Go to www.wiley.com/go/eula to access Wiley’s ebook EULA.

Calligraphy For Dummies®


by Jim Bennett




About the Author

Jim Bennett has been teaching calligraphy for about 30 years. He has taught at every level from kindergarten through college and has introduced thousands of people to calligraphy. Although he lost count some time ago, he suspects that he must hold a record for the number of students he has taught in the classroom, by correspondence, and through the Internet.

Jim has a B.F.A. degree from Virginia Commonwealth University and an M.F.A. degree from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Among the awards he has earned are the Virginia Artists Certificate of Distinction and the Ohio Art Education Association’s Distinguished Educator Award in 2003.

In 1982, Jim self-published a popular instruction manual titled “You Can Do Calligraphy.” He also developed a complete Italic handwriting curriculum for grades K through 5 for Wakefield School in Virginia, created a calligraphy correspondence course for Lord Fairfax Community College, and pioneered calligraphy lessons on the Internet. His calligraphy website (www.studioarts.net/calligraphy) has had almost one million visitors. He is the founder and manager of the original Calligraphy Webring which is comprised of about a hundred of the finest calligraphy websites internationally.

In addition to calligraphy, Jim worked for several years as a portrait artist under the name Bennecelli. He has also painted murals. Recently, he has been developing art-related projects based on adventure themes that math teachers can use to enhance math instruction.

Jim is married to his college sweetheart and lives in Cincinnati, Ohio. He has four grown children, six grandchildren, and two cats.



This book is dedicated to my wife, Karen, whose encouragement and patience are truly super-human and to our wonderful children, Mark, Michael, Sharon, and Carrie who make me proud to be a father.


Author’s Acknowledgments

I want to give special thanks to Jennifer Connolly, my amazing project editor who caught the vision for this book, made insightful suggestions about how to present the material, and helped make sure that I had all my writing and art submitted on time.

Thanks go to Mike Lewis and the team at Wiley who selected me to write this book and decided that this book was special enough that the practice pages should be presented differently from any For Dummies books that had ever been published previously.

I am grateful for the encouragement, words of wisdom, and guidance that my agent, Barb Doyen, has given me.

I also appreciate the interest and encouragement expressed by my fellow teachers at Cincinnati Christian Schools. You truly are an inspiring group of people to work with.


Publisher’s Acknowledgments

We’re proud of this book; please send us your comments through our Dummies online registration form located at www.dummies.com/register/.

Some of the people who helped bring this book to market include the following:

Acquisitions, Editorial, and Media Development

Project Editor: Jennifer Connolly

Acquisitions Editor: Mike Lewis

Copy Editor: Jennifer Connolly

Technical Editor: Christine Rogers

Editorial Manager: Michelle Hacker

Editorial Supervisor: Carmen Krikorian

Editorial Assistant: Erin Calligan, Joe Niesen, Leeann Harney

Cover Photo: Tom Grill/Corbis

Cartoons: Rich Tennant (www.the5thwave.com)

Composition Services

Project Coordinator: Jennifer Theriot

Layout and Graphics: Carrie A. Foster, Denny Hager, Stephanie D. Jumper, LeAndra Hosier, Ronald Terry

Anniversary Logo Design: Richard Pacifico

Proofreaders: Melanie Hoffman, Betty Kish

Indexer: Galen Schroeder

Publishing and Editorial for Consumer Dummies

Diane Graves Steele, Vice President and Publisher, Consumer Dummies

Joyce Pepple, Acquisitions Director, Consumer Dummies

Kristin A. Cocks, Product Development Director, Consumer Dummies

Michael Spring, Vice President and Publisher, Travel

Kelly Regan, Editorial Director, Travel

Publishing for Technology Dummies

Andy Cummings, Vice President and Publisher, Dummies Technology/General User

Composition Services

Gerry Fahey, Vice President of Production Services

Debbie Stailey, Director of Composition Services




About This Book

Conventions Used in This Book

Foolish Assumptions

How This Book Is Organized

Icons Used in This Book

Where to Go from Here

Part I : Yes, You Can Do Calligraphy!

Chapter 1: Doing Calligraphy Can Be as Easy as ABC

You Don’t Have to Be a Rembrandt . . .

. . . But You Do Have to Be Circumspect

You Can Really Do Calligraphy!

Strike a Pose

Trace and Copy: A Sure-Fire Approach to Picking Up Calligraphy

Taking Your Skills Further

Chapter 2: Peeking Inside the Calligrapher’s Toolbox

Finding the Right Materials

Choosing the Right Pens

Got The Right Ink?

Selecting the Right Paper

Additional Materials You Need

Taking Care of Your Materials

Chapter 3: Putting Your Pen to Paper

Using a Fountain Pen

Using a Dip Pen

Setting Up Your Board

Keeping Letters Straight: Drawing Guide Lines

Loosening Up to Get Started

Part II : The Amazing, Incredible Italic Alphabet

Chapter 4: Taking a Few Baby Steps with Italic

Introducing Italic

It’s All in the Family — Six Simple and Easy Letter Families

Putting Together What You Know to Make Letters and Words

Chapter 5: Doing Italic with a Calligraphy Pen

What Is Pen Angle for Italic and How Do You Get It Right?

Those Tails Called “Serifs” — Don’t Get Caught by the Tails!

Doing Lowercase Italic with the Pen

Italic Capital Letters

Italic Numbers and Punctuation

Chapter 6: Perfecting the Italic Alphabet

Checking Yourself with the 5-S Formula

The Simplest Way to Practice Italic — Write It!

Joining Letters Cursively — How It’s Done

Reviewing the Most Common Errors

The Nearly Lost Art of Beautiful Correspondence

Chapter 7: Turning Up the “Wow! Factor” with Variations and Embellishments

Using Variations to Change the Look of Letters

Swashes and Flourishes

Creating Other Embellishments

Part III : Expanding Your Repertoire

Chapter 8: The Blackletter Alphabet

Getting to Know the Blackletter Alphabet

Getting the “Write” Dimensions

Boning up on the Basic Strokes of Blackletter

Combining the Basic Strokes

Moving On to Capital Letters

Nudging Forward to Numerals

Stringing Together Black Letters

Chapter 9: Classical Roman Letters

Understanding the Roman Alphabet

Getting to Know the Five Groups of Letters

Putting the Letters Together

Trying the Letters with a Pen

Common Errors

Adding On Some Serifs

Chapter 10: Formal Manuscript, Foundational Hand, or Bookhand

Getting to Know the Manuscript Alphabet Basics

The Lowercase Letters

Capital Letters


Putting It All Together


Chapter 11: Formal Uncial and Funky Variations

Have What You Need?

Understanding Uncial

The Uncial Serifs

Getting a Handle on the Formal Uncial Alphabet

Putting the Letters Together

Varying the Uncial Alphabet

Chapter 12: Elegantly Outlined and Decorated Letters

Taking the Right Approach

Getting the Right Materials

Drawing the Letter

Finding Alphabets You Can Use

Gilding: Applying Gold Leaf

Chapter 13: A Fancy Document Script

Cozying Up to Copperplate

Learning the Ten Basic Strokes

Lowercase Letters

Capital Letters

Putting It All Together

Part IV : Popular Projects

Chapter 14: Designing and Lettering a Quotation

Gathering What You Need

Arranging the Lines

Deciding on Design


Exploiting Harmony and Contrast

Positioning a Large Word

Incorporating Designs and Drawn Images

Finding Quotations You Can Use

Chapter 15: Creating a Poster or Sign

Tools and Skills to Polish a Poster

Using Pull-Stroke Italic

Avoiding Common Errors in Design

Making a Good Poster

Making Large-Scale Letters

Brushing on Letters for Signs

Chapter 16: Certificates

Making Sure Your Materials and Skills Are in Order

Filling In Names on Prepared Certificates

Working from Scratch

Fixing Mistakes


Polishing Your Work with a Presentation Folder

Chapter 17: More Things to Do with Your Calligraphy

Calligraphic Doodles and Drawings


A Potpourri of Border Designs

Addressing Envelopes


Combining Calligraphy and Other Art Media

Part V : The Part of Tens

Chapter 18: Ten Ways to Use Your Calligraphy for Weddings

The Invitation

The Outer Envelope, Inner Envelope, and Reception Card



Program or Order of Service

Placecards, Table Numbers, and Favor Tags


A Marriage Certificate

A Wedding Guest Book

Thank You Notes

Chapter 19: Ten Fun Alphabets

Nearly Persian



French Ronde

Old German (aka Fraktur)

It’s Greek to Me


Upside-Down Letters

Fancy Fancy

Funky Letters

Chapter 20: Ten Tips for Making Money Using Your Calligraphy

Make a List

A Business Card That Sizzles

A Portfolio That Impresses

Never Work for Free


Show It Before You Deliver It

Taking the Order

Finalizing the Sale

Offer Matting and Framing

Do It Legally

Appendix: Practice Pages



Classical Roman




End User License Agreement


Welcome to Calligraphy For Dummies. In this book, I explain how to get started doing calligraphy. I focus on the basics for people who would like to learn how to do calligraphy but have little or no prior experience. Even so, there are plenty of things here to challenge anyone who is ready to go beyond the basics. Regardless of your age or ability, whether you’re an elementary student or a retiree, there’s something in this book for you.

For many people calligraphy is something they admire from afar, wish they could do, but really don’t see themselves ever becoming good at. They may even secretly wish they could do calligraphy, but something has held them back. Perhaps they feel a twinge of self-doubt. After all, doesn’t it take talent or artistic ability to do calligraphy? That’s exactly what many people think.

I look at it differently. I believe that anyone with the desire to learn calligraphy can do so. I have seen this proved time and time again among my students. Students with little or no apparent talent, but a lot of desire have done well. I have had students with severe disabilities and even with manual impairment excel in calligraphy.

One young man sticks out in my memory. He had such a severe nervous disorder that his hands shook uncontrollably. In order to do calligraphy, he would have to use both hands to steady his pen. What he lacked in manual skill, he made up for with desire and persistence. His calligraphy was good enough within a year that he was doing all the overhead transparencies of worship songs for his church which happened to be one of the larger churches in his city.

I have learned through teaching that to do well in calligraphy is not primarily a matter of talent. Calligraphy is a skill that anyone who can write can learn to do.

Can you do calligraphy? Yes, I firmly believe you can, and, not only that, I believe you will discover that calligraphy can become for you whatever you want to make out of it — from an enjoyable and relaxing hobby to a serious avocation to the source of a good income. That is the major premise of this book.

About This Book

I organize Calligraphy For Dummies in exactly the same way that I teach calligraphy in the classroom. This book is essentially two courses in one — an introduction to calligraphy, which covers the basic alphabets, and intermediate calligraphy, which expands upon the basic alphabets and presents a number of projects.

You won’t be able to do calligraphy simply by reading this book. Calligraphy is a hands-on activity, and this book gives you plenty to put your hands on! To do calligraphy means that you have to practice, but I promise that the practice is enjoyable, because you get to see your progress each step of the way. Lots of examples and practice exercises guide you step-by-step so you can see exactly what you’re supposed to do and how to do it. It won’t take you long to see that you’re actually doing calligraphy.

One of the nicest things about this book is you can go at your own speed. In a classroom, everyone moves along at just about the same rate. Here you can go slower or faster as you see fit. You decide what the best pace is for you. You’re not working for a grade; you’re working for yourself.

The practice activities involve your tracing over letters that I have made for you and then copying them in spaces that are provided. The trace and copy practice is almost like I am right there beside you helping and guiding you each step of the way.

In a number of places throughout the book, I tell you to photocopy the practice pages so that you can have multiple chances to practice the same exercises. You may want to keep the practice pages in the book free of writing so you can use them as masters. That way you can do the particular practice exercise over and over as many times as you want. And be sure to take full advantage of all the practice in the appendix. You can find many expanded exercises there to use. If you prefer, you can also download the exercises from www.dummies.com/go/calligraphy.

Conventions Used in This Book

To make it easy for you to navigate from chapter to chapter I’ve used some conventions throughout this book to make your practice as easy as possible and to make sure you’re not left wondering if you’ve missed something along the way. This makes everything consistent and simple to understand.

bullet Getting a read on the letters: Whenever I refer to a letter, I put it in Italics and I always refer to it in the lowercase form (for example, the letter e). Because treating capitals this way can get tricky (some of them begin to look alike when they’re italicized), I still refer to capital letters in the lowercase form (for example, capital e).

bullet Finding the practice: The chapters contain some short practice exercises to get you started, but for more practice, you have full page practice exercises in the appendix in the back of this book. This way you have the instructions all contained in as few pages as possible and not spread out through the practice pages. The short chapters make it easy for you to find something in the instructions if you need to go back and reread. Having the full-page practice exercises altogether in the back of the book also makes it easy to photocopy the pages from the appendix.

bullet Following the guide lines: The guide lines that I’ve drawn for the practice exercises have black lines, gray lines, and rectangles. One set also has dashed lines. The black lines divide each section of writing. The rectangles indicate where the body of the letters is to be drawn. The dashed lines indicate slant. The guide lines show you exactly where to make the letters and what size they should be. There are tons of examples in case you forget.

bullet Doing the practice exercises: The practice in this book is a combination of trace and copy exercises. Letters printed in black are the examples. If letters are printed in gray that means you’re supposed to trace over them. Blank spaces are provided for copying. Tracing and copying is a powerful way to practice. The tracing part especially is almost like having me right there guiding your pen and showing you how it’s done.

bullet Understanding text in monofont: From time to time I suggest you seek out sources on the Web. Whenever you see a Web site, it will be in monofont so it’s easy to recognize.

Foolish Assumptions

I have tried to avoid technical jargon. Whenever there’s a choice between a specialized calligraphy term that only calligraphers would use and a word that everyone understands, I’ve opted to use the more commonplace word. For example, I use the terms capital letters and lowercase letters throughout this book instead of calling the letters majuscules and minuscules. I assume that if you pursue calligraphy in greater depth, you’ll pick up all the specialized terminology.

When writing this book, I’m assuming that you fall into one of these categories:

bullet You haven’t a clue what calligraphy is all about but you are intrigued by this book and are curious to find out more.

bullet You know what calligraphy is, you’ve admired it and would love to learn how to do it, but have little or no experience.

bullet You’ve already done some calligraphy, and you’re looking to improve your skills.

bullet You fit everything in the previous category, plus you are interested in selling your calligraphy.

How This Book Is Organized

Like all the other books in the For Dummies series, this book is divided into parts. The parts enable you to pinpoint exactly where you want to start or where you want to revisit. Each part covers a general topic and builds on the material covered in the previous parts. The book begins with the easy stuff and builds toward some of the challenging ways you can use calligraphy. The important calligraphy topics divide up nicely into the following five parts.

Part I: Yes, You Can Do Calligraphy!

The title to this part really says it all. If you’re feeling the least bit intimidated by the idea of trying to do calligraphy, this part will help you get over those negative feelings. There are a lot of positives that accompany doing calligraphy.

What does it take to do calligraphy and what are some of the benefits to be gained are two questions that are answered in Part I. This part of the book gives you a “big picture” overview of what calligraphy is all about and some of the rewards you can experience.

This first part is all about how you get started. It describes the different kinds of pens, ink, and paper you can use and where you can find them. It also walks you through some of the basic steps for using and taking care of your materials — especially the calligraphy fountain pen which is the perfect writing instrument for beginning calligraphy. In this part I explain the “in’s and out’s” of dip pens and the special techniques for using them. You also find out why I refer to the calligraphy pen as the calligrapher’s “magic wand.”

Part II: The Amazing, Incredible Italic Alphabet

The first alphabet covered in this book is Italic, and it’s important enough that all of this part is devoted to the one alphabet.

Italic is your beginning because it is by far the most popular and useful style of calligraphy. Part II gives you a style of calligraphy that is beautiful, functional, and can be lettered rapidly. With this one alphabet you have a style that can be used for anything you’d ever want to do in calligraphy.

Doing calligraphy means that you know two things — how the letters are formed and how a calligraphy pen is used. To make mastering both of these as easy as possible, the two are covered separately. At first you practice the shapes of the letters using a regular marker pen. Once you have the letters down pat, you get to make those same letters using the calligraphy pen. At that point, you’re doing real calligraphy!

Once you have the basics of the Italic alphabet, I give you ways you can continue to improve, create variations, add embellishments, and even use Italic as your everyday handwriting style.

Part III: Expanding Your Repertoire

This part shows you how to do five more extremely useful alphabets: Blackletter, Roman, Manuscript, Uncial, and Copperplate. In addition, there is a chapter on how to do outlined and decorated letters. These alphabets not only expand the number of alphabets that you can do but also “round out” your calligraphy skills so you have a solid foundation on which to continue to build your skills.

Each of these alphabets presents a different style and can be used to express different feelings. Blackletter is appropriate when you want an ancient and official look. Roman is classical, solid, and strong. Manuscript is easy to read. Uncial is artistic and expressive. Copperplate embodies elegance with flair.

With the completion of this part you can do six basic alphabets, Italic plus the five new alphabets. With these six alphabets, you have the building blocks for being able to letter virtually any other style.

Part IV: Popular Projects

Once you can do calligraphy, what are some of the things you can create? This is the question that I answer in Part IV.

In this part, I cover how to do some of the projects that most people are eager to try with their newly acquired skills. The first thing that most people want to do is design a quotation, and I show you some of the “tricks of trade” for turning a quotation or favorite saying into a thing of beauty. The design techniques you learn here are useful for doing all kinds of projects.

I also walk you through the steps for lettering a poster or sign, creating a certificate or award, designing a monogram, adding different kinds of borders to your calligraphy, addressing envelopes, making plaques, and, if you’re already doing other kinds of art, I give you ideas and show you examples of how you can combine your calligraphy with other art media.

This part of the book enables you to create some really nice things with your calligraphy where you can feel a real sense of accomplishment. Some of the projects make excellent gifts. Some of the projects, such as certificates, provide you with things you might do on a commission basis. There is enough information in this part of the book to get you started and keep you going for years.

Part V: The Part of Tens

This final part gives you some valuable tips. The first chapter in this part describes ten ways you can use calligraphy for a wedding. If you’re thinking about using calligraphy for your own wedding or the wedding of someone you know, these ten tips are very useful. Next is a selection of ten, fun alphabets that expand your skills. You can use several of these alphabets to create the “look” of other alphabets such as Chinese and Greek. The final chapter is all about a subject that interests a lot of people, how to make money doing calligraphy.

Icons Used in This Book

I include some icons in this book to flag important information. Keep an eye out for these as you read.


Want to know how do something better, easier, or faster? Just look for info attached to this icon.


Let’s see, you have to remember stroke sequence, what angle to hold your hand . . . well, the list may seem endless, but this icon points out some really important info that you just can’t miss.


With this icon, I let you know of potential dangers you may come across.


When you see this icon, you know you can flip back to the appendix and find more practice for whatever section you’re working on.

Where to Go from Here

Don’t treat this book like a textbook. Think of it as an adventure or an excursion through a land full of exciting things to see and do. Thumb through the pages; look over the table of contents; visit a few of the attractive spots. You don’t have to stick with the tour guide; you can jump around from place to place at your own pace.

If you are a beginner to calligraphy, you may prefer to start at the very beginning and work your way through each chapter in sequence. That’s exactly how it would be if you were a student in my calligraphy class. If you follow this plan, I strongly recommend that you do all the chapters and every practice exercise in Part I and the first two chapters of Part II. Devour them. Don’t skip over anything. If you run into trouble in any area, spend extra time practicing before you move ahead to the next thing.

If you can already do some calligraphy, you can jump around from one part of the book to another. I do recommend that you take a look at the sections that show how to refine your skills and spot errors. The projects should also be interesting to you.

Part I

Yes, You Can Do Calligraphy!

In this part . . .

Part I is all about getting started. Getting started right is the key to doing well. Getting started is easy if you have the right materials and an easy, step-by-step plan to follow. That’s precisely what this part introduces. Once you get started, you’ll be amazed to see how rapidly you are able to make progress.

First you see exactly why calligraphy has become so popular and how you really don’t need talent, a lot of costly supplies, or most of the other things that make it difficult to do many other kinds of art. You see that calligraphy is a skill that anyone who can write can learn.

Next, you look at the different kinds of pens, ink, and paper you can use and where you can find them. You get to know the basic steps for using and taking care of your materials so they will last. You also discover the neat trick that you can do with the calligraphy pen and why I refer to it as the calligrapher’s “magic wand.”

Finally, this part shows you how the “trace and copy” method works and why it is so effective. You get a clear picture of the steps you take to reach your goal.

By the time you finish this part of the book, you should be excited about what you can accomplish. Who knows? With a little persistence, you may discover artistic abilities you never knew you had.