10 Great Tips for Beginning Hand Lettering

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.

So many lettering styles and techniques await you in this great collection, perfect for beginning hand lettering! (Art by Joanne Sharpe)

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!

This exclusive collection includes videos, books, and downloadable lessons.

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.

beginning hand lettering
Let guidelines assist you as you begin your lettering adventures. (Art and photo by Taylor Huizenga.)

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.

A great beginning hand-lettering technique is to combine lettering with a mixed-media painting, integrating lettering into the piece. (Art by Joanne Sharpe.)

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.

Use Kari’s line designs or create your own to add style to your hand lettering. (Art and photo by Kari McKnight Holbrook.)

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.

Using your own hand lettering automatically makes the letters distinct. Pumping them up makes them even more so. (Art by Joanne Sharpe, photo by Joe Coca.)

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.

Watercolor lettering is a breeze when you use your own handwriting to create loose, dreamy letters. (Art by Danielle Donaldson.)

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.

Creating this lively alphabet is as easy as stacking drawn shapes. (Art by Joanne Sharpe.)

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.

Abstract flowers can be created with just a few light watercolor paint strokes, and they add so much to hand lettering. (Art by Jen Wagner)

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.

beginning hand lettering
Start with simple letter shapes and add embellishments like doodles and flourishes to create standout lettering. (Art and photo by Jodi Ohl.)

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!

Don’t let the blank page get you down! Make a small accordion journal and create lettering one panel at a time. (Art by Joanne Sharpe.)

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!

Get a fun tutorial from Joanne Sharpe and learn how to create playful hand lettering in this guest blog post.

beginning hand lettering
Ready to see your hand-lettering skills blossom and grow? Click here to learn more about the Ultimate Lettering Collection!


Art Journaling and Lettering, Blog, Mixed-Media Techniques


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