My #tuesdaytips are all to do with hand lettering this week, but taken generally, the advice applies to any skill, artistic, creative, practical or otherwise I’m sure.
Lots of people aren’t happy with their handwriting, for many reasons.
I actually am, when I don’t rush any ways. I worked hard on my handwriting when I was in school; I didn’t like my writing (it was too much like my mother’s), so I worked to change and develop it. It did take time and conscious effort on my part, but I enjoyed writing, I always did. Doing all my homework and re-writing and re-organising my notes in school and in University gave me plenty of practice in honing my handwriting skills.
However, handwriting and hand lettering are not the same thing.
Handwriting is something we do without a lot of thought about how we form the letters, it is a practiced, automatic skill.
Hand lettering involves drawing the letter shapes; it’s more of an artistic skill.
I’m working on my hand lettering skills. I’m happy with my handwriting, generally, but my writing is naturally very small. To write big, bold quotes and sentiments is a challenge for me, one that I had to face during my work on A Dangle A Day.
My first and most important tip about hand lettering is practice, practice and more practice.
Here are some of the pages from my hand lettering collection in my BuJo. The pens are a Uniball UniPin, a Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Pen and a Lamy fountain pen with a fine nib.
The more you practice, the more you develop ‘muscle memory’ which makes it easier to be consistent in your lettering in terms of shape and so on. It also helps it feel more natural and for you to speed up.
You can’t become an expert without first being a beginner.
My second tip is to start by practicing your natural writing style, your printing. In these days of fonts by the million and perfect replication by computer and printing, I like to see the unique style that only your hand can bring to your hand lettering.
Practice your own printing until you are happy with the shape and style of your lettering, keeping it simple for now. These letters will form the foundation of every other style you develop.
It’s easy to vary the style of your lettering by making simple changes to the letter height, width, line weight and so on. However, you need foundation letters you are happy with. So focus on this first and foremost.
My third tip is don’t compare your own writing to others’ or give up because you can’t seem to write as beautifully as you think they do. Practice, practice, practice and work towards becoming the best you can be; it doesn’t happen overnight, it takes a lot of time.
“Daily learning of your craft makes you a master of your craft.” – Seema Brain Openers
“If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn’t seem so wonderful at all.” – Michaelangelo
My fourth tip is to practice daily, or as often as you can. In my BuJo (bullet journal) I have a section on my monthly tracker for hand lettering practice. Keeping a BuJo means I do get daily hand lettering practice, but it’s still not enough for me to keep developing the skill.
There’s plenty of advice out there and practice sheets and exercises for hand lettering, calligraphy, faux calligraphy, brush lettering. What I like to do, however, is to write, using just my basic hand lettering ‘font’.
Writing out the alphabet again and again is productive, but not always enjoyable. It doesn’t help you with putting the letters together in terms of words.
One of my happy memories is of English lessons when I was in primary school (aged 7 to 11) where we used a book called ‘A New First Aid in English’ to learn about nouns, similes, verbs, plurals and so on. I enjoyed learning, but I enjoyed writing lists and answers down a lot too. It so happens I have a copy of this book, one of the few remaining books from my days as a science teacher, and so I dip into this as a source of material to practice my writing.
Of course, you can use anything you like – quotes, names, lyrics, poems, anything that you enjoy but won’t distract from the focus of drawing the letters.
The last tip I will give is to use paper with guide lines on. I printed paper out to suit my needs; I created it in Microsoft Publisher. Dot grid or squared (graph) grid paper works well too.
My last words are – practice, practice, practice!