Hand Lettering Tips

Recently, I shared my tips for travel journaling. From that post, I received some email inquiries asking me about my penmanship and how I go about my hand lettering techniques. So, I thought I'd share some of my tips.
I don't think it's just about starting with naturally neat penmanship and totally giving up if you think you have terrible handwriting. I think you can work with your own skills, hone your craft, practice, and improve, and eventually have enough control of your hands to make letters look the way you want them to look.

So in the video, I shared seven tips, which I will recap for you in text. I always like when a blog post accompanies an instructional video because scrolling through text to find a specific tip is a lot easier than trying to find a clip in a video.

First things first, you need some tools. I like to work with calligraphy pens, markers, and thin tipped pens. You get three different looks from these devices and you can use them depending on the mood and style of whatever you're creating.
Tip 1: Write your name over and over and over. One of the best ways to start practicing hand lettering is to use a word that you're extremely familiar with: your name. Write it over and over in different styles. This is also a great way to get familiar with the tools you're using. So, whether you're playing around with a calligraphy pen or even just a plain old ballpoint, it's going to help. You'll get a sense for what applying different pressure does to the lettering, how to hold the writing utensil, and what the utensil is capable of.

Tip 2: Try using different "fonts." You shouldn't feel limited to your "natural" handwriting. Play with the proportions of your writing, thicken up letters, alternate between cursive and print; try everything and see what you like and what you're good at. And, if you're stuck, look for inspiration by copying some of your favorite fonts. I remember in grade school, we would be given worksheets which always used 'Times New Roman' font and I would copy words on the page doing my best to make it look exactly like the print. It definitely made me better at hand lettering and helped me understand how to add serifs to my letters.

Tip 3: Fake calligraphy with a thin tip pen by thickening up the edges yourself. I love this technique because you can take your normal handwriting and fancify it with a few extra lines and scribbles. And I actually prefer when it's a little imperfect and sketchy.
Tip 4: Get creative and add thematic touches. In my video, I wrote the word "honey" and extended the 'y' with a dotted line and drew a little bee. I wrote out the word "sprinkles" using dashed lines to mimic sprinkles (and this would've been a great candidate for using multiple colors). It adds a little flair to the writing and these little touches are what will set apart a card made with hand lettering versus a store bought card.

Tip 5: Write the alphabet over and over. Again, this is great practice and will give you a chance to play with letters that don't appear in your name (when you get sick of Tip 1). And, this is especially helpful if you're writing out a longer piece of text and experimenting with a new font. Figure out how each letter should look before you commit to creating your final piece, that way you can use it as a reference.

Tip 6: Hand lettering isn't just about the text. It's also about design and adding embellishment so practice a few different borders. I love using a calligraphy pen and playing with the width of the pen tip to make some interesting slashes and squiggles. Like with Tip 4, these are the subtle touches that will set your creation apart from something printed off of a computer.
Tip 7: Practice! I never formally took a course or consciously developed my lettering skills. I was just constantly doodling in school and even now at work, I scribble all over sticky notes and notepads whilst I'm on the phone. I like to make homemade cards and prints, which is awesome practice. It's a fun way to pass the time and it hones my skills and gets some creativity flowing.

Good luck and have fun!