• How to Hand Letter Like a Pro

    In today’s tutorial, you’ll learn a bit about how to hand letter. I’ll share my three biggest success secrets with you: pencil drafts, symmetry, and switching up lettering styles!

    How to Hand Letter Like a Pro

    Learning how to hand letter requires one main thing: patience. All the best hand lettering pieces start with a pencil draft, which you’ll probably modify several times before it’s just right! After that, you’ll still need to go over your work with ink. All that time isn’t a deal-breaker for me: to create today’s piece, I put on a good audiobook (To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before — such a sweet story!) and gratefully soaked up every second of creativity! Here’s how to make this piece and others like it:

    1. Pick Out Your Phrase

    The best hand lettering pieces hone in on a quote or a saying. Choose your words and jot them down for easy reference. Then, choose the “starring” word (or group of words) in your phrase. This word will be the one that you emphasize in your piece. Once you’ve decided on your word, use a ruler to find the horizontal and vertical center of the page. Then, write one half of the word on the left side of the page’s center, and write the other half on the right side.

    Hand Lettering
    I used Roman Style calligraphy to write “SUNSHINE” here. Flared pencil guidelines help to give the letters visual interest.

    Once you’ve written that first word, use its right and left boundaries to make the sides of a rectangle. Cap the top and bottom of the rectangle at around 3.5″ away from the word. Then, try giving the word some emphasis with doodles inside two semicircles. The line doodles that I chose are appropriate here because they complement the sun theme.

    2. Build Words Upward

    Now that you’ve drawn the main word, you can build out from there. Try following the contours of your top semicircle to make two sets of top and bottom guidelines. Be sure to mark where the center of the page is so you can write symmetrical words!

    Making Hand Lettering

    Use your guidelines to write letters. Then, fill up the blank space with elements like flourishes, arrows, and/or diamonds.

    Making Hand Lettering
    I used George Style lettering for “KEEP” and “FACE”, Sans Serif lettering for “YOUR”, and Amy Style calligraphy for “to the”. Mixing up your styles will make the piece more eye-catching.

    3. Build Words Downward

    Now, use pencil guidelines that hug the bottom half of the circle to write more words. Then, draw a banner and use calligraphy to write in it.

    Making Hand Lettering
    I wrote “AND YOU” in Sans Serif lettering here. “Cannot see” is written in Kaitlin Style calligraphy.

    Continue to build words down, and don’t worry if certain words don’t work out. That’s why you’re writing everything in pencil first! For example, the way I wrote “A SHADOW” below just didn’t look right to me. It hugged the right side of the piece a bit too much, and the spacing between “A” and “SHADOW” made for awkward viewing.

    Making Hand Lettering
    This draft doesn’t look quite right. If something like this happens to you, just erase your pencil lines and try again!

    Try #2 went much better for me.

    Making Hand Lettering
    You just have to keep experimenting until you like what you see. To learn how to make 3D letters as shown in “SHADOW” here, check out the How to Draw 3D Letters tutorial.

    4. Fill Out the Rest of the Piece

    Now, switch your focus to filling in all the space within your rectangle. More flourishes, diamonds, lines, and triangles are great for this!

    Making Hand Lettering
    In addition to the usual elements, I also added a few sun shapes.

    5. Add Ink

    Once you’re happy with your pencil layout, use a straight pen, a Nikko G nib, and waterproof ink to go over your pencil lines. It’s important to use waterproof ink because you might decide to use watercolor on the piece later! We don’t want any moisture-induced smudges.

    How to Hand Letter Like a Pro

    Once you’re finished, your hand lettering will look something like this:

    How to Hand Letter Like a Pro

    When you’ve drawn over all the pencil lines, wait for your ink to dry. Then, use a good eraser to erase your pencil lines. Next, grab a small paintbrush (size 1-ish) to fill in any open letters with ink.

    How to Hand Letter Like a Pro
    You can use your dip pen to fill in these letters, but a paintbrush is faster!

    At this point, you should have a nice balance of bold strokes and thin accents.

    How to Hand Letter Like a Pro
    This is coming along nicely!

    6. Give It Some Gold

    Considering the sunshine theme in my piece, some sparkly gold is not out of place! I used Moon Gold to fill in any remaining open shapes.

    How to Hand Letter Like a Pro

    7. Finish Up

    Once you finish adding gold, you might decide to add another color, too. I’m going for an understated palette, so I chose to fill in the banners in my piece with a light gray.

    How to Hand Letter Like a Pro
    And that’s it! I made today’s hand lettering piece in my Shinola sketchbook, where I can appreciate looking at it for years to come.

    To summarize, there are three secrets to success when you’re learning how to hand letter. The first is to choose a word (or words) to focus on within the piece. The second is to contain your phrase and doodles within an easily recognizable, symmetrical shape — like a rectangle, square, or circle. The final and biggest tip I have is to make a pencil draft! It’s always best to find out that a design won’t work when it’s erasable.

    How to Hand Letter Like a Pro

    I hope that you enjoyed today’s tutorial and that you give it a shot yourself! Try writing this quote first, then make another phrase or two. The more you hand letter, the better you’ll get at making layouts, doodles, and fun alphabets.

    Thanks so much for reading TPK, and have a wonderful weekend!


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