Have you ever looked at the beautiful calligraphy eye candy that pops up on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest? There’s something so mesmerizing about watching the written word become a piece of graceful art. You may think that such a beautiful hobby is out of your reach, but that’s just not true! Beginner brush lettering is extremely easy to pick up and requires only two things: a brush pen and some practice. In no time at all, you can be cranking out breathtaking modern calligraphy. So let’s get started!
You don’t need to buy a ton of fancy pens and inks in order to master beginner brush lettering techniques. One pen will do the trick! I have a number of pens that I love, but there are two in particular that I recommend for newbies: Tombow Dual Brush Pens and Faber-Castell PITT Artist Pens. Both of these have nylon tips that are solid, but flexible, giving you oodles of control. If you prefer something a little more fast and loose, I also really love my Pentel Pocket Brush pen. This brush pen has ridiculously rich black ink and looks stunning on the page.
If you have thicker paper, Pentel’s Aquash Water Brushes are an extremely versatile choice. You can use inks and watercolors and blend seamlessly. I currently have Noodler’s 54th Massachusetts in the barrel of my medium pen. Besides that, I use a Prang watercolor palette for those gorgeous colors. Check out my post all about these superstar brushes and see what they can do!
I also use Faber-Castell’s Big Brush, which is excellent. You can really achieve some nice line variation with this bad boy. You obviously can’t go into fine detail, but this is great for medium to large work. The black ink is particularly rich on this pen, too.
As you begin playing with beginner brush lettering a little bit, you may find that you tend to use your fingers to guide the pen. It’s the way most people write their day-to-day handwriting – they draw the letters onto the page. Not sure if that’s you? Try writing anything on a scrap of paper and pay attention to what muscles move the pen. The proper way to write the letters is by using your arm and wrist instead of your fingers. The pen should be completely immobile in your hand.
To practice this motion, pretend that you are writing on a chalkboard in front of you. Trace each letter in the air really big so you have no choice but to move your whole arm. This may feel silly, but it will prime the right muscles for brush lettering. You want to build up muscle memory so your arm knows the movements. After a bit of practice, you should be able to create nice calligraphy blindfolded. It might seem daunting now, but you’ll get there in no time! It’s like riding a bike – awkward at first, but soon enough your body will know exactly how to do it.
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When you hold the pen in your hand, you may be tempted to hold it like you would a regular pen. This mostly vertical grip is not great for getting smooth consistent lines or a large variation. You are also more likely to wear out the muscles in your hand because you’ll be tempted to write with your fingers. As you can see in the picture below, you can still get decent results. It’s just making the work harder than it has to be and slowing your muscle memory retention.
Hold the pen at a 45-degree angle and you’ll find that it’s much more smooth. You have access to the full length of the tip, meaning you can easily make fat or thin lines. Because it’s not the way you write with regular ballpoint pens, you will be less tempted to write with your fingers. You can see the better grip below.
Here’s the trick that you absolutely need to know for brush lettering. In order to create the beautiful effect that is a staple in almost every single brush lettered font, you must have a light upstroke and a heavy downstroke. In other words, apply light pressure on the pen every time you pull the pen up and apply heavier pressure every time it goes down. This one simple rule is exactly what I talked about in my last brush lettering post and it is the key to gorgeous beginner brush lettering.
Now comes the fun part! Like with any other skill, you have to practice practice practice before you become really good. You can do beginner brush lettering without a ton of practice, but you’ll want to do drills if you plan on keeping this hobby around. These are also great warm-ups before you jump into a project.
The drills themselves are very simple. You basically find one of the shapes that create a letter, such as the “L” loops on the top row. These shapes can be found in lowercase letters like “e”, “f”, “d”, “h”, etc. The row below that has a motion found in “i”, “u”, “w”, “m”, and “n”. If you practice these shapes and master their form, you can create most of the alphabet. You are aiming for consistency in your drills. Over time, this will come as muscle memory sets in.
Brush Lettering is for You
Even if you tell yourself that you aren’t an artist or you can’t draw, don’t think for a second that you can’t pick this up. It will take a bit of work to get really good, but there’s no reason you can’t be awesome right now. This is such an accessible hobby, and it’s so much fun! I love how relaxing it is to sit down and write my favorite quote or letter something inspirational to put over my desk.
When people compliment me on my lettering, I always feel like a sneak because of how secretly easy it is! So if you’ve been envying other people and their fancy handwriting, show ’em by kicking some lettering butt. Download my free printable by clicking the image below and try tracing the letters to see how they feel. While you are developing your awesome brush lettering style, grab a few stickers to add that lettered look to your planner! I have a whole array of transparent stickers that you will love, and lots of write-on watercolor stickers to try your lettering on. That way you can practice your hand at brush lettering and enjoy some professionally lettered headers at the same time. I know that if you try this out, you’ll be impressing yourself and your friends in no time. All it takes is one brush pen!
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