Basic brush calligraphy strokes: The descending stem loop (plus a FREE worksheet and a giveaway!)

Hi there! Before we jump into week 7’s basic stroke, I have two fabulous things to share:

  1. Free downloadable alphabet and basic stroke worksheet: My first worksheet is now available for you to download for free! You’ll find all of the basic strokes of this series, my lowercase alphabet, and practice sheets with two different sized guidelines. Check it out and start practicing today!
  2. Holiday giveaway: In celebration of the holidays, I teamed up with a few of my favorite shops to give away some fabulous prizes! Head over to my Instagram account to enter. I pick 11 (yes, ELEVEN!) winners on Tuesday, December 14th at 8 pm PST. Hurry!
    holiday giveaway pieces instagram

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Welcome to Part 7 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 descending stem loop!

basic strokes: descending stem loop

What is the Descending stem loop?

To understand the descending stem loop, let’s review the following terms:

  • A descender is any stroke that goes below the baseline. For example, there is a descender in the lowercase g, j, p, y, and z. (Note: The letters p and z do not have loops, they only have descenders.)
  • A stem is the backbone of a letter. You will see more stems in letters as we review uppercase letters in a future post.
  • loop is exactly what it sounds like, a loop. It is a stroke that forms an enclosed space and usually is connected to a stem.

Now that we’ve reviewed those terms, an descending stem loop, or descender loop, is a basic stroke that forms many letters of the alphabet which extend below the baseline.

basic strokes: descending stem loop

How to create the Descending stem loop

To create the descending stem loop, start with full pressure at the waistline. Create a thick downstroke that goes past the baseline. Before you reach the descender (or at about halfway through the descending space), begin to transition into a thin stroke, or hairline. While maintaining a thin stroke, curve the stroke counter clockwise and cross the stem before you reach the baseline. Finish with a thin stroke at the waistline. 

The key with the descending stem loop is to cross the stem before (or below) the baseline.

basic strokes: descending stem loop

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.

*A note on guidelines*

The guidelines you see here are one option you can use. There are other options with different ratios that we will review in a future post. For instructional purposes, we will stick to the ratio you see here. See this post by Nina Tran for more information on guideline ratios.

basic strokes: descending stem loop

The practice you see above is using two boxes per line (see how the x-height is equivalent to two boxes on my graph paper?). This option of guidelines is helpful for smaller brush tips and/or smaller writing in general.

When to use the descending stem loop

The descending stem loop is used in the letters: gj, and y.

basic strokes: descending stem loop

Practice Drills

Do these practice drills to improve your descending stem loop.

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.

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

basic strokes: descending stem loop

  1. Descending stem loop: Fill a page with descending stem loops. Focus on the transitions and increasing your consistency . After each row of descending stem loops, review them and think about how you can improve for the next set.
  2. Entrance stroke + descending stem loop: Practice connecting the entrance stroke with the descending stem loop. Guess what? You’ve created the letter j!
  3. Entrance stroke + descending stem loop + descending stem loop: Practice connecting the descending stem loops. Start with an entrance stroke to the first descending stem loop. Then treat the end of the descending stem loop (the tail) to another descending stem loop. Repeat.

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 descending stem loop

Watch the video below to see a demonstration of the ascending stem loop 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 descending stem loop? How would you describe your experiences so far?

What is the hardest part about the descending stem loop for you?

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

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Sharisse signature - pieces calligraphy





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Supplies used in this post and video:

13 thoughts on “Basic brush calligraphy strokes: The descending stem loop (plus a FREE worksheet and a giveaway!)

  1. As usual Sharisse, your generosity is so appreciated!! End of the week is so great with a new basic stroke i dont even mind that tomorrow is Monday! Thank you so much for everything,
    Noah 😊❤️


  2. Hi Sharisse, loving your videos and posts on IG. You are awsome and a sweet person. Would it be possible for you to share the alphabet and tha page with the lines in a printable way so we can print to practice 😃 I also bought the pentel sign pen however having a little difficult to write with it. I love daily practices!! Thanks for your kindness and have a wonderful week. XO Isabella ☀️


  3. Thanks again, Sharisse. I haven’t posted anything on instagram yet, because I haven’t really started yet. I’ve messed around a little, but haven’t had a chance to sit down and just practice practice practice.. heh (crossing my fingers I get the markers I want for Christmas) After the Holidays, I am hoping to have more time. I’ll never learn how to do it right, if I can’t practice. heh Love your videos. ♥♥♥


    1. Crossing my fingers for you, too! You can always always start with a good ol’ pencil, too. I haven’t posted many penciled work, but you just gave me a great idea to start that again. Happy holidays, Shari.


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