Basic brush calligraphy strokes: The oval

Welcome to Part 5 of my Basic Brush Calligraphy Strokes series!

So far, we have reviewed the:

Before you get started, be sure to familiarize yourself with these previous posts:

If you are on Instagram, share your work by posting it with the hashtag, #pieces_basicstrokes.

Now, let’s talk about the oval!

basic strokes: oval

What is the Oval?

The oval is exactly as the name states, an oval. It is an enclosed, circular stroke that forms many of the letters of the alphabet.

basic strokes: oval

How to create the oval

To create the oval, start with a thin upstroke just below the waistline. Draw a line counterclockwise that curves to the left. Touch the waistline and then begin to curve downward. Transition gradually into a thick downstroke and then transition and back again to a thin upstroke. Once you touch the baseline, curve to the right and continue drawing a  thin upstroke to complete the stroke.

basic strokes: oval

You may be shaky at first, or unfamiliar with how the stroke should feel as you create it. But as always, practice makes progress. I share practice drills at the end of this post for you to work on.

basic strokes: oval

When to use the oval

The oval is used in the letters: ad, go, and q.

Notice how the entrance stroke sits just outside of the thick part of the oval. Also, see how the stroke that touches the right side of the oval sits just outside of the thick part of the oval (with the exception of the comma dot in the letter o). Try not overlap these strokes.

basic strokes: oval

Practice Drills

Do these practice drills to improve your ovals.

Don’t worry about being perfect or creating strokes that are completely free of any shakiness. Shakiness is expected in the beginning! When you are still learning the brush pen and when you go slow (which you SHOULD), then shakiness is normal.

The key with the oval is to pay close attention to the transitions. There are two of them. Plus, the stroke goes in a counterclockwise direction, which is typically the opposite direction of how most strokes are created.

Try these practice drills. Focus on the position of your hand, your grip, your technique, and the forming of the stroke.

basic strokes: oval

  1. Oval: Fill a page with ovals. Focus on the transitions and increasing your consistency . After each row of ovals, review them and think about how you can improve for the next set.
  2. Entrance stroke + oval: Practice connecting the entrance stroke with the oval. This combination forms the letter o! Note: Do not finish the entrance stroke at the waistline. Instead, stop about halfway from the baseline to the waistline. This provides a more elegant connection between the entrance stroke and oval.
  3. Entrance stroke + oval + underturn stroke: Practice connecting the entrance stroke to the oval and comma dot. We will review the comma dot in the future, but essentially it is a smaller version of the underturn stroke. Be sure to place it inside of the oval.
  4. Connecting ovals: Connect ovals to each other without any breaks in between. Note: Just like in practice #2 above, do not finish the comma dot at the waistline. Instead, stop right below the waistline to allow for a more elegant connection between the comma dot and the next oval.Go slow at first, but try to find a rhythm as you write. This rhythm will help you immensely as you begin to write more. Note: lift your pen completely off the page before starting the next stroke. The idea is to draw the strokes so they appear to be connected, but in actuality, you are creating each stroke individually.

If you mess up, keep going. Focus on the next stroke. Remember that you will only improve when you keep on practicing and experimenting and learning.

Video: The oval

Watch the video below to see a demonstration of the oval and practice drills you can start today!

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

Have you tried the oval? How would you describe your experiences so far?

What is the hardest part about the oval for you?

Are you sharing your work on Instagram? Be sure to share by tagging #pieces_basicstrokes!

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Supplies used in this post and video:


32 Comments Add yours

  1. Isabella says:

    Hi Sharisse and thank for posting the oval it s really helpful! Would it be possible for you to show more of you hand? I like to see where you place the pen … On your finger or before the finger… That makes a difference for myself. Have an awsome week XO


    1. Hi, Isabella! That’s a great idea! I will recruit my husband to help film my videos to give more perspective on how I hold the brush pen. For now, I can tell you that I honestly just hold the pen in whatever grip feels comfortable to me. The positioning of my fingers can vary depending on the pen I’m using. Try a few different ways of holding the pen and see what you like the best.


  2. Kristine says:

    One of my problems practicing calligraphy is “ovals”. I am having a hard time connecting ovals and lines in a text and this is actually interesting. I am going to practice this and hope it’ll help me. :3


    1. Hoping it helps, too! Let me know how it goes, Kristine. It is a tricky stroke to create, so be patient with yourself. Remember, practice = progress.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Shari says:

    Thank you! ♥♥♥


  4. Andrea Goo says:

    This one is tough! I can see a lot of practice ahead to make the skinny right side look decent and to make the end meet the beginning nicely.


    1. It is a tricky one! Even now, I find it very challenging to be consistent. And over time, you will find yourself developing your own version of the oval that works best for you. My instructions here are simply one of many ways to do it! 🙂


    2. mariamecham says:

      I agree! I think it’s the hardest one yet in the series. It’s getting better but I feel like it’s taking me longer to get the hang of it.


      1. Keep at it! I find myself struggling from time to time, especially when I am rushing. And remember, it’s hard to replicate an oval exactly. By nature, we are going to never put out a perfect oval, let alone copy an oval exactly. So don’t be too hard on yourself! 🙂


  5. Kelsey says:

    I don’t know why, but I struggle a lot with the “oval”. This really helped me, at least I know what to do. Now it’s time to practice, practice, practice..


    1. Hi, Kelsey! The oval is tough. It requires you to transition twice, while changing direction twice. Be patient with yourself. Practice will certainly help! Let me know how it goes!


      1. Kelsey says:

        Hi! I’m starting to get the hang of it. I noticed the felt tip of my tombow dual brush was ‘damaged’, and that’s what made it so hard for me to get a neat transition… I grabbed another pen and am finally making progress now! 🙂

        I’m not going to throw away the damaged brush, I can use it for other things, but I guess I have to be more careful.. Oops.


        1. I was struggling with this exact issue last night! I had to remind myself that some pens are simply softer or more easy frayed than others. They are still good pens, but when I want that VERY crisp stroke, I try my best to find a pen that isn’t so frayed. 🙂 You can use the other brush for practice or rough drafts!


  6. Leanne says:

    Your video’s are so helpful! Only thing I’m struggling with for the ovals is the counterclockwise movement, depending on the firmness of the brush pen, the point of the pen gets ‘stuck’ a little bit and the movement is not so smooth like with clockwise curves (hope this makes sense). Is there a way or a technique to overcome this? Thanks for your help!


    1. Hi, Leanne! If your pen feels like it’s getting stuck, it might be due to not applying the amount of pressure that your specific pen needs for this kind of a motion. What pen are you using? If you are more comfortable with the clockwise motion, try practicing those as separate drills in order to increase your comfort and familiarity with the pen. It certainly takes time to build a lot of control, but you will get there!


      1. Leanne says:

        Thank you for your reply! I’m using mostly tombow brush pens. The softer the tip, the harder I find it to make the counterclockwise movement. But I guess practice makes perfect indeed:)


        1. Yes, agreed – softer tips are more challenging because of how flexible they are. It takes a lot of control! Did you see my post on “Focusing on the Thin Stroke, not the hairline?” That was a good one reminder that the key is to create that drastic contrast between thin and thick. The main goal is not an actual hairline. With the Tombow dual brushes especially, the hairline is difficult to achieve because the pen is so big! So I try to remind folks not to sweat it if their strokes are not super thin.


  7. Laura says:

    Thank you!! Your teaching is fantastic and the way you demonstrate just makes it all “make sense” for me!
    Im literally obsessed with handwriting, always have been, and fell in love with brush lettering (hand lettering/calligraphy?) after watching Kristina Werner’s videos. I was hooked and bought a ton of pens. But I haven’t found the perfect one! Need to buy what you’re using!
    QUESTION: when you made your “d” it looked like the down stroke of the letter (sorry cant remember the correct term) went just a little below the baseline. Is that how you alwaya make the letter or do you write them so it lands on the baseline like the oval?
    I hope that made sense! I haven’t slept much and am getting ready ro get on a plane to California to be with my daughter when she delivers my newest grandbaby. So I’m tired and rushing but had to ask the question and wanted to thank you for your videos. They honestly are just what i need!
    I will be breaking out my pens and paper on the flight!!
    God bless and keep up the great work. I appreciate and look forward to your videos.


    1. Hi, Laura! Wow, thank you so so much for your kind words! And congrats to your grandbaby!!! What part of California will you be in?

      As for the letter “d” – the goal is to reach the baseline, but not go past it. Sorry if it appeared that way! I think the stroke you are referring to is the underturn stroke (technically, it is also has an ascending stem because it goes above the waistline, but we haven’t covered ascenders yet!). So after the oval and underturn stroke are combined to make the letter “d,” there should be NO strokes below the baseline.

      Let me know if that makes sense! Safe travels and have a lovely time visit!


      1. Laura says:

        Thank you for your response and yes, it made a lot of sense and clarified it perfectly.
        My daughter lives at the Marine base, camp pendelton, very near Carlsbad.
        Thank you again. Looking forward to more of your teaching. 😀


  8. Melissa says:

    I feel like the Karate Kid when all the “paint the fence” and “sand the floor” becomes karate moves. The basic strokes are starting to come together to form letters! Thank you so very much for these tutorials!!! I’ve learn so, so much in this last month.


    1. Wax on, wax off! Yay, Melissa! That is so awesome to hear. Happy writing! Let me know if there is anything you find yourself struggling with.


  9. Sudeepti says:

    Hello! Your videos have been so helpful! I’ve been loving practicing. One thing I’ve been having a lot of difficulty with is the letter e. Especially trying to write the double e’s in my name. Any tips?


    1. Hi, Sudeepti! Double e – great question! When you finish the first letter e, do not finish the exit stroke at the waistline. Instead, finish about halfway through the x-height, or about 2/3rds of the way. Then create the next letter e. This way, the connection is a little smoother between the letters. Hope this helps! Keep practicing and go slowly. Try different ways of connecting the letters until you find a style you enjoy.


  10. Amanda says:

    Hi Sharisse, this is definitely my hardest letter so far! I started off strong, but my last letters are getting thicker as I go. I need to slow down!
    Just wanted to celebrate that now I can practice my name…Amanda!


    1. That’s awesome!!! Keep on writing. There will always be those strokes/letters that you struggle with. But as always, the goal is improvement! Don’t sweat it if you can’t conquer it now. You will one day!!!


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