DIY Handlettering

Since a few people have asked me about handlettering, how to get started, and even taking classes to learn it, I thought I’d make a quick-n-dirty guide about lettering.

I taught myself lettering (!) so it’s not too far of a stretch to say that you can do it too and you don’t necessarily need a class. Perhaps you just need to be pointed in the right direction; something I would have LOVED to have in the beginning of my save you a tiny bit of gruntwork, here’s a few things I wish I had known before diving into handlettering:

#1: Handlettering ≠ Calligraphy ≠ Handwriting

When a friend originally asked me to help her with her wedding envelopes, I thought I needed a dip pen and ink to make pretty letters. I was wrong! Turns out, you don’t need the supplies that you typically find labeled "calligraphy" in art store. For me, the pens with the square endings on them were not my friends.

Instead, to do more of the ‘modern’ handlettering you see online, you can either can do “faux-calligraphy” (just using pencils/pens) or you can get a pen with a pointy but flexible brush tip. Here are some of my current favorites: the Tombow Fudenosuke Hard Tip, the Tombow Fudenosuke Soft Tip, the Pentel Fude Touch Sign Pen, and the Tombow Dual Brush Pen. (Heads up; the links below are Amazon affiliate links that will kick back a small percentage of your purchase to support me so I can travel around the world!).

The first two pens--the Fudenosuke and the Pentel--have smaller tips, and the Tombow Dual Brush Pen is much bigger, FYI.

Also, surprisingly, it doesn’t matter *at all* if you don’t have good handwriting or know cursive! You can learn to handletter words if you learn the basic shapes and start to work on your practice drills (see #3 below).

Your lettering style won’t look anything like photos you see online for a while, and that’s okay, too. Over time, you’ll learn how to see shapes, form letters, and train your muscle memory to make it happen.

#2: Paper matters.

Over the course of a year, I started to notice that some of my brush tips have frayed more than others. It turns out that it’s because your writing surface actually matters...oops. I’ve heard that Rhodia apparently has the best notebooks/paper that won’t be too tough on your pen tips for everyday notebooks (and that the dots are great for creating evenly-spaced letters!). Somewhere I read that using a certain kind of printer paper would work well, so I bought this type in February 2017:

It's 500 sheets, glossy and smooth, and I have zero fear of running out of it. Check it out!

Truth be told, I still practice on anything and everything since I didn’t want to get get too caught up on having the exact materials before I started, but once you get into it, the paper thing is something to keep in mind.

#3: Instagram is awesome.

Pinterest is great for inspiration but there’s a giant community on Instagram of people of all abilities showing off their lettering, and they are awesome at finding ways to help others!

Current fave: @thehappyevercrafter, Becca Courtice, just runs running a 30-day “challenge” on Instagram called #showmeyourdrills ( where she’s giving away free printable PDF worksheets on the basic strokes of handlettering each day, as well as supply lists & how-to videos.

@chrystalizabeth: She posted a roundup on her blog of everything *and more* that I wanted to say about how to get started with lettering, so I encourage you to check it out for more info about pens/paper/where to find free worksheets/who to follow on Instagram. The hashtag she started, #letteringthenandnow, is pretty inspirational because it shows you how far people come in just a few months or over a year!

As for other inspiration, if I trace my own Instagram history correctly it looks like I originally started following @prettyprintsandpaper, @theinkyhand, @honeydarko, @paper_fuel, and @electriceunice to fill my feed with amazing lettering. I used to think I was wasting so much time by scrolling through Instagram and watching those really mesmerizing videos of people doing lettering, but now I've realized how much it's helped me refine my taste instead!

Thanks for reading and hopefully this helps you if you want to learn handlettering - comment below if you have specific questions (or if you love the pens I listed as much as I do!)



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