Finding out how and when is best to start hand lettering originally started off as a bit of a mystery. I previously mentioned in ‘Lettering a Logo’, a few courses out there recommend learning the anatomy of letters and characters first. Some letterers give little exercises to start drawing letter forms. Then lead people onto tackling lettering itself, making the starting points seem quite varied.
So how do you start hand lettering, and when is best to start? After you’ve learnt the difference between serif or sans serif? Or once you can draw a straight line repetitively to make up part of a letter form? I will be honest, when I suggested lettering an existing logo in ‘Lettering A Logo’, as a good starting point for someone first setting out on their lettering journey, I began to worry. Was encouraging you to start drawing letters with a bit of structure really the best place for you to begin when starting out? Was it also the best exercise for me to start out with? As I’m pretty new to hand lettering too.
It has always been important to me that this site contains accurate and helpful information. The last thing I want to do is lead you down the wrong path, or waste your time. With this in mind I decided it was best to do a bit more research on how and when you should begin hand lettering.
After looking through the structure of some popular lettering courses, and doing a few good old Google searches too. A bit of a pattern started to become clear.
There is no one special path you should follow when starting hand lettering. There is also no specific time that’s best to start hand lettering.
By now you might be thinking if there is no wrong or right way to start hand lettering, how should I start?
How to start hand lettering
Recommending that you start by hand lettering an existing logo wasn’t a bad suggestion, and it could be a good place for you to start. However the way how you learn and the way you carry out tasks normally, could be a deciding factor in how you start learning lettering. People learn in very different ways. When I took my exams at school I had to make bullet points of my detailed notes so I would remember the important points. Then kept reading the bullet points up until the relevant exam started. My brother would just read through something once maybe twice and remember it very easily, so he did very little studying towards his exams and still came out with good grades.
There are a number of different starting points for starting hand lettering, and anyone of them could be right for you. You could take a lettering course which will give you starting exercises. You could do as I suggested, letter something you’re familiar with like an existing logo. You could find someone else’s lettering and try to make copies of that. Instagram is a great source for hand lettering examples, especially if you search for #handlettering or #lettering. Just remember if you do copy somebody else’s work, not to share it without their permission first. The important thing is to just choose a starting point, and you can develop it in the direction you want to progress.
Although I couldn’t find one specific starting point on how to begin lettering. One of the key things that did keep getting highlighted was inspiration.
Inspiration is a big part of any lettering project, and luckily there is a lot of inspiration to be found. Books, packaging, logos, magazines and the internet are just a few of the sources around that can provide us with inspiration. Finding good sources of inspiration may make starting lettering a lot easier for you.
When to start hand lettering
When to start learning hand lettering is a lot like buying a car. Some people will do a little research on a car first, then just buy it. When applied to lettering a person might learn a little about lettering anatomy and what’s involved, then start drawing letters. Another person might go out with the intention of getting a new car, and have one within the hour. That would be the equivalent of someone just jumping in and starting lettering right away, even though they’re not too familiar with it. Someone else may spend weeks planning ahead, researching the type of car they want, working out an order of garages they’re going to visit. All before they come home with their new car. Again you can compare this to lettering when a person spends weeks researching what lettering is all about, building up knowledge until they feel ready to start hand lettering.
None of the above ways to start lettering are bad. These behaviours for starting something new are what we’re comfortable with. Often when we are comfortable we learn and create best, on other occasions being pushed from our comfort zones can get more out of us. The important thing to remember is that we learn a lot from actually doing things, and also from our mistakes. So my advice would be that even if you don’t quite feel ready to start lettering, and you’re worried what you create won’t be good, you’ll still learn some valuable things just by trying. As again like buying a car, anyone of those cars, the one bought with a little research, the one bought spur of the moment, or the one bought with lots of planning and research, could all turn out to be great cars. They will all need regular services (letter practice) to stay great though.