Brush Calligraphy Strokes:
Hey friend! Let’s get into the real deal: Basic Calligraphy Strokes. I have mentioned them a few times in previous posts. This is where each letter is broken down into strokes of the pen. We learn the strokes first, which shows us the “proper” way for the letters to be written, which then in turn helps us know what lines should be thicker (the downstrokes) and what lines should be thinner (the upstrokes). Once you have this downpat, your calligraphy is going to look beautiful.
So far in this series we have looked at:
- Basic Rules
- Brush Pens for Beginners
- Best Paper for Brush Calligraphy
- Writing Calligraphy with a Regular Pen (Faux Calligraphy)
Now let’s get into the strokes.
One thing I am just going to mention quickly is do not expect perfection. Practicing these strokes comes out wobbly and wonky at first and that is normal! It takes time to be able to subconsciously switch from thick lines with pressure, to thin lines without pressure. Until then, it’s a conscious effort – so go slow.
There are two goals for practicing strokes:
- A smooth transition from thick to thin (or thin to thick).
- The thickness of the “thick lines” to be uniform throughout, and same for the thin lines.
These things take time – but remember, practice makes progress. This is why it’s normal to fill pages and pages of just strokes before moving on to letters or words. In fact, it’s encouraged!
The first two strokes are pretty simple: the down stroke, and the up stroke.
Brush Calligraphy Basic Strokes: The Downstroke
This stroke is one full pressured downstroke. It’s simply where you write from the top to the bottom, with full pressure on the pen. The key is to maintain the same pressure throughout the whole stroke, so that the thickness at the top of the stroke is the same as the bottom of the stroke. Grab the guidelines in your free workbook and let’s try it out. Put your pen to the paper at the ascender line (two above the baseline), and put enough pressure on the pen to press the nib down. Pull the ben to the baseline and release.
You may be shaky at first, which is totally fine! You have created your first calligraphy line which is a huge step so far. This stroke is included in SO much of the alphabet so it’s really important to learn this one.
Letters like p, q, t, l, y, a, b, m, and so many others have a downstroke. I would recommend making this one a regular drill. As in, fill the page with downstrokes! Do it until you are no longer shaky. People who have being doing brush calligraphy for years still practice some of these basic drills, just to keep the muscle memory strong.
Brush Calligraphy Basic Strokes: The Upstroke
If you have been following along so far, I think you can probably assume what this stroke looks like. It’s a thin stroke that is written from the bottom up. So to practice along, place your pen softly onto the baseline, with minimal pressure so that it creates a nice thin line. Draw it up to the ascender line, keeping the same amount of minimal pressure on the stroke. Ta-Da! You have just drawn your 2nd stroke.
This stroke is foundational as well because it is actually integrated into a lot of the other strokes. So this is actually more of an ability that you want to practice over time.
Brush Calligraphy Basic Strokes: The Oval Stroke
This one looks like a simple “o” but it’s the first stroke mentioned yet that transitions from a thick line to a thin line within the same stroke. Some people would disagree with this part, but I find it easier to start and end the oval stroke at the thin part. With a lot of brush pens it’s easier to return to the same amount of minimal pressure at the end of the stroke as it was in the beginning of the stroke.
So we would start at the top right hand of the stroke, curve around the top to the left, then transition into a thick line as you go down. Then after curving around the bottom, transition to a thin stroke again to move up, back to the beginning. It should end up looking like an elegant “o” and unless you have been doing it for a while, it will look shaky, uneven and messy. Which is totally ok, and actually expected at this point in the game.
Brush Calligraphy Basic Strokes: The Reverse Oval Stroke
So this stroke isn’t actually mentioned often in beginner courses which baffles me, because of how often you use this technique in the alphabet. Letters like b, p, and a cursive s, all need a oval stroke going the opposite way, curving around the bottom with the thicker line on the right.
So if you want to practice along, start at the x height, which will be at the left of the letter. Draw a thin stroke up, curve around to the right, increase pressure to a thick stroke down, and decrease pressure to curve around to the left, and meet back at the beginning with the final thin stroke.
Once again – totally normal to be shaky! Do what you can, practice makes progress and soon you will be confident and amazing at it.
More Brush Calligraphy Basic Strokes To Come
So now you know the basics of the Downstroke, the Upstroke, the Oval, the Reverse Oval. In the next couple of posts we will learn about the Underturn, Overturn, Ascending Loop, Descending Loop, Compound Curve and the Entry/Exit Strokes. I know it’s a lot to take in, but just make sure you practice each stroke plenty of times then it won’t take long to look like a pro.
If you are wanting to revisit the previous parts, here are the links:
- Basic Rules
- Best brush pens for beginners
- Best paper for brush pens
- Calligraphy with a regular pen (faux calligraphy)
- Basic strokes (part 2)
- Basic strokes (part 3)
- Putting the strokes together
- Connecting the letters
- Flourishing basics
Just a reminder, if you still haven’t printed out the worksheets to practice alongside these lessons, head here for the resource hub. If you haven’t gotten the password for that yet, grab it here:
All The Basic Strokes (part 1) – Downstroke, Upstroke, Oval Stroke and Reverse Oval Stroke
All The Basic Strokes (part 2) – Underturn, Overturn, Ascending & Descending Stems
All The Basic Strokes (part 2) – Compound Curve, Entry & Exit Stroke