Faux Calligraphy for Beginners

Faux Calligraphy Tutorials

Faux calligraphy is an easy and simple way to practice calligraphy, even if you don’t have a dip or brush pen. A pencil or a regular ball point pen is all you need to get started.

Here, I share my whole thought process when approaching faux calligraphy but if you’re already itching to learn faux calligraphy letterforms (and read the tutorial later……. maybe), click here to download FREE printable worksheets 🙂


Faux calligraphy is essentially an outlining technique that imitates the shapes and forms of words written with a dip or brush pen.


If you’re new to hand-lettering or have always wanted to get into the art of calligraphy, faux calligraphy is the perfect introduction. As you study each letterform using these worksheets, you’ll begin to understand the effects of different stroke types and how their outlines appear on a surface (more on that below).

Other than being a great way to have fun with letters, this technique is often used when:

  1. The usual calligraphy tools like dip or brush pens can’t be used on surfaces like glass, wood, marble, brick etc.
  2. Calligraphy needs to be upscaled onto larger surfaces for things like signages and murals
  3. Creating calligraphy word graphics to be digitised later on


I’m going to show you how to get started the old school way with good old pen and paper. Once you’ve got the hang of it, go ahead and try it with other writing tools like markers, chalk, colour pencils, crayon etc.

For now, you will need the following:

  1. Paper
  2. Pen
  3. Pencil (I prefer using a mechanical pencil because it keeps my pencil lines even and sharp)
  4. Ruler
  5. Eraser

BEFORE WE START, here’s something you need to understand…

Calligraphy letterforms are characterised by what we call upstrokes and downstrokes and these are created by manipulating different pressures on a dip/brush pen. Without getting into too much detail:

  • An upstroke is created by guiding your pen away from yourself. Little to no pressure is needed, therefore, upstrokes are thin.
  • A downstroke is created by pulling the pen in towards yourself. Pressure is always applied when guiding your pen downwards, therefore, downstrokes are thick.

Below are the common calligraphy forms used to put together letters of the alphabet. You can see how the thin upstrokes and thick downstrokes correspond to their different outlines.

Now you’re ready to bust out your tools!

Step 1: Guidelines

Using your pencil and ruler, draw in some guidelines. For the purpose of this practice, a 6-8mm space between each line is enough. Here I use 8mm and draw in 40 degree slant lines as a guide for a slanted script. I highly recommend you don’t skip this step because you’ll soon realise that consistency in letterform shapes and sizes is important for keeping your work uniform.

Step 2: Write out your word(s)

You can use a pen to do this. It comes with practice but try to leave equal amounts of space in between letters. Make sure to also give enough space between letters. This is important for the next step.

Step 3: Determine and outline your downstrokes

Use your pencil so you can make adjustments as you go. There isn’t a right or wrong here. You can outline your downstrokes on the right or left hand side of the letter shape. Take your time with this step. At the end of the day, you want to aim for your word to look balanced.

I have a preference of completing my outlines on the inside of each letter. This is why in the image above, I write the stem of my “a” at a distance away from the oval before it.

Download these FREE printable worksheets to practice letterforms and discover where downstrokes go.

Tip: Keep the width of your downstroke outlines consistent with each letter.

The last two steps are interchangeable but I prefer to do the following:

Step 4: Erase your pencil markings

Tip: Always wait for your ink to dry before erasing. This avoids smudging. The same goes for if you use paint or markers.

Step 5: Shade in the downstrokes

And voila! You’ve now written a word in faux calligraphy! Keep practicing starting with individual words (e.g. burgers, ramen, donuts), to two words (e.g. dim sum, ice cream, spaghetti bolognese), to a short sentence (e.g. I love food, food is life, we all need exercise).

The beauty of faux calligraphy is that it can be done with almost any tool and surface. Below, I’ve done faux calligraphy with an iPad using the app Procreate.

I’d love to see how you get on. If you’re on social media, tag me at @smallbrownwrites so I can start feeling like a proud mama hen (you Brooklyn 99 fans get me).