Brush Lettering 101: Technique for Beginners

11th Jun, 2017

In the ever-true words of Julie Andrews, let's start at the very beginning - a very good place to start.

As you may already know, hand lettering is more like drawing than writing. So, brush lettering is more like painting than writing.

First you'll need to gather your materials.

If you missed the previous part of this little series, here it is. It'll take you through suggestions for brush lettering pens, brushes, inks and papers, and what to use each of them for.

The final step is to print a brush lettering guide.

There are tons of beautiful free guides out there; I've made a Pinterest board of a few lovely ones I've found.

Some guides contain beginning strokes, shapes and an entire alphabet. Others are all about the starting strokes.

Since these guides are made by individual letterers, the lettering styles will be different in each. Have a look through and find a style you love.

Then print one, and you're ready to begin!

1 First Strokes

When you read, you begin with A, B, C. When you letter, you begin with stroke, curve, loop.

One of the most important skills in brush lettering is developing a thick downstroke and a thin upstroke. This is what gives brush lettering that calligraphy-like effect:

A post shared by Chrissy Vellacott (@lettersbychrissy) on

This is where any brush lettering guide sheet will start: first with downstrokes, then upstrokes. The aim is to get a feel for how much pressure you need to use for each stroke, and to become consistent in the pressure & thickness, as well as the angle.

Even when you've mastered these first strokes and shapes, they're a great way to warm up - I paint downstrokes and upstrokes every time I letter.

The Most Important Thing: Be Patient

Have patience with yourself if you don't get everything perfect straight away.

Put some relaxing music on, or listen to a podcast (these are my favourites to listen to while lettering).

Have patience if you get frustrated with yourself - this takes time.

Paint slowly.

Lettering is much more time consuming than writing, and going slow will help you develop control and mastery of your brush and therefore your lettering.

Once you feel confident in the consistency of your strokes, you're ready to move onto letters!

2 Create your alphabet.

Option 1: Using a Guide

Just like for warmups, there are lots of guides out there for creating brush lettering alphabets. If you printed a warmup guide which didn't include an alphabet, have a look at the Pinterest board again and print out an alphabet guide.

Then, just follow it as you did for the warmups, remembering to go slowly and carefully.

Option 2: Freehand

If you'd rather free-hand it than use a guide, first watch some videos of someone doing brush lettering. Pay attention to when they lift their brush, how much pressure they apply to each stroke, and how they form the letter.

One of my favourite brush lettering artists on Instagram, Lyna Ti, has tons of beautiful videos which show her doing brush lettering. She's even made a brush lettering alphabet series, where she shows you how she forms her uppercase and lowercase alphabet.

A post shared by Lyna Ti (@iamlynati) on

You can usually find similar good examples by searching for #brushlettering on Instagram.

Once you have a theoretical understanding of where and when and how the strokes happen, it's time to put them into practice.

Letter an uppercase and lowercase alphabet by following this process for each letter:

1 Paint the letter.

2 Repeat, refining the shape and stroke widths and overall vibe each time.

3 Once you're happy with your letter, repeat it until you can draw it consistently.

4 Repeat this process for each individual letter, uppercase and lowercase, and each number too.

5 Once you've completed the above, practice writing out an entire lowercase alphabet, and join the letters together. Repeat a few times to get a feel for it.

Don't forget to include numbers in your 'alphabet'!

So many lettering pieces, from Bible verses to wedding invitations, will include numbers, so it's good to practice lettering them in the same style as your letters.

3 Letter a whole word.

You're in the big leagues now!

And again, lots of guides will include words for you to practice. If you're free-handing it, a great word to get started with is minimum.

Then there's the classic:

The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.

Over time, once you've lettered hundreds and thousands of words, you'll figure out your favourite ways to join different letter combinations. It's really just about practice.

4 Letter a Psalm

If you're feeling in the swing of things, move onto lettering a large block of text - a favourite song or Psalm is perfect for this.

The aim is not for it to become a completed lettering piece at the end - it's purely exercise in improving your skills.

Focus on going slow, and maintaining consistency in the angle of your letters and the thickness of your strokes.

If you find yourself getting really frustrated at any point, step away from your brushes and paper. Go outside, walk around for a little while. Then come back, rinse your brushes under the tap, put a new podcast or playlist on, and start again. You can do this. :)

I hope these suggestions and resources help you with your brush lettering!

Have fun and enjoy playing, brush lettering is one of the most relaxing and fun creative hobbies I can think of. I know it can feel overwhelming at the start - do feel free to send me a message if you have any questions.