When someone has grasped the basic concepts of writing Chinese, there comes a point where handwriting starts to look plain or mechanical. From what I have seen, the lines look very straight and like someone who has just copied directly from a book.

I know with my own journey I have gradually been given pointers to improve my writing that were simple, but changed my writing significantly to make it look much more elegant.

The two that come to mind immediately were to ensure that radicals were written smaller than the rest of the character and to have horizontal lines slightly angled upward.

What pointers can you give to someone who has a basic grasp of writing so that they can make their writing appear more professional / more beautiful?

This may not be something that everyone does, but could assist someone with developing their own style as not all techniques work for everyone.

NOTE: Please provide concrete, useable answers, not just find some books and copy. I am looking for techniques that are practical and useable.

  • 3
    Even native speakers want to know the answer to this question. Maybe I can summarize some "concrete and easy" tricks for how to write well ... but I'm sure serious calligrapher would be very angry for my wrong answer 误人子弟 XD So a safe answer would be telling you first practice strokes and second structures of characters and finally practice and practice following some copybooks ...
    – Stan
    Commented Aug 22, 2013 at 6:48
  • In my personal experience, writing Chinese, or Chinese calligraphy, is one of the few skills that's completely based on practice and has few to none moments you feel suddenly enlightened and your writing skill improves automatically. Even the top calligraphers need to prepare and keep practicing each character one by one.
    – NS.X.
    Commented Aug 22, 2013 at 8:30
  • 1
    +1 for nice question. I've been wondering this myself for years! The answer below is great... pictures really help
    – user3871
    Commented Aug 22, 2013 at 16:04

8 Answers 8


1) Ensure correct proportions between all parts. Don't scrunch in. Don't squeeze down. Don't squeeze together.

enter image description here

2) Radicals should be smaller on top and thinner on sides. Don't make radicals the same size as the rest of the character.

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3) Horizontal strokes appear much nicer if they go up at a slight angle.

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4) Ensure vertical strokes don't go off at a weird angle and if there are multiple horizontal strokes make sure they are in harmony.

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5) Top to bottom = thin to fat

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6) Ensure left hand side radical height is similar in height to rest of the character (this has some exceptions).

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7) Make sure second tier horizontal lines are long enough and longer than first tier horizontal lines.

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  • 1
    Very interesting +1. Here's my suggestions: 1) Better to use a pen to practice. If you only have gel pens, better to choose a think one (>0.5mm). Then you can write strokes in several weights. 2) In fact though 楷书 is the basis, personally I think it's the most difficult style to write well. If you want to write Chinese for practical use, please consider 行书. 3) Practicing following this order would be more efficient: strokes, radicals and then complete characters. When you write radicals beautiful, you're not far away from writing a complete character beautiful.
    – Stan
    Commented Aug 22, 2013 at 12:45
  • 1
    Interesting! From a foreign view, I could see, many years ago, how I explored these rules.
    – George
    Commented Aug 22, 2013 at 15:39

If you're serious learner, or educated Chinese speaker, try learn brush writing.

This video shows how it is possible to write it that beautiful.

永字八法 Eight Principles of 永

There're eight basic strokes to practice on:

In Chinese: eight principles of yong

In English: english eight principles of yong

In Japanese: japanese eight principles of yong

How to grab the brush

There're two major ways of holding the brush pen: 單鉤法 and 雙鉤法: Two ways

文房四寶 Paraphernalia

文房四寶者 筆 墨 硯 紙也 (The four friends of the study, namely, brush, ink, inkstone, and paper)


  1. 筆 brush

  2. 筆置 brush holder

  3. 墨汁 ink (liquid)

  4. 墨 ink (solid)

  5. 硯 inkstone

  6. 下敷 paper holder

  7. 半紙 paper

  8. 文鎮 paper fix

Update - Dictionary

Now you know all you need is practice, so a collection of writing styles from renowned writer can help us learn it nice and well, for example, 新書道字典, a publication in Japan, where brush writing prevails in all time. In these kind of dictionary, many famous renderings are group together for each and every character: preview

  • 1
    Practicing with a brush does help improve the quality of writing with a pencil. A handy way of practicing is using reusable paper: chinasprout.com/shop/ASH162. You can also buy this on amazon.com. Commented Aug 23, 2013 at 16:21
  • Good for you, @stuckintheshuck, I raked it in some 15 years, it's juuust awesome ^0^
    – George
    Commented Aug 23, 2013 at 16:24
  • Dear downvoter, would you please provide your opinion so that we can get hopefully improved service or it can be misleading.
    – George
    Commented Sep 8, 2013 at 13:23

Practice writing characters, over and over again:

enter image description here

The idea is to train your muscle memory to be able to write strokes in the right way - angles, shape, sizes. I don't think there is a silver bullet here; it's just practice, practice, practice.

When I was young I did this using tracing paper over a template. Nowadays you can probably find apps for it.

  • 2
    Or create your own - just use a light gray font and print away.
    – Steve
    Commented Aug 22, 2013 at 17:02
  • 1
    You can create your own free character practice sheets here: hanzigrids.com. They are great! Commented Aug 23, 2013 at 16:25
  • I practice with skritter.cn in my iPhone/iPad. Commented Aug 23, 2013 at 16:26
  • I use Word Tracer - Learn Chinese on iPad. It works very well for me.
    – Boon
    Commented Jun 2, 2014 at 2:42
  • Inkstone (skishore.me/inkstone) is free for practicing writing on iOS and Android. It teaches the stroke orders of characters.
    – Phil
    Commented Jan 10, 2018 at 15:36
  1. 一 slant up.

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  1. 丨have two types.

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  1. 捺 have a clear ending.

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  1. Shorten the middle

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  1. Squeeze the left enter image description here

  2. Only touch the left side enter image description here

  3. Equally divide enter image description here

This is my daily writing, if you want to know. enter image description here



It is the practice on a copybook printing with red ink, and the characters is a little bigger than the size you writing.

Red ink printed copebook

This is for hard-tipped pen. enter image description here enter image description here enter image description here

What I say, is, that most Chinese children practice on it day by day to advance their handwriting. Not only you foreigner have headaches, we all have.

The point is, if you try to enhance the skill, please don’t COPY, but TRACE each stroke directly on the printed characters. Using pencil at the beginning. This method can help you not only experience the artistic style and structure of the characters but also learn Chinese poems.

The higher order of handwriting is to regard the characters even the sentences as a drawing of structuralism. And like Gothic, Chinese printings are varieties of handwriting. Again, like Gothic, you should select your pen and paper and practice the usage of tools.

Finally, this is my own handwriting. enter image description here


Learning Chinese alphabet, pinyin and characters, making sentences and practicing handwriting are three essential stages if you plan to learn Chinese well. As for Chinese handwriting, here I provide three tips to help you improve your Chinese handwriting ability.

1. Memorize Chinese Character’s Stroke Order Rules

Before starting to write Chinese characters, I suggest you learning the stroke order rules at first, which will make it easier for your Chinese writing practice and minimize your time and effort to memorize the stroke order of individual character. Here they are:

1). From Top to Bottom Rule

We take “二” as an example to explain this rule. As you can see, “二” has two strokes, a short “一” and a longer “一”. Therefore, under “from top to bottom” rule, we write the short “一” at first and then the longer “一” when writing “二”. You can understand this rule better through the images below. Except for “二”, there are a large amount of characters with above-to-below structure, such as 李, 早, 旦, 兄, etc. enter image description here

2). From Left to Right Rule

The second rule to write Chinese characters is from left to right. If you pay enough attention when you are memorizing Chinese characters, you will notice lots of characters with left-to-right structure, like 明, 找, 到, 打, 吗, etc. Here I will take “明” as an example to explain rule. As we can see, “明” consists of “日” and “月”, the obvious left-to-right structure, therefore, we should write “日” at first and then “月” when writing “明”. Details please see the images below:

enter image description here

3). Horizontal before Vertical Rule

The most typical Chinese character accorded with this rule is “十”. Here we take this character as an example. To write “十” well, you should write the horizontal “一” at first and then the vertical “一”.

enter image description here

4). Diagonals right-to-left before Diagonals left-to-right Rule

There are many Chinese characters accorded with right-to-left (丿) and left-to-right (乀) strokes such as 人, 八, 大, 个, 父, etc. Taking “人” as an example, we usually write the right-to-left stoke at first and then left-to-right stroke.

enter image description here

5). Outside before Inside Rule

To write Chinese characters with outside-and-inside stokes, we usually write the outside part, followed by the inside part. These characters include 国, 囚, 围, 庆, 同, 句 and so on. Check the images below to learn how to write this type words. enter image description here

6). Inside before Outside Rule

Maybe you feel a little confused by this rule after learning outside-to-inside rule. But if you observe carefully charcters with inside-to-outside rule like 函, 画, 凶, you will find that it’s not difficult to get the point at all. Take “凶” as an example, and we write this word usually first with “×” and then the outside frame.

enter image description here

7). Center verticals before outside “wings” Rule

Before getting down to explaining how to write this kind of characters, I will give you some examples, 永, 水, 办, 乘, 小. Do you find their similarities? Yes, all of them consist the main part like a column and two “wings”. When writing these characters, we usually write the column-alike part and then the “wings”, similar to the steps below: enter image description here

2. Practice your Handwriting with Copybook

Chinese Handwriting Copybook is a book containing models of handwriting for readers to imitate. And almost all of Chinese children will employ this tool to help them get better in Chinese handwriting. If you are in China, it’s very easy for you to get one via the online store or the genuine bookstore. If you are outside of China, you can buy one on eBay, Amazon, Walmart, etc.

3. Try to Write by Yourself

Copybook is just a tool helping you be familar with Chinese characters strokes when you are just starting with Chinese handwriting. But when you practice one character with copybook more than ten times, I suggest you starting to write it without the help of copybook. That’s is not easy, but it’s a essential step.


Just keep practising... Writing the same character again and again for 50 times or now? You'd be glad to know that's exactly what the education in primary school is like in China...


I would just keep practicing. You should also have confidence in yourself and write characters over and over again. Its all about 练习!(practice)

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