Two afternoons. Brush lettering with some of my favourite brush pens. Happy place. Happy people. Well, that’s the best description I can come up with as I recall the brush lettering weekend I had with my friends from Pentel Singapore at Tokyu Hands Orchard Road.
Saying it was a busy weekend would be an understatement. Pentel arranged 30-minute brush lettering workshops for free, and we had about 80 attendees in all workshops! I met 80 wonderful people who want to learn brush lettering! I think that makes the event so awesome.
During the classes, we used the Pentel Fude brush sign pen. This pen is one of my absolute favourites, and is perfect for beginners. It has a durable felt tip which gives good control, so the user can easily create thick and thin strokes that are essential in cursive brush lettering. At the end of each class, the attendees get one free pen in their choice of colour.
Way to go, Pentel! There were a lot of people asking about future events like this because the classes sold out so fast the first time. I’d love to have another go at this (it was that fun), so like the Pentel and HHP Facebook pages for future updates.
Thanks to Pentel Singapore, Tokyu Hands, and to everyone who dropped by to take the class or just say hi!
Have you always wanted to try hand lettering but have no idea where to start? Or are you trying your hand at it (no pun intended) but it’s not getting any better? I’ve heard so many say that they can’t do lettering or calligraphy because they have bad handwriting. My answer? That’s not true at all! If you feel like you’re stuck in a rut (believe me I know how it feels, I’ve been there), here are 8 tips and tricks to get your lettering mojo back. The bonus? You will get better at it!
1 :: Use the right tools
For the lettering wizard, any tool can be used to make beautiful letters. For a beginner, it’s not that easy. Try different tools and see what works best for you. What’s important is that you’re comfortable with it, and it brings out the effect that you’d like to have. Do you fancy having some thick and thin strokes in fluid script? Try a few brush pens and see which one brings out your lettering best. Do you want to draw each letter? Get yourself an HB pencil and a fine felt-tipped pen for inking. Make sure the paper you’re using does not make the ink on your pens feather and blot.
The tools for a beginner need not be expensive, nor should it be a lot. Stick to a basic set, and follow the next 7 tips.
2 :: Start small
This can apply to your collection of beginner’s tools, but I’m actually referring to the actual piece you will create. A few years back, I give A5 sized cards during the workshops I have. The participants are usually all beginners, hence, they found the A5 card too big! I cut it in half to A6, and everyone was more comfortable. A huge art piece would be intimidating, and the task would be daunting. Start with a small piece of artwork and trust me, it’ll be easier.
3 :: Use guidelines and sketch your piece
Pro lettering artists and calligraphers can create pieces without guidelines and pencil sketches. They can slant their letters consistently, and can compose their lettering perfectly without sketching it out first. Well, as a beginner, you can’t do that. If you feel that you can wing it without the use of a pencil, stop yourself and pick that pencil up. Lightly sketch the words and see how you can compose it to make it look cohesive. Your piece should look like one unit, not a group of individual words.
4 :: Focus on one style, then slowly diversify
Blackletter, italic, and a modern script style. They’re all so cool to look at, you can’t decide which one to try first! So you’ll put them all together in one lettering piece. I’d say nope—that ain’t gonna work. As a beginner, try one lettering style first (in my case, a hand-drawn cursive), then when you’re used to it, slowly try another style. When I got used to cursive lettering with a Sakura Micron, I then proceeded to learning how to use brush pens. Be patient! It’s better to master a style or two than be a jack of all trades and a master of none.
5 :: Slow down
Lettering, either with a brush pen, a ballpoint, or a pencil, is a therapeutic activity. It’s a great stress-reliever. My point is, lettering shouldn’t be rushed—it’s meant to be a slow process. When composing your art piece, sketch slowly. Study the composition and make improvements. If something looks odd, start over. Don’t try to make some quick fixes to balance the mistake out (this however, works, albeit rarely).
Are you practicing your letter forms? Fill your lined pages with drills. Write slowly.
Most beginners, myself included, thought that the faster we swish our pens, the better the flourish will be. A flourish is the swirly stroke you see in the beginning or end of a word, and it’s used to add character to your lettering. It also makes your composition look cohesive. I’ve learned that flourishes that were done with a slow, steady hand have better results than quick flicks.
So relax and slow down, and your lettering will be better. Which leads me to the next tip.
6 :: Breathe
I’ve taught quite a number of modern calligraphy and lettering classes and the participants all have one thing in common—they hold their breath when writing. Seriously. Are you guilty of this, too? Here’s a trick that will help your relax—breathe in during an upstroke, and slowly breathe out on the downstroke. Sounds like yoga for the hands, eh?
7 :: Pick a style, and call it your own
As a beginner, you will be bombarded with different styles of lettering and calligraphy on social media. That’s fine! As beginners, you need all the inspiration you can get. After a while, however, it’s best to stick to one style that you’re most comfortable with. The one that you think is the prettiest. One that makes you proud, and would want to improve. Stick to it, and make it better.
8 :: Observe, study, practice
Ok, so I kind of cheated because the last tip is actually made up of 3 little tips. But these 3 words need to be done together. Look around you for signages and artworks and try to detect what makes them look good. How are the words written? How is the piece composed? Study your letter forms. Memorise how each letter looks like so your lettering will be consistent.
Last but certainly not the least, practice. We all gotta start somewhere. First attempts at lettering and composition will always be terrible, unless you were born with magical writing skills. Keep on practicing, and it will definitely get better, I promise!
So there you have it! Do you have any other tips on how to get better at lettering? Let us know in the comments!
So you’ve digitized your gorgeous calligraphy. It’s pretty. You can print as many pieces as you want to give to friends and family. But have you ever wondered what’s the next step to scanning your calligraphy and adjusting the contrast in Photoshop? Well, I got news for y’all, and it’s something I’ve only done recently. How about adding (digitally) some seamless patterns on your calligraphy?
This requires some basic knowledge in either Photoshop or Illustrator, but once you get the hang of it, this will make your calligraphy extra pretty. The digital version of the above calligraphy piece was all done in 10 minutes, tops, excluding the writing part which takes waaaaayyy longer.
This is really easy-peasy, take a look at the steps below. Please note that a working knowledge on Adobe Illustrator is required to be able to follow the tutorial. We will be using a pre-made vector pattern downloaded from the internet. I got mine from here. First thing you need to do is have your seamless pattern open in AI (this will be in either .eps or .ai format).
1 :: Copy and paste your vector pattern on a new file. I used an A4 sized art board. If the graphic’s too big, use the Free Transform tool from the left tool bar to scale to your desired size.
2 :: Make the vector graphic into a pattern. Click on the Object pull-down menu from the top, select Pattern, and click on Make.
3 :: Save your pattern. Click OK, and delete the existing graphics from your art board. This will give you a clean slate.
4 :: Create a full background using your newly-created pattern. Wee!
Now this background is ready for use! For the Elizabeth Gilbert quote I’ve written, I just placed a black rectangle over the background, pasted and live-traced the jpeg scan of my calligraphy, did a bit of clean up, and saved it as an A4-sized poster. There are so many possibilities with patterns and I cannot wait to try them out!
Hope you’ll have as much fun as I have! Here are some of my favourite premium patterns from Creative Market:
Full disclosure: I've recently become part of Creative Market's Partner Program, and I get commissions for purchases made through the links below.
I had my first watercolour brush lettering workshop here in Singapore! There were new and familiar faces in the class, and I’m so happy to say I had a blast sharing freehand brush lettering with such a creative bunch. It was a morning filled with lots of colour and laughter (and cake and blueberry pie).
Let’s Letter Together: Freehand Brush Lettering is a class that celebrates individuality and personal style. There are no strict letter forms to be followed, as long as the words are legible, strokes and slants are consistent. Hey, freehand doesn’t mean indecipherable writing after all—it’s bold and artistic, but easy to read.
After practicing with the basics, we moved on to writing words, then composing a piece and finally, ombre lettering! I demonstrated 2 ways to create those beautifully-blended colours in brush lettering. Putting all the basic lessons together to create a final piece is always the best part of any HHP workshop.
Brush lettering sure wasn’t easy when I first started out. I was too familiar with modern calligraphy using the pointed pen, and shifting to a different writing tool threw me off kilter. Brush lettering takes time and lots of patience, and that’s the same word of advice I give to anyone who’s just starting out. I’m extremely happy to have been able to share in this class the tips and tricks I learned along the way. Seeing these awesome ladies and gents gain confidence with a brush made me feel like a proud mama.
So guys, I’m planning for the next workshops for the next few months. I’m thinking of having another brush lettering class. Who’s with me? Let me know in the comments below!
We’re counting down to the Easter weekend! While I’ll probably be out Easter egg hunting with my little humans, I’m looking forward to some down time this weekend. How about some DIY crafts that can either show off or complement your calligraphy skills? I’m all for crafts that do not take forever to make, and don’t cost a bomb either. A long list of materials needed are not very attractive to me (same thing when it comes to recipes… but that’s another story).
So I’ve searched high and low for crafts that would use calligraphy or lettering, and I’ve rounded up 4 of them. Here are some DIY calligraphy crafts to exercise those maker’s muscles!
1 :: Handmade Notebooks
Um, ok, I’m a self-confessed notebook hoarder. I have some that I bought from craft markets ages ago, tucked in the corner of my drawer. It’s no surprise that I will be putting this first on the list. Use some calligraphy-friendly paper for your notebook, and you have some pretty practice sheets to carry along. Find out how to make these notebooks from Paper & Stitch.
2 :: Lettering on a Frosted Vase
I am in awe at how pretty this is! It sounds too simple, given the minimal tools needed. But it can be a challenge to pencil in those words on a bottle. However, just look at how gorgeous the finished product will be, and I’m sure you’ll try it, too. Painting with acrylic and a teeny tiny brush will do the trick. I can’t wait to try this myself. Get the tutorial from the Minted blog.
3 :: Paint Watercolour Leaves
Now, nothing frames calligraphy better than a watercolour wreath. Florals are all the rage right now, but leaves have this subtle look that will not overpower your calligraphy. Learn from The Postman’s Knock here (bonus: it comes with 2 more tutorials!).
4 :: Lettering on Faux Leather Clutches
Doing brush lettering on faux leather is a brilliant idea. First, it’s faux leather, so I wouldn’t really cry if I messed the lettering up (ok, maybe just a little). Second, it’s lettering on a clutch. It’s a statement piece! Please tell me you’ll try it. Learn how from A Fabulous Fete.
That’s it! I hope we would all have time to unwind and craft, and spend time with the people we love this weekend. To those who are celebrating, Happy Easter to you!
Calligraphy and brush lettering fonts are everywhere these days. No complaints here, but because of the sheer volume of fonts, it’s been really difficult to find a high quality free font. Yep, there are lots of high quality fonts out there — those with good kerning, clean shapes and nice letter forms. But free? That one’s rare.
It’s a fluid, pointed pen style script that dances up and down the base line. It looks like it has been scribbled nonchalantly, without a care in the world. The letters are delicately crafted, I could almost hear the nib very lightly touching the paper on the upstrokes.
Paduka Script is free for personal use and is available for download here.
Oh, and look! I made a shimmery printable. Add some sparkle on your wall today. Have an amazing day, everyone!
Last January marked my first modern calligraphy workshop in Manila, Philippines. It was a lovely Saturday with absolutely no traffic jam. It was sunny, and bright light was streaming down the floor-to-ceiling windows of The Picasso‘s function room. I’ve set up without a hitch, with fairy lights nicely hanging on the glass wall.
I brought all tools and workpads from Singapore, so the class in Manila was basically the same Happy Hour Workshop that we have in here. Thanks to my kids who have airline baggage allowance for themselves (even infants get 10kg!), I did not have to pay extra for more than 20 sets of workshop kits! Yay!
We were packed to the brim that day. These amazing ladies got to work, practicing their letter forms, as I went around to see how each of them were doing. It’s so satisfying to see them struggle during the first strokes of the drills, then start improving as they start filling the pages with more letters.
Of course, a workshop is not complete without coffee and pastries, so we stopped mid-way to refuel and mingle. It was great to get to know each and everyone of them, find out what they do for a living and how they stumbled upon this workshop (someone said Google, which was awesome).
Thanks to everyone who came to the Beginners’ Class — hopefully I’ll be back later this year for an intermediate one, or even brush lettering! We’ll never know. Hugs to the ladies who had to travel quite far just to get the workshop. Lastly, high fives to the amazing team at The Picasso Boutique & Serviced Residences for giving in to my requests and setting up so nicely. I can’t wait to be back! Now here are more photos of the class. To those who weren’t able to come, hope to see you guys next time!
So. Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, and let’s face it — not everyone is in the mood for cheesy love cards. I wanted to paint something using my black Higgins Eternal ink, but I was painting with my 5-year old (and she was happily blending reds and greens to make cherries) so I thought pink would be nice.
Here’s my interpretation of the unromantic Valentine card. A prickly cactus in a blend of pink and purple, giving free hugs to those who dare. I threw in a tiny heart just for kicks. Perfect for those you have utterly no romantic feelings for, but you love ’em anyway. Hope you love this free printable as much as I did!
The past two years have all been about vintage and rustic weddings, with white, blush and champagne. It’s a very pretty, pleasing theme and I always enjoyed designing invitations in such a warm colour palette.
Last year, I was approached by Wedrock Weddings and Ideal Weddings Magazine for an Industrial-themed wedding styled shoot. It would be mostly grey, with hints of magenta, copper and forest green. So it’s cool, with hints of warm tones to balance everything. Without a thought, I said I was in!
The venue was at a restaurant in the East, with raw grey walls and marble countertops — perfect for an industrial wedding, indeed. For this editorial shoot, I provided lettering and calligraphy for an invitation suite and envelopes, framed signage, and menu.
Hope you lovely couples who are planning a wedding would find inspiration from these stunning photos from the shoot!
Woot woot! Time for a year-end giveaway! 2016 is coming to a close, and I have to say that this year is indeed a very special one. I have so much to be thankful for, despite the ups and downs that almost made me feel like I was riding a year-long roller coaster. So who wants to win for herself (or himself!) a custom-made wooden oblique holder set?
This year our little family had another addition. The Happy Hour Workshops continued to be extremely in-demand, and I have grown so much just by teaching the craft I loved most. I had my first online workshop (or more appropriately, speaking engagement) over at Modern Thrive. I continued having classes at my favourite studio, The Untitled Space, and said goodbye to it last November. I’ve had lots of amazing memories in that place, but now I am on the lookout for new workshop venues. That in itself, is another adventure. I adore the wedding invitation suites that I designed this year — thanks to brides who were never short of creative ideas!
So guys, to give thanks to everyone of you who stuck around Happy Hands Project and continued following this humble blog of mine, I’m giving away a set of the Happy Hands Project oblique holder set, crafted in collaboration with woodworker Mr Keiichi Sato in Japan.
Join in! The set consists of an oblique holder for right-handed writers, an ink jar holder with 2 ink bottles included, and a pen rest. I will ship the set to anywhere in the world via Singpost registered mail. One winner will be randomly chosen on 1 January 2017 and will be announced thereafter. The giveaway opens 14 December 2016, and closes on 31 December 2016.