Getting Started: Modern Calligraphy
Over the past few years, a new style of calligraphy has erupted onto the scene. Called modern calligraphy, this style can often incorporate some of the more traditional styles, but it definitely has a flair that is all its own. Because it is so often seen on cards, book covers, etc., many customers are wondering how to get started with this particular style.
First and foremost, even though modern calligraphy is not a traditional calligraphic hand per say, we would still highly recommend taking the time to learn one of the traditional hands first. Learning strong letter forms allows you to develop a more consistent and beautiful style of your own. Modern calligraphy is most closely related to pointed pen styles, and we have a separate article on how to get started with those.
Once you are ready to move into the modern calligraphy style, there are a few commonly used materials. First and foremost, one of the absolute best books available for reference is Modern Calligraphy by Molly Suber Thorpe. In it, you will find many variations of all letters of the alphabet, recommendations for supplies, and project ideas. The wide variety of styles offered for each letter are particularly helpful for those just starting with the modern style. Another wonderful book is Modern Calligraphy (also titled Modern Mark Making) by Lisa Englebrecht. This books goes beyond just pointed pen and shows modern variations of broad edge styles and brush lettering, too, as well as many other fun and playful hands. It has exemplars and examples as well.
In terms of materials, many modern calligraphers are creating their styles using a straight holder. Any inexpensive straight holder will work just fine. For those wanting an oblique, we’d recommend starting with a mid-range oblique such as one from our peerless line or turned oblique holder line. If you want to try both a straight and oblique, you can try the Dynamic Duo holder. Nibs are most definitely a personal preference. That being said, the most popular nib for modern calligraphy is the Nikko G. The Gillott 303 and Gillott 404 , the Zebra G, and the Hunt 22 and Hunt 101 are also popular choices. Another excellent nib, particularly for difficult papers, is the Hiro 41. For ink, sumi is a great choice! If you don’t mind pouring your ink into another container, the KY 2 oz. sumi is a great place to start. If you want to work straight from the bottle, Kuretake Sumi allows you to do so; however, keep in mind it’s always better to use a separate container to preserve your ink for as long as possible. (Dinky Dips makes it very easy to do so!)
For paper, the Rhodia pads are a good choice. If you want to use your guidelines, the blank Rhodia will allow you to easily do so. If you prefer to work on gridded paper, Rhodia comes in both a standard 5×5 grid as well as a dot grid. For practice on black paper, the Strathmore Artagain is an excellent unlined choice, and the Pacon lined paper is good if you prefer lines. For a heavier weight for formal projects, hot press watercolor is a solid choice as is Strathmore Bristol (plate finish). Finally, if you want to use your modern calligraphy for every day correspondence, the Strathmore Writing series offers classy cards and high quality paper.
As with any style of calligraphy, taking classes is highly recommended. Many calligraphers offer modern calligraphy classes both in person and online, and the feedback given by a teacher can help tremendously as you grow.