I often get asked, “How do you get good at calligraphy?” Talking about hand lettering is obviously my favorite thing to do, but with this, there isn’t a simple answer! Because what’s the difference between hand lettering, calligraphy, brush lettering, typography, and modern calligraphy? Let’s define that! Do you want to improve your hand lettering alphabet and feel more confident in your lettering skills? You are in the right place! That is what I’m going to talk about in this post!
I love the lettering community and getting to know people who love hand lettering as much as I do. I know a lot of people want to know how to get better at hand lettering. In the beginning, it may feel like something that is too hard and far away. But having started from nothing, I can tell you that it’s not as far away as you think. And to be able to create a whole hand lettering alphabet? That seems like a lot! But I’ll show you that it’s not. Here I have come up with the top 5 steps to improve your hand lettering alphabet. If you’d rather watch the Youtube video see it here:
5 Steps to Improve your Hand Lettering Alphabet
1- Practice your lettering
Yes, I know this probably isn’t what you wanted to hear because that’s always the answer. But it is true! Practicing hand lettering is the most important thing you can do to improve your hand lettering. Practice lettering alphabets and words and the basic strokes. If you don’t know the basic strokes, check out Hand Lettering the Basic Strokes where I also give you a free hand lettering worksheet to get started. Be consistent in your practicing. Choose a time each day that you will commit to practice hand lettering. I normally recommend just spending 15 minutes a day to practice hand lettering. It’s ok to spend more time, just start with only 15 minutes because that seems doable.
If you have no idea what to practice, I have several hand lettering worksheets and workbooks to help you. The first one would be the Hand Lettering for Beginners workbook because it gives you a simple hand lettering alphabet in lowercase and uppercase, and if you’re ready to find your style, I would recommend Fearless Lettering because it shows you how to start creating your own hand lettering alphabets.
2- Know what lettering style you’re doing
There is a lot of confusion with this in hand lettering and calligraphy! What is the difference between hand lettering and calligraphy? How about modern calligraphy, typography, and brush lettering? Let’s define some lettering terms.
Hand Lettering is drawing letters by hand. That’s a very broad, umbrella term. It can be any type of lettering including monoline lettering, faux calligraphy, any style.
Calligraphy is creating letters by hand with a specific font, normally with a pointed pen and ink. This is where the rule comes in that all downstrokes are thick, and upstrokes are thin. The fonts would be something like Spencerian script or Copperplate. It takes a lot of skill to get each letter exactly the same each time. People practice a lot to build up the muscle memory it takes to do calligraphy.
Modern Calligraphy is less formal and allows you to add your own style and change up the letters. This could be done with a pointed pen and ink or even a brush pen. The downstrokes are thick and the upstrokes are thin like with more classic calligraphy, but it doesn’t require a specific font.
Typography is the art of creating type digitally. This could be a computer font that someone created or it could be an ad where some of the type has been altered to work with the specific design. This one is confusing because so many people are using iPad’s to create lettering so technically that’s digital too. And someone could create a font that looks like hand lettering. Typography is more technical and involves knowing how each letter is going to work together with other letters. To keep it simple, just think of a font you can type with on the computer.
Brush Lettering is lettering with a paintbrush which would be watercolor lettering. Lettering with a brush pen is often considered brush lettering although officially it should be lettering with a brush that has actual bristles. Normally brush pen lettering could fit into a more broad hand lettering or modern calligraphy.
There is a lot of overlap among all of these definitions so it’s ok if you don’t feel like you fit into one “box.” These definitions are important to know because your calligraphy is not going to look like someone else’s brush lettering. If you are learning the Copperplate script, that’s going to take a lot of time to practice the same letters consistently. With something broader like hand lettering, it takes a lot of practice, but you get to create your own style instead of sticking with a font. It’s also important because if you know you want to learn classic calligraphy, you will want to find someone who does that. I personally don’t do classic calligraphy, so you wouldn’t be able to learn it from me. That brings me to the next step.
3- Learn as much as you can about lettering
You are already doing this one right now by reading this! The more you research and learn about hand lettering, the easier it is going to be when you put pen to paper. When it comes to creating a hand lettering alphabet, the possibilities are endless. It is so important to learn from many different sources so your style doesn’t end up looking just like that one person. Unless your goal is to learn one specific font. But even then, different people have different experiences and tricks that they may use that can benefit you.
If you would like to learn from me, I have a new beginners course called Hand Lettering for Beginners. It is an affordable and time-friendly way to learn everything I wish I knew as a beginner like how to hold a pen and easy tricks to make your hand lettering look good even with little experience. It also comes with a hand lettering workbook with all the practice sheets you’ll need to start. I will be teaching you with a brush pen, so make sure you don’t take the class if you were expecting to learn calligraphy with a pointed pen.
4- Find hand lettering everywhere
If you want to improve your hand lettering alphabet, you will want to look at a lot of different alphabets and styles. As much as I love Instagram and other social media, it isn’t always the best for this. Often times when I’m looking at lettering pieces on Instagram, it’s too easy to compare to that person you see posting. Instead, try looking for hand lettering everywhere around you. It could be on an ad, on a billboard, at a store. This can take the comparisons out because the focus isn’t on the person that created it. When you look at different lettering in the wild, notice what you like and don’t like about it. This will help you to get inspiration and come up with new ideas in your own hand lettering.
5- Don’t compare your hand lettering
This is similar to the last one, but it’s important enough to have its own point. Your hand lettering will not get better if you are getting really down about your lettering because it’s not as good as someone else. The whole point of hand lettering is that it’s meant to be unique. It’s not a specific font, you get to create it. Please don’t feel like your lettering has to look just like someone else. Copying is not a way to get better because you’ll always be a step behind. You will improve your hand lettering alphabets as you start finding what works for you. Be positive about where you are and know that everyone started at the bottom. We’re all just trying to improve. All you need to worry about is where you are in your personal progression.
What do you think? Do you agree with this list? Let me know in the comments if you would add anything or which one resonated with you the most.
If you want to learn more and need some motivation to practice, sign up for the Insider Scoop where you’ll get free weekly practice prompts and access to a library full of helpful lettering resources.