Brush lettering techniques will allow you to move your brush lettering to the next level. As mentioned in ‘Brush Lettering For Beginners Part One’, script skills and brush pen experimentation will give you a good starting point, but there is more to brush lettering than just those two things!
If you’ve not read part one I definitely recommend reading it and acting upon it first, before practicing the techniques in this article. I know often it’s tempting to dive straight into new activities. The following gives an example of why it is important to follow the steps in part one first.
You wouldn’t make a very good car mechanic if you didn’t understand the framework of a car, its structure and how all of the bits that make up a car join together. If you didn’t have the framework of a car, bodywork like the shape and colour couldn’t really exist, and if it did it would be pretty useless. Brush lettering is the same. By getting the framework of script lettering right, and understanding how letters join to one another makes up an important part of the lettering process. Style, shape and colour can then follow. So take time practicing the steps in part one, then come back here for your next steps!
Holding Your Brush Pen
Firstly how you hold your brush pen can make a difference to your lettering. Very similar rules to holding a pencil apply to holding and using a brush pen. The closer to the tip you hold the pen, the tighter and more accurate the lines and strokes you will be able to make. This is because holding the pen close to the tip allows for more control. The further from the tip you hold the pen, the looser your lines and strokes will be, but you will have less control over the pen. Using less tightness can allow you to make more fluid curves, but it’s definitely a case of finding a happy balance. You don’t want to hold too low and restrict your movement but you also don’t want to be holding the pen too loose either. Usually holding an inch or just under away from the tip is normally a good starting point.
The Golden Rule
Now for one of the golden rules to brush lettering, which like any rule can be broken but always use caution. Brush lettering strokes should be thick when you’re pulling the pen down towards you, and thin when pushing the strokes up and away from you.
I think it’s important to be aware of this golden rule before practicing the techniques you will find below. This is because you’ll then have an idea of what you’ll eventually be aiming for from carrying out each listed practice technique.
Before you start this technique exercise, practice the two techniques below first, then come back to this one! I’ve listed it first as I think it’s important to keep in mind whilst practicing the two techniques further below.
There are a couple of words floating around the lettering world, which are recommended for practicing thick downstrokes and thin upstrokes. I’d recommend starting with ‘autumn’ and ‘mummy’, as these are a little shorter than many of the recommended words to practice with.
Then take things up a level when you feel confident with those words, and try words like ‘Aluminium’ and ‘Minimum’ (the more commonly recommended words). Gradually introduce and practice words with more curved letters, so you can master the whole alphabet.
Now you know you’re aiming to join letters fluidly and transition from thick to thin brush strokes, the first step to achieving this is practicing brushed lines. This doesn’t sound too exciting at first but it does help, I have a sketchbook which is mostly just made up of practice lines. The idea behind practicing brushing lines is to develop your control. So to start off with all lines should be the same thickness as each other, that can be thin, thick, or somewhere in the middle if you’re using a thicker brush pen.
In his ‘Hand Lettering: Mastering Brush-Script’ tutorial, brush lettering artist Scott Biersack recommends practicing lines in a diagonal direction. I would actually take this one step further, and practice diagonals along with horizontal and vertical lines of varying thicknesses. Practicing lines at all angles like this seems to have helped improve my brush lettering. It will essentially prepare you for everything when it comes to forming letter shapes.
There is an option if you want to give yourself a bit of a head start at drawing straight, vertical, and horizontal brush lines. You can draw out thin pencil lines with a ruler on your paper first, then use your brush pen over the top. Otherwise you can join my Newsletter and get nine printable guides. Included are two grid guides which can be helpful for practicing straight lines on!
Once you have reached a point where you can brush lines confidently in all thicknesses, it’s time to move onto curves. Scott Biersack recommends drawing circles to practice this, and brush artist Matt Vergotis suggests using a ‘C’ shape. With both of these shapes starting thin at the top, getting thicker at the sides and then thin at the bottom again. I would again recommend taking this a step further and break it down into a simpler step.
Draw a thin circle in pencil, then draw a thick pencil line down the middle vertically and horizontally. Basically you’re splitting the circle into quarters. Practice a quarter at a time with your chosen brush pen, going thin to thick at the top of the circle, then thick to thin, thin to thick and thick to thin to complete the circle. Once you feel comfortable with doing it in four actions, move forward by doing it in two. Thin to thick to thin, and then again thin to thick to thin. Once you’re okay with this move onto doing it all in one action.
By originally splitting a curve into the above four actions, it really helps in getting you to think about where to use thick and thin lines. Also how to transition backwards and forwards between thick and thin lines.
Now head back up to the golden rule section and practice the techniques detailed there.
By practicing the above techniques you will be well on your way to becoming a skilled brush lettering artist. You’ll probably run into a couple of obstacles at points, or things you find a little more challenging. Keep trying though, and keep practicing, you will reap the benefits in time! Once you’re confident at all of the above techniques you will be able to apply your skills to any styles of brush lettering you want to specialise in.