The Beginner’s Guide to Brush Lettering

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Feeling a little intimidated by dip pen calligraphy?  Or maybe your just want to try something new?  Fake calligraphy is a great option, but as of late I’ve become a big fan of brush lettering.  (Though I really do a sort of fake brush lettering with a felt-tip brush pen.  Watercolor brush lettering will be up on the blog later.)  Interested in learning along with me?  Great!

The Beginner's Guide to Brush Lettering

Alright, friends.  I have to admit that I like the brush pens I like and tend not to venture away from them.  I may be biased (okay, I am biased), but I love my set of Tombow Dual Brush Pens.  They’ve been touted by others as a great beginner brush pen, they’re fairly reasonable to buy, and easy to use.  Plus, they can create some pretty cool effects like watercolor backgrounds and striped lettering.  I also have recently been loving the Tombow Fudenosuke Brush Pens (the hard tip and the soft tip), though the downside of these markers is that they only come in black. Though I will be showing you how I letter with the Tombow pen, this tutorial is applicable to all kinds of brush pens (plus, a lot transfers to watercolor brush lettering, too).

Stick around to the end for a cool blending technique video and hop over to Part II for even more brush lettering goodness.

Anatomy of a Brush Pen

At first glance a brush pen may look like a regular marker.  Do not be fooled!  Brush pens are specifically designed to act like a watercolor brush.  Read: you can get hairline thin upstrokes and big-bellied, thick downstrokes.  The nib (marker part) of a brush pen is cone-shaped with a thin point at the tip.  The nib is flexible, with varying degrees of flexibility depending on the pen (or brush) that you choose.

How to Create Beautiful Brush Lettering by Destination Decoration

Brush Lettering Tutorial via Destination Decoration

The Tombow Dual Brush Pens have a fine tip on the other end for straight lines of writing.

Brush Lettering Made Easy

The Basics of Brush Lettering

Brush lettering, much like dip pen calligraphy, relies on pressure.  The bread and butter of brush pen lettering is the varying strokes: thick downstokes and thin upstrokes.

Note: Techniques for brush pen lettering vary.  While this is what I’ve found works best for me and many others, do what works for you.  


Holding Your Pen

Hold your pen like you would hold a regular pen or pencil.  I found that I have more control over the pen by holding it close to the nib.  Your angle will change as you write, but in general, hold your pen at about a 45 degree angle from the paper.

Using Tombow Brush Pens to Create Brush Lettering

The video below goes into more detail about brush pens and how to use them:

Practicing the Basic Strokes

Just like in basic calligraphy, it’s advisable not to jump straight into writing letters.  You need some time to get to know how your pen works.  There are several basic strokes that are needed when writing the alphabet.  These will form the skeleton of your lettering.  Here are some basic strokes to practice:

Downstrokes: Whenever your pen moves in a downward motion on the paper.

When you are making downstrokes, increase your pressure.  This should create a nice, thick line.  The thickest downstrokes will be created with your pen at about a 45 degree angle from the paper.

Brush Lettering with Tombow Dual Brush Pens

How to Create Brush Lettering

Upstrokes: Whenever your pen moves in an upward motion on the paper.

When making upstrokes, decrease your pen pressure and write with the very tip of your marker.  Often, I find when forming upstrokes my pen tends to move from a 45 degree angle to more perpendicular to the paper.  I also hold my pen closer to the nib when making upstrokes.  This tends to give a thinner line, but as I said, to each their own.

Hand-Lettering with Tombow Dual Brush Pens

How to Hand-Letter with Brush Pens

Use Tombow Brush Pens to Create Brush Pen Lettering

Downstrokes into Upstrokes

These will often be your connecting lines for your lettering, so it’s essential to practice.  Transition from the downstroke to the upstroke by gradually decreasing your pressure.  Start pulling up on your marker before the u-turn at the bottom of the stroke.

Brush Lettering Tutorial

Upstrokes into Downstrokes

The upstroke into downstroke combination happens less often, but it’s worth practicing. Start transition to a thick line once you have made the u-turn at the top.


Your goal when making a circle is to have the left side of the shape thick and the right side thin.  I generally start my circle at about 2:00 on the paper and make it going counterclockwise.  Again, watch your transition from thick to thin and vice versa.  You want to think about the transition before it happens.

Brush Lettering for Beginners

If you’d like to see the basic strokes in action, check out this video:

Click on the image below to grab your free basic strokes worksheet:

Basic Strokes Worksheet Screenshot
To continue learning more about brush lettering, check out The Beginner’s Guide to Brush Lettering: Part II, which covers forming and connecting letters and trying new fonts.

The Beginner's Guide to Brush Lettering -- How to Create Brush Lettering with Tombow Markers

If you’d like to add some flair to your brush lettering, learn how to blend colors with brush pens with a brush lettering bonus video.  Want to practice forming and connecting words and experiment with fonts?  Grab the brush lettering tracing worksheet below.  Snag them both by entering your email below.

How to Blend Colors with Brush Pens - Destination DecorationPractice Writing Words in Brush Lettering with Free Worksheets from Destination Decoration


Get your brush lettering blending video and word tracing worksheets!

How to blend colors with brush pens   destination decoration

Enter your email to nab your free blending video and tracing worksheets.

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Interested in more styles of lettering?  Give modern calligraphy and fake calligraphy a try!

16 Responses to “The Beginner’s Guide to Brush Lettering

  • What a great tutorial! I have tried to learn this so many times. Even went through a course online and still didn’t get it, but this makes it seem so much more simple. THANKS!!

    • Thank you so much! It really means a lot that you said this. One of the reasons I put out this blog post series was that it didn’t seem like there was much out there for learning brush lettering. I’m so glad you found it useful.

  • Amanda
    2 years ago

    Thank you so much, you’ve gotten together a much more comprehensive starting point than a lot of others I’ve found. I’ve literally just figured out what this is, and the fact that I can learn how! I always thought you all were some kind of artistic handwriting ninjas born with an inherent gift!

    • Nope, no artistic handwriting ninjas here 🙂 I’m so glad you found this useful. It definitely takes some practice, but I’m glad breaking it down step by step was helpful. Happy lettering!

  • I’m trying to download your free brushstroke guides. Hope I’m doing it right. I’m computer challenged (you couldn’t tell could you?)

    • I hope it worked! If it didn’t all you have to do is click on the picture and it will bring you to the Dropbox page where you can click “Download” to download the worksheets.

    • I’m trying to download your free brushstroke guides. Hope I’m doing it right. I’m computer challenged (you couldn’t tell could you?)

      Thank you. I’ve done that, but all I get is a very light letters. Is that how it’s supposed to be? I really appreciate your patience.


      • Yep! They’re supposed to be light so you can use them as tracing guides. My hope in creating them was that you could write directly over the letters to practice.

  • Hi,
    I’m a beginner and I knew that the Brush Lettering take a long time be experienced . But I don’t know how to practice on it or to begin writing it . I have your work sheets and I watched your videos on YouTube but when I tried it I found the words which I wrote like you said in the vedios was like a normal one . There’s no difference . So Could you probably say to me Waht are the exercises I should do and practice on it to be experienced , please ?

    • It sounds like the issue is the pressure you use when you write. It’s difficult to get the hang of, but make sure when your pen goes downward on the paper you are using full pressure (the marker tip should flex for a thick stroke). When your pen goes upward on the page, make sure you are using light pressure (just the very tip of the marker is writing). The light pressure is the trickiest part to get right, but I would encourage you to keep practicing. Download the basic strokes worksheet and practice writing with different pressure. It does take a while to get used to, but with practice I’m sure you can get it. Good luck!

  • maxine
    2 years ago

    These are awesome! Thanks so much for sharing with us. <3

  • Do I love your blog? Or do I love your blog! Thanks for joining the DIY Crush link party so I could “discover” you! I had just given up on trying to do lettering, but I might give it another shot.

    • Thank you so much! I’m so glad you found some useful stuff! Definitely give lettering another shot…I know I was a little frustrated at first, too, but the practice ends up being worth it.

  • Thanks so much for this tutorial!! I am a brand new beginner to lettering and I find your instructions so easy to follow thus far. I am so glad I found you!!!!!!

    • Thank you, Sandy! I know it can be kind of overwhelming starting out, so I’m so glad you found this helpful. Good luck lettering!