Iterating based on analysis and feedback will help refine your style over time. As one calligraphy artist noted, “I like to go back every few months and compare old work to new and look for progress and changes. It helps me identify what I need to focus on.” Source

Don’t be afraid to deviate from exemplars or inspiration pieces if needed. Your style should originate from studying others’ work, but eventually evolve into something personal. Be patient through multiple iterations. As explained by a calligraphy instructor, “Developing a style takes time and concentrated effort, but the payoff of having a beautiful, unique hand is so rewarding.” Source

Sharing and Getting Feedback

An important part of developing your personal calligraphy style is getting feedback from others. As the saying goes, you can’t improve in a vacuum. Putting your work out there allows other calligraphers to provide constructive criticism and highlight areas where you can refine your style further.

Online communities like Testimonials | are great places to share your work and connect with fellow calligraphers. Scanning or photographing your pieces to share digitally makes it easy to get perspectives from calligraphers around the world. Be open to both positive feedback and constructive criticism. Look at both as opportunities to grow. Also, don’t forget to provide thoughtful feedback on others’ work as well.

In-person calligraphy meetups are another excellent way to get live feedback. Being able to discuss your work face-to-face and watch someone interact with your piece can give you valuable insights. If there are no calligraphy groups near you, consider starting one to cultivate that local community.

Keep an open mind, be willing to try new things, and remember that developing a personal style takes time. Feedback from others along the way will help refine your work and push you to improve. Have fun sharing and discussing calligraphy with fellow enthusiasts!

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