We’re suckers for a handwritten note. Text messages buzz around our heads and emails flood our inboxes all day long, but when a handwritten note arrives in the mail, we stop everything and enjoy a little personally-crafted custom design work – even if it’s just a great signature. And, sure, super-subtle, barely legible handwriting might make you feel like a bit of a rock star, but everyone knows that perfectly styled calligraphy takes hand-written notes to the next level.

Perfect calligraphy, however, doesn’t come easily. Lauren Essl, the designer and calligrapher behind Blue Eye Brown Eye, was hand-picked by the DesignLoveFest team to show a few LA ladies just how it’s done. On a recent morning inside the DesignLoveFest studio, Lauren and workshop guests gathered over paper of the best weight and inks of every shade to try their hand at perfect penmanship. With a penchant for all things pretty like these bright, spring-colored inks, Lauren’s work has a fresh, but timeless feel. Her stationery has graced the shelves of TCM faves like Anthropologie and she’s designed custom invitations, cards, and notes for some of the most stylish events on the West Coast. We know our readers love a good workshop. Get ready to learn a few things about calligraphy yourself from Lauren below and try your hand at the art at home. Then check out the upcoming workshops at DesignLoveFest (summer mixology session anyone?) to get in on all the DIY fun! Here’s Lauren…

I started taking calligraphy classes five years ago when I was engaged. My mother mentioned the idea, and we took up the hobby together. I never really imagined turning it into a living, let alone teaching workshops myself. After starting my business four years ago, custom requests for calligraphy lessons have turned into a large part of my business. And I love it – it’s a dream!

I believe that anyone can learn calligraphy, and that it has nothing to do with your natural handwriting. Sure, someone who has nice penmanship might find calligraphy a little easier, but my day-to-day handwriting is actually quite scribbly and messy! To me, calligraphy is much more like drawing and creative expression. Here are some tips to get started…

5 Tips For Calligraphy Beginners

Start By Tracing

If you’re new to calligraphy or are teaching yourself, tracing is one of the best ways to practice. Print out the alphabet in one of your favorite script fonts and trace it. That way, you’ll learn when to apply and release pressure.

Find Your Nibs

Everyone writes differently – some have a heavier hand, some a lighter hand, there are lefties, righties, etc. Different nibs really work better for some people over others. I recommend to all my students that they really explore different nibs. For me, my favorite is the Zebra G. It is really sturdy, withstands a lot of pressure, and doesn’t feel like it will snap when you’re writing with it. That’s why I love it! I buy all of my nibs at JetPens.

Stock up on quality supplies

Paper & Ink Arts is my favorite website for all calligraphy supplies. You often cannot find the best calligraphy supplies at local art stores, so this website is valuable to me! 

Use a light box

If you’re really serious about calligraphy, investing in a light box is crucial to success. Calligraphers cannot write in straight perfect lines (or at least I can’t)! So use a light box to see through your envelopes and put a grid underneath. Artograph is my favorite brand because it’s nice and thin and sits on your tabletop easily.

Try Gouache

Gouache is one of my favorite mediums to work with. You can mix it with water to create an ink-like consistency. Winsor & Newton has a brilliant array of colors and the mixed ink can often take on an ombre effect, which is really cool!

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