Hand Lettering the Basic Strokes: Free Practice Sheet

Do you practice the basic strokes? Hand lettering the basic strokes is such an important part of learning hand lettering! If you can master each of the basic strokes, you can master any letter. I will show you each basic stroke here, and I will tell you how to download your very own free hand lettering worksheet of the calligraphy strokes chart.

hand lettering the basic strokes with a free calligraphy strokes chart

To get started, if you don’t know what pens to use, see 3 Best Brush Pens for Beginners. I also made a YouTube video Hand Lettering The Basic Strokes with my calligraphy strokes chart so you can see demos of exactly how slowly to letter these strokes. I also show you my brush pen and the amount of pressure to use for brush lettering. Check it out here:

Hand Lettering the Basic Strokes

Remember, the most basic aspect of hand lettering is that upstrokes are thin and down strokes are thick. Every hand lettering beginner should practice getting thin upstrokes and thick down strokes by putting different amounts of pressure on the nib of the pen. Let’s go ahead and break down the basic strokes for brush lettering.

Breaking Down The Basic Strokes – The Upstroke

I will be breaking down the basic strokes for you here. The very first basic stroke I practice is the upstroke. The idea is that you are using the very tip of the pen with very little pressure. You’ll want to practice bringing your pen up since that’s how you’ll do it in words.

calligraphy basic strokes for hand lettering

Breaking Down The Basic Strokes – The Down stroke

With the down stroke, you want to practice giving heavy pressure to your pen. Every brush pen is a little different so it’s important to practice with different amounts of pressure to see how much of a variety you have as well as how much bounce the nib of your brush pen has.

Breaking Down The Basic Strokes – The Overturn

When you letter the overturn, you want to start giving some pressure when you’re at the very top of the curve and gradually ease into giving your pen full pressure so you get a nice smooth curve.

Breaking Down The Basic Strokes – The Underturn

When lettering the basic strokes, the underturn tends to be one of the trickier strokes. That’s because you have to start releasing the pressure right before you get to the bottom of the curve. If it was on a clock, you’d want to release it at about 7:00. If you release it when you’re at the bottom of the curve, you will get what we call a saggy bottom. No one wants a saggy bottom in your lettering!

Learn the basic strokes for hand lettering and calligraphy with a free calligraphy strokes chart

Breaking Down The Basic Strokes – The Compound Curve

The compound curve is basically the underturn and overturn in one, with no breaks. So you have to think about giving your pen gradual pressure at the top of the curve and then lifting at about the 7:00 right before the bottom of the curve. This one definitely takes some practice.

Breaking Down The Basic Strokes – The Oval

The oval is the basic stroke that a lot of people struggle with. Although I have heard that lefties have an easier time with it. You want to start at about 1:00 and then your pen is going to the left of the page this time and you will push it out towards the left as you’re applying the heavier pressure. Once again, you will lift the pressure just before it gets to the bottom of the curve so you don’t get a saggy bottom.

free basic strokes chart in this printable hand lettering worksheet

Breaking Down The Basic Strokes – The Ascending Loop

The ascending loop is the basic stroke that goes above your midline like “l”, “h”, “k”, “d”, etc. This one is really fun to play with when you are doing different styles. You start in the middle to start with the loop, and at the top of the curve, you will push it to the left just like the oval. Then it will be thick all the way down.

Breaking Down The Basic Strokes – The Descending Loop

This is the last one in our breaking down the basic strokes series. The descending loop is basically just opposite of the ascending loop for letters like “g”, “y”, “j”, etc. Once again you want to watch out for the soggy bottom. You are pushing your pen to the left of the page just like the oval, but from the bottom up instead of top down.

free hand lettering worksheet calligraphy strokes chart

Practicing The Basic Strokes

Now that I’ve broken them down, it’s time for practicing the basic strokes! We can’t practice enough! I also add some variety to my basic strokes because it’s good to start working your creative muscles in creating new styles, even just with the basic strokes. I am inviting you to join the Insider Scoop to get access to this free lettering practice sheet of the basic strokes chart.

Enter the Insider Scoop or sign up here.

calligraphy strokes chart free hand lettering worksheet

For members of the Insider Scoop, I will be sending my 26 Ways to Letter practice sheets each week to download for free! I hope that it’s helpful as your start to realize that there is not only one way to hand letter each letter. You get to create your own lettering style. Each week I will also be sharing tips on how to feel confident in your lettering style because with that, you can do anything. 🙂

hand lettering for beginners the basic strokes for calligraphy

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    1. Oh and now those Pentel brush pens are now available in pastel colors, they are beautiful colors! Just some food for thought. 😊

        1. You will not be disappointed! It’s funny because I actually thought of you when I bought them!! Thought, “Sarah will love these when she gets a pack!” Lol they are not all “proper pastel”, there are a few deep rich tones which are sooo beautiful! Enjoy!

          1. Haha I love that! You’re right! I love the deep tones too! These are such a great addition to the original 12! I’m working on my review video so everyone else will want to buy them too. 🙂

          2. I can’t wait to see it!! You will make them look amazing and shine!
            I do have a question, I am in love with Karin pro markers. My hang up is of course the cost. Do you know where one might find the best price for the large quantity box with the blenders? I’d greatly appreciate your input!
            -thank you! Please stay safe!!!!

          3. Hi Monica! I’m sorry I’m just now seeing your comment! So in the US, you can find Karin Markers on their website, Amazon, and Blick. I just compared the prices and it was the set of 63 markers is almost the same price from Amazon and their website (with shipping included)! When they ship from Poland it’s actually faster than I expected. They are a little more expensive on Blick. Although if you want to get one of the smaller sets, Blick or Amazon is probably better so you don’t have to pay for shipping from Poland. In my opinion, they’re totally worth the cost. I hope this helps! Maybe you’ve already decided since it’s already been a while!

  1. Hi!
    I am interested in English calligraphy.
    I enjoyed your lettering but am wondering that where can I buy the pen?
    I appreciated that if you send me more information.
    Thank you.
    Blessings, Esther.

  2. Hey Sarah,
    Oh my gosh no worries in getting back with me! You only run a successful business and have your finger dipped in just about a million projects! Great insight about Blick, there are many web sights and back door shady places on the internet it’s like, ‘where am I going?’
    No, no purchase yet. It must wait until a job comes my way. With how everything is looking in good ol’ Texas here I’m just not sure I can take that leap.
    I think I’m the luckiest girl in the world that you and I have conversed! Yes my nerd is showing but I genuinely appreciate all your hard work so that I may find my own style of calligraphy!
    Take Care,