Letter Formation for Modern Calligraphy and Brush Lettering

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In both my calligraphy and brush lettering tutorials, I talk about how important it is to master the basic strokes before beginning to write letters and words.  While I have basic strokes worksheets available on the blog and on my Etsy shop, these worksheets don’t show what strokes are used to make which letters.  In this post, I’ll show you the strokes to make a few letters and then you can grab your copy of my newest worksheet: letter formation using basic strokes.

How to Make Letters Using Basic Strokes | Break Down Letters to Their Basic Strokes to Make Them Easier to Write | Destination Decoration

Forming Letters Using Basic Strokes

In both calligraphy and brush lettering, letters can be formed by creating a variety of shapes.  Surprisingly, most letters are comprised of similar shapes, which in hand-lettering can be called the basic strokes.

Some of the main basic strokes include:

  • Upstrokes
  • Downstrokes
  • Underturns
  • Overturns
  • Tail strokes
  • U strokes
  • O strokes
  • C strokes
  • Stem strokes
  • Entrance strokes

How to Make Letters Using Basic Strokes | Break Down Letters to Their Basic Strokes to Make Them Easier to Write | Destination Decoration

For more information on these strokes, check out Getting Started with Modern Calligraphy: The Basics.

Forming letters is a matter of putting these strokes together.  Check out the videos below to see examples of how some letters are formed using the basic strokes:

Letter b:

The letter b is composed of a stem stroke and a backwards o stroke.

Letter d:

The letter d is composed of a stem stroke and an o stroke.

Letters h and i:

The letter h is composed of a stem stroke and an overturn stroke.  The letter i is composed of an entrance stroke and a small underturn stroke.

Letter y:

The letter y is composed of an entrance stroke, a u stroke, and a tail stroke.


See how many of the letters are comprised of basic strokes?  Once you master the basic strokes, letters will be much easier to form.


  • While it works to keep your pen to the paper the whole time, lifting your pen up between strokes is often easier.  Just write the next stroke so it intersects with the previous stroke.  
  • If the letter doesn’t look right with a “traditional” basic stroke, feel free to alter it.  Basic strokes are called “basic” for a reason.
  • At first, I recommend choosing one thing to focus on: pressure or letter formation.  Try a set of letters focusing on pressure, then try one focusing on letter formation.  Once you’re confident, try to do both.
  • Remember: Heavy pressure on the downstroke, light pressure on the upstroke.


Letter Formation Worksheet

The worksheets shown in the videos above are letter formation worksheets.  They show the strokes that comprise the letter and how to put the strokes together to form the letter.  If you are interested in using these for calligraphy or brush lettering, make sure to check them out in my Etsy shop.

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