Brush lettering is one of those skills where once you master it, the results can look brilliant. There are a lot of different styles of brush lettering out there, but learning the basics will allow you in time to develop any brush lettering styles you like.
To learn brush lettering, you only need a handful of tools. You’ll need a few sheets of paper, you can use cheap printer paper for practice, and then may want to upgrade to something of a nicer quality once your skill develops. A sharp pencil, and a rubber, you’ll probably need a sharpener after a while too . Finally you will need some brush pens. You can just use one brush pen, but as you read on you’ll find out why I recommend investing in two or three.
At this point you might be questioning what a brush pen is, for those that aren’t sure it’s a type of pen with a pointed tip that will create a flow of ink when applied to paper. There are many different types of brush pen out there, with tips made from different materials.
I haven’t been practising brush lettering too long, but I have learnt three key things that are essential to making quick progress.
Don’t limit yourself
The first is to not limit yourself to just one type of brush pen. I started off with just one brand of brush pen, and I really struggled to achieve the results I wanted. I’m sure as I develop my brush lettering skills further, I’ll be able to achieve anything I want with the first brush pen I had. It’s just often easier to start off with a pen you get on with. You don’t have to spend megabucks on brush pens, just choose maybe three different ones to start off with. They should all vary slightly, so for example you could try a standard brush pen, another with a hard tip, and then a third with a fine tip. You could try a standard brush pen, and then two different branded soft tip brush pens. Although you might have chosen two with soft tips, because of being manufactured differently they can produce completely different results.
If you’ve watched videos on YouTube, you might have noticed brush letterers recommend specific brush pens. Although those letterers get on well with the pens they are recommending, they might not end up being your go to brush pen. So experiment, experiment, experiment!
Stick to neutral
The second key thing is to start off by practising with neutral coloured brush pens. Blacks, blues and greys are a good choice. In time it can be fun to play about with different colours, but to begin with this can be quite distracting. Your initial focus should be on the shape, thickness, position and spacing of your brush lettering, personal touches like colour and texture should follow later.
Know your script
One of the most important things you can do to achieve skills in brush lettering is become confident at script lettering first. You don’t need to be a master at it, just comfortable at joining letters fluently. Script writing, sometimes also known as cursive is joined up writing. Most script writing is often written at an angle. You can draw out guides on a piece of paper to practice on, or by joining my Newsletter you can get my FREE printable script practice guides to save you time.
Scott provides some great steps for learning the basics of scripts.
In this tutorial you’re going to learn the basics of informal (also known as casual) and formal script lettering. By the end, you will have a grasp of stroke weights, contrast, kerning, flourishing, speed, angle, and other techniques that are used to develop script lettering. – Scott Biersack / Tuts+
Another fantastic resource for learning script is a book on (you’ve probably guessed it) scripts. I own this book myself and it’s full of different types of scripts, some are absolutely gorgeous.
Scripts: Elegant Lettering from Design’s Golden Age (This is an affiliate link, if you buy the book at no extra cost to you I may earn a little.)
I recommend studying the different styles of lettering in the book, then trying to write similarly to them. Keep practising like this until you can join letters and write them at an angle without even thinking about it. Remember not to share anything that’s too similar to what’s found in the book, as the authors might not be too happy.
Use paper and a pencil for practice as you will find this easier to start off with, the brush pens will come into action next week!
Check back next week for part two of brush lettering for beginners to learn about beginners brush lettering practice techniques.