The One Step You’re Probably Missing In Learning Calligraphy

Basic strokes. Foundational strokes. Drills.

Whatever you want to call them, you need to know them if you want to learn modern calligraphy.

Trying to do calligraphy before learning the basic strokes is like trying to run before you walk.

If you’re trying to learn modern calligraphy, I was in your shoes not too long ago. I did what you’re doing- and it may even be how you came across this very article- I Googled. I looked up “modern calligraphy”, “brush calligraphy”, “learn calligraphy”, “diy calligraphy”, you name it!

And then I read every blog post, article or tidbit I could find online before proceeding straight to the art store- specifically the ‘calligraphy’ section- to get myself some supplies. That was my first mistake.

‘Calligraphy’ sections in art stores are chock full of supplies that do not apply to modern calligraphy. They’re full of those broad edged, flat tipped markers and nibs. And since the whole concept of traditional calligraphy supplies vs. modern calligraphy supplies was something I must have glossed over in my Googling, I bought all the wrong supplies.

I went home, with the ‘traditional calligraphy’ supplies I thought I needed, thinking ‘I’ve always had nice handwriting, I can just copy others and figure this out on my own, right?!”

Super wrong.

The links below may be affiliate links where appropriate. This means that your purchase through these links may result in a few cents in payment to me, to support creating further resources like this one! That being said, I will never suggest supplies that I do not personally use and fully recommend.

Here’s what I didn’t figure out until I finally took an in-person modern calligraphy workshop.

First of all, you need the right supplies. Duh. They need to be pointed, or flexible- not broad edged. But secondly, you need to learn from the very beginning.

They’re called basic strokes. Your basic calligraphy letters are BUILT UP OF THESE STROKES. This means that your naturally pretty handwriting skills don’t mean jack when it comes to calligraphy. Sorry to break it to you- but I wish someone had broken it to me, too, when I was in your position.

Let me illustrate my point.

Here’s “minimum” written in cursive. This is what your word would look like if you just used your natural, pretty handwriting.

Now, here’s “minimum” written in calligraphy. This is what your word would look like if you forgot about your natural pretty handwriting, and instead used your understanding of basic strokes:

See the difference?

The word “minimum” in the second example is made up entirely of basic strokes.  Here it is again, broken down into red & green (because Christmas!) so you can see the strokes:

Squish those red and green strokes together, and you get this:

Using this concept, you can build your entire alphabet by repeating your basic strokes over and over again. And the more consistent your strokes, the more consistent your letters and words look.

That’s where “drills” come in.

You know when you played hockey as a kid (yeah, I’m Canadian- swap ‘soccer’ or whatever if you’re not! and you dreaded those drills you had to do at practice? Well guess what- that’s why you’re so good at skating (or kicking, whatever) now. You can’t just jump right into a game and try to copy everyone else who knows how. You need to practice.

If you’ve made it to this point in the article, I think you can tell that I get pretty fired up about this topic. I want to explain it to as many people as possible so that you can all learn from my mistakes.

If you’re ready to let go of your cursive handwriting (trust me, you won’t miss it after this), I’ve got a free program to teach you all of these basic strokes step-by-step. We go through how to choose your supplies (and I tell you all my faves!) and get all set up, and then I give you full workbooks and instructional videos for all of these strokes! FOR FREE.

It only opens up for registration a few times a year, so come join us! ?

I promise, a little practice every day will go a LONG WAY.  See you there!


  1. Awesome overview. I always tell my students to think of brush lettering/calligraphy as a series of strokes that happen to make letters. 🙂

  2. I found all the other sights about calligraphy even thought I have pretty handwriting and then I found you. This article helped me so much. I purchased my paper supplies years ago hoping to start this once my world calmed down. I am there right now. I purchased my beginner set of Tombow and they arrive tomorrow! May be late to the dance but cannot wait for the drills and to be a part of this adventure. Thanks you so much!

  3. It was this article that gave me that aha moment. I thank you for your generosity and compassion with this challenge!

  4. This could have been me typing these words. I did the exact same thing this past summer. And wondered why my lettering never got better……..
    I’m so grateful for your generosity and passion for getting this out to the community. In just a week and a half of consistent drills practice, my lettering strokes are getting so much better. (That sounds a bit like an infomercial, but it’s true). I cannot thank you enough for offering this to all of us……….and at no charge. I’ve got a binder full of lettering practice worksheets which are beautiful and will be helpful, but not until I master the basic strokes. Thank you!!!!

    1. Awesome!!!! I hope it can continue to help you!! I will have some sheets ready for the next steps, too! 🙂 Watch out for that!

  5. greetings from El Salvador!

    Awesome!! Thanks Becca! I am learning a lot and I know it´s about practice… drills and more drills!!! I am learning… I am focused… I am excited!!!

  6. Thank you so much for this workshop. Honestly I feel scared to post my practice strokes bc it is so bad. I’m still working up the courage. With more practice from this workshop I will def be posting my progress soon. Thank you so much again!

  7. I love it!! I have been practicing my drills every day since signing up…thanks so much for providing your resources and sharing your knowledge.

  8. Learning calligraphy is one of my goals for 2017. I just signed up for your 30 days challenge and I’m very excited. I also think this will be a good place to start because I have done some googling and read a few blog posts but haven’t tried any calligraphy yet. I am left handed – do you have any specific tips for that?

    1. Hey KT! There will be some lefty tips coming soon!! Are you in the Facebook group? Lots of lefties sharing their knowledge over there! 🙂

  9. Becca, could you tell me what colored pens are on view at the top of this blog? They look like the Tombow Fudenosuke black brush tip, which were at the top of your pen recommendations list, but in colors. I purchased the Fudenosuke dual brush colored pens but the tips are too flexible for me. The ones in your pic look just right. Thanks so much for all you’re doing!!

    1. Hi Maria!
      These are the Pentel Fude Touch Sign Pens (WITH BRUSH TIP!)
      They’re also in the supplies guide off to the side a little bit 🙂


  10. Becca,

    I signed up tonight, printed off my drill sheets, already practiced the first two weeks worth so I could be caught up for tomorrow and joined the FB group! I am so excited about this class. I am a lefty and thrilled to see other lefties in the group. Can’t wait to watch my Lettering technique take off! Thank you so much for all your help.

  11. Hi Becca, I’ve just joined the challenge. I already preanted the sheets from day 1 to day 7 of this week. How can I have the sheets of the past weeks? Thank you so much!

    1. Hi! The sheets you’ve printed have weeks 1-4 on them. You just go back and fill out each section every week! Hope that clarifies.


  12. Hello, will this help improve my handwriting? I’ve started bullet journaling and want to make it look nicer without relying on stickers.

  13. Hi Becca, I’m new, I’ve just joined now. So excited to start this journey with you. Thanks so much for this wonderful present! I hope to improve my handwriting to use in my sketchbooks and journals. Very nice really !

  14. Thank You for such great insight! I too took a very similar tactic when trying to learn mondern calligraphy, but on the contrary I have TERRIBLE handwriting and thought this could help. I started in January and have come a long way with LOTS of practice, and gaining muscle memory was key. P.S. I still have terrible handwriting lol

  15. Desde que empecé a ver los increíbles trabajos con este tipo de caligrafía Me Encanto!! Quiero unirme aunque aun no tengo nada de material pero esto me motiva mas a aprender! Un saludo desde Guatemala..

  16. I am so glad I came across this post! I had no clue about the basic strokes when I looked into learning calligraphy & lettering in the past—and I gave up rather immediately. Learning the basic strokes and understanding how they form the letters has made calligraphy so much more understandable. I feel like I just might be able to learn modern calligraphy after all. Thanks again!

  17. I just signed up for The ShowMeYourDrills Challenge to start in March and when I hit ‘submit’ it came up as ‘redirecting’. Does that mean I am signed up or not? Please reply

    1. Hi Brenda! If you successfully signed up you should have gotten an email from me a few minutes later (make sure you check spam/promo/junk as well!). If not, I would say it didn’t go through.

      I would try again, and let me know if there are any issues. Sounds like it may have been a connection issue!


  18. Hi
    My name is Margaret H
    Am I too late to start. I’m grandfather was very talented in the old fashion Calligraphy and I use to take his work on show and tell days at school and I’ve always wanted to learn and I would be so thankful you you if I could learn the new way of calligraphy, I just found you and you are my first person to learn from and I’ve never bought any supplies, so see I am a real new be. But again is there any way I can can get in this class or am I too late.

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