Brush Calligraphy for Beginners: How To Hold A Brush Pen

7 Dec, 2020

How To Hold A Brush Pen For Hand Lettering & Calligraphy


I have written a whole ten-step series to get started in brush calligraphy but for some reason, I only briefly mentioned how to hold your brush pen.

This is WAY more of an important topic and it deserves so much more than a brief mention. So here I am going to go into detail about angles and grip so that you can improve your lettering and take better care of your pens in the process. 

How To Hold Your Brush Pen Tip 1: The 45º Rule

The 45º rule is going to be your best friend in lettering. It helps keep your pens from fraying as well as keeping your strokes consistent.

The goal is to have the pen at a 45º angle from the paper. It will help your thick strokes stay the same thickness the whole way down, as well as your thin strokes.

How to hold a brush pen at 45degrees
If you have the pen too vertical it will damage your pen and mess up the shape of the strokes. The thickness of a stroke is created by using the side of the nib. If the side of the nib doesn’t touch the paper smoothly, the strokes won’t look good at all.

If you hold the pen too horizontal to the paper then it can also mess with your strokes, but mainly it just makes the pen SUPER difficult to use.

You can experiment with different pens but usually 45º is the winner.

How To Hold Your Brush Pen Tip 2: Perpendicular To The Downstroke

It took me waaaaaay too long to learn this trick, but it is a GAME CHANGER.

I repeat, a game changer!

The tip is to hold your pen perpendicular to the downstroke.

Hold the brush pen perpendicular to the downstroke


Perpendicular means “at a 90 degree angle to” – so if your downstroke isn’t slanted and it’s perfectly vertical, then your brush pen should be horizontal.

If you are writing with a slant, then your pen angle should change also to compensate.

Feel free to tilt your paper to make this more comfortable on your wrist and arm.

By keeping the pen perpendicular to the downstroke, it helps give the start of your strokes a nice square shape, as well as helping the thickness taper off at the nicely.

Gripping the Brush Pen

How To Hold The Brush Pen Tip 3: Grip Doesn’t Matter As Much As You Think It Might


I get asked “how do I grip the brush pen?”

The answer is “literally however it feels comfortable”. Where you put your fingers (in relation to each other) is entirely up to you, as long as you can get the 45º angle from the paper and the 90º angle from the downstroke.

A lot of the time, it is easier to hold the brush pen further down the barrel (away from the nib) which can help you get the right angles.

Again though, it’s entirely up to you. So don’t stress about the grip, don’t stress about finger placement (actually, don’t stress about any of it, calligraphy is meant to be relaxing). Just focus on the angles until it becomes muscle memory.

Practice With The (Free) Calligraphy Worksheets

The last part is simply to practice. When you keep practising while focusing on the pen, it will become so natural that you will end up doing it without thinking.

To help you practice, make sure you check out the worksheets in the resource library that’s specifically built for brush calligraphers. If you don’t have access to the resource library yet make sure you sign up here:


Gain Access to the Resource Library 

The Resource Library is a relatively new space built for calligraphers and letterers to practice what they learn.

It’s full of worksheets on drills, flourishes, alphabets & fonts, and much more. The best part is, it will keep growing for the life of this blog and it’s completely free. Just sign up with your email address and the password will be sent straight to your inbox, as well as the occasional lettering tip, extra freebie and special surprise.

Keep creating!

 How To Hold A Calligraphy Brush Pen

Calligraphy and Lettering Supplies: Brush Pens and More

Hey! I’m Pearl Prisk

I’m a passionate mother, worshipper and creative that would love to help you unleash your creativity to the world.

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