If you follow me on Instagram then you know that one of my new endeavors this year has been to learn brush lettering. Truth is, I’ve been wanting to learn calligraphy and specifically brush lettering for years but something always came up – like getting pregnant and having a baby. But this year, I munster up all the determination and I’ve made quite a few strides.
Since I share so much of my brush lettering on my Instagram account, I’ve started receiving a lot of question regarding tools, tips, and resources so instead of writing up a new message / email every time, I thought I’d gather everything here in one place!
I’ll just get this one right out of the way – no, I have not been taking a class or course. It’s all been self-taught the ol’ fashion way – lots of googling and researching. I’ll save you the trouble though and list some of the most useful tutorials and websites I’ve found.
One last thing before we jump in – no, you do not need to have nice handwriting to be good at this. I have pretty horrible handwriting (hashtag, honest moment) but so far, my brush lettering is looking pretty dang spiffy, if I do say so myself.
Tips on getting started
Once you’ve purchased your brush(es) and paper (totally optional but useful) the very first step is to learn the basic strokes – I learned them through an Instagram challenge – new stroke every day – but I’ve listed an incredible resource below. This is the less glamorous side of learning brush lettering – page after page of basic strokes – but honestly, it is SO important to master.
Once you get those basic strokes down you can start practicing your letter forms, which is when the fun really begins. I recommend going through every letter in the alphabet and just go wild. Draw it over and over again until you feel comfortable with it.
Love, love this post. This one finally cleared up all the confusion about how to apply pressure and get those thin / thick strokes looking right.
After you’ve reviewed how applying pressure works in brush lettering, the next step is to learn the basic strokes. Here I’ve linked to the last of an 8-part series because the link to all previous posts is the top. Start in part 1 and work your way through. As I said above, mastering these basic strokes is SO important.
In all honesty, all of Pieces Calligraphy’s website has been an invaluable resource. Follow her on Instagram, Periscope, and just stalk her entire website. A good place to start is this post where she lists all of her tutorials and tips.
I really like how in this post breaks down the process for actually creating a piece. This is one of my most recent finds and have been putting it to use as I’ve starting creating prints for my shop.
Initially I used good ol’ printer paper and/or a drawing pad I had in the back of my craft closet (and still do!) but I quickly realized I needed lines. I definitely recommend using graph paper – it helps tremendously when it comes to making everything straight at first as well as practicing spacing (as in between letters in a word).
Rhodia Dot Grid Pad – definitely a favorite among most calligraphers / letters I follow – and it’s easy to see why. You get the guidance without obtrusive lines and the paper is so incredibly soft and smooth. However, for me it depends on which pen / brush I use. Some take longer to dry on this paper than other paper, and as a lefty, that’s no bueno.
Five Star Graph Paper – This is by far my favorite for practice. The lines aren’t super dark so no obnoxious factor, 99% of my pens / brushes dry pretty quickly on this paper (lefty bonus), and it’s cheap so I don’t mind going through pages and pages on this bad boy.
Behance’s Dot Grid Book – After about a month into this journey, I remembered that I had this pad / book in my supplies and pulled it out. It has quickly become one of my favorites. However, it is pricey so I try to only use it for my final sketches before vectorizing / digitizing.
Pens / Brushes
To say my number one purchase this year has been pen / brushes, would be a gross understatement. I found most of these bad boys by watching calligraphy / brush lettering videos on Instagram. I 100% believe that each person will have a different favorite so while I’ll tell you which ones are MY favorites, the only recommendation I have on this front is to try as many as you can until you find The One(s).
Pentel Fude Brush Pen, Medium – This was the first brush I got and really, really like it. It’s an actual brush, with bristles, and liquid ink (versus felt tip brushes below). With this brush you can really get some nice thin / thick strokes. However, my big hang up with this brush is how long it takes for the ink to dry. Not really lefty friendly unless you’re really, really careful.
Tombow Dual Brush – This was my second brush and it’s a crowd favorite from my observations online. However, it wasn’t my favorite at first. I’d recommend holding off on this one at first until you have your basic strokes and letter forms down. My issue is that it frays very easily and when you’re first learning, you’ll be even more prone to fraying the tips than you would if you’ve had some practice under your belt.
Tombow Fudenosuke Brush Pen (Soft and Hard Tip) – When I got these pens, I finally understood the hype behind Tombow products. I definitely recommend these for beginners (and beyond!) since there’s almost little to no fraying. I specially like the soft tip because I feel it allows me to better control the thin / thick strokes.
Pentel Fude Touch Sign Pen – This brush pen is very, very similar to the Tomboy Fudenosukes, somewhere between the soft and hard tip, with the added bonus of COLORS. So far I only have the purple one but love it for smaller pieces and playing around with color, generally speaking.
Sharpie Brush Tip Permanent Marker – want to get bid and bold? These bad boys will get you there. These are perfect for practicing with bigger letter forms and just bigger everything. My only hang up is that they tend to bleed through to next page so if you’re using pricier paper, make sure to have something in between so you’re not ruining perfectly good pages. Bonus: They have the signature strong marker smells so you can get high (no? too much?).
Prismacolor Premier Illustration Markers, Brush Tip – Saving the best for last. These are by far my favorite brush pens. They have a felt tip much like Tombow’s Dual Brush (and the Sharpie markers) but they don’t fray as easily, come in many colors, and aren’t as expensive as the Tombow Dual Brush. I personally really like the range between thick and thin strokes – I feel like they really just have the perfect balance. Seriously LOVE these brush pens!
Phew. That was a lot but hopefully you find this helpful if you’re embarking in this brush lettering journey! As always, let me know if you have any questions 🙂