More and more folks are discovering Ryder Carroll’s Bullet Journal system, which gives a lot of freedom in a notebook style. Some, like me, have taken this system and freedom and essentially make it work for us week to week, day by day. This easily heads down the road of hand-lettering, where people want to add some flair to their headers or collection titles.
I’ve only taken a class or two on lettering – but my mom taught me about letters a long time ago and I’ve played around with it my whole life very casually. I’ve only been practicing seriously since May once I jumped into the rabbithole of Instagram, watching a few tutorials, practicing some drills, reading blogs and books… And through months of diligent practice, I’ve learned a thing or two. So I’ll offer a few of my own thoughts, then links to some other really awesome lettering teachers in the web space.
To start, here are some of my basics:
When you get started lettering, there are so many styles of lettering that I’ll start to cover here and in future blog posts. Firstly, there’s handlettering, faux-calligraphy, brush calligraphy, pointed pen calligraphy, and others.
Handlettering is quite different from calligraphy. You can read more on Chavelli’s blog, but essentially hand lettering is the composition and drawing of letters and words to form a cohesive work. Calligraphy and brush calligraphy, on the other hand, is a stylized writing with a brush or nib. Examples of amazing handlettering artists include Sean McCabe and Dan Lee (truly, amazing). I do some handlettering but won’t speak much to that in this post.
Pointed pen calligraphy is what you’ve gotten to know as the straight or oblique holder and the metal nib, characterized by flowing thick and thin strokes. There are so many different styles you can use – including the more classic styles like Copperplate or Spencerian script, as well as more loose flowing modern styles. I’ll be doing a post and video on this soon!
Today, I’ll talk about fake calligraphy and brush calligraphy.
If you can write in cursive or some form of joined-up handwriting, you can fake calligraphy. If you need to brush up on your cursive skills, start with these tutorials and worksheets to get familiar with the entry and exit strokes and the anatomy of those letters. From there, you can fake calligraphy.
For basic faux calligraphy I seriously don’t have anything super fancy. Here are some of the things I use:
With these supplies, here’s how you can create fake calligraphy.
I tried to show the progression of what you could do to fake calligraphy with your favorite gel or marker pen. First you write in a script or regular cursive, then start thickening the line whenever you would go DOWN. Then you fill it in – voila!
This is the affordable and VERY versatile option. You can use this technique to liven up everything from your notes to signs to labels with everything from pencil to pen to markers to paintbrushes.
From there, you may want to try brush calligraphy. I have done a lot of videos of my brush calligraphy on my Instagram (search for “#jchungwrites”) and usually with a brush pen. I tend to like this as a stepping stone to pointed pen calligraphy for a few reasons – it’s lower cost, requires much less special equipment and supplies, and doesn’t require as much work while writing – the pen is inked and ready to go, instead of dipping every few letters. Also, warning – highly addicting pen-habit MAY form…. not that I would know anything about that.
So where do you start? There are SO MANY PENS…. how to begin? I distinguish between brush pens in several ways:
In general, stiffer and smaller brush tips are easier to start with because they are easier to maneuver and practice varying your pressure with. The larger and softer the brush, especially with real bristles, the harder it was for me to learn as a beginner.
I usually suggest the following pens for friends that are just learning. FYI: I spelled Fudenosuke wrong, my bad.
So if you grab a few of these pens, know that it takes work to get used to, and to master the strokes. That is my overall advice – lots of practice. Slow down. It is one of the most meditative and relaxing practices for me.
A few key tips I’ve picked up, some inspired from incredible folks (that I’ll link down below!):
I stand on the shoulders of giants – the ones who have walked before me, and have really done work to teach people about this art. Here are some of my favorites: check out this post for a roundup of my favorite calligraphy, lettering, handwriting guides.
Let me stress to you… nothing will replace the necessity of practice and hard work. No fancy pen, no matter how expensive it is, will magically make your handwriting neater (trust me, I’ve tried it). You have to do the drills, the slow practice, taking the time – it pays off. What you don’t see on these pages (and my own) is the many sheets of practice, the very unsexy drills, the bag full of recycled paper, and mess-ups to get the spacing and lines just right. And for that, I leave you with this:
Happy practice, y’all! Any other places where you learn lettering? Other questions you have? Let me know!