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My Hand Lettering Practice

In case you missed my January blog post, Crafting Trends 2020:  What’s On My Crafting Radar, I made a commitment to learn a variety of new crafts or art forms this year.  One of those art forms on my list is hand lettering.

Hand-letting-Example |

Getting Clear on Terminology

The first thing I learned is that there is a difference between hand lettering, calligraphy, brush lettering and typography.

Lettering is the umbrella term that refers to the art of drawing letters.   Each letter is drawn as its own illustration. 

Hand lettering, a subset of lettering, is the art of drawing letters by hand. It is usually sketched first in pencil before outlining and filling in with ink.

Calligraphy is the art of writing letters as opposed to drawing letters.  Calligraphy is based on penmanship.

Brush lettering is similar to calligraphy with heavy pressure applied on the downward stroke and light pressure applied on the upward stroke.  Because of the pressure and appearance of the letters, brush lettering is commonly known as modern calligraphy.

Typography is a repeatable system of letters.  A font is a typography - each letter may have initially been created individually but then put into a system so that it can be repeated.

Hand-Lettering-in-Black-Ink |

Learning Basic Strokes

The second thing I did was sign up for two online classes.  The first one I signed up for is Modern Brush-Lettering & Calligraphy:  From Sketch to Screen on Skillshare.

Skillshare-Brush-Lettering-and-Calligraphy |

This was a fun 55 minute class by Cat Coquillette where she covers the basic strokes of brush lettering. She then shows you how to scan, and digitize your artwork in Photoshop.  It was cool to learn how to take basic black and white letters and totally watch them come to life in new colors. 

The second one, Hand Lettering For Beginners is a 6 lesson online course (plus 2 bonus lessons!).  At such a reasonable price of $20, this course is packed with everything you need to know to get started in hand lettering.  The course creator, Caroline Kelso covers the difference between script, serif and sans-serif lettering, the anatomy of type, recommended tools, how to create a hand-lettered sketch and even how to turn your sketch into a digital file.  I’m about ¾ of the way through this course and learning a lot so far!

Better Hand Lettering Course |

Tools I’m Using

For the moment, I am sticking to a few basic tools:  

  • A mechanical pencil
  • Tombow brush pens in 2 colors
  • Pentel Fude brush pen, Medium
  • Sketchpad
  • Ruler
  • Tombow Dust Catch eraser

Basic tools to use for hand lettering |

My Learning Process

The main gist of brush lettering is to use thick heavy downward strokes and thin upward strokes. This does take practice to master this skill, but it is a lot of fun and something I will be continuing with!

Basic brush strokes for hand lettering |

After I felt comfortable with the practice strokes, I sketched the phrase with pencil in my sketchpad. I used a ruler and drew in lines that would help me keep the final composition in alignment.  Next I used the Pentel Fude brush pen, following the pencil lines and remembering to go heavy on the down stroke and light on the upward strokes. Keep in mind this pen is an ink pen - which means it can smear easily while wet and you really need to give it enough time to dry before erasing the pencil lines.  

Sketching on paper your hand lettered composition |

Next I scanned my art and opened it in Photoshop where I removed the background and created the same phrase in multiple colors using Image>Adjustments>Hue/Saturation feature.  

Enjoy Today Hand lettering Example |

Hand lettering example |

Black and white hand lettering example |

Continued Learning

If you have any interest in learning hand lettering I do recommend the 2 classes I mentioned above. 

Another resource where you can learn hand lettering is the Tombow USA website.  Under Tips and Projects, you’ll find many downloadable practice worksheets - all for FREE!

Tombow hand lettering workshops |

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