5 Things I Wish I Knew Before Handlettering

I made a lot of mistakes in the past almost year since I began hand-lettering. I wanted to share the things I have learned in hopes that you’ll avoid the mistakes I made!

Paper Matters

I purchased all sorts of different types of paper when I first began. It didn’t even cross my mind that it might matter. But it did. Suddenly all my expensive pens were fraying after only a few uses. I felt so frustrated that I took to Instagram to ask the lettering community why. The answer was simple, and well known. Everyone was awesome to share with me that it was my paper that was the problem. Looking back though my paper, it’s obvious now that sketch paper is not smooth enough. So here are a few options that won’t fray your brand new pens.

Rhodia Pad

Strathmore Bristol Smooth Paper

Canson XL Marker Pad

Once you feel how smooth these pads of paper are, you’ll realize how scratchy and textured even normal printer paper feels.

Learn the basics before buying expensive pens

Really I’m talking about buying brush pens like the Tombow dual brush pens. They are awesome once you have the hang of lettering, but I would not buy these to learn how to letter. Check out our post on my favorite lettering pens for beginners  for more ideas of what I recommend you buy. Once you have figured out the heavy downstroke thin upstroke, then you can venture into some more expensive pens. Just make sure when you do you’re using some nice paper mentioned above!

Become aware of letter shapes

Once you start to pay attention you realize that letters are EVERYWHERE! And hand-lettering is becoming so popular that you can even find lots of examples of hand lettering in the most random places. I’ve seen it on billboards, grocery advertisements, newspaper ads, and product labels. Once you get into the habit of paying attention to letters you’ll realize that the same letter can look so different with just a simple change to it.

If you find a letter you love log it away in a letter log so that when you’re stumped for how to write a letter you can reference it. As you pay attention to different ways to write the same letter you’ll increase your letter repertoire. You’ll be able to create diverse lettering pieces as you incorporate the different letter styles and shapes you’ve logged.

There are lots of hand-lettering artists who sell their lettering worksheets. This is one way to see the different letter styles that are available. Another way to is check out some various hand lettered fonts on Creative Market, or free font websites like dafont or fontsquirrel. Remember you’re not copying these fonts exactly, you’re finding letters you like, and creating a log of them.

Practice Everyday

For the first three months that I lettered, I will confess, it totally consumed my life. When I wasn’t lettering I was thinking about lettering, how I could make this letter look different, or how’d I’d write that quote. I absolutely loved it! I have definitely been able to scale back now, and though I do still practice letter shapes in the air (true story) it doesn’t consume my life like it used to. That being said, I am so grateful for all the practice I put it, It definitely made a huge difference.

Practice, Practice, Practice! It’s really the only way you’re going to get the hang of it. If you get discouraged, take a short break, but don’t give up entirely. Once you get over the major learning curve of up/down strokes the real fun will begin. But you won’t ever figure that out unless you keep at it and practice everyday!

Save your work

Left: June 2016      Right: February 2017

I’m kind of already an organized hoarder, I have a really hard time getting rid of things that I’ve made (or that my daughter brings home from school). But I’m really glad that I did keep all of my old work. I mean books and books full of old lettering. It is really fun to pull them out and see the progress that I have made. No I am not completely confident in my lettering all the time, but I have made some serious improvements that I’m proud of. It’s fun to be able to compare me to me, and see that all that practice really has made a difference.

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