I’ve wanted to write up a lettering how-to for a while, but my inner critic kept pointing out all the imperfections. There are much better artists out there; Holly McCaig is one of my favorites right now. Her big, bold letters still feel incredibly feminine, and when you’re hands are shaky, slim lines just aren’t gonna happen. I also adore Will Paterson’s clean lines and vintage feel.
Disclaimer: I cheat. Kind of?
Formal calligraphy involves pens with beautiful nibs of differing thicknesses, that attach to the end of the stylus. Dipping the nib into the ink traps some of the liquid that can then be transferred to the paper. I’ve messed around with a small calligraphy set I have, but using the ink with a paint brush is so much more fun! It’s also is a bit easier to control in a way; drawing big is easier than drawing small.
There have been other tutorials involving “fake” calligraphy, but to me lettering is lettering, no matter what tool you use. Follow my steps after the cut to write your very own hand lettered signs!
There are basic steps that make the process easier. With a straight edge, draw three lines on your paper. The top line will be the very top line for letters with loops, like h’s and k’s. The middle line marks the top of every letter (the middle x in the picture above). The last line is the bottom (I call it the base line). This is where your letters will sit. If you have letters with bottom loops, like p’s or y’s, another line can be drawn to make sure all the letters have the same length.
The easiest way to form your letters is to write in your normal handwriting. You’ll then want to select a side (I usually use left) and darken every left side of each letter. This adds dimension to your letters. Jones Design Company has a fantastic tutorial with tons of pictures that explains this in more depth.
As far as tools go, I would absolutely recommend Sharpie markers. The photo above was drawn with a Chisel Tip Sharpie. Quite a few of my signs have been created with the King Sized Sharpie. But, Instagram user ep_lettering proves, beautiful lettering is all about the artist, not the tools.
Like anything else, lettering takes practice. Get some scrap or recycle unused paper by and practice, practice, practice! Personally, I like to find fonts on Creative Market and try to put my own twist on the text. I created a smash ring just for that purpose; every card is a new challenge like make a new texture, try a new font, etc. It’s also a great way to vent emotion quickly, or keep an idea that hasn’t completely manifested itself yet.
And if you think shaky, weak hands can’t letter, think again. Like Phil Hansen suggests, “embrace the shake!”
Spoonies, what do you use to help with shaky hands? Physical therapy, heat, ice? I have splints that help a bit, but I’ve never really found anything that truly helps. I’d love to know if anyone has any suggestions!
Here’s to a great week!