Hand lettering is a trendy hobby right now – and rightfully so. Requiring little more than a pen and paper, hand lettering is accessible to everyone. Read on for how to teach yourself how to hand letter.
I’ve mentioned a few times recently about my new obsession: hand lettering. It’s fun, let’s me get out some of my creativity and is an easy way for me to turn off my brain. Not to mention, it’s cheap – you truly just need a pen or pencil and paper to make something pretty. Hand lettering seems to be pretty trendy right now. It’s seen in advertising, there are extremely popular books explaining how to accomplish the style, and entire blogs and Instagrams devoted to the art. But how hard could it be to teach yourself how to hand letter?
When I first sparked an interest in learning to hand letter, I did some research and poured over Pinterest tutorials, blog posts, and supply lists. All of them were gorgeous and perfect – not a line out of place. And you know what? It was extremely intimidating. Never would I ever reach their level of what I declared to be perfection. Nothing seemed simple or attainable. Eventually, I picked up a few tips and tricks that I found to be helpful, wasted pages and pages and pages of paper practicing, and made some vague progress towards looking like the pros.
So today I thought I’d share my imperfect ways of teaching yourself how to hand letter. No perfection, no fancy pens or paper, no expensive books, no Etsy downloads for worksheets or eBooks. Just plain old pen and paper. How to hand letter: from a beginner to a beginner.
Teach Yourself How to Hand Letter
First, chose a lettering style you enjoy looking at. I really like the bubbly modern calligraphy style of lettering which I feel is the most popular. Either way, search Pinterest or Google and find a style you enjoy looking at since you’ll be looking at it a lot. You can take a look at my hand lettering font Pinterest board to get yourself started on inspiration (and follow me while you’re there! I pin a bunch of hand lettering things there!)
In this first post, I’m going to show you how to learn how to fake modern calligraphy. You could use this method to fake really any kind of calligraphy (which technically uses a pointed pen. Right now I’m playing around with brush lettering, but after I really want to get a pointed pen and try it out!) but like I said before, I enjoy the modern calligraphy. To each his own!
First, choose what you would like to write. I knew that I was doing this specific post, so I chose “Teach yourself how to hand letter” Super original. I suggest finding one word to do for the first one – if you want something to copy, head over to Instagram and check out #handlettered. SO much inspiration is there.
Next, take some lined paper and slowly and lightly write the word. This is why, especially in the beginning before you learn your “own” style, it’s really helpful to have a photo of something to copy from. (PLEASE NOTE: I am not condoning or encouraging you to use someone else’s work, copy it, and claim it as your own. That’s rude, mean and probably illegal. I’m just saying use it as a learning tool to one day creating your own, original work.)
Use a pencil and don’t press too hard since we’ll be erasing it later. Keep working on it until the penciled word looks how you would like it to. Also, I suggest in the beginning your words being bigger – it makes it a little easier.
Then, go over your word and imagine where your pencil stroked down in the process of writing it. To make it clearer and display it better for you, I drew little arrows next to my word to indicate up or down stroke. For each downstroke, we’ll eventually want a thicker line. That’s the key to calligraphy – the downstroke is the thicker stroke. With your pencil draw a line to fake this look, ending each line by blending with the curve to the upstroke.
Carefully follow your pencil lines with a fine-tipped pen. I use Sharpie Pens and I think they work perfectly for hand lettering – no bleeding or anything like that. But use what you’re comfortable with/what you have. A fine black gel pen would work nicely as well, but you could even use a ballpoint if that’s what you have. Don’t put off learning this because you think you need XYZ equipment. You don’t.
Note that there will be shaky parts. I’ve found that the slower I go, the better it all turns out, which kind of goes against what my gut tells me. Don’t worry about shaky hands. We’ll have a chance to fix that in a few steps if you want, plus this is just practice and learning!
Another tip – picking up your pen between letters is fine and encouraged! You can see exactly where I did it on mine. I just suggest finding places where you can either blend in any mistakes or that will be colored over so that you don’t have to worry too much about making perfect transitions.
Now the fun part – color in the “spaces”. I love this part because it often goes from being a hot mess to a pretty looking calligraphy! I like to use a felt tipped pen like a PaperMate Flair since it’s a little thicker and more marker like, making it easier to ‘color’. (also, please note at this point I realized that scanning would probably work better. :))
If you would like your lines to look smoother and more fluid, after you “color” your letters, go over all the lines with the slightly thicker pen – it will make your transitions look smoother and more natural. Also, erase all of your pencil lines now.
This last step is optional, but if it’s something I really like and if I’m feeling like a perfectionist I’ll do it. Go through each letter and smooth out the sides with your thinnest pen. I usually use the fine Sharpie. This helps makes alleviate any shaky hands from earlier. Kind of my ‘secret’ for making it look like I know what I’m doing. And then you’re done! (You can also use a favorite of the lettering world, the Micron pens, which are made in a variety of thicknesses.)
Just be warned – it’s an addiction! But I love this hobby because it’s cheap (a pen, pencil and some paper are all you really need!), useful, and I can spend only 5 minutes practicing it if that’s what time I have. I hope you all enjoyed learning a bit more about this trendy skill, and that you enjoyed learning from another self-taught beginner
Looking for a little more guidance? Check out my FREE hand lettering practice worksheets. They’re perfect for getting more comfortable with this method as well as practicing using brush pens. Sign up for my newsletter by clicking below and receive the worksheets FREE!
Please, please, please let me know what you think in the comments! Is this something you would like me to expand on? Do you like hand lettering? Do you hand letter already? If you guys are interested, I have a few different ideas for more lesson posts (how to create your own alphabet, how to design a print, how to address letters..) but I don’t want to bore you all with posts about hand lettering since this is obviously not a craft blog.
Looking for more posts on hand lettering? Check out these!!
How to Fake a Hand Lettered Print.