It’s easy to feel a wealth of emotions whenever you’re trying something completely new — maybe your excitement comes with nervousness or passion with curiosity. But picking up a new hobby is more than a chance to learn something new — it’s also an opportunity to express yourself and strengthen your creativity.
It doesn’t matter how old you are, your experience level, or even the time frame in which you choose to try your hand at something you’ve never done before — the only thing that matters is that you do it! At Horizon Group USA, we believe creative inspiration is everywhere — and sometimes, it’s right at your fingertips. We’re so excited to introduce you to the world of hand lettering, where you can immerse yourself in artistic, expressive fun.
First things first, what is hand lettering?
From street signs to chalkboard menus and home décor, hand lettering is everywhere. On its own, hand lettering is the art of adding your own unique flair to letters, one at a time. It allows you to take the written language and transform it into meaningful art, no matter how neat or messy your handwriting is — plus, hand lettering is always yours to define.
What should I use to start hand lettering?
The truth is, you can do a whole lot with just a pencil, paper, and some ink — but you can do even more with a sketchpad, fine and bold tip markers, or even brush pens. Once you have your lettering tools, you can transform a blank page into a work of art. Get to know your materials — experiment with their textures, discover how the slightest change in pressure can result in big, bold type anatomy. All you really need to start is a writing utensil, a medium (like a sketchpad, printer paper, or a notebook), and a little bit of inspiration to ignite your creativity.
What are the basics of hand lettering?
Your hand lettering style is yours to define — but consistency is one of the most crucial elements to every hand lettering style. Before you get started, go back to the basics — you know, the days when you learned how to write. Leave space between words, keep them in a nice straight line, you know the drill. When you learn how to hand letter, you’ll still follow those guidelines (probably without even realizing it), but there are a few other things to consider. Our blogger friend and expert hand letterer, Amy Latta, put it best when she wrote: “When we write, whether we’re using lined paper or not, there is a set of invisible guidelines we follow.” Check out her illustration below to get to know them:
Think of the baseline as home base — it’s where all your letters sit. But when you write letters with “tails,” like “p” or “j,” you’ll draw beneath the baseline — called the descender line. Then, right in the middle is the x-height, where lowercase letters reach. And the cap height? That’s where all capital letters reach.
Another handful of basics to consider are your spacing, strokes, and of course, embellishments. Spacing between your words and phrases will always be different, and leaving more or less space between your letters, phrases, and shapes can drastically change the way they look. Strokes go up, down, and sometimes even curve — they’re part of the letter where your pen moves. When hand lettering, upstrokes tend to be thinner, while downstrokes tend to be thicker. And whenever you cross your “t’s,” “A’s,” or “H’s,” you’re creating a cross stroke.
Okay, now that I know the basics, what are the different ways I can hand letter?
Get hands-on! There’s no right or wrong way to create — all you can do is experiment to find what you like most. Your style will always evolve, but, as Amy Latta puts it, “Your own unique combination of [letter shapes, slant, bounce, spacing, and contrast] will define your style and set it apart from anyone else’s.”
Letter shapes refer to how you form your letters — thick downstrokes, thin upstrokes, long or short tails. And what about the position of your letters — do they go straight up and down or slant? Do all your letters sit on the baseline, or do they bounce above or below it? How far apart do your letters and phrases go? What about contrast — does it vary in thickness, thinness, or bounce? Considering these questions as you create will help you, well, create! Then, try out Amy’s script lettering technique below:
First, pick a word, any word, and write it in script — make it large, spacious, and with as little or as much slant as you’d like.
Next, find the downstroke (where your pen or marker moves downward to write the letter) and draw a second line next to each stroke.
Then, fill in the lines to make them appear thicker!
… And add some embellishments, as Amy did below:
Remember: Your hand lettering style will always evolve and improve as you continue to create, re-create, and refine — whether you follow the rules or break them, write inside the lines or create outside the box!
Where can I practice?
Get your letter on over and over again — practice makes perfect, after all! Challenge yourself to get creative and make something new every single day, so you can keep honing and strengthening your new lettering skills. And while you’re at it, download Amy Latta’s free practice pages, or snag her Hand Lettering Workbook designed exclusively for kids. Ready, set, letter!