Every single day, you are confronted with hundreds of lettering styles in the form of logos, text in magazines and websites, posters, mail, and social media posts. And yet, when you sit down to make your own letters, inspiration can be slow in coming. This blog post will give you some direction in your lettering endeavors with three fresh, new lettering styles to try!
1. Art Masking Fluid Calligraphy
If you follow TPK on Instagram, you’ve probably noticed some art masking fluid calligraphy-ness going on. A few days ago, I discovered that art masking fluid could be used to make striking pieces of lettering … and now, nothing can stop me from using this technique on pretty much everything.
Art masking fluid is usually used by watercolor artists to mask off small areas of paintings in order to make nice, clean highlights. For a more traditional explanation of how to use masking fluid, you may reference the Easy Watercolor Art Tutorial. When you treat art masking fluid as an ink, though, magic happens. I mean — really — if you would have shown me calligraphy written using this stuff a few months ago, I would have had no idea how the calligrapher had achieved it!
To create calligraphy like this, choose an envelope or a hardy piece of paper/card stock to write on. Keep in mind that you’ll want something that can stand up to watercolor well. For this tutorial, I’m using a blue envelope from Paper Source. You *can* use white envelopes, but I found out that if you do, it really will only look like you used white ink to write the address.
I will explain all this in the video that follows this text/photo explanation, but basically you’ll just dip your calligraphy pen into art masking fluid (I use Winsor & Newton) just as you would calligraphy ink. I’d use a relatively hardy nib such as the Brause Rose. Smaller nibs may not be up to the challenge of handling such a thick, unruly fluid!
Write in whatever calligraphy or lettering style that appeals to you (I’m using Kaitlin Style), making sure to clean the nib often (every word or so) with water and a clean cloth. Otherwise, the masking fluid can render your nib a goopy mess!
When you are finished writing, wait for the masking fluid to completely dry. It will take about five minutes! The envelope pictured above isn’t quite dry yet; you can tell because some of the downstrokes are still wet. You’ll know it’s dry when all of the calligraphy takes on a clear, plastic-y sheen. When the masking fluid is dry, choose a watercolor paint to put over it. I have decided to use a light metallic watercolor from the Finetec Pearl Colors palette because it remains relatively opaque on dark paper! You can paint with reckless abandon; the point, really, is to make sure all your letters will show up once you remove all the art masking fluid.
Make sure your watercolor is completely dry (~2-6 minutes, depending on the water to watercolor ratio), then use tweezers to pick the art masking fluid off. Trust me, you will have a blast doing this!
I caution to make sure the watercolor is dry because if it’s not, you may end up tweezing some of the paper fibers off along with the art masking fluid! Once you’re finished, you’ll end up with a piece that will wow your friends and make your enemies jealous.
If you would like to see this technique in action, you will enjoy the eight minute video below! In it, I’ll show you how to make a calligraphed envelope using art masking fluid, a dip pen, and watercolor as described above. I know that sometimes it’s easier to learn if you can actually watch something vs. just read about it! If you cannot see the video below, you may view it on Vimeo.
2. Ombré Downstrokes Lettering
Ombré — shades of color that blend into each other, making a gradual dark to light transition — is big on Pinterest right now, whether we’re talking hair color or birthday cake. (By the way, if ever you want to feel like an inferior baker, search Pinterest for “ombré cake” … holy moly.) I, personally, like to keep it simple by applying ombré to my lettering.
To create this lettering technique, you’ll need to know how to write using faux calligraphy (read this tutorial to get up to speed). It’s important to know where your downstrokes are going to go so you can draw them without any lines intersecting them! First, you’ll want to go ahead and plan out your lettering using a pencil.
There are two reasons planning things out with a pencil is a good idea:
- You’ll be able to develop a good layout; if your first layout doesn’t work, you can just erase and modify!
- If you mis-write your words or phrase, no biggie. I realized after making this pencil draft that it’s not “Haste is waste,” but “Haste makes waste”. An easy fix!
When your pencil draft looks good, you can write over it with a waterproof ink, filling in the downstrokes as you go. I’m using a crow quill and sumi ink, but you could just as easily use a straight pen and the Nikko G nib, or even a Micron pen! Whatever you are comfortable with will be just fine. Just, again, make sure whatever you are using is waterproof.
Notice that none of the downstrokes in this piece have lines intersecting them!
Once your ink is dry, it’s time to erase your pencil guidelines.
Now, for this technique, I like using water-soluble colored pencils. I have a simple pack of 12 that I got on sale at Michael’s, but they are reasonably priced on Amazon. They’re just a bit easier and more precise than regular watercolor when used in this context. You’ll want to choose four pencils in shades that can blend into each other. My shades are (from dark to light:) red, dark pink, orange, and yellow.
Start by using the darkest pencil (red) to color 1/4 of the way up the downstrokes of every letter and decorative element. (You’re coloring in fourths because there are four colors!)
Use the second darkest pencil (dark pink) to color to halfway up every letter/decorative element.
You’ll use the next pencil (orange) to color up to 3/4 of every letter/decorative element.
Finally, fill in the remainder with your lightest pencil!
Once you’re finished coloring, take a small, moistened brush, and use it to paint over the colors.
Water-soluble colored pencils blend beautifully when moistened! Check out this curl before blending with water:
And after! See how smooth the colors look now?
This is a great technique for lettering phrases, addresses, and whatever else you want! Keep in mind that you’re not relegated to using water-soluble pencils. You can also use regular colored pencils, paint, watercolors, ink, whatever you want, really.
3. Forest Lettering
You know how you always see commercials on TV that brag about food products that make it seem like you slaved all day, but really only took a few minutes to whip up? Well, this is the lettering equivalent of those products. It may look impressive, but it’s simple to create.
First, start by using a pencil to make a rectangle in the middle of a piece of paper. To achieve this, I just drew four guidelines that were each 2 cm from the edge of each side of the paper. If you’re using a calligraphy style that requires writing guidelines (such as Janet Style, which I’m using here), go ahead and draw those in. You can pre-write the text in pencil if you’d like, but I wanted to live on the edge here, so I went for it with a dip pen and sumi ink!
If possible, make sure your letters have plenty of curls and tails; you’ll want to use those in a moment to make “branches”.
Once your phrase is written, you’re basically going to make curls that come off of various letters. Don’t let these curls go outside of the rectangle guideline you drew! As you create the curls, you can add leaves and other elements like those described in the botanical watercolor wreath tutorial.
If you find that it’s starting to be difficult to make out the original phrase you wrote, that’s okay! That’s why it’s called “Forest Lettering” — the viewer should have to work a bit to make out what you’re trying to say through the leaves and brambles.
Once you’re finished and your ink has dried, erase the pencil guidelines!
At that point, congratulations; you’ve made a lovely, original piece! While Janet Style looks really nice here, the concept would work equally well with Amy Style or Flourish Formal Style.
I hope you enjoyed the fresh lettering styles in today’s tutorial! Sometimes it’s nice to just relax and read something that gives you ideas and inspiration. Have a great weekend, and be sure to check back on Tuesday for a fantastic, generous giveaway sponsored by Greenleaf & Blueberry!
Thank you for reading, and have a great weekend!
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