Calligraphy Essentials: From First Script to Final Flourish | Seb Lester | Skillshare

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Calligraphy Essentials: From First Script to Final Flourish

teacher avatar Seb Lester, Calligrapher & Designer

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Getting Started & Materials


    • 3.

      Understanding Proportions


    • 4.

      Holding the Broad Nib Pen


    • 5.

      Warm-Up Exercises


    • 6.

      Lowercase Letterforms: Part 1


    • 7.

      Lowercase Letterforms: Part 2


    • 8.

      Writing Words


    • 9.

      Capital Letterforms


    • 10.

      Flourishing Techniques


    • 11.

      Assignment: Writing Your Name


    • 12.

      Final Thoughts


    • 13.

      Bonus: Behind-the-Scenes with Seb


    • 14.

      Bonus: Seb's Favorite Tools


    • 15.

      More Creative Classes on Skillshare


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About This Class

You've seen his calligraphy videos on Instagram—now it's time to pick up your pen!

Go behind-the-scenes with world-renowned calligraphy icon Seb Lester in this beautiful and in-depth masterclass, only available on Skillshare. Perfect for beginners and professionals alike, you'll learn to create perfect italic letterforms with a broad nib pen, and finish the class with an elegant and polished piece of writing you can truly call your own.

Lessons include everything you need for an inspiring and comprehensive learning experience, including close-up demonstration, step-by-step walkthroughs, and an exclusive printable workbook.

From tiny pen manipulations to careful considerations for proportion and spacing, no detail has been left unturned in this methodical introduction to pen and ink. Key lessons include:

  • Essential strokes for consistent letterforms
  • How to hold and manipulate your pen
  • Detailed walkthroughs of lower and uppercase letters
  • Flourishing techniques for beginners

Calligraphy is an ancient and magical art that has found a new life in the digital era. Through social media and the resurgence of hand lettering, it's never been more popular.

Use these lessons, resources, and exclusive behind-the-scenes footage to stretch your creativity, revolutionize your craft, and unlock new perspectives on beautiful art. Whether you're looking for a place to begin—or are simply curious to see a master at work—this is a class for you.

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Seb Lester

Calligrapher & Designer


Seb trained in Graphic Design at Central Saint Martins in London. He now works in Lewes in East Sussex as an artist and designer.

He has developed logos and type illustrations for some of the world’s biggest companies, publications and events, including the likes of NASA, Apple, Nike, Intel, The New York Times, The 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics and JD Salinger’s final reissue of The Catcher in the Rye. 

Previously a Senior Type Designer at Monotype for nine years, he has developed custom typefaces for many familiar brands including British Airways, Intel, Waitrose, The Daily Telegraph, H&M and Barclays.

A new found love of calligraphy has pushed his work in exciting new directions. In five years he has become one of the highest profile calligraphe... See full profile

Level: All Levels

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1. Introduction: There's something very magical about calligraphy. It's kind of an ancient magic. I think it's just a very fascinating glimpse of the passage of time and continuity in US in history. My name is Silvestre. I'm an artist and designer, and the focus of all my work is letter forms, and today, I'll be talking to you about calligraphy. I would describe my calligraphy as very casual in nature. A lot of it is about having fun, really, and being expressive. I think of myself as a stunt calligrapher in a way, and as an internet calligrapher, something people find compelling about short form calligraphy videos and it's been fantastic the way it's transform my career and opened opportunities for me. So, today's class is going to be an introduction to the world of calligraphy, and we're going to focus on one of my favorite stories which is called Italic. I think anyone who's interested in calligraphy should take this class. If you're a graphic designer or an illustrator or you are already doing the big calligraphy, I think they sent me to offer any of those people. Italic is a good place to start because it's one of the most important styles in calligraphy. It's hugely versatile, so you convey everything from a sense of tradition to a sense of modernity and do something very contemporary. The ultimate projects for this class is to write a name and then embellish it with some flourishing. I think it's a nice simple way to get to grips with calligraphy, get to grips with calligraphy tools and techniques. The skills you can acquire in calligraphy translate very well to Logo design, translate very well to understanding shapes, understanding forms, understanding letters. If you understand the building blocks of written communication, I think, that's a really useful thing to know. Okay, guys. Thanks for choosing this course, and let's begin. 2. Getting Started & Materials: Italic calligraphy is a style of calligraphy that's defined as semi-cursive, which means some of the letters join and it has an angle. It tends to be written somewhere between five and 11 degrees from the vertical. Beyond that, the sky's the limit really in terms of the variety. It's not one thing, it's a whole area of calligraphy. Any kind of tone of voice you want to express, you can do it with an Italic form. So that's, part of the reason I've chosen this style, is it's very versatile, and it still can feel very contemporary. I think Italic calligraphy is certainly one of the foundational kind of styles really. It makes a very good starting point for understanding the broad nib pen. A broad nib pen is a drawing tool that has a broad nib and it's simulating a goose quill, which was a medieval tool, and it's incredibly versatile. There are all sorts of styles you can draw with this pen. One of the nice things is that once you understand one style, the skills transfer very comfortably to other styles. So that's one of the exciting things, it's this synergy between different styles using the broad nib. So, the style I'm going to focus on today is a style of formal Italic. It's not dissimilar to Alto, a style developed by Arrighi who is a famous Italian writing master. He worked in Rome. He was a papal scribe and he wrote a very influential booklet called la Operina. He was also a type designer. He's actually incredibly influential. Even today, type designers reference his work. A lot of calligraphy is really about finding this sweet spot in terms of paper, ink, and the tool you use. There are the three elements we have to bring together to, together for best results. We'll be using a pilot parallel pen today. I've chosen this pen for a number of reasons. It's a great tool to learn with because these pens are amazing and you can get very crisp results with them. There's a whole art to how much ink you apply to the nib and how you apply it. I think I much rather concentrate on the forms today and that's what this pen will allow us to do because we won't have to think about dipping in ink. We won't have to think about, so we'll be using the ink that comes with the pack. So it'll just take a lot of the complexity out of things. So, what you get in the pack is one of these pens. There's also a lid, chuck, remove. This tool here which is for, I periodically need to clean the barrel with water which we can put in here. It comes with two cartridges, a black and red one. Then it comes with this tool here. Now the way this pen works is it's got two plates of metal that are pressed against each other. It's basically like flossing. If you haven't used the pen for a while and it's dried up, you can use this to place it between the blades and you can clean it. So that's it, that's what that's for. In terms of paper, people always ask me about paper, and I think this is tied around the smooth cartridge paper which is highly recommended. Any kind of smooth cartridge paper, is a really good starting point because a lot of papers are too absorbent and the ink spreads. But a smooth cartridge paper, most brands should be absolutely fine. That's probably easiest paper to source. Another very good paper for working with these tools is Rhodia Uni-Blank, it would be on the workbook that you can download. It's Rhodia number 18 Uni and it's a really nice paper to work with. It's very smooth and it doesn't bleed and highly recommended. In terms of ink, we'll just use the ink that comes with the pen. I don't think it's particularly light stable. So, it will fade with time but for our learning purposes here, that doesn't matter at all. It's a nice ink, good density and vibrant colors. Okay, let's talk about the broad nib pen, I'll show you some of the things that I can do with it. This is the style we will be learning today, very versatile Italic. I'll be going into the technical aspects of how you draw with this tool. I thought I'd want to show you a variety of things that you can do with the tool so you can get a sense of its versatility. It's not a problem to touch in things sometimes, even the brilliant calligraphers will touch things in because this, something is not as crisp as it could be. So that, that's Italic style. Another style that's really associated strongly with the broad nib pen is black letter. This is a B, and very vertical style of letter form. It has its ancient feel to it. There's really, I find very interesting, evocative. You can use it for, think about ancient Rome and around about 100 A.D. Some of the most beautiful letter forms in the history of western calligraphy being drawn with the brush equivalent of this tool. So, there's a monumental Roman Capital seats seen on the Trojan Column in Rome. You can make an argument that they remain some of the most beautiful letter forms. They're considered to be somewhat timeless. They're ancient, but it'd be hard pressed to find a Hollywood movie that doesn't have some sort of form of monumental Roman capitals in the titles. So, they're as relevant as they're ever have been. So, they're three of the styles of many that you can draw with a broad nib pen. This is very good for, the broad nib pen is very good for this crisp strong transitions between strokes. But if you wanted a sort of a more easing in and out of line thickness, you'd do something like a pointed pen. The tools that we use in calligraphy, they dictate the sort of results you get in terms of shapes and you wouldn't use a broad nib pen for something like this. They are actually very good for Sans Serif forms. Something like, think of Helvetica or something. If you wanted to draw how Helvetica with a broad nib pen you could certainly do that. I had a lot of viral videos drawing Sans Serif forms a with a pen like this. 3. Understanding Proportions: Let's start with the worksheet. I thought it would be useful to recreate the worksheet. We'll be using this worksheet for the classes, but I think if I redraw some of it for you, it will be easy to explain the nature of how this letter style is going to work, this style of italic. The key thing to know really is that proportions in calligraphy are dictated by nib-width. So, we're using this pen. It's got a 3.8 male nib, and the style of italic that we'll be doing today, for example, is five nib-widths high on the x-height, which is the height of the lowercase letters. So, I will draw that now. One, two, three, four, five. Now, in tight design and in calligraphy, this would be considered the x-height. So, like a character, like an A, you would draw to fit into that space. If you are going to draw an uppercase A, that would be seven nib-widths high in this particular style. So, I'm going to add another two dots, and that's how high the caps will be. So, I'll draw capital A. I'm using this 45-degree angle and holding the pen out, that's a really critical thing I'll talk about more, but that's where a lot of the shapes come from. So, you can see now, the capital A is seven nib-widths high. The other thing we need think about is ascenders and descenders. Now, I'll show you what ascenders and descenders are, but they're basically like the strokes that go above and below the x-height for things like Ps and Bs and Qs in the lower case. Now, in this model, in this style, descenders, they're going to come down four nib-widths. An ascenders, commonly, they'd also be four nib-widths high, these ones are going to be five just because it's a preference I have for this style. I think it adds a bit more elegance. So, let's look at that now. So, looking across the grid here, I'm drawing a B, and the top of the B here goes five nib-widths high. But then, the ascender, they're the strokes above the x-height. We're going to add another five nib-widths, so we've finished them like this. The lower case g, again, we'll work into the x-heights, which is five nib-widths high. But then the descender, the next stroke that I'm going to draw, is going to come down four nib-widths. So, this is the x-height here. This is the x-height, and then we're going to be thinking about the curve point, which is here, and then ascenders and descenders, and that's the basis for everything we're going to be doing today. There is a lot of flexibility within italic and for doing all sorts of things, but I think that the best way to learn is to have a system and to work a data of systems. So, stick to this. It's just the best way to learn about the route how the letterforms relate to each other and why they relate the way they do. Once you get rolling and your understanding increases, then the scopes will very playful and have a lot of fun. But I think in terms of being expressive, we should wait until we understand the basics. 4. Holding the Broad Nib Pen: Okay. So we've talked about how proportions come about, and how they are based on nib width sounds really important. I guess the most fundamental thing to think about really are these two things. The natural leaning that you get in italic, this 5-11 degree angle. The letters tend to lean. There are upright italics but generally speaking, there's this slope. That's very important to think about. In this worksheet page, you also see that how you hold the pen is very important. In this 45-degree angle is key to why letterforms look the way they do. Let me try now quickly illustrate why the 45-degree angle is the way to work and why it works. It's to do with the strokes that appear. I'm going to draw an n now at 45-degree angle and holding the pen. It just creates a very pleasing contrast between hairlines and junctions and the main strokes. Look, if I held it like a North degree angle. Get the same thing. You can see a lot of the elegance and crispness, and beauty is lost. Similarly if I held it completely vertical. You can do all sorts of things once you get going, but these are really quite playing around with them. These proportions, you're into the realms of experimentation and it's really good to have a good solid understanding of the basics first. The way your hand and the way your arm move when you're writing, it depends on the scale of the letterforms you're drawing. But, it you can see me writing now, I'm not moving my fingers so much. It's more my whole hands moving and I'm keeping that 45-degree angle. It's not really like that. It's more of my whole hands moving. That's a general guideline. There will be difference depending what you are doing with scale you're working out, it might be different. You hold a pen in a relaxed fashion, but not so loosely that you lose any kind of control. I think that's the key. I don't really do very involved pure calligraphy pieces, but you will find it especially at the beginning when you're writing, your hand may cramp up and you have to rest. There is a kind of idea that you should write. You get into a flow and a rhythm that ideally and you can work for 10 or 15 minutes or just stay in blocks and then you take a rest. I think that's a lot of calligraphers would do that. Okay then, we're going to move on now and we'll be using this italic grid that I've included in the workbook. Remember to print this out at actual size because you'll need to do that to be able to use it properly. I'm going to use this brand of paper. This is Rhodia Uni-Blank No. 18. I'm using this paper instead of the smooth cartridge paper simply because you can see the grid more easily through this particular paper. Okay, so next section is we're going to start doing some warm up exercises and begin using the pen. 5. Warm-Up Exercises: Okay. Well, let's get started with some warm-up exercises. I think even very experienced calligraphers would do warm-up exercises if they're working on something important. I think it's important because you get a sense of the tool that you're using and how it works. So, we'll start with some really simple things and then we'll progress slightly more complex warm-up exercises. This is one of the cheats in the workbook. Let's go through it now and I will explain some bits and pieces here. One of the most fundamental things you can do that really explain this tool quite well, is drawing an x. So, you generally pull rather than push when you're writing with a broad nib pen. This particular tool does give you a bit more flexibility because it's quite versatile as you can actually push. But generally speaking, when you're writing whether you pull, as in pull the nib down, you wouldn't push up very often. It depends on the paper you are using, it depends on what you're trying to do. But as a general rule is, you wouldn't really do that at all. One of the fundamental strokes in the italic is, the drawing of stems. So, if you're drawing an I, this would obviously be the main stroke of an I. You've got about five-degree angle from the vertical in terms of the everything's leaning slightly to the right. You're also holding the pen at 45 degrees. You can see how it terminates and begins the stroke, you got this 45 degree angle here, and that's absolutely key. So, if you're drawing an actual I, you do the zigzag thing, and that just adds finesse and beauty. This wonderful contrast in strokes is what makes this beautiful. One of the things. You're also going to think about now horizontal strokes. Now, there are characters like the F and the T crossbars that you will need to draw these. But it's a good exercise just to try and get nice, even, straight lines. Then, we will think about the O. Now, it's a very characteristic O in this particular style which is sharpened top and bottom. Again, you can see what this tool is naturally, the kind of shapes you are naturally getting. You can see, it's just a beautiful contrast. Contrast, is one of the keys to what makes something gives it a vitality. So, again, just the zigzag. Really simple. Just trying to keep the lines as straight as possible, and just understand that the way that you move with this tool, will shape the thickness of the line. Next exercise, let's draw some plus symbols. You can see how actually part of the 45 degree angle thing is when you have a even vertical and horizontal strokes the same way, which is really useful especially in capital. This is the essence of why you have a 45 degree angle. You will see more about this later. Now, we're getting to exercise that are very much related to the U and the N, or the N characters. These are absolutely key characters in the lower case. There's a lot of forms that are based on these characters so, let's just draw a U, 45 degree angle, down, just slight curve when I go up, and down in a straight line. So, this is really important to get into the rhythm of these kind of shapes. You can see how the tool is naturally shaping and creating hairlines. Which hairlines are these? The finer points here. So, that would be a U exercise. So, just try to have a go at the N or the M warm-up exercise which the principles are the same. You're doing an arc, and you want to leave, this springing out should occur somewhere in the middle of the stroke. So, you can take the pen off the paper here. When you're going to this junction here, you're arcing out. Yeah. This departure point should be roughly in the middle. So, this is just getting your hand-eye coordination in the right zone. There are multiple reasons to warm-up like this, you also getting into a rhythm and developing a zen-like focus on what you're doing you're thinking. Everything else should be just fading away and it's very meditative calligraphy. It can be very calming and relaxing. So, the most difficult thing here is probably this junction departing from the stem. It's a motion, it's like an arc. The ideal arc would be something that starts thin and get slightly thicker as it goes out because that's key to so much of the lowercase. If you look at the way my hands are moving now, when I'm coming out and I'm drawing an N, again, and it's a movement like this. So, it's not my fingers so much my whole hand. If you press the pen too hard, you might damage the nib. I certainly when I first started I seemed to burn through at least one of these pens a week, because I was pressing way too hard. So, it's good to know that you don't need to do that. If you press too softly and if you're not so committed in what you're doing, there's a possibility that you will have a wobbliness. This tool is incredibly sensitive, you can read almost people's state of mind when they're doing calligraphy is any lack of confidence will be really clear to begin with, and there's a look you can see confidence and you can see uncertainty and it's a very sensitive pen, very sensitive tool for gauging that kind of thing. Okay. So, we've been warming up and I think we're getting to grips with the warm-up forms, so let's move onto the lowercase. 6. Lowercase Letterforms: Part 1: Okay. So, this is a page from your work book that's going to show you how to construct letterforms and it's showing what's called the dot steps which is the order of strokes. So, there are four strokes that make up a lowercase a, for example, and you can see here the motion, the direction, and the order of the strokes, and I've applied that across the alphabet. So, let's talk about these related groups that form a really good basis for practice. There are four native groups. The first one is based on the letter o. The second group is based on the letter n, third group is based on the letter u and then all of these characters need to match. So, there are things that I'll illustrate here, they're diagonal on characters that you'd be looking to for consistency's in as well. So, let's draw some of these. I also set up the grid again, Italic grid. If you remember in the warm up exercises, one of the characters I drew was a lowercase o. I'm going to concentrate now on drawing the o and related forms. I can talk through what's happening afterwards. Okay, so let's look at what brings all of these characters together. You've got this stroke here, the first stroke in the lower case o. You can see it's echoed in the c and the e, to a certain extent the g, and to a certain extent the s. You can see the similarity in shapes here. The e is actually very close to being the o, it curves around more quickly. One of the most difficult characters to draw here in the lowercase is probably the lowercase s. I'll draw that quickly here. I'm drawing an s and you got this spine which you want to be in the middle of the x height. You remember these five nipwits. Three, four, five and you're drawing in the middle of three nitpwits and then you're adding the strokes. It's permissible to dip a little bit below the s height or the baseline on the lower case stroke. That was a bit wide. So, that's one of the more tricky characters to draw. If you look at the bottom stroke on the s, it should be a little bit beyond the stroke here. So, you can see how it's extending a little bit beyond. If you look at the stroke on the front, that would tend to extend a little bit beyond the middle stroke as well. You can see it dips out a bit. But there is this scope variety there. So, the consistency is the main thing. One alternative that is totally acceptable is having this stroke shorter and then extending this a little. Of course, it depends what's proceeding and what's following in context the big factor. So, if you had an n here you wouldn't want this stroke extending too far because it's going to run into the other character. But if you were starting a word with an s then you'd have license for the strokes to be longer. So, let's look at the current space on the letter "n." The letter n actually in entire design in calligraphy, it's a significant part of the rhythm of the style that you're working on. So, I'll drawing an n. You can instantly see the relationship with the n. I'm going draw an r. An r is actually, it's very much like the n but it just terminates differently. Then the h is very much like an n. So, for k, so for the b, you can see the relationship here. So, let's have a look at this group here and see how they're related. If you look at the n which is the key character here, you can see how it's very much related to the m. The m would be roughly double the width of the n. Again, the r is a character that starts often as an n, the similar first stroke and then it goes in a different direction with the second stroke and levels out and flicks up. You can see that the h is simply an n with extending upwards with the stroke extends upwards. If you look at the key thing here is with the h, the k, the b and the p are always very similar kind of width. You can see that this top half of the b is actually very much like the h. You're doing the same. You're coming upwards and then instead of going straight down, you're curving in. In terms of the k, let's have a look at the k. If you have a problem with ink flow, by the way, you just flick the pen down, it's the only way to get the ink flowing again quite nicely. So, the k is very striking that you go up and then you come down like this and then this foot is going to come down here. You don't want to extend out too far a bit here to the right, this foot. Because you're going to think about it's relationship to other letters because you want to leave space. So, you might have an n next to it and you have to think about that in terms of how it's going to fit in. So, you can extend it a little bit beyond the top of the k but not too far. Think of the k as being in a rectangular box. Stroke comes down, and you're thinking about this box because you have to think about context and it's position in a word. If you work within this box though, you can be pretty sure that it would fit next to other subsequent letters. So I'm going to go up, grow the k like this, come down. You see, that's why you don't want to extend too far out because if you got an n, pretty much, any character you're drawing be mindful of this invisible rectangle. So let's look at an s here. You see how that can come down. Spacing is a big consideration in calligraphy and you need to think about how spacing is going to work because you really want to correct as much evenness as you can. 7. Lowercase Letterforms: Part 2: Okay. Let's have a look at the third group. This is the group that's based on the "u". Obviously, there's a close relationship between the "u" and the "n". The "u" is effectively rotated, 180 degree rotated down "n". So, let's draw a "u". I'm going to draw a "y". You've already seen the relationship here, it is very closely related characters. So, that's exactly the same to this point. Then, this stroke simply extends down. Then this stroke will join them. So, the widths will be the same for the lowercase "a", similar width to the u. Very similar in lots of ways. So, you just see there's this stroke that covers the top. So, when you're practicing drawing letters, do bear these groups in mind because it will bring home the relationship of these characters. It'll be much easier to pick up the inconsistencies. It'll be a mini obviously, this space, the negative space, you want it to be the same. Again here, you'd want the negative space to be the same. That's the thing, you should really be thinking about as much about the negative space as positive space. "G" is very similar to an "a". It's just that this stroke extends down. The "q" is even more similar to an "a". This is a bit too flat. I'm going to draw it again. It's more of a boat shape here, and then it flips up. It's coming from a 45-degree angle, and then it's scooping up a bit. So, it becomes more vertical. Draw the l, and then the "t". There are various ways to draw a "t". I'll just draw the style I prefer, scoop up. Then you just come from the top of the "t", come down to 45 degrees, and then you twist. You twist as you come across. If you twist clockwise, it just creates a very pleasing shape. You could also draw a "t" like this. In terms of the most difficult character to get right here, I'd say it's probably the lowercase "a". So because it's the most, the more strokes you have in a character really then, the more there is to go wrong. I'll draw another one here. There's this curve, this shouldn't be flat in this particular model. There should be a curve here. Then when you're coming up, there's a sort of twist. Then you come down, and then it's just flick again. So, it's like a twist as you come up. That comes with practice, it's just hooking, a flick up with a little twist in it. So, I say that, yeah, the a is probably the most difficult to draw here. The a in the related forms are some of the most beautiful characters in this italic. I'm just going to draw a "g". Of course once you get going, you can now start having fun with ascenders and descenders, and doing things like this, which is instantly much more attractive than any of the other g's here. Let's look at a detail on this relationship here of the strokes within this "a" character. I think these are really attractive. It's an intersection to be found, I'm exaggerating a bit here for effect. But there's a really pleasing relationship going on here when it's drawn properly. It just looks very pleasing, this is much better. There's this relationship here, in the way these characters intersect. It just adds a crispness in a very characteristic, calligraphic touch when you extend this stroke, coming down a little. So, you get this really nice relationship here. Of course, in terms of these little details, a lot of these boils down to the scale that you're writing. I'm actually writing quite a large scale here for obvious reasons. If I was writing at a much smaller size, I might slightly exaggerate these characteristics so you can see them more clearly. So, it's very much about context, and the kind of tone of voice you want for something. Okay. Let's have a look at the fourth group now. It's a eclectic group. But there are various things that draw them together. Okay. This is the fourth group. It's an eclectic group really. I suppose there's a subgroup here, and the "z" is its own thing. So, the first three characters here, you can see the clear relationship. This dot on the "i" is one of the most calligraphic shapes there is. It's really, I find it really beautiful actually. The dot in the "i", normally you draw this stroke, main stroke first, like this. Then you add this dot. It's really, in terms of positioning, I suppose it would be probably two nib wits up, I'd say so, from the X high. So, can you see that that dot, the edge of the dot runs through, something like that. The "w", again ideally, it'd be this shape, the negative space. This should all be very even. There should be an even wide space here. The "z" again, this is a weird one. There are various ways to draw a "z". This is the way I've chosen to draw it here. It's obviously because of the nature of the tool, it's got a very thin center. You can sometimes beef up this stroke with two strokes. You can also, if you prefer, you can manipulate the pen, so it's thicker. That's a perfectly reasonable option as well. So, it's really into the realms of taste with things like that. This is certainly as good a "z" as this one in this context. 8. Writing Words: So, we've been talking about writing individual letters. I think the next stage is writing out words. So, let's look at the word minimum. Minimum is a really good word to practice. It's got those key letters, that lowercase n and the lowercase m, and you'll see, and the u, which is a rotated n effectively. So, let's have a go. It's important, you think about the negative space, the white space between the letters as it is the letters themselves. So, that we should aim for an evenness here. This isn't too bad and this is a little close to the n, but it's okay. So, I'm maintaining this 45 degree angle. I'm arching out. I'm rotating. So that's the word minimum. You can see how closely related all these forms are, and you can see that you are aiming for consistency though, so the three M's should be very similar width. So, that's a really good practice word. You start thinking about some of the key letters that create what we call the rhythm in calligraphy and in a given style. I'll talk about the spacing between words now. One of the things that clickers often do wrong is when they start, the space is too big between words. So, I think you should aim for the space between two words, it should roughly be a lowercase 'a'. So, if I started here, that'll be too much. Working at this size, the space between words and letters is also relates to and is affected by the size you're working out. The smaller size you are working out the more space you'd want to give between letters and between words. Working with this size, I think about that 'a'. That's a pretty good distance. And again, I'm arching, arching out. See, when I'm holding the pen like this, it's going to spin out, it's going to arch out and then come down. So, that's the word minimum. Let's try something else. Now, I'm also going to talk about the fact that some letter combinations are awkward and it makes sense to join them as shown in these examples. Let's try the word flavoring. I've chosen this word because, this is sort of take things further now, we're talking about introducing ascenders and descenders into the words. The ascender from the F is fusing into the stroke of the L, the main stem of the L and that just creates. If it didn't do that, they'd be clashing at the top, and there'd be too much space between the F and the L. So, this id the word flavoring and again thinking about space between words, think about that lowercase a is a good benchmark. So, that's a reasonable kind of space between two words. I'll talk a little bit more about letter forms that clash, where you need to modify them to get things to sit comfortably. Another a really good example is double T. Now, can you see that? What I've done here is the crossbar I'm going to create from one stroke. So, I'm going to come across and that's a ligature, double T ligature. So you can see this is evenness and again think about the white space between. If you look at the shape, the space here is pretty even, and that's very desirable in terms of creating harmony. So, italic is defined as a semi cursive style and that essentially means that some letters join when you're writing it. I like variety. I think it just has a richness. This isn't drawn very well but you get the idea here that this I is running into this N. It could equally not do, either would be fine. I think the case for me is, I like variations. So things don't need to join or they can join. I think a little bit of variety can be nice. Now, if look at the work book that you can download, I've included a setting of the word 'Hamburgefonstiv' for which is used in type design a lot. Because if you look at these characters, you really got the blueprint for a whole lowercase here. This is a really good starting point for understanding the DNA of a typeface. So, what is a really good way to understand, I'd encourage you to do, this is, print out this page up through 100 percent scale, and then you you can trace over the letters and it will, this is a really good way to understand proportions, and you just thinking about, you start thinking about the letters as not letters but shapes and it's a kind of good way to put aside your preconceived ideas about what a letter M looks like for example. So this is a really good way to understand what's going on with the pen. 9. Capital Letterforms: Okay. So, let's start thinking about the upper case now. Now, the upper case is more difficult to draw than the lower case. There are a number of reasons for that. I think some of the forms are more nuanced. There's a bit more pen manipulation, which means a rotation of the nip when you're writing. I'm going to talk through the basics of the upper case. I'll probably write out four or five characters and discuss what's going on. So, in your word book, you got what's known as the ductus which is the order of the strokes that you'd use to construct each of these. This is swash italic. I've included this swash italic rather than a more basic italic, because I just think they're such fun characters to draw. You wouldn't necessarily create cap settings out of swash characters. That wouldn't really look very good. It would be hard to create an evenness, but I was thinking more for this workshop in terms of writing. When you're writing names out and so and it's nice to have some real character to uppercase forms. So, yeah let's begin. Now, remember that caps are seven in this particular example, there are seven nib widths high. So, as opposed to the lower case which are five. So, I'll just draw them so you can see them on camera. This is the X i. The caps are going to come up about another two nib widths high. Let's start with the A. Now the stroke order that you've seen in the worksheet, it's kind of logical, it's not set in stone. You might feel comfortable constructing in a different way, but this is how I do things. So, this keystroke is going to be five degrees leaning. That's how you create a unity in terms of how everything is going to sit together because you'll draw a lower case now. So, if I draw an L next to the A, you can see that that instantly makes sense. So, that would be how you draw an A. Then, if I was writing the word alphabet, you can just say, okay, I'll just write these, I'll join it with something with an ascender and a descender. Just so you can see the kind of context of the of the A and how it would sit. Again, think about that five degree leane. I'm going to start near the top of the seven nib widths, come down, and then the way I do it, again other people would do things differently possibly. That's a reasonable B. So, I mean it's not exactly seven nib widths here. The way I work is not ultra formal, it's really quite playful and I'm not particularly bothered about the caps being perfectly exactly seven nib widths all the time, I think there can be a nice energy that you can get from a bit more variety. The C relates to the O, and it relates to the G. They are round characters in upper case. There are square characters in the upper case, and there are diagonal characters in the upper case. So, in the same way there are in the lower case. So, the C is obviously quite a round character. If you remember the exercises at the beginning, this is one of the key strokes in the upper case. So, this 45 degree angle curl around like this, terminate here. Then come up and you're going to twist to about say 45 degrees. Remember when I was doing that pen manipulation and how there's quite a lot of it in the upper case. I'm coming out with this stroke and I'm twisting. So, it's going from 45 degrees to maybe five degrees by the time you finish that and then I'm just coming down like this. The next character is the D. The D relates to the B as you'll see. So, I'm starting about seven nib widths high, I come down, I'll sweep out again. See, at this point this could either be or this could actually be a B so far. But instead of coming in like this, it's going to be one movement. It's going to come round like that, and then the swash aspect is the decorative stroke here. If it wasn't a swash, it would terminate in a different way here. Let's draw an E. So again we're thinking about seven nib widths high. So, I'm starting a bit lower than not, coming down, sweeping out, and then I'm going to go like this. I'm twisting the nib again. When it terminates here like I did it with a C, and then for the E you can go to all the way across. Our interest for this character I'm going to do this. So, I'm now going to draw a capital F. You'll see the capital F relates to the E very closely, same as E to this point, then it dips below the baseline. In this particular style. I'll come back to that stroke I think. But I'll poke for instance one of the key strokes here is the top. Like the E, twisting. When you're writing crossbars, or drawing crossbars, this is a crossbar and that's a crossbar, very often instead of 45 degrees, you're going to be more like maybe 30 or 35, because it's quite pleasing. You wouldn't want this stroke to be very heavy when it's crossing a heavy stroke. It just has a bit more elegance and it looks more correct optically. If you are twisting the nib a little, to maybe 30-35 degrees. Then this last strike on the F is, and you can have a lot of fun with this. This could start here, there's lots of scope for variety but for our purposes, something like that. So, one of the key strokes in this swash capital set is this stroke here. It's the one I did here with the B, and the one I did here with the D. You see it also in the in E and the F. That's effectively what makes it a swash capital. Once you get going, there are all sorts of ways you can extend things and make things a lot more intricate. I think this is one of the key features in the cap certainly. So I'll draw a K for example. There is only one temper you're thinking in terms of width. You can see the E and the F are about the same width. You could certainly make the E, F, slightly narrower, that would be completely fine. For the K, I'm thinking the K is going to be roughly the same width as the E. When you start writing words, you start seeing this, to create this evenness and harmony, thus the proportions are really important in terms of capitals. Consistency is really important because you could make, I've seen wonderful calligraphy where the caps are all incredibly wide, and the lower case are really narrow. And that's absolutely fine, that can work really well but it's just about consistency. If you're going to do that, then you need to do that consistently. This is a much more even kind of relationship between the caps and the lower case. I think you will find the upper case more difficult to write. There are various reasons for that. I think two of the most difficult character to write in the uppercase are the M and the W. A lot of that's to do with the number of strokes, and there's quite a lot of pen manipulation. I'll demonstrate. I'll draw an M to illustrate this. There's this sweeping stroke. Now, this isn't starting at 45 degrees. If it did that, the white distribution would be wrong. So, I'm going to start at a steeper angle than that. I've actually gone over this again, the hairline was too thin. That's absolutely a legitimate thing to do. Again, the hairline here is a little bit thin. So, I'm going to attach it in. An important consideration with this character is, you want these to be very similar, these internal triangles to be very similar in terms of space. It just looks most pleasing when that's the case. And it just looks correct. I'll put an I next to it, and an N. You can see, again, I've given that capital M a bit more breathing space in here compared to the lower case, how the lower case characters space. This is actually quite tight spacing, depending on how the context. In headlines sometimes, the tight spacing is good but in other contexts, you could certainly let these breathe a bit more and it would be a good idea. Okay. So, that concludes the section on capitals and now we're going to get version. 10. Flourishing Techniques: Okay. So in this session, we're going to talk about flourishing. Now in calligraphy, there is this technique called flourishing. It's essentially using decorative strokes that extend from ascendants and descendants and other exit points of letters and it certainly can appear in the caps too. It's a way of introducing even more drama, or elegance and beauty to what's already a really beautiful kind of piece. It's a system essentially, and there are rules that govern it. But I think that there is also freedom within that system. So, there are sort of maybe three or four key principles that you'd want to think about. But beyond that, the exciting thing really is that the sky's the limit, and it can really- you can have a lot of drama and fun and beauty in this context names, and that's what we're going to do today. Okay, so I've taken my jacket off because it gives me a bit more freedom to move. Actually, when you're doing flourishing, your elbow should not be touching the table when you're working the only part of the hand that's touching the paper will be your, this underside of your hand. So, maybe I'll draw a flourishing, and I'll talk about it, and whether it's work or not. So, this is curvilinear flourishing and I'm using this these two pens taped together, which I'll explain why. So, this is work quite well. There's a real fluidity to this. It's a good thing to cross for lines to intersect, kind of around 90 degrees. What doesn't work is if you have two strokes and they're crossing like this. Now, this creates. It draws attention to itself it's kind of becomes a spot in the flourish. What's much better is to have this kind of, just creates much more, a greater sense of evenness if intersections are is close to 90 degrees as possible. So, this isn't too bad. I mean, this is, I'm going to attach this now too. Let's pretend this is the beginning, this was coming off an end. A letter and so it's technically a flourish rather than just some sort of ornament. Can you see that there's quite a nice evenness. You know we talked about positive and negative space, the white space here as it as it would be if this was colored in, the stroke was colored in. It's quite even. As a general rule, you wouldn't want two thick strokes crossing each other. Because again, that creates a kind of spot in the composition that doesn't work. So, you can see here, there's a thin, it's crossing a thick. Thin crossing thick, thin crossing thick, and that's been maintained throughout. That's a really important consideration. So, this evenness. There's the fluidity of the curves to consider. Also, this thick thin thing to consider. If you do flourishing very carefully, intensively, it almost never works. There has to be confidence in what you're doing. It's very easy to see if you're lacking confidence or you're lacking knowledge or experience. I mean, there's a nice fluidity to this, the curves are pleasing. This was a whole arm movement. This is kind of an advanced technique. What we'll be doing in terms of flourishing today is we'll be plowing the flourishing carefully. It's a much better way to understand what's successful flourishing is and how it works. With experience, you start to understand the system, the language of flourishing, and you can work completely, you can improvise and it can work quite well but that comes with time. I think what we need to do the lesson today is think about how letterforms relate to successful flourishes coming off ascendants and descendants particularly. If you think of those things, you're well on the way to producing good flourishing. So, I think I'll write out the words Stephen, let me do that. Flourishing should look really natural, it should look almost organic like a vine growing out of a letter or something, it should have a flow and a sort of harmony and a kind of harmony that harmonize with the letters that should complement the letters. Now, how can I do that in this composition? You could flourish, you can use up to four flourishes in this setting. But I'm just going to do two. So, this would be the first one, this would be a natural place to flourish. It shouldn't look forced, it shouldn't look like it's tacked onto the letters. It should look like it's absolutely fundamentally part of them. So, I'm going to echo the flourish of the top of the bottom. Think about the negative space again, that's kind of even, that's good. So, that would be the two natural places to flourish. You could also extend. I'll pen them in but I won't actually ink them. You could also do something like this and maybe like that, but we won't draw those in. So, you planned them. Then, we can just ink them in. Forty-five degree angle exactly like the letterforms themselves. Can you see how naturally the tool creates this beautiful contrast. I mean, this is crude, but you get the gist. Actually, that sits very well in this context and that's a mirror the effects down here. So, that's a reasonably successful flourishing of the word- of the name Stephen. Can you see how these strokes, there's this even this here, this angle is the same as the top and the bottom which is important. The counters, the negative space here and here, and here and here, is about the same which is good. An alternative actually for flourishing this would be, to not do these two flourishes and you could just instead. You could do something like this. There are two conflicting ideas going on here so it would really be one or the other. But this is a good idea in terms of flourishing off the cap and the last letter, that works quite well. So, it would be one or the other. Okay, so one of the things to think about when you are flourishing is legibility because you can have some beautiful shapes and curves but if it changes the letter into something else, then that's not a good idea. So, let me just give you an example of that. Let's take an I. Normally, you'll finish an I, you just do straight I. A regular I would be something like this. But if you did, you thought well, how can I make this more beautiful? You go. Do something like that, trying to add a flourish to the bottom. It starts looking much more like an L and that would be a problem so it's something to just be mindful of. Actually, it's good to ask other people if they can read things because you might be so caught up in something, you kind of forgotten your perception of it's change, so you can actually see for the first time, and you'll think it's really legible, and actually won't be possible, it won't work when you read at all. So, it's good to run things past people, I've always done that. I'd say have fun with flourishing. It is an advanced technique. Your first efforts probably not look great but it's really good fun. It creates enthusiasm and it creates some excitement and it's I think it's great to just nurture the passion for calligraphy and thinking about it now. So, it's something to enjoy. But I wouldn't rush into using it for anything serious like a logo too quickly. Okay, so let's start putting all together and start writing out few names. 11. Assignment: Writing Your Name: Okay, so let's get to the matter of writing out names with calligraphic flourishing. The whole point of flourishing really is this. It's going to accentuate beauty. When you're going to bring out more beauty through using calligraphic tool, it can be as simple or as complicated as you want to. I'd suggest starting very simply with maybe one or two flourishes and then maybe try something a bit more complicated later. Okay, so let's begin. Let's start with the name, Angela. I wouldn't normally use a pencil to flash out the flourishing, but I'm going to do that here. Let me think. So let's just actually let's plan this out. This is a good thing to do. Let's just write out, Angela and look what our options are. So we've got an L. We've got an ascender. We've got Descender. We've got this A. There's lots of scope here to do all sorts of things and we've got this turn on the A. So, all sorts of options. Maybe something like that. This would be too much to do all of this part. I'm just thinking through what my options are. I quite like this. Actually, that again, in terms of taste, good taste dictates that, every rule tends to be broken, but generally speaking, one or two flourishes is loads beginning whether you have to really know what you're doing to start playing with the idea in changing that. This stroke could actually, I think what might work best here is because this G is in the middle. I'm going to prioritize that. You kind of think about balancing out. How could you balance that out? You could do something like this. This is very unconventional flourishing though and this relationship isn't so great. So, I think what I'm going to do is I'm going to concentrate on the G, because it's in the middle and it could create a nice- it will be asymmetrical, but there could be a nice balance to it. This is how it will go. I think that could work quite well, actually and that might actually be enough, I think. Yeah, I think something like this is probably a better option. So you're going to ink that right now. So I think this isn't completely resolved, but there's something quite fun about this. I think what I could actually do is try and echo the stroke at the top. So I could have left it where it was and for the purpose of just exploring and thinking. That's quite fun. I think there's potential here to develop this in something else and expand it, refine it. I think I solve a T now. You've seen what I've done. I've started with lower case and then we've talked about upper case. We talked about bringing them together. We talked about the relationship of the importance of spacing and then we've started talking about flourishing and I've given you some insight into what makes a good flourish. So I'd be very interested to see what you come up with. 12. Final Thoughts: So, a lot of people ask me how long it takes to get good at calligraphy. Well, I suppose, it depends how you define good because you can spend a lifetime learning and that's part of the joy of it really and the frustration is the complexity and the incredibly rich variety of letter forms there are. I'd recommend practicing at least 15 minutes a day if you can. I think that's a really good, really good foundation, more if you can. You can be producing letter forms, I think you've got every reason to be proud of. In a month or two, I think, really. I think the way it works with letter form design is you do something, you'll be drawing flourishes and the whole thing absolutely spectacular, and then you look back on them in a month and you think, "Oh my god, that's terrible." That can go on for a while, because the initial stage, when you got a lot of enthusiasm, you're practicing a lot you're going to improve very quickly and you can expect that to happen. Something else I'd add is that I'm very interested in seeing your work in the project gallery. I'm definitely going to be giving you feedback on anything and answering any other questions you have. So, I look forward to seeing what you come up with. So I hope I've at least given you some insight into the power of calligraphy and how beautiful it can be, and it's potential in art design project. So I've really- calligraphy has had a tremendous effect in my career. It's opened up lots of opportunities for me and I've got a better insight in letter forms. So I think that type- people working with type would benefit from doing the course. I think that illustrators and artists and anyone interested in calligraphy, I think will benefit. So, I hope you've enjoyed it and good luck. 13. Bonus: Behind-the-Scenes with Seb: My name is Seb Lester. I'm an artist and designer based in the UK, and the focus of my work is letterforms. I would describe my calligraphy as very casual in nature. A lot of it is about having fun really and being expressive. I kind of think of myself as a stunt calligrapher in a way, and as an Internet calligrapher. The way I make calligraphy work for me is via the traditional avenues. I got into calligraphy because my partner became ill. I couldn't work for about 14 months, so the creative outlet I had was some sketchbooks, and I got some calligraphy pens and I started messing around with them. I just fell in love with calligraphy really, has an immediacy that you don't get with type designer, or with letterform design, hype design. I love it. But drawing an O can take you two hours, whereas with calligraphy you've got this immediacy and an energy and I think that's been really powerful. When I first started calligraphy, it was really all about fun. It wasn't deadline driven and there wasn't any kind in action. I was having fun and I was just embracing the medium, and I think that people picked up on that. UK based artist and designer, Seb Lester, frequently posts videos featuring the creation of his calligraphy. A compilation posted on Facebook reached more than 45 million views in five days. The Internet's kind of big part in why I approach calligraphy. I think that's something people find compelling about short form calligraphy videos and it's been fantastic the way it's transformed my career and opened up all sorts of opportunities for me. No one tells you actually in college that if you work really hard and things work out, that you'll actually be invited around the world to speak about what you do, got to meet some incredible people. So, it's been a really positive thing. I think that calligraphy is at a really interesting point that definitely seems to be a resurgence. I think social media has played a huge part in that story because the exposure levels of calligraphy. Calligraphers have gone through the roof, so you can connect with people you never could before. It's a great time to be a calligrapher. I'm very excited. I think that for calligraphy to survive, it needs to evolve and it needs to change. I think it's really doing that. 14. Bonus: Seb's Favorite Tools: A tool is basically a tone of voice or it's a range of voices. So, I'll show you what a pointed pen style might look like a formal script. This is very characteristically. It's defined by this very, very fine hairlines. A really nice, smooth transition from falling hairlines to thicker strokes. Very beautiful. I was very drawn into this very quickly. I'm using a gold ink here. Here, you can see a really a beautiful, very formal that looks very contemporary. Next tool, I'm actually a big fan of ruling pens. They're also known as fold-it pens depending, but these are current, these are very dramatic strokes you can get with these pens. You can get a lot of variety in width depending on the angle that you hold the pen to the paper. It's literally a piece of metal that has been folded in half. It retains ink inside the folds. Depending on which kind of ruling pen you are using, you can get some really dramatic splattery effects. it's space-lit. It's two pens, two simple ballpoint pens that have been sellotaped together. You get a really nice snappy flourish with a tool like this. It's very useful for actually italic and it's very useful for italic version. This is essentially an italic tool that you can use it in different ways. This is a pointed brush pen, particularly good one. I'll include it in my workbook notes. So, this is how it look. So, it's really precious, a big factor in terms of results. You can get a really nice flowy, warm, organic feel with this tool very easily. Well, let's go back to our board and pen again. This is a manuscript fountain pen. A lot of the tools I like actually are really, there's always this balancing act really. There is performance, but then there's practicality. Because a lot of the callig I did earlier was on coffee bars and I was out and about a lot of the time, so it was very practical to use fountain pens. I do like these tools a lot. I just got to draw a Gothic style G using this tool. In terms of larger scale and calligraphy, this is a Copic Wide Marker. It's very good for italic actually at a big scale. It's quite satisfying about drawing letters of this scale. That's a Gothic style E. Now, let's have a look at the dip pen. It's an automatic pen. Again, these are really versatile. If you want real crispness in your letter forms, these are really, really good for that. I don't know if I can demonstrate it in here though. You see how crisp these and pleasingly crisper the hairlines are here. Again, you get a range of sizes and they really lend themselves well to black letter in italic. Also, some other stores within the kind of broad nip category. I came running out of space on this piece of paper, but this is a tree marker. I found this in a kid's toy shop and I think I'm including it because I think it's really important to experiment and just think laterally about tools. I've seen the amazing things done with collect calligraphically with like lollipop sticks, so all sorts of things. So, this is literally a kid's toy. You see you really funny results with a tool toy like this. So, yes, it's good to experiment. I think some tools do that type of shapes. You have a range of voices within the tool. I think when I started, I was a kid in a toy shop. I didn't really had any formal training, so I was just very curious at this. I still do retain this extreme inquisitive approach to mark making and what does this one do. I was left my advice ready to experiment and see what things did and it's quickly apparent that different tools have different strengths. It's one of the pleasures of calligraphy, is finding what the strengths of respected tools are and what you can do with them. 15. More Creative Classes on Skillshare: way.