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Calligraphy styles: traditional vs monoline vs brush

What is calligraphy or modern calligraphy?


Did you know the technical definition of calligraphy is "the art of giving form to signs in an expressive, harmonious, and skillful manner"*. What a beautiful definition! And I couldn't agree more, it's those flourishes and handmade strokes that create the art.


After experimenting with a few different styles over the years and using different media, I thought I'd do a little summary on the three that I've used the most and my personal preference for each.

First up, the 'traditional' modern calligraphy using nib and ink, the technique I use the most day in day out.


This was the first style I learnt back in 2016 and it was the hairline upstrokes and the lovely thick downstrokes that I loved about this style, creating such a beautiful contrast.


It's definitely the most elegant of the styles and the one that allows for the flourishes to express harmony and skill, so expressive, like it's almost telling a story.


My favourite, you can't beat a classic!

Monoline is the next style that I use often which can be done with most media from a pencil to a biro to a standard ink pen.


This is one of the reasons that I love this style, it looks effortless but creates a more playful and simplistic type.


I also love using my glass pen for monoline for a consistently bold monoline. I find it's the most impactful in black on white, but I'd love to experiment with watercolours next and metallics to see what effect it would give.



Brush lettering is an entirely different kettle of fish I've discovered. Not just from the visual look of it but the skill, it really is an entirely different skill and I found it harder than using a nib and ink. First up, the tools are obviously different, using a paintbrush and diluted ink to create character filled letterforms.


I think that was my first hurdle, mixing up the ink so that it was diluted enough to create strokes that contained different tones and not too wet that it would go through the paper.


Then I find it impossible to write small letters even using a small brush, everything looks clunky but perhaps I'm just so used to looking at tiny strokes with a nib and ink!


I actually went to a workshop back in 2016 with The Lovely Drawer at Quill London for a beginners workshop and it was so interesting to experiment with typography in a different medium.


I'd love to perfect this one in the next year, love having a mix of styles on standby for different projects so I will keep you updated!


What's your favourite style to use? Leave me a comment below!


Jen x


*According to Mediaville, Claude (1996).Calligraphy: From Calligraphy to Abstract Painting. Belgium: Scirpus-Publications.ISBN978-90-803325-1-5.

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