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Hand Lettering for Beginners

Carolyn Leiter How to's

I have always wanted to learn hand lettering so that I could give customers ideas on using inspirational quotes or messages on note scrolls, chalkboards and other items that can be purchased here at Revived.

Because I expressed interest in learning this form of art, my daughter bought me a book for my birthday on hand lettering “freehand” which I love. Learning how to hand letter is relaxing and rewarding and I really have grown to enjoy it. What I have also learned though, is that to master the techniques, it takes many hours of practice.  I am not opposed to that, but given my busy schedule, which I am sure you can identify with, I just haven't had a lot of time to devote to it.

So I looked for a faster, easier, way to achieve a similar result. Below is what I have come up with, which works really well when time or artistic skill is limited. With the right supplies, anyone can do it!

You will, of course, need the paper you want the finished artwork to be on, a pencil, a sheet of graphite paper, some painters tape, and an ink marker. I went online and found a graphic of the lettering I wanted to serve as my guide, and printed it out.
It is important to get the right supplies, as using the wrong things can make the lettering much more difficult for you.  Make sure you use graphite paper and not carbon paper.  Graphite paper is essentially the same as drawing with a pencil and is similarly erasable. Carbon paper is waxy, is not erasable, and when you use a marker on top of it, it repels the ink and can make it bead up and smear.

I experimented with different markers and found that for me, the best and easiest one to use is the Faber-Castell PITT Artist Pen "B", which has a nice flexible brush tip. Chisel-style calligraphy pens create a very gothic look that isn't what I wanted, and other markers I tried were more difficult to use, making it more challenging to get the style I was looking for.

Step 1: Setup
Start by placing the printout of the wording you want to use on top of your paper, where you want it to be. Put two pieces of painters tape across the top to hold it in place. Slide the graphite paper between the two so that the graphite side is facing down and making contact with the paper you want your lettering on.

Step 2: Pencil Sketch

Using a pencil, trace the lettering on your example sheet. When you get to the thick part of the letters, trace your pencil along the opposite edge from the hand that you draw with.  For example, if you are right-handed, trace the line on the left edge of the letters.

When you are done, check underneath and make sure you didn't miss anything before removing the example sheet and the graphite paper.  You should be left with a line sketch of your lettering.

Step 3: Inking
It is important to distinguish between upstrokes and downstrokes.  Upstrokes, while moving the pen towards the top of the paper, will be a thinner line made with the pen held in a more upright position.  As you pull the pen around the letter and begin moving it down toward the bottom of the paper,  apply more pressure to the tip and drag it to the side a bit so that the brush lies more flat, thereby giving you a thicker line.

This is why you traced the sketch on the opposite side of the letter from your hand; when you drag the pen down on the downstrokes and apply more pressure, it naturally makes the thickness of the line extend from the tip toward your hand. It may sound complicated, but I found it was actually pretty easy to get the hang of, in about five minutes.

Use your brush-tipped pen to trace around the pencil sketch using this technique of thin upstrokes and thick downstrokes, and you'll quicky have great looking hand lettering of your own inspirational messages to display in your home.

We used our 8" Note Roll for this example, which is a cute roll of thick kraft paper that has a metal mounting bracket for placing it on your wall, as well as metal clips to hold the paper down and keep it from curling back up. These also come in 22" and 30" wide, and are great for leaving qutoes, messages, and even lists in the kitchen, craft room, laundry room, or anywhere else you want!

A new item we got in just this week is the Note Roll Wall Board, which is a black board that holds one of the 8" Note Rolls and has a metal strip at the bottom that both holds the paper flat, and can be used to tear off a section of the paper, which is great for people who change their messages often.

Have you ever done your own hand lettering project to use as decoration in your home? Post a picture on Facebook and tag us!  We love seeing what projects our customers create!

Carolyn Leiter

Carolyn is a Derry, NH native who is passionate about making houses into homes. Outside of Revived, her favorite thing to do is spend time with her children and granddaughter.

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  • andrea drugan on

    Will you be doing another hand lettering class this summer/fall? thank you.

  • Deb Vachon on

    Thank you for this blog! I enjoy hearing from you and teaching me new techniques.
    I love everything in your shop! Can I get one of each?!👍😉

    Thanks again,

  • Karen bagley on

    Any more classes coming up in March or April?

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