Lettering is such a huge trend in mixed-media art, and artists continue to flock to an array of techniques and projects. Maybe you’re curious. Maybe you’ve tried hand lettering but didn’t like the results, or were frustrated by poor instruction. Good thing we caught up with you, because we have something that’s perfect for beginning hand lettering. Our exclusive Ultimate Lettering Collection is a beginner’s dream—it’s packed with hundreds of techniques, tons of projects, and all the encouragement and inspiration you need to feel confident about the words and letters you’ll create. Most of all, you’ll have fun discovering easy and colorful ways to create a wide range of lettering styles—elegant, funky, colorful, modern—and add them to your mixed-media art. The books, videos, and lessons are all designed to get you started, keep you motivated, and most of all, let you have a lot of fun.
These 10 tips for beginning hand lettering are all from the resources included in the collection, which features a variety of lettering styles, approaches, and materials—truly something for everyone. And here’s a secret: They’re not just for beginners! Take a look through and discover some incredible surprises!
1. Creating letters that are the same height can be tricky when beginning hand lettering, but Taylor Huizenga has an easy solution for this that she shares in Lettering Lessons Volume 1: Block Lettering. She encourages readers to create three parallel guidelines, which can be changed to create different styles of letters. Make the overall guidelines as small or large as you like: Fill a page, or use a small index card. You’re the boss. This one tip will absolutely boost your confidence as you create letters by hand.
2. One of the things that attracts mixed-media artists to lettering is the fact that hand lettering can be incorporated into every aspect of mixed-media art. For beginners this is great news, because it means your artwork will only evolve and become better. A great project to start with is in the book Doodle Art and Lettering by Joanne Sharpe. One quick project you should try is creating a colorful abstract background with acrylic paint and, when dry, drawing a simple image (like a flower) over the background in black paint. Then, paint out the negative spaces with white, create doodles and marks with paint pens, and add lettering. Done this way, the art and lettering are integrated, that mixed-media itch is scratched, and everyone goes home happy.
3. If you’re uncomfortable jumping right in to hand lettering, Kari McKnight Holbrook has a safety net for you to try. She uses waves, undulations, and arcs cut from scrap cardboard, traces them onto a page, and then writes on and between the lines she’s created. In her Lettering Lesson Volume 7: Waves, Undulations, and Arcs, words and phrases take on a whole new look, elevating them to art. Even the simplest lettering has a big wow factor when drawn on funky lines.
4. Joanne Sharpe says, pump it up! In her book, The Art of Whimsical Lettering, Joanne suggests starting with simple printed letters in your own handwriting and then adding lines and weight to create a new look. Easy peasy for beginning hand lettering, no matter what you think of your everyday letters.
5. Creating words with watercolor may seem like a challenging technique, but Danielle Donaldson’s method is completely foolproof. Yep, we went there. Because it’s failsafe, it’s perfect for beginning hand lettering. With just some basic supplies and your own handwriting you’ll be astonished at what you can accomplish. It’s all in the video Creative Girl Workshop: Watercolor Words. Start with penciled words in your own handwriting, then just add bold watercolor strokes with a paintbrush for a beautiful effect. The end result is too gorgeous to even believe—a true work of art. Danielle’s even got a fantastic tip for adding texture that you won’t believe. No watercolor or lettering experience is necessary for this. Just leave your skepticism at the door and come on in.
6. We can all draw and doodle simple shapes, right? In her new book Artful Alphabets, Joanne Sharpe recommends using those simple shapes to design a new alphabet. Don’t think you can? Think again. By outlining your own basic letters and then filling the spaces with hand-drawn shapes created by you, your alphabet is like no other. Joanne calls this style Building Blocks and Baubles. This technique will make you feel successful, whether you use simple shapes or doodle something a little fancier.
7. Adding collage or hand-painted touches to lettering is a great pro move and a terrific way to enhance any style of lettering. In the book Happy Hand Lettering, Jen Wager offers instructions for creating a loose watercolor flower and leaves to add to the words “be kind.” Creating a free-form bloom is as simple as touching a paint-filled brush to paper to form petals, then adding thin, light strokes for leaves. It’s easier than you think, and elevates the look of the lettering.
8. Jodi Ohl dispels the notion that cursive lettering has to be formal and frilly—she shows that it can be funky and fresh, too. Start with your own handwriting, drawing letters in pencil. Then, thicken the letters and add embellishments like extra lines, doodles, and flourishes. Even if you don’t think you can draw, this is doable, and a fantastic no-stress way to create standout letters. Jodi’s got a lot more techniques to share with you in Lettering Lessons Vol. 4: Creative Cursive Hand Lettering.
9. Tackling big projects or even creating on big sheets of paper can be intimidating when you’re just beginning hand lettering. Joanne Sharpe understands that, which is why she advocates working on smaller projects that are completely doable. You’ll love Joanne’s technique of creating a basic accordion book out of watercolor paper and a small pamphlet stitched book that you can use for lettering, one panel at a time. In her video, Joanne Sharpe’s Inspirational Art Journals, there are no daunting sketchbooks to fill, just bite-size spaces to work within. Fold up a long piece of paper and work on your lettering whenever and wherever you like!
10. All of the artists included in this collection sing the same refrain for beginning hand lettering: practice, practice, practice. Write every day and experiment with all of the tools available for writing, and you’ll become more comfortable and confident. Don’t give up because you think your handwriting is ugly or not good enough. There are a lot of ways to get over that feeling and create your own unique hand-lettering style along the way. As you continue to try new lettering techniques, look through old practice pages to see how you’ve improved. Remember, progress is what’s important, not perfection. Embrace the beautiful, imaginative lettering that only you can create!