Since I first started sharing my Bullet Journal on social media in 2016, I’ve gotten so many questions about the pens I’m using to create my headers. I’ve also been asked many times if I’ve been formally trained, taken any courses on calligraphy and the like. Well, today I’m gonna give my readers the goods. The juicy secrets of handwriting success, if there is such a thing.
The truth is, I’ve never taken a class or a course. I’ve never picked up an instructional book or so much as glanced at a practice sheet. (Not that I’m against them, now that I’m in love with calligraphy I’d happily while away the hours doing drills on practice sheets.) Planning every day in my bullet journal has been the only practice I’ve indulged in, though granted every day is a lot. And you know what? When I first started out I really wasn’t that great. I had the basic cursive skills of any high school student.
Here’s a peek inside my very first bullet journal! As you can see I’m clearly no expert.
And here’s how much I’ve improved simply by writing every day with the right pens…
I’ve made a lot of progress since those early days. How did I do it? I wrote every day, and I finally found the right pen. It’s that simple. I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to devote a lot of extra time and money to improve your handwriting. I’m going to show you the pens that made hand lettering/calligraphy easy for me, and the one tip that changed the game. The act of writing every day – along with the right pen in your hand, and you’ll be Lettering like a rockstar in no time.
Let’s dive in!
This tip changed the game for me. It’s so simple you probably already know it. It’s so obvious that you’re thinking ” Gee, Sheena, did you really not get that immediately?”. If this is you, I praise you for your intelligence and I’m glad we’re friends. But no, I really didn’t understand this basic principle and when I did – mind blown.
- Thin upstrokes, Thick downstrokes.
Really that’s it. When I understood that, I understood what my hand was doing wrong, and why my writing didn’t have the professional feel that I saw in others. This is easy to implement into your writing. Hold the pen lightly on the way up, and press down on the way down. This technique is why brush pens are the favorite for calligraphy. They give a very satisfying thick downstroke.
The next very simple and basic thing you need to know is this.
- Pay attention to space and size.
What does that mean? I mean make sure your letters are spaced evenly. The space between each letter should always measure the same. Whether your handwriting has your letters close together or far apart – it doesn’t matter. As long as the space is the same every time.
Same goes for the size of your letters. Whether you write big or small, make sure all your uppercase are the same size and all your lowercase are the same size. This is the number one thing you can do to improve your everyday handwriting even with the most basic of pens. Changing this will make your grocery list look like a love letter.
A dot grid notebook makes paying attention to space and size easy without interfering with the finished product like lined paper would. (As you know, I highly recommend a Leuchtturm1917 and the Rhodiarama, if you’re in the market for dot grid notebooks.)
Pens That Make It Easy
This is my most favorite pen – of all time. I will praise this pen till the end of my days. I want to be buried with this pen. Too dramatic? Yes. But I’m almost not kidding. Even if I hadn’t practiced the tips above, this pen teaches your fingers what to do just by the way it naturally writes. I can’t recommend it enough for anyone interested in hand lettering and calligraphy.
It comes in a hard tip and a soft tip, often in the same pack. I prefer the soft tip because I love me some thick downstrokes, but the hard tip is better for more precise work. The best part? A pack of 2 starts at just $5! So a cup of fancy coffee or calligraphy heaven? I trust you’ll choose wisely.
( *Pro Tip – All the info on the pens and the packaging is written in Japanese. FYI, the blue one is the hard tip, and the black one is the soft tip. )
As you can see, Tombow is a real workhorse of the calligraphy pen community. The Dual Brush Pens are a standard and are often the pens used to create those fancy hand lettered inspiration quotes you can buy on Pinterest.
They are bigger and thicker than the Tombow Fudensuke and so require a little more practice to get the hang of. But they are still easy to use and once you master them they make a big impact on the page.
These come in a wide variety of colors and saturation, so there’s no end to the calligraphy art that would be at your fingertips.
I know, right?! Your thinking ” Doesn’t my kid have these in his backpack? “. Maybe. But if you’re a beginner, these elementary school favorites really can help you hand letter like a rockstar. Just remember the first principle – thin up, thick down. or think of it this way – Light handed up, heavy-handed down. When you apply that technique to a Crayola Super Tip, you’ll be surprised at the super professional result you can achieve.
And of course, these babies also start at just $5 for a pack! And you have lots and lots of crazy colors to choose from!
Congratulations! You’re on Your Way to Calligraphy Rockstardom!
If you’re looking to improve your handwriting the easy way, I hope you’ll give this a try! And remember, practice really does make perfect, but it doesn’t have to be extra work. When you incorporate writing into your everyday life, whether it be thru your Morning Pages, a Bullet Journal, or just perpetual list making, you take the drudgery out of daily practice.