How to Hold a Calligraphy Pen? – A Beginner’s Guide

Written by Laura Walker / Fact checked by Leilani Carroll

how to hold a calligraphy pen

Calligraphy is a fascinating way to add a personal touch to letters, invitations, or journals. Moreover, it is an art that seems to add elegance and prestige to important documents such as hard-earned diplomas.

Therefore, it is not surprising that people still want to learn calligraphy despite the convenience brought by the printing industry. In this busy world dominated by technology, calligraphy still offers authenticity.

Thus, this article aims to help you know how to hold a calligraphy pen by laying out a step-by-step process. You will also learn some tips and tricks, so you better stick around!

Step-By-Step to Hold a Calligraphy Pen


What to prepare?

  • Calligraphy practice paper
  • Calligraphy pen

Ways to Hold a Calligraphy Pen

  • Ensure you have enough lighting to see your work properly by opening your windows or turning on your light lamp.
  • Lay out your calligraphy practice worksheet on your table. Adjust the placement of your paper until the slant guiding lines on your calligraphy worksheet are perpendicular to your chest.
  • Grab the pen with your dominant hand using the thumb’s tip and the last knuckle of the middle finger. Don’t clasp it tightly.
  • Note that the pen’s nib needs to be facing toward the page’s upper edge or upper right corner for upright and italic letters, respectively. Never position the nib to the left, as it can damage the pen.
  • Reposition your index finger one inch above the pen’s tip on top of the casing. Ensure that it is only slightly bent.

If your index finger is too bent or your fingertips redden, you are holding the pen too tightly.

  • Place your thumb beside your index finger and right above the flange.
  • Support your thumb and index finger by placing your middle finger at the back.
  • Relax your remaining fingers behind your middle finger but make sure they’re still curved.
  • If you are left-handed, place your left forearm on the table for support (but do not lean on it). Then, put your right palm on the right side of the table for better control and to hold the paper in place. Do the opposite if you’re a rightie.
  • If, by this point, the pen’s tip doesn’t touch the paper. You can adjust the pen’s positioning with your non-dominant hand.
  • Point your pen’s nib to where you want to start writing. Ensure you are holding it at a 45-degree angle from the paper. This is to help you make consistent upward and downward strokes.
  •  Start writing by moving your arm instead of primarily using your fingers. You’ll only use your fingers to keep the pressure between the nib and the paper. In other words, your hand grip needs to be relaxed.

Factors to Consider


Other than learning the proper way to hold pen used for calligraphy, there are essential factors that you should know.

1. Proper Posture and Position of Your Forearm

Watching a calligrapher do his work might seem easy, but you probably know how hard it can be once you are the one doing it. It takes a lot of practice to master this art of beautiful writing, which means you’ll have to sit for long periods.

Therefore, we suggest you maintain the proper posture by sitting straight, meaning you should not lean on your writing arm. You’d thank yourself for doing it right as it will save you from backpains! Consequently, you’ll be able to practice more!

Meanwhile, note that you should use the table to support your forearm. Writing in calligraphy requires movement from your arms more than your fingers.

2. Placement of Your Paper

As you’ve noticed, calligraphy letters are usually in italics. There are different techniques to achieve this, but one of the easiest tricks is adjusting your paper.

Calligraphy practice worksheets have slant guiding lines for beginners. In regular writing, the paper would be in parallel with your table. Such is not the case in calligraphy.

Position the paper so the guiding lines will be perpendicular to your chest. Then, try to use calligraphy pen and check if your stroke is parallel to the guiding lines. If not, you’ll just have to readjust the paper.

3. Types of Calligraphy Pens

If you don’t know yet, you can choose different types of calligrapher pens based on your liking. Here’s a list:

  • Felt-Tip Pens

If you are a beginner and do not know how to put together a calligraphy pen, you might consider using felt-tip pens. You can use them instantly upon purchase, plus they are cheap.

You won’t have to hold back practicing if you are worried about wasting too much ink.

  • Dip Pens

Professional calligraphers often use dip pens because of the range of styles they offer. You will also need basic knowledge of calligraphy tools to use a calligraphy dip pen.

If you’re planning to use a dip pen for calligraphy, be ready to choose suitable nibs, pen holders, paper, and ink. The whole process can be quite complicated, making dip pens not the best choice for beginners.
In addition, you’ll also have to assemble and maintain your pen. However, all these efforts will surely be worth it after seeing the intricate details you can make with these pens.

  • Fountain Pens

These pens have metal nibs with a thin slit where the ink flows from the reservoir. They have replaceable/refillable ink cartridges and different available nib sizes, perfect for artists who fancy seeing some variety in their works.

  • Brush pens

These are popular calligraphy pens available in various sizes and flexibility. You will need a lot of control to master using brush pens, especially if they have soft fibers.

Therefore, you should opt for small and stiff brushes for better control if you are a beginner.

4. The Angle of the Pen

The first thing you should remember if you want to write with calligraphy pens is that they are different from regular pens.

We hold regular pens at 60 to 90 degrees. However, the calligraphy pen angle must always be 45 degrees – the most optimum angle at which you can swiftly shift from upward to downward strokes.

5. Maintaining Your Calligraphy Grip

A relaxed grip is the best way to hold a pen when writing calligraphy. Clasping the pen too tightly will limit your movements. Similarly, loosely holding the pen without falling from your hand is the ideal grip.

It will increase the range of motion, making it easier to create smooth pen strokes. Moreover, maintaining this balanced pressure is quite challenging, but enough practice will do the trick.

Helpful Tips and Tricks

  • When you hold a brush pen to make thin upward and thick downward strokes, take into account the pressure you are exerting on the nib.

In making thin lines, apply light pressure on the nib. In contrast, employing more force on downstrokes will give you thicker lines.

  • Never hold fountain pen too far up from the nib. Doing it this way will leave you with less grip and control.
  • Do not hold a dip pen at 90 degrees because it will increase the possibility of nib digging and problems with ink flowing faster, causing ink blobs.
  • Ensure that the tines in a calligraphy dip pen’s nib evenly touch the paper, or you risk ripping your paper or getting messy strokes.
  • Are you having trouble gliding your arm on the table? Placing a card or a smooth piece of paper under your arm will do the trick!
  • Practice! Practice! Practice! Nothing is impossible as long as you have great determination. Studying something new is not easy, but just think of your goal to motivate you even more!

Frequently Asked Questions


What is an oblique pen?

Unlike ordinary calligraphy markers, an oblique pen has a flange attached to its body. The flange allows a calligrapher to write easily at an angle. Changing the paper’s placement or your hand’s position won’t be necessary.

How to properly hold oblique calligraphy pens?

To hold a pen correctly, rest your index finger on top of the wooden part of the pen and place your thumb above the flange. Generally, the grip for it is pretty much the same as other calligraphy pens.

However, you are also free to experiment and try different ways you think will work best for you. Ideally, your hand should feel comfortable, and the pen nib should be facing the upper edge/upper right corner.

How to hold a chisel tip marker for calligraphy?

Using a chisel tip marker to write in calligraphy requires experience and a lot of practice. Nevertheless, holding it for this purpose is the same as holding other calligrapher pens.

Place your index finger on top of the pen’s barrel, rest your thumb at the side, and use your middle finger at the back for support.


Indeed, learning how to hold a calligraphy pen is a fundamental step in mastering calligraphy.

Moreover, remember that learning results are not instantaneous, so don’t be too frustrated if you’re still having a hard time. Take it one step at a time.

If you still have trouble holding your calligraphy pen, don’t be afraid to leave a comment below. We’d love to help you.

Good luck on your journey toward mastering the art of aesthetic writing!

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