If you’re looking for a brush lettering tutorial, broken down step-by-step for beginners, you’re in the right place! This post will teach you just the right steps to do this casually for your crafts. If you’re looking to learn it in-depth to do it professionally, I highly recommend one of these brush lettering books for beginners. Disclosure: this post contains commissioned links.
Brush lettering is one of those hobbies that’s just so convenient to know. The other day I was helping my mother set up for an engagement party with a gluten free table. She asked me to make a sign to label that table and in minutes I had a pretty “gluten free” sign ready to go.
Between pretty addresses, simple gifts, DIY cards, cool planner pages, and as an accessory to your paper crafts, there are so many reasons to want to know how to do brush calligraphy.
These basic tips will get you well on your way to making beautiful brush lettering.
First, I shared my best brush pens for lettering here. As I letter, I keep changing it up. Pictured here, you’ll see Sharpie Pen brush pens which I hadn’t mentioned previously and are a new favorite, as well as Winsor & Newton watercolor markers. In the post above, I shared some of my favorite picks for beginners.
Brush lettering tutorial – 3 basic techniques:
1. Proper Grip
If you plan to do a lot of brush lettering, it’s worth learning the proper way to hold it. I’m going to fess up here and say that I completely ignore this, because I only do it occasionally and not professionally. But I will teach you how to do it right.
The main reason I ignore this is simply because I have a weak wrist. The proper motions and positioning for brush lettering tends to put most of the pressure on the wrist (which is okay if you have a decent wrist, and is usually better than your fingers…) You can also make the movements from your shoulder but I haven’t mastered this – mainly because I tend to do brush lettering when I relax.
But I’ll give you the tips in case you want to go about this properly:
- Hold your brush pen at approximately a 45 degree angle to the paper, not a 90 degree/perpendicular angle like you normally do
- Move your entire hand, not your finger as you make your strokes.
2. Thin up, thick down
Want the most important part of this brush lettering tutorial, the one trick to make your letters look good? The consistent beautiful strokes that you see out there?
Your down strokes should be thick and your up strokes should be thin.
Each letter has down and up strokes, and they should transition into each other as smoothly as possible. As you learn and practice, and get the feel of things, you’ll practice making the down strokes thick and the up strokes thin. You’ll also want to practice transitioning into each other.
I plan to create some practice worksheets for you to get the feel of this, but if you just want to slap some pretty lettering onto some holiday tags, this is what you need to know! Here’s a great practice workbook you can download meanwhile to implement the “thick down, thin up” part of this brush lettering tutorial.
Update: you can now download my free printable brush lettering practice sheets!
3. Draw each letter
This is another KEY tip to making your lettering nice. When you’re doing any type of calligraphy, you’re not writing in your handwriting – you’re drawing letters. Brush lettering is no exception, even though it almost looks like we all have a stunning handwriting.
The best way to make these nice letters is to draw each one out on its own, connecting them naturally as you create them.
Now that you’ve got the basics of this brush lettering tutorial down, here are some tips to get you to the next level…
5 additional tips to go with this brush lettering tutorial:
1. Practice – it’s an acquired feel
There’s something called “muscle memory” – that’s when you train your body to do a certain movement. You acquire this through practice. As I mentioned above, I plan to create some worksheets with practice exercises, but if you’re like me, you’ll prefer to practice by simply writing a zillion words in brush lettering on every surface.
Update: The free printable brush lettering practice sheets are now available for you to download and practice on!
It’s not the best way to practice (because if you’re doing it wrong, you’re creating the wrong pattern in your muscle memory) but it works for me. A better way to practice would be to create the basic strokes one after another on a piece of paper again and again. Here’s the free printable brush lettering practice sheets for that purpose.
2. Try different media
I shared my recommended best brush pens for lettering, but I’d say switch it up! Each person has individual preferences. Try a few, pick your favorites, don’t just do what the others are doing.
3. Design your own letters
Again, an extension of the above tip: do your own thing.
One big mistake that people make, especially after practicing for hours on other people’s worksheets is to try to make it look “right.” The only “right” you have is consistency within your own writing. And legibility. If it’s consistent and legible you’re good. Design your own letters, play around, and have fun!
You can see in the brush lettering tutorial above (which is far from perfect, but still pretty, right? ) that I stretched and curved the letter connectors on each letter. That is consistency. I didn’t stretch the letters themselves because I didn’t want to impact legibility.
4. Start simple, branch out slowly
Another beginners’ mistake it so start from scratch with extra loops and lots of flourishes. Keep it simple at first and add those little extra touches as they come to you.
5. Forgive the imperfections
Once again, the fear of imperfection can hold many people back. Just do it. Go ahead and do it and embrace those mistakes. You can’t do great things without pushing forward. You can’t make pretty things without risking the mistakes.
There can be beauty in imperfection.
My first lettering after I masted the basics had people gaping at it, telling me how beautiful it was (hey – it was totally unsolicited!) It was riddled with mistakes that I cringe at now. My current work may be cringeworthy in a year or two.
My point is, stop looking at everything with a critical, professional eye. Start looking at it with an artist’s eye. Imperfect means natural, handmade… beautiful.
Have fun with it!
I hope you enjoyed this brush lettering tutorial! Got anything to add, or any questions? Just comment below!
Loved this brush lettering tutorial? Check out my series on how to watercolor – the two hobbies go great together!