As the popularity of vintage aesthetics continues to grow, so too does the demand for visual elements that can be easily adopted into modern-day design projects. Hand lettering is an art form that’s perfect for adding an old-world charm to any project, big or small. Whether you’re designing a logo, label, or other pieces of visual content, hand lettering can help bring your visuals to life in a unique and memorable way. Although it might seem like a difficult skill to master, hand lettering is actually fairly straightforward once you break it down into its fundamental components. If you feel inspired by this visual trend and want to learn how to hand letter like a pro, check out these 8 steps for beginners wanting to get started with hand lettering today!
Know the Basics
Before you dive in, it’s important to have a basic understanding of the terminology used in the hand lettering world. This will help ensure that you’re using the correct language when exploring the best practices for hand lettering, and will also help you better understand and communicate the value of hand lettering in modern design contexts.
- Strokes – The lines, curves, and shapes of a letterform are collectively known as strokes.
- Letterforms – The visual elements that make up a letter include the letter shapes, connecting lines, and spaces between letters.
- Letterspacing – The amount of space between individual letters within a word.
- Lettering – A word or phrase created by drawing a custom typeface.
- Lettering vs. Typography – Hand lettering is not typography, which is the art of creating custom letters, numbers, and symbols.
Sketch your lettering
Before you begin to create your lettering, it’s important to sketch an outline of your lettering and content to help you develop a visual plan. This sketch will be your guide as you begin your lettering and will help you keep your design elements consistent and balanced. Because sketching is an iterative process and can be erased, it’s an ideal way for beginners to experiment with visual ideas and get comfortable with the lettering process. After you’ve sketched out your design and have a clear sense of your lettering, it’s time to move to the next stage and select your medium and tool.
Choose your medium and tool
Although there are many different ways to create hand lettering, the most traditional and popular methods are with a dip pen and ink, or a brush and watercolor paint. When you begin to think about the best tools to use for hand lettering, you should consider a few things:
- What kind of visual aesthetic do you want to create with your lettering?
- What kind of lettering styles do you want to create?
- What are your skill and experience levels?
- What tools are easy to access?
After you’ve selected the best medium and tool for your hand lettering needs, it’s important to begin practicing your lettering fundamentals.
Write out your letters
Because the most basic building blocks to creating beautiful hand lettering are your letters themselves, it’s important to take the time to develop strong letter forms from the get-go. To help you begin to build strong lettering fundamentals, we recommend that you start by writing out each letter of your alphabet multiple times. This will help you become comfortable with the correct letter forms and lettering techniques. It will also help you develop muscle memory for these lettering motions, which will make it easier to transfer these techniques to your real-world lettering projects. After you’ve started to get the hang of basic lettering, you can begin to incorporate these letters into short phrases and words. Use these short phrases as a way to practice writing out your letters and bringing them to life in real design contexts.
Add shading and highlights
Once you feel confident in your lettering abilities, it’s important to begin adding visual elements to your lettering designs. One of the most popular and effective additions to lettering designs is the use of shading and highlights. These visual elements are used to help draw the eye towards certain areas of your lettering designs, as well as add an element of visual interest and texture to your lettering designs. There are a number of different ways you can incorporate shading and highlights into your lettering designs. These include:
- Add shading to letters by using a dark pencil or pen.
- Add highlights to letters by using a light-colored pencil or pen.
- Add color to your lettering designs.
This can be done by either applying colored pencil or paint, or by using colored markers.
Try different fonts and sizes
Once you’ve gotten the hang of basic hand lettering designs and have started to add in visual elements like shading and highlights, it’s time to begin experimenting with different fonts and sizes. While the most popular hand lettering fonts are retro-inspired and often feature vintage aesthetics and lettering styles, there is no “right” or “wrong” font choice for hand lettering designs. Instead, hand lettering designers are encouraged to experiment with different font types and styles to help create a more personalized and unique visual aesthetic for their lettering designs. To help kickstart your experimentation with different font types and sizes for hand lettering designs, we recommend that you take a look at some of the most popular hand-lettering blogs and magazines to see how other designers are using fonts and sizes in their lettering designs.
Once you’ve experimented with different font types and sizes in your hand lettering designs, it’s time to add in colors to help create a more visually engaging design. Although you can use colored pencil or paint to add color to your hand lettering designs, we recommend that you use colored markers. Colored markers offer more vibrant and lasting colors that can help create a more visually impactful design. Once your lettering is complete, it’s important to keep in mind that colors should be applied in a way that creates a balanced and visually appealing design.
Produce the final piece
After you’ve gone through all the steps to hand a letter, it’s time to produce the final design. There are a few ways that you can go about finishing your hand lettering design. You can either create a digital design, or a physical design by tracing your lettering onto paper. Once you have your final design, it’s important to save your design file and store it in a place where you can easily access it in the future. This will help make your design file easy to access whenever you need it, and will also help you build a visual library of completed lettering designs you can use in your future projects.