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!