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  • Writer's pictureSiow Lee Xian

Your Guide to Aesthetic Notes

Updated: Apr 5, 2020

It’s Week 10!!! With the end of the semester comes the onset of exams. I know that because of COVID-19, many exams have been cancelled and have either been replaced with group projects or e-exams so maybe making pretty notes isn’t really your top priority right now… but that’s okay! E-exam or not, the urge to procrastinate by filling your time with extraneous but ultimately hollow tasks will always persist.

So let’s move on with three simple tips for pretty notes [;

1: Brush calligraphy

Yes, yes, it’s all the craze now. But it’s in trend for a reason, right? I like to call this the minimum effort maximum output trick. Brush calligraphy has been in trend for a long time now, which makes it easy for anyone to snag a brush pen to begin your calligraphy journey! Ah, the days when I had to make a special trip down to Overjoyed just to buy some brush pens…

That being said, not every brush pen is beginner-friendly nor are they wallet-friendly. Here are some tips and tricks to look out for when getting your first set of brush pens.

Starting small Brush calligraphy takes practice. Instead of starting out with thick brushes that are more sensitive to pressure, try using smaller, stiffer brushes that are more forgiving for beginners. I recommend the Pentel Fude Touch Sign, Tombow Fudenosuke Hard Tip, and Kuretake Fudegokochi brush pens. These pens are super easy to use and work on almost all kinds of paper so there’s no need to source for specific types of papers for your notes (more on that below).

my pentel is running out of ink!

(Disclaimer: not sponsored by Overjoyed. It's just a place I used to go to to feed my brush pen addiction!)

Knowing your pen Each brush pen model is unique - some may take longer for the ink to dry, some may require special handling, and some may require special types of paper. Take, for example, the Zig Clean Color Real Brush pen. Like its name, the tip is made of bristles just like a real brush. This makes it a little bit more difficult to handle as one would have to write slower or risk having this dry paint brush effect (see below).

Most softer brush pens, like the Tombow Dual Brush pen, or the Zig Brushables, are susceptible to rough paper that could cause fraying. This would mean that you’d have to learn how to tell if your paper is smooth enough for these pens. I myself have destroyed a significant number of pens early in my calligraphy journey when I happily doodled on drawing block paper (‘:

Choosing paper So I’ve talked about paper in the above two points and you must be wondering: how on earth does one tell if paper is smooth enough or not??? Yes, it does sound pretty insane and I’ve gotten my fair share of judging looks when I would feel paper in a store and comment on its smoothness. It’s difficult to teach someone how to feel the roughness of paper, but try this: pay attention to the texture of a regular drawing block and printer paper. Do you feel the difference? Drawing block (usually labelled as cartridge paper) has a much rougher texture than that of your printed notes. Still find it confusing? Not to worry! Here are some recommendations for papers suitable for calligraphy. I personally like using paper from Muji. It’s really smooth and comes in lined and grid. Grid paper makes it really easy for calligraphy, as you can evenly space out your letters and words. The other option is the HP Premium Choice Laserjet Paper. If all else fails, I’ve been using my brush pens on regular foolscap too and it seems fine! But if you’re really worried, why not start with the beginner-friendly pens whilst you learn to tell the difference between brush pen friendly and unfriendly papers [;

2. Faux calligraphy

Brush calligraphy seems a little too daunting to you? Not to worry! You don’t have to spend extra money on brush pens if you don’t want to! In fact, what you already have with you is enough to decorate your notes!

In faux calligraphy, you simply write in cursive first. Then, draw another line to thicken the downstrokes. This will mimic the effect of brushes and brush pens when doing calligraphy. For those who are unsure, downstrokes, like the name suggests, are the strokes that are going down when writing. It’s hard to explain with words, so take a look at this diagram instead!

For some, faux calligraphy may seem a little too time consuming. Although pretty, one should never spend more time on the aesthetics of your notes rather than its content! Another way around this is to do pencil calligraphy.

Yes, you heard me right, pencil calligraphy!

I’m not sure who still has it, but pencil calligraphy involves the usage of a regular wooden pencil. For variety, you can use any colour pencils you may have lying around as well. You can also use a regular mechanical pencil, but keep in mind that the effect may not be as good and your pencil lead may be at risk of constantly breaking.

Anywho, pencil calligraphy is very similar to regular calligraphy. It’s actually a great way to practice before spending money on a brush pen! Just follow the basic rule: pressure on the downstrokes, relax on the upstrokes and you’ll be on your way to aesthetic notes in no time!

sorry! my only wooden pencil left is a HB pencil (':

3. Doodles

This last tip may just be the most time consuming tip. If all kinds of calligraphy don’t tickle your fancy, but you simply can’t stand looking at your mundane notes, try adding little doodles to spice it up! The simplest way is to add banners in your titles or to emphasize certain specific points in your notes.

I know that coming up with banner or doodle ideas takes a lot of time and creativity that we might not have the luxury of time or in my case: skill to do so I like to find inspiration from others on Instagram. An account that I’ve been following for the longest time is Surely Simple. She has regular challenges that you can take part in to build your creativity and skill in doodling or calligraphy, and she even runs a blog to compile all the tips and tricks she has accumulated over the years!

Another site I've chanced upon while writing this article is also Lettering Daily. This site covers not just modern calligraphy, but even hand lettering as well!

Don’t be afraid to just surf the #doodles, #banners, #calligraphy, or whatever hashtag you deem fit to help you get inspiration.

With these tips, you’re on your way to aesthetic notes that would (hopefully, ideally) make you want to read them again and again! I hope this has helped you and good luck in your creative journey! Also, stay safe and keep healthy! Wash your hands! And good luck with your exams!!!

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