Beginner’s Guide to Calligraphy and Hand Lettering

Since I started Bullet Journaling, I’ve seen hand lettering and calligraphy everywhere on Instagram and Pinterest. My handwriting isn’t a work of art by any stretch of the imagination, so I figured I’d leave that part of Bullet Journaling to the professionals. However, for Christmas my mom got me a calligraphy set for me to experiment with, and this week with midterms finally over, I had a chance to give it a try!


Experimenting with Hand Lettering

I first tried hand lettering in my first bullet journal back in August. I played with different styles, without any prior planning. It turned out pretty well for a first try, especially using my Pilot G2 .07 rollerball in black.


In “wreckage” and “beautiful” I knew some parts of the letter should be thicker than others, but I didn’t know which ones. It wasn’t until this week that I really understood what the letters were meant to look like.

Faux Calligraphy

In addition to the proper calligraphy toolkit I got for Christmas, I also got a set of worksheets to practice. On the first page of the worksheets was a page about Faux Calligraphy, which I’m embarrassed to say I had never heard of before. This completely changed the way I saw hand lettering and calligraphy, and made it infinitely more practical.

The way calligraphy works is that the tip of the nib of the pen splits during the downstrokes, which creates the different thicknesses of the strokes. In Faux Calligraphy, you just outline the downstrokes. By creating line parallel to the downstroke line in the letter, you give the letter dimension and all you have to do is color in the lines.


The best part about Faux Calligraphy is that you don’t need anything besides a normal pen. I added this style into my Bullet Journal for my February spread. It didn’t take very long and I found it to be easy to do. Although the letters aren’t well spaced out, with a little more practice I think Faux Calligraphy could become a permanent feature in my bullet journal.

Real Calligraphy Tools

For Christmas, my mom gave me a slew of calligraphy tools that I had no idea how to use.


She got me a set of Zig Calligraphy Markers in 8 different colors. These dual tipped markers are Acid Free and Archival Quality, which means they’re less likely to fade. I tried them out, but haven’t worked with them very much.

She also got me a dip pen set for calligraphy. It came with one nib (the metal thing in the black) and two nib holders (the black and green). She also got me Yasumoto Sumi Ink in black. I put the nib in the nib holder and poured some of the ink into the cup.

Dip Pen Calligraphy

I am not the most coordinated person, so the idea of leaving an open container of ink on a table that I am working at sounded like a call for a massive black stain on my carpet. I laid down some mats and started writing.

I used some of the worksheets that my mom got me, and they were deceptively hard to replicate. The nib scratched the paper at first, which was disconcerting, but once I put a few pages underneath, it moved smoothly. This was thick paper and there was no bleed-through.


I learned the hard way that I like to rotate my pen while I write. Since the nib always has to be oriented to allow for the correct thickening of the downstrokes, this posed a bit of a problem for me. It also resulted in my getting ink all over my fingers when holding the pen. Dipping the pen was also tedious since it forced me to stop mid-word to get more ink. You have to remember to clean the ink off the nib after use.

Dip Pen Calligraphy was easier than I thought it would be, but that made it frustrating when it didn’t turn out the way I wanted to. I’m not an artist, and at its core, calligraphy and hand lettering is more art than anything else.


In many ways, my attempt at hand lettering  reset my artistic brain. In high school, I would make time to pursue some kind of artistic project, but in college I’ve lost sight of how important it is to make time to be creative.

Hand lettering and calligraphy are super easy to get started with, and I would recommend giving it a try to anyone looking to add some art into their lives. Especially since Faux Calligraphy is so accessible!

Over the next few weeks, you should expect to see lots of calligraphy and hand lettering on my Instagram ! If you post pictures of your hand lettering, tag me in them!!

Good Luck!

Xoxo, Rosana

Hello! My name is Rosana Rabines! I'm a student, stationery enthusiast, and runner constantly reorganizing my life to make the most of my college experience in Chicago.

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