Logical Hand-Lettering Progression from Easy to Difficult
I recently received this question in regards to hand-lettering: “What should I try first in hand-lettering?”. It was a great question and one that I imagine other hand-letterers might be curious about as well. While I didn’t follow this course, I would recommend that others that are just starting out in the world of hand lettering follow this trajectory (especially if your end goal is creating dip-pen calligraphy).
Hand-Lettering: From Easy to Difficult
Step 1: Find and practice a handwriting style that you like (optional)
I would say that handwriting is one of the foundational pieces of hand-lettering. (That’s not to say if you think you have poor handwriting it can’t be done.) If you don’t like your handwriting in the first place, odds are good that you won’t like your hand lettering. Find a font you like from Pinterest, from a font website like DaFont, or just tinker with your own handwriting until you’re satisfied. Try print fonts and script fonts, funky fonts and normal fonts. This way, you’ll have a grasp of a basic font that you know you’ll like to use in the following steps.
Step 2: Create “fake calligraphy”
Now that you’ve found a font you like, you can create fake calligraphy. Fake calligraphy is where you use normal handwriting and add some details to make it look like calligraphy. It’s easier than it sounds, I promise.
To create fake calligraphy, write out your phrase the way you normally would (cursive fonts work the best to create the most authentic calligraphy look, but other styles can also be used). Take note of when your pen moves up on the page (upstrokes) and when your pen moves down on the page (downstrokes).
Draw a parallel line next to the original line for every downstroke.
Fill in the downstrokes.
And voila! I love fake calligraphy because it lays great groundwork for more complicated hand-lettering by making you pay attention to the upstrokes and the downstrokes in your writing. (For a more detailed fake calligraphy tutorial, click here.)
Step 3: Give brush lettering a whirl
Okay, so by now you’ve got an established handwriting style and you’ve got a good grasp of upstrokes and downstrokes. These will come in handy for the next hand-lettering style: brush lettering.
The key for brush lettering is knowing where the upstrokes and the downstrokes are in your writing (sound familiar?).
To get started with brush lettering, I would recommend two different kinds of brush markers: the Tombow Dual Brush Pen (they come in lots of different colors, but my favorite are the primary and bright sets) and the Tombow Fudenosuke brush pens.
I have two posts already about brush lettering (The Beginner’s Guide to Brush Lettering: Part I and Part II), but here’s the Reader’s Digest version: the key to brush lettering is pressure. When your brush pen moves up on the page, use light pressure. When your brush pen moves down on the page, press down on the brush pen and use heavy pressure.
I also like brush pens because you can do some pretty cool blending effects, like this:
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Step 4: The coup de grace – Pointed pen calligraphy
I ended up starting with dip-pen calligraphy, which worked fine, but I would have had a better grasp of what to do if I had followed the progression above. Just like in brush pen lettering, the key to modern calligraphy with a pointed pen is pressure. Heavy pressure on the downstrokes, light on the upstrokes. I won’t even try to condense pointed pen calligraphy into a few paragraphs, so I’ll just direct you to my previous posts:
–Getting Started with Modern Calligraphy: The Materials
–Getting Started with Modern Calligraphy: The Basics
–Getting Started with Modern Calligraphy: Letter Formation
There’s also a lot of great resources if you scour Pinterest and do a little searching in Google. I love the blog The Postman’s Knock for calligraphy resources. In addition, I’ve also got some calligraphy worksheets in my Etsy shop that can help with practicing letter formation.
So there you have it….
Obviously, this isn’t the only route to take because these techniques of hand lettering only scratch the surface. It is, however, a logical and fairly methodical way of working up to dip pen calligraphy. Are you a hand-letterer? Do you have a recommended order of practicing hand-lettering techniques? Let me know in the comments.