How to Master the Art of Simple Hand Lettering Styles
In the age of handheld mobile devices and emails, even something as basic as handwriting is quickly becoming a lost art. Handwriting has been relegated and overshadowed by the ease and convenience of typing and the use of technology. However, there are still a few who are willing to keep the art of hand lettering alive. If you possess the dexterity to do hand lettering and hand lettering styles, consider it as a gift — one that should be practiced, developed, and honed to its full potential.
What Is Hand Lettering?
You might ask, what's the difference between handwriting and hand lettering? Handwriting simply pertains to “writing with a pen or pencil” or refers to “a person's particular style of writing.”
Hand lettering is not about writing letters with basic strokes but rather “drawing” them. When you're doing hand lettering, you perceive each letter as a design element rather than just mere text. Each lettering is done by hand to fulfill an artistic and decorative purpose. Hand lettering requires the use of embellishments as well as a strong sense of composition.
So why not just use existing font types from your computer? While it's tempting to tweak and manipulate fonts to meet your objectives, it makes for a less challenging and therefore, less satisfying endeavor. Your purpose is to create something unique and personal. Making your hand lettering style from scratch is the only way to achieve the extraordinary results that you are aiming for.
Besides, isn't it more fun to create something on your own? Your unique hand lettering style can set a logo, a t-shirt design, a book cover, or a poster apart from the rest because you came up with a design that's exclusively yours.
A Brief Definition of Terms
It's good to note that hand lettering is different from calligraphy and typography, although it's not surprising that one may practice all three disciplines.
To distinguish one from the other, let us define the meaning of these terms.
Calligraphy is similar to handwriting because it uses basic strokes in forming letters of words. However, unlike regular cursive writing, it requires variations in width when it comes to the upstrokes and downstrokes for each letter. This makes calligraphy an art form in itself.
Typography is a measured and repeated system which involves techniques in arranging type for appearance, legibility, and readability. Here, typefaces, point sizes, leading (or line-spacing), tracking (letter-spacing), and kerning (spaces between letters) are all parts of the type arrangement process.
What Qualities of Hand Lettering Make It Unique?
Because there are no set rules and they are made by hand, hand lettering styles possess unique qualities which sets them apart from the rest.
Hand-lettered pieces are typically imperfect and inconsistent: the same letter will most likely not look the same. A hand-lettered artwork is also created for a singular purpose. Each element is rendered to be intrinsic to one and only one unique configuration.
Imagine cutting up a beautiful painting and then re-configuring and re-arranging the parts. The painting would definitely not appear as coherent nor as visually appealing in its altered state. The same principle applies in hand lettering.
Getting Started with Hand Lettering Styles
Now that you're ready to embark on your first hand lettering project, it's time to get started.
1. Choose Materials That Suit Your Purpose
As a beginner, it's best for you to start with the more conventional writing tools: namely pencils, pens, and paper.
Don't think, either, that hand lettering can only be done the traditional way. Digital tools have made it possible to do hand lettering through the use of tablets (such as iPads and Surface Pros). You can move up to digitizing your renditions after you've honed your drawing skills and have developed your own hand lettering style.
Pencils and Pens
Don't resort to buying the most expensive pencils and pens right away. Any drawing pencil set should be fine, whether mechanical or lead. Just make sure to have an ample supply of pencils to use.
Lead pencils contain graphite and vary in hardness. Harder lead pencils are best for doing light sketches while soft and darker lead pencils add definition.
When it comes to pens, it's good to have a combination of varying tip sizes ranging from fine to thick. Fine-tipped pens are best used for rendering details while thick-sized ones make filling letters a lot quicker. If you're planning to do a more free form style, it would be good to have a set of brush pens handy as well.
Choosing the right kind of paper can be a bit tricky and overwhelming, especially with so many options to choose from. For beginners, it's advisable to use tracing paper during the initial stage because it has a smooth surface and absorbs less ink. The use of graph paper is also recommended when practicing because it helps you measure width, height and thickness more consistently.
During the final stages of your hand lettering, using Bristol paper is advantageous because of its thick weight and smooth surface.
2. Build Your Confidence Level by Doing Some Exercises
Now that you have all the tools necessary at your disposal, it's time to do some warm-up exercises. You'll be reminded of those days when you first started learning how to write. Do some exercises on swirls, curls, and more complex curves and shapes on graph paper since it already has the straight lines you need to do so.
You can also put a sheet of tracing paper on top of a graph paper so you can still use the lines while being able to do your exercises on tracing paper with a smoother surface.
Try to do your swirls, curls, curves, and shapes as consistently and as evenly as you can. Do as many as you deem fit until you are fully satisfied with the results.
3. Start Working on Your Hand Lettering
This is where the fun begins. Don't think too much about perfecting your hand lettering styles; just let your inner child out and your creative juices flow. Pick a letter or a word and do several variations in style, technique, and execution.
Do the same process every day and practice as much as you can. Don't get frustrated if you don't come up with the best ideas right away. Use references for inspiration if you have to and improve on ideas that you think might have potential.
4. Create a Final Artwork
Put all that practice and built confidence to use by working on a final piece. You can use a quote or a phrase and artfully execute each letter and each word. For reference, pick the best ones from what you've been working on during practice and start sketching for your final artwork. Don't stick to one hand lettering style: you can mix and match different styles as you please and as you deem necessary.
Helpful Tips to Remember
While you're on your way to developing your own hand lettering styles, it pays to take some helpful tips and advice into consideration. Here are some that we've gathered from hand lettering experts that might help you achieve better work habits and techniques as you go along the process of creating your own hand lettering styles:
- Use a light tablet to have a clearer view of what you're doing
- Use guidelines (such as circular shapes) before creating your letters
- Study the different types of paper to know which one will work best for your project
- After creating a sketch, look at your hand lettering from a different angle to see if there are errors
- Take your time and don't rush
- Practice, practice, practice
- There is no such thing as perfect when it comes to hand lettering
- You can transition to using digital tools, if you so choose
Hand lettering is an enjoyable and fulfilling hobby that you can use for both personal and professional projects. Don't be shy and put into action what you've learned from practicing and doodling ideas. Do a final piece from time to time and see it through.
Add a personal touch to your home decor by framing your hand-lettered artworks. You can even give them away as gifts to friends and family during special occasions!
As you develop your own sense of hand lettering style, you can volunteer to take on bigger projects such as yard sale signs or t-shirt designs for a community group. This way, you will become more adept with different formats and orientations, not just the ones you've gotten used to. Step out of your comfort zone from time to time to test and hone your skills even further.
Remember, the more you practice and conceptualize your own hand lettering styles, the better the results will be. Build your confidence, be creative, and just have fun with it. Who knows? You might even come up with your own set of tips and advice to share.