Discover the magic of lettering for beginners. Letters have that incredible ability to mold and blend into each other so organically, to the point that you can bend them, stretch them, stylize them and stretch them in seemingly infinite ways and, if done carefully, they will still maintain their meaning.
That quality is what makes lettering so fantastic, besides the visual balance and the interest generated by the smallest details, the changes in shape, it is those characteristics that achieve that emotional tone in the letters. The meaning of the words meets the beauty of the art, and that’s why lettering for beginners has emerged.
The real fun of lettering is that you don’t need perfection in the strokes, but to find a creative style that defines you. What comes out of our hands when we pick up a pen or pencil is equally unique, so the basic principle of lettering for beginners is to follow your preferences and then develop them into a style that is recognizable in all your work.
There is no age that says when to start, beginner lettering is the same for a youngster or an adult, what is really important is to find the beauty in the letters and constantly improve as an artist.
You don’t need “special” pens or “special” paper to start lettering. For something a bit more specialized, like calligraphy or brush lettering, or for very technical lettering pieces with tons of detail, yes, there’s no denying that high quality tools and hours of practice are crucial, but it’s NOT a prerequisite.
Embrace your “inner hobbyist” and enjoy the imperfections and uncertain strokes that can arise when you start… Along the way you reinvindicate yourself!
What is lettering?
Lettering is a specific creative skill that uses lettering to create beautiful designs and art, i.e. drawing eye-catching letters. It is a creative writing technique to create beautiful and eye-catching text with almost any material: markers, chalk, watercolors, crayons, paint, among other elements.
Basically, lettering is a more elegant version of handwriting, but that’s not entirely true. It doesn’t necessarily have to be fancy letters or calligraphy, but you can give it any style you want. The best thing is that you can execute lettering on any surface: paper, cardboard, wood or any other.
Do not confuse lettering with calligraphy and much less with typography.
Lettering is a technique focused on drawing creative and original letters, therefore, it should not be confused with calligraphy or typography.
Calligraphy does require precision, it is a type of art that depends on specific and careful strokes, therefore, a good hand is key. Mastering calligraphy allows you to achieve works of art, although it depends on constant practice.
Typography, on the other hand , is the set of letters, numbers and symbols with characteristics, shapes or a common style; in fact, it is conceived as the digitized letters available in different editing software.
Lettering guide for beginners
Step 1: STUDY LETTERS AND DEFINE YOUR STYLE
You don’t need to read books about the history of lettering, but you should know different lettering styles, analyze their shapes, uses, sizes, details… Look at the letters you see on magazine covers, billboards, books and packaging. Identify: What do they make you feel, what details and qualities attract you?
The key to lettering-and I think the fun, too-is to use different styles to evoke a feeling that supports the meaning of what you’re writing. It also helps to understand the anatomy of lettering and typography.
For example, it’s helpful to know what a serif or sans-serif brings to a piece (“serif” refers to the bars that cover the ends of letter strokes), the effect flourishes and dashes can have on tone, or the impact adding dimension and shadows can have.
The most popular lettering styles
- Hand lettering:
This is a technique that only requires pencil and pen, and the most recommended in lettering for beginners as it is based on making letters by hand, so this technique encompasses simple strokes, as if it were calligraphy.
- Chalk lettering:
To do this technique chalk is used, therefore, the most common surface to perform it is a blackboard. You can’t imagine all you could achieve using a simple chalk.
- Brush lettering:
This lettering technique requires a little more skill and pulse than the previous ones since it is done with a brush. Depending on your mastery and the type of brush you choose, it can be an option in lettering for beginners… remember that there are several types of brushes and each one can help you achieve very different effects. You can also use watercolors or almost any type of paint. Don’t be afraid to try techniques until you find your favorite.
Step 2: MATERIALS NEEDED
If you want to learn all aspects of lettering, you need to get some essential tools.
Obviously, you need a good surface for all your lettering. In lettering for beginners a notepad is best, if it has a dotted grid all the better, so it will be easier to observe the proportions, angles and sizes of the letters as you learn.
When you acquire much more skill, you can use normal paper or cardboard. Once you are more fluent, you can dare to work on a tablet or computer. Tracing paper is also very good when you start.
The world of lettering is very wide, and each person works in a different way. Still, it is always good to have sketchbooks or lettering books at hand.
When you have the right materials, lettering for beginners is much more bearable. Just forget about spending a fortune on pens and pencils or brush tips right away. There is a wide range of devices, depending on the style you want to give to your lettering.
Pencils: mechanical pencils or lead pencils
Pencil lead can be hard or soft, ranging from 6H (hard) to 6B (soft), with HB being in the middle. If you are just starting out, you can pick up any set of drawing pencils at your local art store.
Marker pens are great because the brush tip allows for great flexibility and the bullet tip is perfect for drawing simple lines, especially when you’re in the beginner lettering stage. Plus, they come in a variety of color sets, such as bright, pastel, galaxy, secondary and grayscale. Markers are a must-have for leterring, so pick your favorite palette and get them.
Step 3: LEARN AT YOUR OWN PACE
In lettering for beginners there are many doubts, it is normal, especially around the creation process. The truth is that there is no right or wrong way, dedicate yourself to watch tutorials and practice constantly to perfect your artistic process.
Following your own path is vital, you can figure out your own process through experimentation. Although the best way to learn is by doing, the power of information to get started is vital, watching simple tutorials can be enriching, as they will give you tricks and tools that will make your adventure much easier.
These resources can provide you with a fundamental springboard to develop your own style and create your own rules.
Make it easy and practical, lettering for beginners is trial and error. Use a ruler, make straight lines on your paper so you have a guide, then move on to curves and more complex shapes. Try to keep the shapes equal and evenly spaced. Having guide lines helps you have balance and a sense of space, they are basic building blocks in beginner lettering that also allow you to try out new pens and pencils and see how they work.
Once you have a basic understanding of some lettering styles and the process of creating hand lettered artwork, it’s time to start perfecting your craft. The last step is…
Step 4: PRACTICE AND PLAY WITH LETTERS!
As unsexy as it sounds, the secret to perfecting lettering art is simply to practice, that’s the secret to lettering and almost any kind of art.
Repetition will begin to sink into the muscle memory of your hands. Your lines will become more confident, your style more defined and, before you know it, you’ll look back and see a unique creative voice develop. You won’t be in the beginner lettering stage forever.
Don’t forget these tips
Have a notebook to practice as if it were calligraphy, this will help you become more dexterous with your hands, execute strokes more accurately and maintain a better pulse while executing the letters. Start tracing letters from A to Z, but go one at a time, do not move on to the next one until you have mastered the previous one.
But don’t think that applies only to letters, signs and numbers are also important. Make sure your lettering is legible.
Start working with pencil
Lettering for beginners should be done with pencil so that you can erase when you need to. It doesn’t matter what type of pencil you choose, what color or hardness you are most comfortable with. You can also use mechanical pencils
What is true is that you can start by creating templates in pencil to determine the layout and shape of the letters and then go over them with pen, marker or any other material you wish.
The anatomy of the letters
One of the first things you should learn before you start writing letters is the anatomy of letters. Even if you use them constantly, understanding the anatomy of letters can help you figure out the best way to get a handwritten piece of artwork to look balanced and aesthetically pleasing.
There are many ways to break down the anatomy of a letter, but let’s stick to the basics. There are four lines you need to keep in mind when writing your letters: the baseline, the height of the X, the rising line, and the falling line.
- The baseline
This is the line on which all the letters are placed. The main body of the background of each letter will rest on this line, and from there you will base the other aspects of the letter’s anatomy. Think of it as your own butt when you sit in a chair.
- The height of the X
The height of the X is the line at which the top of the lowercase letters reach. To be perfectly accurate, the X-height is the height of a lowercase “x” in a given typeface.
It also applies to all single lowercase letters, such as “a”, “e”, “o”, “n”, etc. All these lowercase letters should be placed on the base line and reach the height of the X. Since we are comparing these lines to the human body, imagine that the X height line is right at the tip of your head.
- The ascending line
All letters that have strokes that reach upward will use the ascender line. This includes letters such as “k”, “h” and “t”. These letters have strokes that are higher than the height of the X, so they reach up to the upward line. Imagine you have your hands above your head: the tips of your fingers would touch the ascending line.
- The descending line
You probably already know where this goes. Where the ascending line reaches up, the descending line hangs down. This is the line where dangling letters, such as “g”, “q” and “y”, can rest their tails. If you are sitting in a chair and your hands reach upward, your legs sitting on the floor would reach the downward line.
how to use anatomy in handwriting?
One of the most important elements for successful lettering is consistency in the hand. Understanding the anatomy of the letters helps you make them more consistent and/or regular, so you achieve a more advanced look.
Move the upstroke higher, reduce the height of the X and lengthen the downstroke to create a tall, sleek style.
If you want something more youthful and poppy, increase the height of the X and reduce the ascenders and descenders. Play with these straight lines and see what new styles you can create.
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