Hand Lettering 101. The Newbie’s Guide to Getting Started with the Art of Hand Lettering, Brush Lettering, Modern Calligraphy, iPad Lettering, and Chalk Lettering. This post and the photos within it may contain affiliate links. If you purchase something through the link, I may receive a commission at no extra charge to you. See our full disclosures HERE.
Hand Lettering 101
This post is the newbie’s guide to getting started with the Art of Hand Lettering, Brush Calligraphy, and Modern Calligraphy. The best way to get better at lettering is simply to practice…a lot. Our mantra around here is “Practice makes progress”. Developing your skills is a lifelong, continual process.
Let’s start with some Lettering FAQS
Do I need to have good handwriting to be good at lettering?
In my daily life, I don’t have the prettiest handwriting. I consider lettering a type of drawing. While you do need some artistic talent to do hand-lettering, don’t let your handwriting deter you from trying this art form. Practice makes progress!
Any tips for lefties?
I’m a lefty myself. I share all my tips for my fellow South Paws in this post.
Did you go to school to learn hand lettering?
Hand-lettering was not something touched on in my time in Graphic Design school. Most hand lettering artists, myself included, are self-taught. I learned about the history of design, color, type, etc. and how to use the design programs in school (namely Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop). One of my professors said I had a knack for choosing and mixing typography and I fell head over heels in love with typefaces, fonts, and especially hand lettering.
Are hand-type and hand lettering the same thing?
Technically speaking, no. What I do is actually not hand-type, it’s hand lettering. Read about the difference here. Many people use the terms interchangeably even though they’re actually different.
How can I connect with other lettering artists?
Join my free “The Art of Lettering” Facebook Group here.
Hand Lettering 101: The Newbie’s Guide
First up, we’ll talk about the art of lettering. Later in this post, I’ll discuss Brush Calligraphy, Modern Calligraphy (with a dip pen), iPad Lettering, and Chalk Lettering.
Want More Free Lettering Goodies?
Sign up for instant access to my FREE Happy Email Club, a resource library full of exclusive Art + Lettering worksheets, shareable quotes, coloring pages, mockups, video tutorials, and more. New freebies and fresh content are sent via email and added to the Happy Email Club content area each week on Mondays! Click here to join the club.
The 30 Days of Drills Workbook
This workbook is perfect for busy beginners who want to learn the art of Brush Calligraphy. Commit to doing just one worksheet every day for 30 days and keep track of your progress with the included checklist!
NEW! The 30 Days of ABCs for Small Brush Pens
The second workbook in the 30 Day series is here! Commit to just one worksheet a day, and you’ll see significant improvements over the month.
The Art of Hand Lettering
Basic Supplies: All you really need to get started is a few basics: paper, pencils, markers, and rulers. You can see some of my personal favorite supplies on this page. The Best Beginner Books for Hand Lettering:
- Creative Lettering and Beyond – This is one of the first books I bought and it’s perfect for beginners.
- Mastering Hand Lettering – This book rocks. It’s a must-have for those interested in learning lettering.
- The Big Awesome Book of Hand & Chalk Lettering – I just added this one to my collection recently and it is so well done!
- I start every single print with a bunch of sketches of the phrase/quote I’m working on. This helps me figure out a good layout for all the words in the phrase.
- After I settle on a layout, I draw lines/boxes with rulers to keep my text straight or within certain parameters as dictated by my initial sketches.
- I always sketch in pencil…with a lot of erasing.
- When I’m happy with the lettering/illustration, I trace it in marker and add details. After the marker dries, I erase any remaining pencil lines. It doesn’t have to be perfect. I do a lot of cleaning up after I import my drawing to my laptop. I’m a lefty. I’m forever smearing my work. Which is precisely why I don’t sell originals of my work. Work with what you have! 🙂
- I scan or photograph my design and import it into Adobe Illustrator (sometimes Photoshop depending on the situation but the bulk of the time I use Illustrator).
- I use Illustrator to trace (digitize) the design and then add in details and color and clean-up lines. I’m not going to do a detailed tutorial on this because it’s not a program most people have, but if getting serious about hand-type interests you, put these programs on your radar.
Lettering Styles: Check out my posts on Lettering Styles to Try for more inspiration. Mixed Lettering: This has become one of my signature styles. Check out all my tips on the Basics of Creating Mixed Lettering Styles here.
How to Do Brush Lettering
Brush lettering, also called Brush Calligraphy, is achieved by using pressure to control your stroke widths.
- FAQS: This is my most comprehensive post on Brush Lettering. Read it here.
- The Best Pen for Newbies: the Tombow Fude. Read about why here.
- Paper Matters! Read about the best paper for your brush pens here.
- Bounce Lettering: What is it? How to do it + a free practice sheet here.
- Start with the Basic Strokes Worksheets: for Small Brush Pens and for Large Brush Pens.
- Practice, practice, and practice some more. Check out my large selection of free lettering worksheets.
- Want to work on your flourishing? Check out my tips, a video, and download a free basics worksheet with over 70 flourishes here.
- Embossing: Learn how to Heat Emboss Your Lettering in Four Simple Steps.
- Get Brush Lettering Books for Beginners:
- Lettering with Purpose. This book is so comprehensive. It’s perfect for getting started!
- More book recommendations coming soon!
- Watch the Basics Strokes Video! This video is a free real-time mini bonus module from my intermediate level Constellation Lettering Online Class.
Modern Calligraphy with a pointed dip pen didn’t click for me until after I’d mastered Brush Calligraphy, so based on personal experience, I recommend learning Brush Calligraphy first and then moving on to Modern Calligraphy.
- Read my Modern Calligraphy 101 post here.
- Learn how to do Watercolor Calligraphy here.
- The best book to start with is Modern Calligraphy: Everything You Need to Know to Get Started in Script Calligraphy.
I recently started a whole series on iPad Lettering. You can check it out here.
I’ve created two custom packs of Procreate Lettering Brushes:
I love how forgiving chalk art is! My top three favorite books on Chalk Lettering are listed below. They are all beginner friendly.
- The Complete Book of Chalk Lettering
- Chalk Art and Lettering 101
- The Big Awesome Book of Hand & Chalk Lettering
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Still Have Questions on Lettering?
I hope you found this Hand Lettering 101 post helpful.
If you have questions I didn’t touch on, leave me a note in the comments!