Modern Calligraphy: The Very Basics

Calligraphy is something new I’ve been trying out so I wanted to share with you the very basics of what I’ve learned as a beginner. I’ve taken a class and done a bit of practice on my own to get started. So far it’s something that I’ve found challenging (especially being left-handed and smudging ink constantly) but it’s something I’d like to practice and pursue further to gain a greater understanding of lettering!

What is Modern Calligraphy?

Modern calligraphy relies on dip pens with pointed nibs to create thick and thin strokes. Although there are some basic strokes and rules to abide by, this type of calligraphy allows the calligrapher a lot of freedom to experiment and develop their own style.


As a beginner, I can’t tell you what the best tools out there are. But I can definitely tell you what will get you started!

Getting Started

Before you use your pen nibs, you have to clean off the coating left by the manufacturer. You can do this by polishing them with toothpaste (weird, I know) and then cleaning them with water and a paper towel. Don’t forget to clean the nibs with water after each use!

Next, you can begin by assembling your pen and dipping it in the ink until the ink reaches the cut out circle. Getting the right amount of ink is hard to master (and I’m far from mastering it) which is why you probably want to test your ink on a scrap piece of paper before getting started. Basically, if you’re getting ink blobs all over your page you’ve got to much ink and if your pen is creating two thin lines then it’s time to dip your pen again!

Some suggest trying out “faux calligraphy” with a basic pen or pencil before graduating to the real thing. You can do this by taking a pen, making two separate strokes for the thick lines and then filling them in.


There are some basic strokes you’ll want to practice before you get into building actual letters. Use grid paper and/or worksheets to help you out with this. What you want to remember that all thin strokes are upstrokes, and thick strokes are down strokes. Tilt the paper to the left if you are right handed and to the right if you are left handed to help achieve a nice angled script. Above are some pictures of some of the strokes that I’ve practiced. These are pictures from my first try so they look a little rough, but with practice I hope they’ll improve.

Once you’ve mastered this you can put these basic strokes together to create letters. There are tons of online worksheets you can download to help you out with this. Begin connecting letters and having fun with it to create your own style!

Above all, mastering basic strokes is what will help make your calligraphy better. Which means a lot of practicing (which hopefully I’ll have some more time to do over Christmas break). I hope this helped for anyone who is curious about getting started.

Thanks for reading!



The Beginner’s Guide to Modern Calligraphy

Modern Calligraphy




Profile: Kate Moross

Kate Moross is a London-based graphic designer, illustrator and art director. Her work first caught my eye for it’s playful use of colour, abstract shapes and energetic illustrated typography. Since beginning her career in 2008 Moross’s work has touched on so many areas of graphic design from packaging to advertising to editorial design to branding and poster art. I admire Moross’s versatility as a designer and ability to infuse just about anything she works on with her distinctly playful style. In addition to being a talented designer, Kate Moross also has a strong entrepreneurial spirit. She briefly ran her own record label which specialized in packaging vinyl records and she later went on to found Studio Moross in 2012.

Above are some examples of Moross’s typography-based work. Although works like these both exemplify a bold, playful style, Moross says that style isn’t what is most important to her designs. She has said: “If someone was to bring all my work together in a room or on a page I would want it to make sense, but I don’t want it to be an obvious lineage in style or aesthetic. I’m not concerned with style. I care about answering the brief, and making good work.”

Throughout her career, Kate Moross has worked closely with the music industry, doing branding and packaging for a number of popular artists. Above to the right is an example of branding for a music festival that her studio completed this year.

I like how Kate Moross’s work manages to incorporate bold and clever imagery while always carefully considering a clients needs. I think that her work can serve a great inspiration to designers and illustrators looking to take a more playful approach to a project.

Thanks for reading!



Design Instincts: Studio Captain Kate Moross Talks Shop with Use All Five

Back in Time: The History of Postcard Design

Over the last year or so I’ve found myself picking up old postcards every time I visit an antique shop. I’m drawn to the grainy, nostalgic feel of a lot of the old photographs that they feature. But most of all I love how postcards can serve as small pieces of local history. I think that they can be beautiful little representations of a specific time or place.

Postcards can feature countless different types of subject matter. Postcards that depict landscapes, cityscapes and other scenes are known as view cards. Postcards can also serve as greeting cards, or they can depict a historical event. They can feature works of art, or often have photographic portraits of women, children and lovers, sometimes with hand tinted details. The possibilities are endless.

The idea of the postcard was created by German postal official Dr. Heinrich von Stephan. Once the first postcards were sent in North Germany in 1870, they quickly spread to other parts of Europe and North America. Early postcards from 1898 to 1901 were printed with the words “Private Mailing Card” on the front which also featured both small images and hand written messages. By 1907, the design of the back of postcards was divided in half. The left side was blank for writing messages and the right side featured stamps and addresses. This time was considered the golden age of postcards. From 1915 to 1930 many postcards began to feature a white border around the image in order to save on ink. During the 1930s and  early 40s postcards were printed on paper with a high rag content which gave them the appearance of linen rather than paper. By 1945 this finally gave way to photochrom postcards. Photochrom is a method of colourizing black and white images and printing using halftone offset lithography. The result is usually images with vivid, unreal colours.

The postcards I’ve picked up are all either white border postcards (left), real photo postcards (middle), or photochroms (right). The white border postcards could date anywhere from 1915 to 1930. I have one postcard from Windsor, Ontario that has an American 2 cent postage stamp which, according to my research, dates more specifically from 1925 to 1928. Even though postcards from the white border period are considered lower quality, the ones that I’ve found from this era are some of my favourites. The real photo postcards (postcards developed from actual negatives) could date anywhere from 1910 all the way up to 1962, according to this online database which dates real photo postcards according to the paper manufacturer and the appearance of the stamp box. The photochrom cards are a bit newer and could date anywhere from 1945-present.

Unassuming objects like postcards can serve as artifacts of design history. They can also tell us a lot about photography, printing processes, and local history. But more than anything, I think they’re just super pretty!

Thanks for reading!




Design Inspiration: 5 Examples of Clever Lettering in Illustration

Handling type in an interesting and appropriate manner is a crucial part of what designers do. Combining lettering and illustration into one piece effectively and legibly can be a tough job, but I think well integrated text can truly yield some of the most playful and clever results. Here I’ve compiled some of my favourite examples of illustrators, studios and projects that I think handle type in a fun, inspiring way.

Kate Prior

I came across Kate Prior’s work last semester when I was doing some research for an event poster I was making for my illustration class. I was so inspired by the way that all of the information displayed on her posters is consistently integrated into the scene that she has created. None of her text is placed arbitrarily. Information is illustrated on things like packaging, and signage that exist within the vibrant, brightly coloured world of her posters. A lot of her work includes posters for bands and events but she has also done advertisements for large companies like Urban Outfitters.



Jessica Hische

Lettering artist Jessica Hische has gained a lot of attention and success for her beautiful ornate lettering and her clever, illustrative designs. Above are two editorial works of hers that are both favourites of mine for each of their unique interpretations of the concept of summer reading.


Landland Studio

Landland is an American screen printing studio run by Dan Black and Jessica Seamans. Their work includes mostly band posters featuring architectural illustrations in which names and information are often displayed as signage. The tour poster above to the left first caught my eye at a show because of its gorgeous use of texture, limited colour and interesting integration of typography.


Thomas Burden

Thomas Burden is an illustrator that works with 3D rendering and animation (he’s even done some cool tutorials on the subject over here). His work features a lot of vibrant colours and use of type that resembles neon signs. Above are some examples of his book cover designs and editorial work.


The 36 Days of Type Project

The 36 Days of Type Project challenges designers and illustrators to create a unique design for a letter or number every day for 36 days and share their creations through social media. The results can be unique and inspiring with each letter encompassing it’s very own story, theme or mood. Above are a couple of my favourites that I’ve come across. The letters on the far left were created Lena La Ballena, a designer and illustrator based in the Dominican Republic, and the letters on the right were made by illustrator Laura Mariscal from Spain.


Type and illustration are both powerful tools for communication and their messages can become more powerful when combined well. I hope you found this post inspiring!

Thanks for reading!