Getting Started in Calligraphy – Tips from Calligrapher Seb Lester

calligraphy tips

Although considered as an ancient technique, which was created as early as 600 BC in Rome, calligraphy is very much visible today, not just in old or historic pieces of art, architecture, and such, but in modern-day publications, event invitations, cut stone inscriptions, memorial documents, Instagram feeds, T-shirts, cards, and many more. Calligraphy is described as “the design and execution of lettering with a broad tip instrument, dip pen, or brush, among other writing instruments,” and it is not exactly as simple as it sounds. Renowned typographer, letterer, and calligrapher Seb Lester describes it as “a broad term encompassing a wide variety of letterforms.” Lester’s broad knowledge, experience, and passion on calligraphy and letterforms in general made him one of the world’s highest profile calligraphers, followed by around two million people on social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram, where he posts daily updates of his calligraphy work.


He shares some valuable tips to those eager to start on the craft:


Broad edge calligraphy tools:

  • Necessary for Gothic and Italic styles
  • Most widely used writing instrument is the ‘Manuscript’ brand calligraphy fountain pens and practical beginners tools
  • For beginners, Pilot Parallel Pens are easy and fun to use
  • As you advance, traditional metal calligraphy nibs from Brause and Mitchell are preferable

Pointed pen calligraphy:

  • Has distinct and strong contrasts in line width
  • Graceful curves
  • Nikko G nibs is a great choice for either a traditional or an oblique pen holder
  • Best type of ink is the Iron Gall
  • Other recommended ink brands are McCaffrey’s and Walker’s Copperplate Ink

Type of paper:

  • Smooth cartridge paper are good with Pilot Parallel Pens
  • Goldline Layout paper and Goldline Marker pads for practicing
  • The Rhodia sketchbrook brand is the preferred choice, as the ink doesn’t bleed easily on paper

Recommended books:

  • Scribe: Artist of the Written Word by John Stevens
  • Foundations of Calligraphy by Sheila Waters
  • Calligraphy by Gaye Godfrey-Nicholls
  • The Speedball Textbook series

In conclusion, Seb Lester said, “The key to producing beautiful calligraphy is perseverance. You will only persevere if you enjoy what you’re doing.” Starting with a certain type and look that one likes will be a great way to start learning and practicing. As one goes along, he advises that many skills are also transferable to other styles. Over time, one can establish a working process, evolve into different styles and experiment with them. More importantly, he said, “Just have fun. Don’t be discouraged by early failures, there will be many of those. However, I can say with some authority that success is built on failure.”


Find more of his works on his website.