Hand Lettering for Beginners

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My experience with hand lettering started in elementary school. Seriously, I recently found an old school notebook, and I regularly wrote my ABCs over and over again. I practiced different styles, cursive, and my signature. Since then, I have continued to practice, and out of want and necessity have lettered so many things.

In this post, I want to cover some basics of where to start and share a few of my favorite hand-lettered projects with you. Lettering crosses so many mediums, and you will be shocked by all the ways I have found to use this skill.

Here are quick links if you would like to jump around the post for a specific topic.

First, I want to define the hand lettering I will be sharing in this post. I do a faux/fake calligraphy with my scriptwriting. I also add in print and different styles of print fonts for the project needs. Usually, what you will see with my lettering is my handwriting fancied up a bit. Lettering is a fun thing to practice, and I want to help you to find some ways to use it in your creating.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase, which allows me to provide all of this content to you for free.

Faux Calligraphy Step-by-Step

  1. To create the calligraphy look, which most people are awestruck by, you start with regular cursive. There are ways to change up the size of letters and the style but begin with a short word. Write that word in cursive. Use any pen or marker you have and a scrap piece of paper.
  2. Add weight to the downstrokes of the word. The bolded words in this post have extra weight, which makes them stand out. You will do a similar thing to your letters. You can retrace the word, and when you start bringing your pen down the paper, add a shadow. Try to keep the added weight similar for each letter. For additional help, check out the video below for a visual tutorial.
  3. Fill in the weight and create a shadow. Go back and color in those additional spaces to complete the shadow.
Notice the downstrokes that I add extra weight to and the printed words I made bold.

Voila! You have faux calligraphy. Combining the calligraphy with print can add emphasis to quotes or messages. You can experiment with different print types as well. Keep a small notebook in your purse or at your desk and in your downtime, practice. Practicing is what will make a difference in your lettering. So, now that you’re lettering, what projects can we do?

Hand Lettered Signs

Back in 2014, I started a sign business and eventually began selling on Etsy and in local stores in my area. Creating is my passion, and I am still in shock that so many people wanted something I created in their homes. I used my lettering for several signs I offered in my shop. There are so many ways you can add lettering to your signs, but I’ll stick with the basics ones in this post.

This little sign is one of my original designs from my Etsy shop, Kate’s Crafty Heart. Everything is hand-painted, including the lettering.

First, you can letter directly onto a sign. Hobby Lobby and Walmart sell great wood signs ready to customize, or if you’re an Amazon Prime gal like me, they have options too. You don’t have to stain them or anything. When you’re ready, that’s a great place to start for a custom sign. In my Etsy shop, I cut, sanded, stained, and painted all of my signs myself. Whew. Unfortunately, they weren’t carrying those items back then like they are now. 

I suggest you start with chalk or a pencil before you make any writing permanent. My favorite thing to use for this step is a chalk pencil like this one. This way, you can make changes to anything before you begin the final letter. I do this with almost all of my lettering projects because most of the time, I want to change something about the first try.

If you are lettering a chalkboard, there are chalk markers that will work fantastic. I used this idea for the wedding sign below. 

If you want to make something more permanent, letter over the chalk or pencil with a paint pen, I like using these by Elmer’s or these by Sharpie.

You can also letter on signs and other decor items with paint. For certain things, I have found a paintbrush to be more natural. As I said before, I layout the design in pencil or chalk depending on the surface. This step helps the final product look neater. Below is a project where I used paint to letter for a wedding guestbook. The globe project took a long time to paint, but I love how it came together.

Hand Lettering on Cookies

Royal icing cookies are my current obsession, so naturally, I brought lettering with me. While you can add words to cookies and cakes with frosting, it was more natural for me to use a marker since I have experience with it already. The royal icing provides a hard flat surface that is perfect for writing or drawing, and there are edible markers available. If you are interested in learning how to make royal icing, I have an excellent post about it here

On the cookies, I use the same technique as I do with signs too, save the sketch layer. There’s no way to remove writing from the cookie, so once I start, there’s no going back. I still cannot believe that hand lettering can be used in the kitchen, but it can.

The hand-lettered cookies get so many compliments, and the videos are tons of fun to watch. Here’s one of my popular pins for Pinterest and a cookie I lettered in 2019 for Easter. 

Hand Lettering on the iPad

Lettering on the iPad is a different experience, but once I got used to the app, Procreate, and the Apple Pencil, I loved using it for lettering. You can easily edit or erase your design. The app is cheap, and there are some inexpensive Apple Pencil alternatives with good reviews on Amazon.

Makers are creating so many things with their lettering through the iPad. Some even offer worksheets for the iPad to practice. The pencil works with a pressure sensor, so the harder you press down, the thicker the line gets, which helps make the process of faux calligraphy faster. I haven’t mastered that on the iPad yet, so I still add the shadow and fill it in myself.

From the app, you can download the design with or without a background allowing you to create lots of different things. I have made several t-shirt designs with the iPad, and I have also made a cut file for my Cricut from a drawing I made in the app.

I created this design on my iPad using the Apple Pencil and the Procreate app. Below is the design on a t-shirt.

Resources

There are books and tutorials all over the internet. Check YouTube and Instagram for more help, or you can email me if you have any questions I can help with annakateturnerdiy@gmail.com.

Here’s a new work book coming out in this year from an amazing artist I love to follow on Instagram. Her workbook is created for beginners and includes lots of inspiration for projects. I’m sure it would be helpful. You can order the book on Amazon, as well as my other favorite lettering tools.

I get inspiration from other designs, fonts I see, and the message of what I’m writing. Hand lettering is an art, and you can create your own lettering style. It does not have to look like mine or anyone else. The best place to start, in my opinion, is on paper simply doodling what’s running through your mind or impacting your life right now.

There’s no wrong way to letter have fun with it! I would love for you to tag me on social media, so I can see what you’re creating @annakateturner.

I can’t wait to create together.

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