the purpose of practice strokes in calligraphy

When we get all the fun calligraphy tools and pens and finally sit down to start on this new fun practice, it’s easy to want to jump right to letters. That’s where the magic happens right?

Wrong! The magic happens when we’ve got a good foundation!

We need to start with drills (I wrote about this last week!) and practice strokes.


Drills + practice strokes in calligraphy are small shapes and movements used to warm up and loosen your hand as you start your calligraphy practice. They build your muscle memory and they grow your consistency in your letterforms, and they help us stop overthinking our letters!

I covered some drills last week so be sure to check out the my last post to get all the details on those!

For now, onward with practice strokes - the next step in our warm ups!


What these practice strokes teach us

With upstrokes we are practice our entrance stroke into every letter. Upstrokes are meant to be thin, so we don’t apply much pressure to our pen as we drag it upwards.

With downstrokes we are practicing the exit stroke for our letters. Downstrokes are meant to be thick, so we apply pressure as we drag our pens down to create a thicker stroke!

Overturns help us practice the transition from the thin upstroke to the thick downstroke without picking up our pen. We want a smooth and gradual transition here! This is a stroke we use in letters like ’n’ and ‘m’.

These help us practice the transition from the thick downstroke to the thin upstroke. Again, we want a smooth and graduation transition here just like our overturns. This is a stroke we use in letters like ‘u’ and ‘y’.

Compound Curves
This movement combines the overturns and underturns into one longer movement. This helps us prepare for the constant switching between up and down strokes that happens when we get into writing words! Again, focus on smooth transitions here.

Ovals make up a huge part of calligraphy and practicing them is key because they need to be a consistent shape and angle. We use ovals in so many letters: b, c, d, g, o… the list goes on.

Lower Loops
These loops help us practice all the ‘descenders’ throughout the alphabet: like g, j, and y.

Upper Loops
These loops help us practice all the ‘ascenders’ throughout the alphabet: like ‘b’ and ‘d’.


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