How to Hand-Letter: Master the Technique in 6 Easy Steps
Our free practice sheets will help you create perfect handwriting in no time.
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If you’ve ever wanted to learn calligraphy but were too intimidated by all the different brushes and pens, you’re in luck. Calligraphy and hand-lettering are often thought to be the same thing, but there is a difference: True calligraphy is an ancient Chinese art form that requires intense training, skill, and a lot of fancy (and expensive) tools. Hand-lettering, on the other hand, is a much easier and more informal form of calligraphy; think of it as an elevated form of writing in cursive.
Hand-lettering has gained a lot of popularity in the last few years: There are currently more than 10 million Instagram posts tagged with #handlettering (which is almost as many as the 14 million that are tagged #calligraphy). The best part is you can pick it up quickly.
Learning how to hand-letter is easy: I taught myself a few years ago by watching tutorials online, and I’ve been working on perfecting the craft ever since. It was easy to pick up, and I use it all the time: To address birthday cards, decorate holiday gift tags, and even just to spruce up my grocery list. To try it for yourself, print our free practice sheets, grab a marker, and get started.
How to Hand-Letter in 6 Easy Steps
Follow these steps to learn how to create your own classic hand-lettering style. One of the easiest ways to create your own unique style is by finding what inspires you most and combining elements of those styles. We'll also walk you through how to turn your upstrokes and downstrokes into beautiful, cohesive words (rather than a string of cursive letters jumbled together).
1. Get Inspired
With its resurgence in popularity, we're seeing hand-lettering make a comeback in a big way. Whether it's a wedding invitation, a place card, or a thank-you note, these twirling scripts are popping up everywhere. But before you jump deep into the inkwell, do some homework and decide what you want to make. Whether you settle on elegant invites or a motivational poster, we recommend keeping a running collection of inspiration. Begin with an inspiration board on Pinterest, then mix up and mimic your preferred styles when you finally bring pen to paper. One of the coolest things about hand-lettering is that you can really make it your own: Even if you use the same practice sheets as someone else, your style of handwriting will make your hand-lettering style unique to you.
2. Back to Basics: Practice Makes Perfect
You've heard it a thousand times: practice makes perfect. Let's face it, you won't become an expert overnight, but you can quickly master the style with a bit of practice. We recommend bringing it back to the basics with a simple worksheet. Our free hand-lettering practice pages will guide you from novice to seasoned professional in no time.
3. Start Simple
After warming up with some worksheets, jump right in and test out your lettering game. Start simple with a short word and let your creativity carry your doodles. Don't worry too much about the final product: Instead, find what piques your interest and see where your fortes lie. Be sure to take your time too. Begin with a basic skeleton and build on your design by paying close attention to your curves and your spacing. Sometimes the white space is just as important as filling in the blanks!
4. Sketch it Out
Remember #2 Pencils? Sure, maybe you haven't picked one up since elementary school, but pencils have their place in the world of calligraphy and lettering! Let your pencil become your best friend for a hassle-free erase session at the end. Once you've sketched out your first draft, retrace your words with a pen or a marker.
5. Connect Letters on an Upstroke
The key to a consistent lettering style is making sure the upstrokes (where your pen moves upward on the page) and downstrokes of each letter are consistent: If some letters have big loops and swirls and some are plain, your lettered words can end up looking like a jumbled mess. To create a consistent look, connect each letter to the next on an upstroke. This will create a uniform baseline that will make your word look like one concise unit rather than a mix of letters strung together.
6. Thicken your Downstrokes
As you trace over your words, pay special attention to your upstrokes and downstrokes: Anywhere your pen came down toward your body as you wrote the words should be bolded. Go over each downstroke with your pen to thicken the line, then curve the thick part of your line to blend with the original lines.
Best Pens for Each Lettering Style
You don't need anything fancy to learn how to hand-letter. But once you've mastered the technique and started decorating envelopes, invitations, and wall art, you might find you'd like to branch out a bit. These are some of our favorite pens and markers for each style of writing.
Traditional calligraphy has a not-for-the-faint-of-heart reputation. Not anymore! Borrow a few easy techniques for a hand lettering technique that looks most similar to calligraphy: Use a fine-tip (.5 or .1 mm) gel or roller-ball pen to fake the varying thickness (on the downstroke) by adding a shadow effect to any element of the letter when the pen is moving down.
Opposites attract: The interplay of simple uppercase block print and a lowercase script ups the whimsy factor. A pop of neon pink ink doesn't hurt! To get the look, combine a thin brush-tip pen with your 0.5mm pen.
Easy block lettering works best in contrast with a script element. Use a fine-tip pen and be consistent in the space and height of each letter. Add charm by pushing the waistline of each narrow letter up a bit.
Buy It: 30-Pack Gel Pens, $14.49, Target
Once you've mastered your lettering style, a well-chosen palette can make an invite. Experiment with the unexpected for the best results. For a pop, use metallics! Try silver with blue, gold with pink, and rose gold with green.
Watercolor is having a moment right now, but you don't have to become a master painter to get the look. Combine your hand-lettering skills with brushes specifically made to look like a watercolor. Use a brush pen that mimics the organic edges and variations in the hue of traditional watercolor.
Adding embellishments and borders can be just the thing to set a message apart. A simple laurel-inspired border is as easy as adding oversize parentheses and heart-shape leaves. You can create these with the 0.5mm pen above, or with a pen specifically made for creating precise, thin lines.