Tips for improving your brush calligraphy: Thin and thick stroke drills

I get it. You see calligraphy everywhere. There are amazing, talented artists and they seem to just write with ease. You wonder how on earth you will get there.

Despite any artistic abilities, you must practice in order to improve. And not just any practice. But a deliberate practice.

How can you deliberately practice? You can break down words into letters and letters into individual strokes. You can practice each stroke mindfully and slowly, paying attention to how each stroke is built.

Before continuing with this post, be sure you checked out my previous post on how to hold the brush pen. It is critical that your grip on the pen is at the right angle.

deliberate practice

Of the many basic strokes to practice, I find these strokes the most important to learn first: The entrance stroke and the downstroke.

deliberate practice

Something that helps to remind yourself of how much pressure to exert when creating these strokes is thin up, thick down.

deliberate practice

This means that when you write an upstroke such as the entrance stroke above, you want it to be as thin as possible. Thin up.

And on a downstroke, you want it to be thicker, so you will exert more pressure on the pen. Thick down.

Literally fill an entire page with these strokes. You need to deliberately practice the right way. Not rushed, not mindlessly. But with the intentions of improving with each stroke you write.

deliberate practice

Check out this quick video as I demonstrate how to put these strokes together:

It’s your turn! Tell me in a comment below:

What are the basic strokes that you like to practice?

What do you find the most challenging about practicing brush calligraphy?

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10 thoughts on “Tips for improving your brush calligraphy: Thin and thick stroke drills

  1. Thanks for the post and yoyr vudeos!! My biggest chaallenges are letters like o, c etc.. where you not only have to come up on the thin stroke but go further to make a rounder mark in thin before coming down with the thick stroke… can you please do a demo 9f the letter o in brush pen?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Sakshi! Oh yes, the letter “o” is a tough one! Have you seen the ABC challenge I recently completed on Instagram? If you go to Instagram, search for the tag: #piecesABCs. You can find my letter “o” there. Otherwise, I will certainly keep in mind a demo in the future! Thanks for visiting!


  2. You have some really great advice on here. I am just starting out using brush calligraphy (seemed like the best alternative since I can’t get fountain/dip pens). I am a little concerned because I am left handed. Do you have any kind of advice or tip in regards to the brush pen? I know brush pens are far more forgiving, but it can still be difficult to get the right look being so close to the paper (as opposed to Eastern Calligraphy, where all angles are completely in the brush head rather than position of the arm/hand)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Anjyil! You are in luck. I just shared a blog post series devoted to lefties. You can view it on my “Learn” page. When it comes to brush pens, a lefty should use an overwriter grip. The angle you hold your pen is different from a right-hander, but I promise you can still achieve the same outcome with the brush pen. Take a look at the lefty posts and let me know what you think. And let me know if you have any questions and I can get some feedback from my lefty friends.


  3. Hi! I live in Boulder, CO and I love your brush lettering style! I know your workshops are in Sacramento but can you travel this way or do a virtual workshop with practice strokes like this one? I just started brush lettering and I am so in love. Thank you!!


  4. Hi there! I LOVE your tutorials. I just came across them this week and I have to say after searching multiple videos, etc. you’re the first person I came across that gets what its like to be a beginner to brush lettering. You address all the fears that I have; and it gives me confidence that I will eventually get there! I’m looking forward to your online course next year 🙂 Thanks!!


    1. Reina, thank you SO MUCH! Your note completely made my week. I am so happy to hear and am excited for your calligraphy journey. I’d be honored to have you in my online course. Until then, please enjoy the resources I have here on the blog, and also check my work on YouTube and Instagram. Happy writing!!!


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