When I first began sketching and art journaling, hand lettering came easily to me. Lettering is still one of my favorite parts of journaling. Regardless of any natural skill, the mantra holds true for everyone...
Practice makes better.
Forget perfect. It's unattainable. I have gotten better at hand lettering with practice, but I also think it is good to have a few quick and simple, go-to fonts that one can easily use anywhere. These three different hand lettering fonts aren't necessarily originals but they are easy to master and fun to use, plus they can quickly be adapted to a myriad of styles - an asset when in the field or traveling!
The most important hand lettering tip is this:
Use your natural handwriting.
I know for a fact that you are a pretty awesome, totally unique individual. Even if you think your handwriting is the pits, it is amazing how these techniques can transform it into something swoon worthy. If you try to be something you are not, your hand lettering will look common or contrived. That is NOT what we are going for here.
The second tip to remember:
Thick on the downstroke, thin on the upstroke.
Though not every hand lettering style follows this rule (the Outline style in this tutorial doesn't), it is a common rule for many fonts. In a letter, downstrokes are the marks made wherever your pencil moves down when forming the letter - from top to bottom of the paper or page - and upstrokes are just the opposite.
The last bit of advice:
Be confident, even if you have to fake it.
A calm hand is a must for hand lettering. Nervousness or overthinking it will spoil the best attempts. Before beginning, it may help to do a few warm-up activities like a row of loops or scribbles.
Finding the right tempo is also important. Writing too quickly is the main cause of sloppy handwriting, but avoid going too slowly. Hesitations and stops will easily show in hand lettering, so proceed with cool confidence.
All of this takes a bit of practice, but these are super easy fonts to begin with. So take a deep breath, grab a few supplies, and let's go make pretty lettering!
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Hand lettering takes very little supplies, and you may already have most of what is needed on hand. Here is a complete list of all my favorite, recommended supplies but the tools below make a great starter kit. These are the only supplies I used to do the lettering for this post.
- A pencil - A standard No 2 pencil works fine; just avoid the eraser. I prefer pencils with HB lead because it marks lightly, doesn't smear, and erases easily.
- A pen - Almost any will do, but my favorites are in the photo above. Sakura Pigma Micron pens are great and I highly recommend them, but I prefer greener alternatives like my Lamy fountain pen and technical pens. Nondisposable pens cost more initially but save money in the long run, plus these pens have almost unlimited nib and ink choices. If you plan to add watercolor to your lettering, just make sure whatever ink you choose is waterproof!
- Quality eraser - A Staedtler Plastic Eraser. It's all you'll need.
- Quality paper - My favorite paper is Strathmore's 300 Series and 400 Series Mixed Media papers. The difference in the series is weight; the 300 series is thinner. Pens glide across these papers, and both can handle varying amounts of watercolor.
- Watercolor pencils (optional) - Watercolor pencils work great with hand lettering, plus I like the different effects that I can get with them. I am currently using Faber-Castell Albrecht Durer watercolor pencils but there are other good brands out there.
It's odd that this technique has come to be known as "fake calligraphy" because this hand lettering style is too unique for that title, plus this font doesn't look anything like true calligraphy.
But hey, I'll roll with it and offer that the experts are correct: It's easy to do. All you have to do is obey the command of "thin on the upstroke, thick on the downstroke."
It's a dark and rainy day, not good for photography, but I hope you can see my pencil lines. I tried to make them darker than I normally do so you can easily follow along. All of the steps in these tutorials are pictured clockwise from top left.
- Using a pencil, write whatever you desire. I chose the word "love," but this could be anything including a favorite food or a person's name. Remember to use your real handwriting! I promise this technique can make a messy script look much better.
- With your pencil, go back through your word(s) and thicken the downstrokes. I went really thick so I could have room to fill it in with color, but it doesn't have to be this exaggerated.
- Now go back over the lettering with a pen, carefully avoiding the downstroke portion of lettering. Be careful to NOT include those because otherwise the downstroke lines will cut through the thicker portions of the letter. (See where I accidentally did this in the letter L in the blue script above? Betcha most people wouldn't even notice so relax, have fun, and don't sweat mistakes!)
- Complete the lines and have fun filling it in with texture, color, or anything! I love using this style and you can see more examples in my sketchbook.
Thick & Thin
Similar to fake calligraphy, this hand lettering style is one of my favorites because it is extremely flexible and easy to do. You can see numerous examples of it all throughout my sketchbook. I also like that it is not a finicky font - anyone who can print can do this one! Here's how...
- Write your word. (I used two examples of the same word to show how flexible this font is.)
- Following the rule of "thick on the downstroke," thicken one side of the letter. I tend to favor the left side of the letter and only thicken the first downstroke. In the top "love," I curved my downstrokes but kept them straight on the second word. There are no rules with this. Just have fun!
- Using a pen, if desired, go over the lettering, capping any holes caused by the thicker downstrokes. In the "love" on top, I added serifs to the caps. Again, just have fun.
- Now for the best part... fill in the lettering! I used watercolor pencils but this lettering lends itself easily to creative textures, colors, or even imagery like in the Genesis illustration.
Though this lettering style takes a tad more preliminary sketching that the first two, it is extremely easy to do and lends itself to a wide variety of adaptions. I show two different ways to do this font below, but the ideas are endless, especially when it comes to filling in the letters. (My favorite part!)
- Begin your sketch. As you write the word, take into consideration how thick the letters will be and what spacing each will need. (You can see me playing around with this in the letter e.)
- Continue to thicken each letter until you get a look that you like. I like to do an up/down style with each letter, varying the heights and baselines.
- Photos 3 and 4 are examples of two different ways to outline the letters. You can easily see the differences but in the bottom left, I let the letters run together. In the second example, I kept the letters separate. It would be fun to try a combination of the two!
Best hand-lettering wishes, and feel free to contact me if you have any questions. I'm happy to help!
I’m sharing a free printable of the love lettering samples I did for this post. You are welcome to print and share these little encouragements or use them in your own journal.
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Print size is 8.5 x 11 inches.