Tierney Studio: A design studio specializing in hand lettering, calligraphy & branding
Excerpt from my feature in Handstyle Lettering: From Calligraphy to Typography published by victionary
Hand lettering and calligraphy is an old skill making a vast resurgence for the last several years. While hand lettering and calligraphy are relative in nature, each practice utilizes definitive methods that make them unique. Hand lettering is the art of drawing letterforms while calligraphy is the art of writing beautifully. There are many different ways to portray letters through lettering and calligraphy. You can evoke a feeling or mood simply by applying a stylistic characteristic to letterforms.
People often wonder what tools they need to begin hand lettering and/or calligraphy. The answer is quite simple. If your instrument of choice emits some kind of ink, graphite, paint, or really anything at all, then you have the instrument you need. The tools don’t make the craftsman. Rather, it’s the amount of purposeful practice put forth in striving to become a skilled artist.
While the above response may seem ambiguous—and yes, there are specific tools that I do recommend for lettering and calligraphy—it’s important to understand that no one pen will make you more successful. However, there are particular pens which can help you in your efforts when starting out.
For calligraphy—specifically brush—I point beginners in the direction of a firmer tip. The less flex in a brush allows for more resistance between the pen and the paper. This makes writing far more easier than using a softer brush. Broad tip markers (e.g. magic markers) are an excellent source for beginners. The nib is harder than most brush pens, but the subtle flex is just enough to utilize the tip for thinner upstrokes and broad edge for thicker downstrokes.
I’ve written some tutorials on this subject that can be referenced over at Crayligraphy.com. The idea is to create a less intimidating approach to calligraphy by using markers most people can resonate with. Crayligraphy allows for a cheap, fun and easier way to practice. Once there’s an understanding of the basic calligraphy fundamentals, the novice is able to expand upon this knowledge and try new instruments.
The continual practice of calligraphy will make understanding letterforms easier than if a beginner decided to try their hand at lettering first. Letters are inherently made by writing, so it would make sense to begin with calligraphy. But, there’s no rule to which method is best to execute first. I am an avid believer in just doing. Start one, or the other, or go ahead and try both. If you are more comfortable with illustrating, then hand lettering is your best bet. All you need is a #2 pencil. If you enjoy penmanship over drawing, then calligraphy is the way to go.
One practice can lead to the other. The outcome of calligraphy and hand lettering produces the same result; visually interesting letterforms people can read while conjuring an emotion.