Do you want to learn hand lettering but feel overwhelmed? Learn how to get started in hand lettering with 5 tips I wish I knew as a lettering beginner. When I started learning to letter, I spent hours researching and looking at different websites and tutorials. I found some really helpful lettering tutorials, but I made mistakes and figured out a lot on my own. In this post, I want to help you get started hand lettering simply so you don’t make the same mistakes that I did as a beginner.
5 Tips I Wish I Knew to Learn Hand Lettering
A few years ago, I had no idea that calligraphy and lettering was an actual thing. I started designing uplifting quotes with an app on my phone. I soon realized that I couldn’t do all the things I wanted and decided to try doing the quotes by hand. That’s when I bought my first calligraphy pens and started researching everything I could about calligraphy and lettering. It took a lot of time and I made a lot of mistakes. Of course, practicing takes a lot of time no matter what, but I wish I had known these 5 things when I was a hand lettering beginner.
By the way, I share a lot of links in this post to be a helpful resource for you. I hope you will be able to come back to this post as a place to learn to letter. If you’re here for the Beginner’s Guide to Learn Hand Lettering, I talk about it later in this post, but you can skip all of that and download it now.
For the video see it here:
1- What pens and paper should I use to learn hand lettering?
When I started, I didn’t want to invest a lot of money on something that I might not continue. Plus, I had no idea what the difference was between all the pens out there. I had no idea where to start. I used my nice brush pens on regular copy paper at first and it totally ruined my pens. I’ve also spent a lot of money trying out different brush pens to find what I like. I review pens on my YouTube channel because I want to help you know what pens might work for you. To keep it simple, I’ll share basic pens and paper I recommend to beginners.
The best paper for lettering beginners
The best paper for lettering beginners is HP Premium 32 paper (as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases). It’s the most affordable paper I’ve found so you feel like you can practice as much as you need to without worrying about wasting paper. I have a post where I talk about some other option for The Best Paper for Brush Lettering.
The best brush pens for lettering beginners
I recommend three different brush pens for beginners. They are all easy to start with and give you a feel for brush lettering before you find what pens you like the best. The best brush pens for lettering beginners are Crayola markers, Pentel Touch brush pens, and Kuretake Fudebiyori brush pens (as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases). Crayola markers are cheap and easily accessible (at least in the US). Pentel Touch brush pens are great to practice small lettering. Kuretake Fudebiyori brush pens are great for slightly larger lettering. The nib has a good bounce that helps you practice your upstrokes and downstrokes. You could try all three of these or just start with one. I have a demo and detailed review for each of these in my post 3 Best Brush Pens for Beginners.
If you don’t have the means to buy paper and pens, you can start with any paper and any pen. This leads to my next tip for beginners.
2- What is faux calligraphy?
The most basic aspect of hand lettering is that the downstrokes are thick and the upstrokes are thin. I had learned that early on, but it wasn’t until I started doing faux calligraphy that it actually started clicking. With faux calligraphy, you write your word and then thicken all of the downstrokes. It’s that simple. This helped me in the beginning because I could visibly see where the downstrokes were. It made all the difference for me when I went back to brush pens. Plus, you can use any pen and any paper since you’re not worried about your brush pens fraying. You can also use this with any lettering style including script or print. I have a Faux Calligraphy Basics Tutorial that will teach you all the little details. Here are the steps:
3- How do I use the basic strokes to form the alphabet?
It changed everything for me when I learned that the letters of the alphabet are made up of basic strokes. Unlike cursive, you actually pick up your pen between strokes in calligraphy and hand lettering. By learning the basic strokes first, you can break down the alphabet so it’s easier to master. For my full chart and explanation of each stroke, see my post Hand Lettering the Basic Strokes.
In the Beginner’s Guide to Learn Hand Lettering that you can download below, I give you the basic strokes to practice in faux calligraphy. This will help you start to build each letter so you can see how the basic strokes form each letter.
You can practice these with a regular ballpoint pen or you can get started with a brush pen. This brings me to my next tip for lettering beginners.
4- How do I hold a brush pen?
I get asked a lot of questions that could be solved by holding the brush pen correctly. I’m not talking about the way you wrap your fingers around the pen. That is such a personal preference so let your fingers hold the pen how it feels comfortable to you. When it comes to the pen in relation to the paper, that’s a different story. A brush pen works because it is flexible and allows you to get thick downstrokes as you give your pen more pressure. If you hold your pen at the wrong angle, it’s not going to do what you want it to. I have another post about how to hold a brush pen with a video that goes even more in-depth, but here are the basics.
First, angle your brush pen so it’s about a 45-degree angle to the paper, not straight up and down. If you hold it straight up and down, you may ruin your nib, and you also won’t be able to get the full amount of pressure. If you hold your pen at the right angle, the pen will work with you to get the right thickness of downstrokes.
Next, hold your pen so it’s perpendicular to the downstrokes. If your pen isn’t perpendicular, you will get saggy bottoms because your pen may be dragging in the wrong spots. You could be doing everything else right and wondering why your lettering doesn’t look good. It could be that you simply need to hold the pen perpendicular to the downstrokes.
When you hold the pen correctly, it will be working with you, not against you. You want to let your pen do the work, you are just guiding it. Once you hold the pen correctly, it will be easier to master the 3 Basic Hand Lettering Rules for Beginners. In the end, it just takes a lot of practice! This leads to my next tip.
5- How do I practice hand lettering?
Learning hand lettering takes a lot of practice. Just like with any skill, you are not going to magically be good at it overnight. Sometimes I get asked how to get good at lettering and the secret is lots of practice. So what should you practice? You can use worksheets at first to build muscle memory and learn a basic alphabet. Next, you can join a lettering challenge. There are all kinds of challenges on Instagram. If you want to get weekly lettering prompts sent right to your inbox and a library of free lettering resources, you may be interested in joining my newsletter, the Insider Scoop.
The goal is for you to letter things that are meaningful to you so that you will stay motivated to practice. If you have no time to practice (who does?), you might like my post on How to Practice Hand Lettering With No Time.
Free Beginner’s Guide to Learn Hand Lettering
Let me help you get started with this free guide book so you can print out all of these tips I’ve given you with the extra practice pages. You can print the guide and start practicing right away.
Everything I wish I learned as a beginner
In my Hand Lettering For Beginners online course, I teach you everything I wish I knew. Skip over doing all the things I told you about in this post and get it all in one place. This course is right for you if you want someone to hold your hand through the basic steps. You will get a complete workbook with everything you need to get started. I made the course with video lessons as if you came to my in-person workshop. If you don’t have much time, don’t worry, you can take this class in less than 2 hours. Go from being a beginner to knowing everything you need to move forward.