4 Tips for Connecting Letters

One of the biggest questions I’ve received regarding lettering in a brush script style is “how do I connect letters?” As an experienced lettering artist, I often forget that this seemingly simple concept didn’t come quite so easily in the beginning. I spent many hours practicing drills, and working on perfecting each individual letter, but when it came time to connecting them, I just couldn’t get it quite right at first. So after lots of trial and error, and even more practice, I’ve come up with a few tips to share with you that will help you on your way to connecting those beautiful letters you’re creating!

1. End with an upstroke.

This is very important when lettering in brush script, because it contributes to the more elegant nature of this style. As it becomes routine to end each letter with an upstroke, you will notice that you are better set up to begin the next letter in the word you are writing. Or, if it is the final letter of a word, ending in an upstroke will give it a more finished look. So whether it’s the middle of a word, or the last letter of a word, an exit upstroke is key.

2.Think ahead.

Unfortunately, simply ending each letter with an upstroke will not always create the beautiful words you’ve envisioned in your head. That is why it is important to think about what is coming next in order to best position yourself for the following letter. In this video you can see how the upstrokes after each of my letters are just a little bit different, depending on the letter that will follow. Some are long, some are short, and others even curve in a slightly different manner. Think about where the next letter should begin, and stop your upstroke from the preceding letter with just enough space to ensure that the next letter you are writing just slightly overlaps your previous upstroke, so the word is fully connected.

3. Pick up your pen.

I’ve said it once – but I’ll say it again! This is where picking up your pen is absolutely crucial. After you’ve completed your carefully thought out and well positioned upstroke, pick up your pen to begin the next letter. This ensures proper spacing, shape, and angle entry. For a refresher on this concept, check out this post.

4. Put it into practice.

When you’ve taken all the steps mentioned above, practice, practice, practice. This is another thing I stress a lot around here – but it’s only because it is a tried and true method! You cannot expect to be a great hand letterer simply because you’ve read all the information, and bought the pens… You must put what you have learned into practice, and keep practicing even when it doesn’t appear perfect to you at first. I promise you, with time and effort, you will be well on your way to success.

I hope this is helpful to those of you who have just begun your lettering journey! Please feel free to comment with any questions, or other concepts you’d like explained a little more in detail for a future blog post.

Cheers,

Signature

Starter Kit // Video

For those of you who have already purchased a starter kit, congrats on taking the first step toward an incredible creative journey! While there is a lot of information that has been added to the booklet to compensate for the fact that you are not learning from me in-person, it is definitely important to see things first hand… So I have created a video just for you!

In this video, I have worked through every page of the booklet in real time. The first time through is with the Tombow Dual Brush Pen, and the second time is with the Pentel Sign Brush Pen. It is rather lengthy, however, this will be a great resource for you to see things like angle, pace, and how I form letters. Feel free to jump around to any trouble spots, and refer back to this as often as needed while you are learning.

Have fun!

Amanda

(If you’re having trouble clicking on the video link, here is the direct link: https://vimeo.com/172813809)

Welcome, Summer!

I don’t know about you, but summer is one of my favorite seasons (although, there really is a reason to love them all!) I’m currently enjoying having my husband home for the entire month of June, and it has been so nice to have some quality family time, since his schedule is pretty intense throughout the year. Yesterday, it was entirely too hot to play outside, and we were feeling a little stir-crazy, so we headed to IKEA, and it was like we took Aria to Disneyland. She loved climbing on and testing out every single bed, chair, and toy. For anyone with littles, I definitely recommend it on a day you’re feeling out of ideas!

In the midst of this fun season, I’ve been thinking about you all! Dreaming up fun new products, working on all your orders (thank you!), and wondering what I can do for you! From calligraphy and lettering tutorials, to watercolor/illustration tips, I want to know what you want to know! So feel free to leave a comment below with what you’re interested in knowing more about!

And as a thanks for following along, enjoy this free summery cactus phone wallpaper (also available for purchase in the shop as an instant download 8×10 print!)

Just save the image to your phone below, for your free wallpaper!

iPhone 5:

Cactus Wallpaper - 5

iPhone 6:

Cactus Wallpaper - 6

iPhone 6 Plus:

Cactus Wallpaper - 6Plus

Android:

Cactus Wallpaper - Android

 

Cheers,

Amanda

3 Tips For Brush Lettering Beginners

The last year has been an incredible journey of learning and growth for me. But it hasn’t been easy to get to the place I am today. I have done loads of research, taken multiple classes, and spent hundreds of hours practicing. Through all the work I have put in, there are a few bits of information that stand out to me as especially important to anyone first learning. Things I wish I could go back and tell my beginner-self. They are not revolutionary ideas, by any means… but each of these concepts brought my basic skills to the next level, and I hope they do for you as well!

1. Don’t Write Letters… Draw Them. 

When it comes to lettering, despite the appearance, you are not writing — you’re drawing. In fact, the reason anyone can learn the art of lettering is because it has nothing to do with your handwriting, and everything to do with drawing letters the way you would like them to appear. This means you should take your time, write slow, envision your words before writing them, and pick up your pen between strokes (I’ll discuss this more in the next point). One of the methods I use in my workshops to help get used to this concept is tracing. By tracing over someone else’s lettering, it helps to re-train your brain, and break you from the habits of using your own handwriting. So grab some tracing paper (printer paper will work as well), print out my script alphabet template, and start practicing! Once you feel ready to move on, choose a font style, or a favorite lettering artist, and try to mimic their work simply by looking at it. Not for the sake of copying, but rather, for learning how to draw letters the way you would like them to appear. Eventually, your own style will begin to develop, and you’ll be able to do this without tracing or looking elsewhere for a guide.

2. Pick Up Your Pen!

You will most likely not be able to achieve the look you are going for by writing in one continual motion (like with standard cursive writing). The great thing about lettering is, there is freedom to lift your pen between letters or strokes to allow you to reposition your hand and set yourself up in the right place for the next portion of your word or letter. Watch this video for a visual.

As you watch the video you can see, when I write the words “pick up your pen,” picking up my pen between strokes is crucial in order to set up each segment in the appropriate direction. It is not necessarily wrong to not pick up your pen (if that is the look you are going for in a particular piece) but in most cases, not picking up your pen will create an outcome that is likely different from the way you would like your letters to appear. Moral of the story: it’s okay to pick up your pen!

3. Practice With Pencil.

Perhaps one of the greatest lettering tools at everyone’s disposal already is a pencil. Use it to your advantage! Pencils are great because they are not permanent, they allow for plenty of practice without wasting paper or ink, and they give you lots of practice with the concept of applying pressure on your downstrokes, and releasing pressure on your up strokes. In fact, I have found it to be more difficult to do this successfully with a pencil, because there is no flex in the lead. But I promise you, if you don’t give up with it right away, it will actually strengthen your brush lettering skills in the long run.

And there you have it – hopefully these are some helpful tips to take your “basic” skills to the next level!

Feel free to comment below with any questions or feedback!

Cheers,

Amanda

 

Best of Brush Pens

Hi, Friends!

Are you interested in diving into the world of brush calligraphy, but a little lost on where to begin? Or perhaps you’ve started to learn some of the basics, but you’re looking for direction regarding which pens to buy (there are so many options!) Well, you’re not alone.

When I started this journey almost a year ago, I left my first workshop with one pen, and knowledge of nothing else in the supply category. Though I loved that one pen (and bought it in as many colors as I could find!), I wanted more. I wanted to learn different styles and techniques, but I found myself lost in a sea of online information. After following every great calligraphy artist I could find on Instagram, I just started buying all the pens I saw them using. But I had no idea which were best for my beginner-self! While I discovered some true gems in the process, there were quite a few duds, and many that were a little advanced for me at the time. So, to spare you the trouble, I’m sharing with you three of my absolute favorites. The best part is, these three pens are not only great for beginners, but are still some of my “go-to” pens for daily work. Let’s get to it!

Favorite Large Brush Pen

Tombow Dual Brush Pen

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Because of the firmness in the tip of the brush, it is the easiest to control – which is great when you are first learning brush lettering. One thing to keep in mind with this pen is that you will need to write much larger than normal to achieve the best outcome. If you feel like your words look squished, or like your down-strokes are too thick in proportion to your up-strokes, you are most likely not writing large enough. The great thing about these pens is they come in a wide variety of colors, (96, to be exact) and they are perfect for creating final works of art for you or your friends. When working with these pens, (or any pen, for that matter) be wary of frayed tips. As a lefty, this is something you simply cannot get around because of the pushing effect that occurs when writing from the left side. But with extra care and caution, you can preserve the life of your pens! Be sure to take your time, write slow, don’t use more pressure than you need, and write with the side of your brush tip, to avoid pressing straight down on the tip.

After practicing your brush lettering skills with the Tombow Dual Brush pen for a little while, you will most likely grow tired of writing such large words, and you’ll be ready for smaller, more delicate writing. This is where the smaller brush pens come into the conversation! Tombow offers a great option in the Fudenosuke Brush Pen, which comes in both a firm and soft nib. These are a favorite to many, including myself… but my absolute favorite pen in this category is the Pentel Sign Brush Pen.

Favorite Small Brush Pen

Pentel Sign Brush Pen

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This pen writes like butter, and adds such elegance to your words. They come in a variety of colors – so I would recommend buying all of them just in case😉. This pen is great for projects that call for smaller writing, such as addressing envelopes. I have found that the tip of this pen tends to hold up longer than the Tombow Fudenosuke, however, many prefer that the Fudenosuke comes with the option of a firm or soft nib. I recommend trying all of them to see what works best for you, as each person uses different amounts of pressure, which will influence your preference. Again, just like with the Dual Brush Pen, try to watch your speed and pressure to avoid fraying/distorting the tip of this pen quickly. Regardless of your brand of choice, you want a pen like this in your arsenal!

Favorite Water Brush Pen

Pentel Aquash Water Brush Pen

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There are a few different water brush options on the market, but for me, the Pentel Aquash is the way to go. Watercolor lettering is growing in popularity, and is especially beautiful for the spring. A water brush is incredibly versatile, as it can be filled with your choice of ink color or water, to be dipped in your watercolor of choice. It can also be used like a paintbrush to add floral embellishments to your art. The bristles have just the right amount of firmness to allow for dramatic up-strokes and down-strokes, and it is very easy to control. It comes in a few different sizes, so choose based on the size of letters you would like to achieve (the one pictured is medium.) I like to keep two of these on hand at all times – one filled with black ink, and the other with water. If you are new to using a bristle tip like this (much like an actual paintbrush), there will be a little bit of a learning curve. But don’t give up if it doesn’t turn out how you expect the first time (in fact, I can almost guarantee that it won’t!) I have found that I write very different with a water brush, as opposed to a regular brush pen. This is completely normal, and worth the effort for such a beautiful outcome.

So there you have it – three of my favorite pens for brush calligraphy! I’d love to hear feedback regarding your success with these pens, and any other favorites you have to share!

Cheers,

Amanda

Practice Makes Progress

When I first started brush-lettering, I was not great. I have always naturally had good penmanship and a knack for creative things, but when I first picked up a brush-pen, it was unlike anything I’ve tried before. My hand felt awkward. What came out on paper was NOT what I pictured in my head. In fact, my regular handwriting was better than my brush-lettering! Fast-forward 9 months, and I am excited to be experiencing a thriving business based on my lettering. But how did I get here? Do I have a 5-step plan for success? Well, my friends, that is exactly what I am here to share. But the great news is – it’s not 5 steps. In fact, I am convinced that the most important element to your success with brush-lettering is as simple as one word: PRACTICE.

If you’ve ever been part of sports, music, theatre, or any other talent-related activity, you’ve probably heard the saying, “practice makes perfect.” I remember hearing this over and over as a child in piano lessons, all the way into my college music training. And while I fully support the intent behind this statement, I’d like to alter it a tiny bit, considering the word “perfect” is defined as “being entirely without fault or defect.” Since nothing in my life falls under that category, I prefer to use the statement, “practice makes progress.”

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June 2016 – first day with a brush pen!

Looking back at my very first brush-lettered pieces, I am amazed to see the difference from just a matter of months. From the flow of words, to the development of my own style, I have seen a huge amount of progress from where I began. And the only thing I can attribute this change to is practice. From the moment I got back from my first brush-lettering workshop, I could not put my pen and paper down. I spent countless hours writing the alphabet, my name, everyone in my family’s name, and the word “hello” more times than I wish to divulge. I found some of the best modern calligraphers on Instagram, and started following their feeds. I bought [a lot of] brush pens (thank goodness they’re so cheap!) And after I had done all of this, I practiced some more. Even though “me time” was sparse with a little one at home, I took every moment of my few free hours each day and practiced. I quickly realized this was not something I could easily grow tired of… in fact, I was energized by my time spent practicing. And that is when I knew this hobby wouldn’t be going anywhere, anytime soon.

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February 2016

So why have I taken an entire blog post to focus on one word? Because I believe it is the most important word in your creative journey. Whether you’re passionate about brush-lettering, cake decorating, fine art, or doing make-up, do yourself a favor and practice. No one starts out as Vincent van Gogh or Duff Goldman. Though there will always be things some people are more successful with than others, practice will always make us better. We all get the same 24 hours each day to work with, and I firmly believe that we make time for the things that are most important to us in life. So start practicing today for the progress you want to see tomorrow.

Cheers,

Amanda

 

 

Never Stop Learning

“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” – Howard Thurman

I first heard this quote in my sophomore year of college at a student leadership training, and it has stuck with me ever since. This idea of finding something that makes you “come alive” really is a beautiful notion, but it is easier said than done. There are often things in our lives we are good at, but maybe we don’t enjoy very much – perhaps it even feels like work to us. And there are other things we might enjoy quite a bit, but to say we’re “good at it” would be a stretch. But then there are those gems in our lives… The things we are great at, AND that bring us joy. Those are the things we must hold onto, because they can be few and far between.

This past summer, I saw an announcement for a brush lettering workshop on one of the Instagram accounts I follow. As someone who has always worked hard to have nice penmanship, I would admire beautiful lettering from a distance, with no idea where to start. So I decided to attend the workshop with my mom, and it was one of the best decisions I’ve made in awhile. After the class, I found myself doing more research, buying pens, trying out new techniques, and following all the “best in the business” on social media. I spent all my free time practicing, and found as many excuses as possible to write things. I quickly found hand-lettering to be something I was very passionate about, and was surprised at how I never seemed to grow tired of it. It has now been 8 months since I first sat down with a brush pen, and my passion for it grows each day. I enjoy my fair share of DIY projects, decorating cakes, and many other “artsy” things, but they often leave me feeling drained and exhausted. Hand-lettering is the first hobby I have found that feeds my desire for creativity, while bringing feelings of refreshment and rejuvenation at the same time. To look back at where I started, and see how far I have come, it is apparent that this “hobby” of mine won’t be going anywhere, any time soon.

I write all of this in the hopes that, if you haven’t yet, you may be inspired to find that “something” you are passionate about. Keep learning, keep trying. If there’s something you’ve always admired or wanted to try, just do it! Even if you aren’t the best at first, keep at it! It is never too late to start, and you have nothing to lose by trying.

I have tried a lot of things, failed at a lot of things, but most importantly, I have found what makes me come alive.

If you’d like to join me on my lettering journey, keep checking back as I post tips, product reviews, and techniques.

Wishing you all the best on your own creative endeavors!

Cheers,

Amanda