Editor’s Note: Taylor Huizenga’s advice on lettering for beginners couldn’t come at a better time. Just a few nights ago I got out my watercolors and a couple of markers for a #CreativityHour night, with the intention of making the name tags for my family’s Christmas gift exchange.
I knew I wanted the letters to look pretty and not too forced, so I began drawing the names with a basic hand-lettering style that is simply an extension of my natural writing. Starting with the pretty watercolors and cool markers was my jumping-off point, and from there it was just a matter of adding some swirls here and there, and in some cases outlining certain letters with a glitter pen (because, honestly, who can deny the fun of glitter?).
My lettering skills are still improving, and that’s a positive thing to consider. It would be easy for me to compare my work to that of others, but that doesn’t benefit my letters or my confidence. Instead, I compare my work to what it was a year ago, and that leaves me ready to keep going. Taylor has more to say on this, as she shares her own path to hand lettering techniques that you can learn in her new Lettering Lesson. ~Cherie
Hand Lettering: Everyone Needs to Start Somewhere by Taylor Huizenga
I can still remember the first time I saw a hand-lettered chalkboard. It was the fall semester of my junior year of college. I had been assigned to create a personal brand for my advanced typography class.
At the time, I didn’t know how I wanted to brand myself, so I browsed Pinterest to see if I could get a bit of inspiration. When I came across a beautifully lettered chalkboard, and saw a #handlettering hashtag under the image, I was compelled to click on it and see what it was all about. It was there that I learned what hand lettering was, and saw the various styles. I became mesmerized by the beautiful typography that flooded my screen. As I kept scrolling through the photos, one thing kept crossing my mind: “There is absolutely no way that you can create anything like this.” I know it has been said that we’re our own worst critics, but seeing all these perfect lettering examples was very intimidating to someone who has never tried it.
After a while I decided to just try it out. Let’s just say that was my starting point. I didn’t pick up a pen and start lettering the way I do today, although I’m very jealous of people who have the natural ability. Some are born with an eye for lettering, but for others it takes lots and lots of practice.
I spent a lot of time studying the elements of other people’s hand lettered pieces to try and learn what pairs well together in new ways. I studied the structure of different fonts I came across, and spent many hours putting what I learned into practice. This process didn’t happen overnight: I started with a lot of simple block lettering, which I teach in my September Lettering Lesson, and evolved from there. Once I got the hang of those letters, I slowly began to incorporate other designs and detailed letters. I tried different letters and experimented by filling them in with different patterns.
I’ve used up a lot of erasers from starting over when the letters didn’t come out as I had hoped. I stress the importance of a pencil and good eraser, because I know I’m not the first one to sketch out a word and immediately go back and start making changes. I’m constantly challenged when it comes to my hand lettering to this day.
As I continued to study the art, I saw how much people were incorporating brush lettering, something that once again, I had never done. I tried using a brush marker, and it was a total failure. For the life of me, I could not get the upward strokes to be thin; they were the same width as the downward strokes. After watching videos, trying different mediums, and with lots and lots of practice, I now have gotten much better at brush lettering, especially when compared with where I started. Trying anything new can be scary and intimidating, especially when all you see is experienced artists’ final pieces. It might make you think you can’t do it, but you can. Everyone needs to start somewhere, and just remember, practice makes progress! ~Taylor