Types of Calligraphy: Starting From Zero Knowledge

Getting started with calligraphy can sometimes be like trying to find your way in the dark. It’s pretty hard to find out where to actually start. I myself had this problem when I started, and if I only knew some of the information here, It would have been a tremendous help.

Let’s dive in and start from the very basics of the types of calligraphy. I wrote it to be very easy to digest and understand to really help beginners. At the end, I’ll explain how to actually use this knowledge to start and get better.

Better yet, I’ll leave both an interactive info-graphic and an info-graphic you can share at the end!

What Are The Different Types Of Calligraphy?

The three main types of calligraphy is categorized by its origins or alphabet. They are Eastern, Islamic, and Western. From there, the different types of scripts are based on the tools they use. Eastern styles mostly use brushes, while Western and Arabic mostly use dip pens.

One of the things that define each of the main styles of calligraphy is the alphabet they use. Western Calligraphy will mostly make use of the Roman alphabet, Eastern Calligraphy will make use of the Chinese, Korean, or Japanese alphabet, Arabic Calligraphy will, of course, use the Arabic alphabet.

From there, the different styles of writing are called scripts. Scripts are often developed based on the type of tools that are used to write them. For example, in Western Calligraphy, there is a style of script called Pointed Pen Script.

Important point: people often mistake fonts for script. Fonts are mostly used for computers, lettering, etc. For calligraphy, since it’s actually writing, it’s called script.

This is mostly a blanket term for all the scripts that use a pointed dip pen, or at least a pen that uses a pen holder with a pointed nib attached to the end. For those who aren’t familiar, a dip pen consists of two parts, the pen holder and the nib.

The pen holder is the part your hand holds, while the nib is the pointed metal section that you dip in the ink. The nib will store the ink in its reservoir, the small hole in the middle, and the ink will flow through a slit cut into it called the tines.

The tines, by virtue of them spreading apart, will create line variations or different line thickness to create the effect of a dynamic and crisp line.

So, succinctly, the different types of calligraphy are divided by locations, tools, then scripts.

I’ll list the different scripts below, however, I’ll only be expanding on Western Calligraphy as it is the style I am most familiar with. Check them out below!

They’ll be arranged by alphabetical order.

Note: I work really hard on making content for this site. If you find it useful, feel free to share it with others who will benefit from it as well. But also, please remember to credit and link back.

What Are The Different Types of Islamic Calligraphy?

Islamic Calligraphy often covers all the scripts and styles written with the Arabic alphabet. This style of calligraphy often uses broad edge nibs or dip pens. The most recognized styles are:

  • Arabic
  • Persian
  • Ottoman
  • Afghan
  • Pakistan
  • Indian

Often used for religious purposes and art, Islamic Calligraphy uses the Arabic alphabet for its scripts and styles.

Though most use broad edge dip pens, much like all forms of calligraphy, different scripts make use of different tools.

This style of calligraphy is often adopted by countries that practice Islam as their main religion, or those who have alphabets derived from the Arabic alphabet.

What Are The Different Types of Eastern Calligraphy?

Eastern Calligraphy mostly covers all the different types of calligraphy in the eastern hemisphere of the globe, the most recognized types are:

  • Chinese
  • Korean
  • Japanese

The earliest origins of calligraphy, at least in the eastern hemisphere, is China. It was a very well regarded visual art. Often considered the highest form of art, it offered men and women prestige and honor.

Calligraphers were considered educated and of higher stature. Nobles and officials usually learned this craft as a sign of their education and social standing. Artists who were especially talented were often commissioned by royalty.

Through trade and conquest, the art of calligraphy spread throughout Asia, with Korea, then known as Goryeo, and Japan adopting the most similar form to Chinese calligraphy.

Even in different places and countries, Calligraphy was hailed as a high art form.

For more on the history of calligraphy, I wrote an article that summarized the history of both Western and Eastern Calligraphy. Find it here.

What Are The Different Types of Western Calligraphy?

Western Calligraphy mostly covers all the different types of calligraphy in the western hemisphere of the globe, the most recognized types are:

  • Broad Edge
  • Pointed Pen
  • Modern
  • Faux

As with the other types of calligraphy, Western Calligraphy mostly covers styles adapted and developed for the Roman alphabet. The roman alphabet is the alphabet that English speakers use.

It originated in ancient Greece, and from there was repurposed during the times of Roman Empire. Still, it evolved further on as technology and culture developed. Different tools, and even the medium of consuming literature, shaped its course and helped bring what we have today.

Eastern and Western Calligraphy each developed on their own, independently defining the nuances and aesthetics of their own styles.

As mentioned, we’ll discuss the rest of the western styles below.

What is Broad Edge Calligraphy?

Broad Edge Calligraphy mostly covers all the different types of calligraphy that uses a broad edge nib to write. Gothic scripts fall under this style. The most recognized types are:

  • Blackletter
  • Italic
  • Uncial
  • Foundational

Broad Edge Calligraphy is a style that produces thick, bold letters. To produce this effect, a broad edge pen is used.

A broad edge pen is basically composed of two parts: the pen holder, and the broad edge nib. The nib is replaceable, needing replacement whenever it turns dull.

The pen holder has two variations: straight and oblique. A straight pen is much like a normal pen, while an oblique pen has a flange, a sort of angled holder.

For more on the different tools in calligraphy, click here.

The nib itself is simple. It’s a metal tip that’s placed into the holder. It has a hole in the middle where the ink can be stored known as a reservoir.

The letters of the scripts themselves are written at a 90° angle, mostly. The line thickness can be static or of the same thickness all around, but it mostly depends on the script.

To achieve line variations, the changing thickness of the lines, the angle of the nib is what is used. By angling it, you can produce different line sizes that make your writing look more dynamic.

To achieve more dynamic line variations, a pointed pen is needed.

What is Pointed Pen Calligraphy?

Pointed Pen Calligraphy mostly covers all the different types of calligraphy that uses a pointed nib to write. Copperplate script is under this style, as well. The most recognized types are:

  • Roundhand
  • Spencerian
  • Engravers

Pointed Pen Calligraphy is a style that produces writing with a lot of line variations. From thin hairlines, to thick strokes, the script is a style that offers a lot of dynamism to the writer and reader.

To write in a pointed pen script, one will have to use a pointed pen nib. Much like the broad edge pen, you will use a pen holder and nib as well. 

For the pen holder, you can also choose to use either a straight or oblique pen. For its nib, you’ll be using an expendable metal nibs whose tines open wide for different line variations.

The script itself was based on how you use a quill pen, and later on, it was adapted for newer dip pens and even earlier fountain pens.

The Engravers script was widely used for some of the earliest printing presses, giving way to Copperplate Script.

Copperplate script in itself is a blanket term that covers all the styles and scripts used to make the copper plates used for mass printing in earlier printing presses.

This style of script is one of the most widely used today, giving form to modern and faux calligraphy.

What is Modern Calligraphy?

Modern Calligraphy is a style that closely resembles Pointed Pen Calligraphy. One of its main distinctions is that it is less formal than the latter, offering a more casual and free form style. This style is widely used today.

Chances are you’ve already seen this style of script without knowing it. This script is widely adapted into fonts for Youtube videos, ads, and invitations.

Since Pointed Pen Calligraphy was developed during a time that was more… formal, it follows some pretty tight principles and parameters. This is often shown when you see pointed pen scripts written in a straight line, trying to be as perfect as possible.

For modern calligraphy, the guidelines you usually follow for traditional scripts are used sparingly. They have a bouncier feel and are less constricted.

Since this script is based on traditional Pointed Pen Calligraphy, the best tool is also a pointed pen or nib.

All these styles are very dependent on the tools you have. But what if you only have a normal ballpoint, or even pencil?

This is what the next script addresses.

What is Faux Calligraphy?

Faux Calligraphy is a style that closely follows Pointed Pen and Modern Calligraphy scripts. The main distinction is that you can use almost any writing implement to try and mimic the different line variations.

Faux calligraphy mostly follows the styles and principles of Pointed Pen and Modern Calligraphy. The main difference between them is that you can use almost any writing tool in your arsenal

You can use a ballpoint pen, a mechanical pencil, a pencil, chalk, or what have you.

They also follow the line variation principles of traditional Pointed Pen Calligraphy. Thick down strokes, and thin upstrokes, that’s its most basic principle.

But how can you make different line thickness with normal pens?

The answer is to fake it. Basically, that’s where it takes its name from. You can even probably consider this as lettering because you draw the effects in rather than writing it.

For thin strokes, write normally. For thick strokes, either reinforce it with additional strokes to make it thicker, or just draw how you want it to look and color in the lines.

It’s that simple.

Speaking of tools, I’ll give a short background for each of them. I have an article dedicated to explaining each tool for beginners. Here’s a link.

Western Calligraphy Tools

With Western Calligraphy, all you really have to remember is what writing instrument can produce the type of effect you want. Once you know that, just go ahead and use it.

Further down is how to use all this information.

Style/ScriptTools
Broad Edge– Broad Edge Dip Pen
– Calligraphy Pen (Fountain Pen & Pilot Parallel)
– Fork (Yup, the one for food)
– Ruling Pen
Pointed Pen – Pointed Dip Pen
– Pencil
– Chalk
– Brush Marker
– Felt Tip Pen
– Fountain Pen With Flex Nib
– Any pen that can create line variations
Modern – Pointed Dip Pen
– Pencil
– Chalk
– Brush Marker
– Felt Tip Pen
– Any pen that can create line variations
FauxAny Writing Implement

CONCLUSION

So what to do with all this information?

For starters, this is to help you decide what script you want to start with.

There are many scripts you can learn in calligraphy, and they all take time to be skilled at. Knowing what each script looks like will help you decide which one to invest your time in so you won’t regret the time spent practicing it.

Next, this will help familiarize you with the tools.

Let’s say you’re decided on starting calligraphy and your main deciding factor isn’t held down to the looks of the script but by its tools. Now, with this information you can decide on which to pursue.

Adding to that, now you have a list of tools you can work with.

Practicing and starting calligraphy will mean you spending a lot of time with a certain tool and certain style of script. It’s important to really love what you are doing to get better. 

Knowing all this will let you in on what’s waiting for you in the future and be able to plan accordingly!

Here’s the infographic I promised! Feel free to swipe left or right!

Here’s the infographic you can share with your friends!

Note: I work really hard on making content for this site. If you find it useful, feel free to share it with others who will benefit from it as well. But also, please remember to credit and link back.

scribblerplanet

Jm here! I run the Scribbler Planet website. If you're new to bullet journals and journaling, I think I can help you out. I've always had problems with keeping on track with what I'm doing, so when I heard bullet journaling could help I tried my hand at it. Here we are about a year later and I'm glad to say it significantly helped. Here's hoping I can help you do the same!

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