I want to preface this post by saying that I am no professional calligrapher. I am not an expert. I am simply a woman who has been obsessively writing with my brush pens for a few weeks now and has done a ton of research for the fun of it. When I get a new toy, I go nuts. Instead of playing with my phone during downtime, I’ve been playing with my pens. So I’m going to let you in on some of the brush lettering techniques I’ve figured out that can improve your lettering by leaps and bounds. Are you ready for this?
Before I get into the techniques, I need to talk turkey about the pens. You can’t do brush lettering with any old pen, it must be a brush pen (although you can copy the style by mimicking the technique below, so read on!). There are a bunch of brush pens out on the market, but I started where lots of people start – the Tombow Dual Brush Pens. I like these because they are reasonably priced and come with enough colors to keep me busy for a while. This set doesn’t have black, so I definitely need to get a black brush pen at some point.
These pens are also cool because you can blend them without damaging the lighter colors. That means that I can use a darker color with my yellow pen, and guess what? The pen will still be yellow when I’m done! I don’t know what kind of voodoo is at work here, but I love using the ombre brush lettering technique, so you won’t hear me complain! I also love the fact that they don’t bleed through the paper of my Leuchtturm. There’s a little bit of ghosting, but it’s really quite subtle. That’s a huge plus for me.
The Tombows are the only brush pens I have, but I’ve heard excellent things about the Sharpie brush pens and Faber Castell pens. I know I’m eventually going to expand my brush set, and I have my eyes set on those Faber Castells. I’d also like to get a set of water brushes so I can put a dent in my largely unused store of watercolor paints. These are really cool because you can make whatever color you want and whatever shade you want.
You have a ton of options, so don’t be shy!
The Big Brush Lettering Technique
So you have your brush pen and your nice paper (cardstock is great for this, or sketchbook paper). You are ready to go! So what is the number one rule of brush lettering?
All you gotta do is apply heavy pressure on the down stroke of your pen and light pressure on the up stroke. That’s it! With regular pens, we tend to write with a uniform pressure. If you are picking up a brush pen for the first time, you might use equal pressure throughout and then get frustrated when it doesn’t look quite right. You just need to vary your pressure is all!
And remember what I said about using this technique with no brush pen? The trick is exactly the same, you just need to go back and thicken the downward lines instead of doing it all in one stroke. So yes, you can achieve this cool look with no brush pens – although if you’re really interested, they’re not that expensive, so don’t sweat it.
Of course, there are many more brush lettering techniques you must learn before you are a master. But if you adopt this one principle, your lettering will look exceptionally better almost instantly. The key to making it look great all the time is developing a consistent rhythm. This means practice, folks! Don’t worry, it’s really fun practice.
Besides the line variation, you’ll also notice that the color lightens and darkens naturally according to the pressure of my pen. Isn’t that neat?
More Brush Lettering Techniques
Of course I have more for you! You didn’t think I would leave it at that, did you?
There’s the ombre effect I was telling you about. It will feel like you’re ruining the pen the first time you do this, but don’t worry! Also, you should note that I can only vouch for blending Tombow pens. I have no idea how other brush pens blend, so read the instructions before trying anything crazy.
I discovered the two tone method while playing around over this last weekend and I love it! I’m sure I’m not the first one to think it up, but whatever. It’s fun! Just use a light color as the base, then a darker color and slightly thinner lines on top. Ta da! A cool two tone look! As for the dots, I got the idea from Kiley in Kentucky and have been shamelessly using them ever since.
Now one thing you need to pay attention to while you are working is getting the spacing right. I’m still trying to figure it out. It’s tough! I will often make my words run into each other or space them hilariously far apart. The more I practice, the better I’ll be. I want to write like this and this with no effort at all one day. #letteringgoals
If you want to check out my little collection of fonts, head on over to my Pinterest board and see if anything there tickles you! One great way to practice is to try to mimic the style of a font, so find something that makes you say wow and get crackin’!
Above all, remember that this is all fun! Mess around, try new things, and get crazy! Maybe you could practice by writing a letter and having the recipient’s name be in bold brush lettering. Or decorate your work space with some inspirational quotes. Or write those quotes in your bullet journal while you are planning. Don’t worry too much about your progress, because with the one simple brush lettering technique, you’ll be whipping out gorgeous art in no time flat. So get out there and make something beautiful just for you!
P.S. For a limited time, my entire Coffee Fox Creations Etsy shop will be slashed to 20% off! And for all orders over $10, I will make a FREE custom hand lettered Christmas card just for you! Check out the details right here and get it before it’s gone forever!
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