Tips for Lettering

Lettering sample where the thick lines have been over emphasized by coloring in hand calligraphied letters.

Ready to take your ABCs to the next level?

Lettering is a beautiful art form that one can easily learn but can take a lifetime to master. Lettering is defined as “the act or process of inscribing with or making letters.” Lettering is not necessarily interchangeable with calligraphy. Lettering is an umbrella term that includes typography, calligraphy, and illustration of the alphabet, words or phrases. Lettering has evolved alongside language and where we are today reflects a rich history of that evolution. To understand more, let’s look back for a moment.

Some of our letters are so old they have roots as images. The letter “A” was the symbol for Ox. If you look at the uppercase “A” upside down you can see the face and two horns of an Ox.

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Several more letterforms were retained in Greek and Latin character sets. In the 6th century, the quill feather pen became popular and was the primary tool used by scribes to create books. The nib defined our letterforms by thin and thick lines in the characters as well as oval shapes. These traits have remained through the invent of metal print and digital typography.

Typography was developed in the mid-15th century, but modern typography really started to change in the 20th century when printing became more adventurous as journalism and advertising encouraged more visual competition in newspapers and other printed materials. (If you are interested in dipping your toes in the hows and whys of typography, watch this wonderful animated video.)

We have three little adventures for you to consider giving a try to advance your lettering techniques:

Calligraphy
Some hand drawn letter with ink and calligraphy pen sitting nearby.

When trying out your calligraphy pen you will probably want have several pages to test on. Very your style, sizing and weights. You can purchased line paper, or draw lines our yourself with a pencil and ruler.

You will need lined paper, a calligraphy pen and All-Purpose Ink. Go through the alphabet writing both uppercase and lowercase letters of each character. Use heavy pressure on the down-stroke and light pressure on the upstroke. The thick and thin lines should be present and form naturally if you are applying pressure at the right times. Depending on your quill, you may need to dilute your All-Purpose ink with some water. Try a one to one ratio.

Illumination
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This illuminated letter is for Mary, who wishes she was a princess and loves flowers, ice cream and movies.

You will need paper for your final composition, carbon paper, a large printed letter of choice and Memento Dual Tip Markers. Choose any letter in the alphabet. If you have a hard time choosing just use the first letter in your name. Trace the printed letter onto your canvas area with carbon paper. Now pick a theme for your illustration around the letter. If you are using your own name then assign your own personal traits to the letter. The challenge is to weave images around the outside of the letter without distracting too much from the letter being the focus point while also creating narrative images that communicate the theme.

Hierarchy
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“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” – Ghandi We’ve left the pencil marks in so you can see that it’s perfectly normal to work out your letters for awhile before you bring ink onto the page. We also chose to do a watercolor wash with the Memento Marker ink.

You will need paper, pencil, an eraser, Memento Dual Tip Markers and quote of your choice. The objective is to take your quote and create a visual hierarchy by enlarging the most important words and minimizing less important. Words like “and” and “the” can be minimized. Draw a circle on the page. Divide the circle into sections leaving very little space on the top and the bottom. Fill the circle with the quote and work and rework in pencil until you have a successful looking piece. Fill in with the marker to solidify the design.

Lettering has a full history that one can certainly get lost in. We hope you find your own creative spark and insights in this practice and study of lettering.

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