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!
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!
Instagram has been an important part of my journey in calligraphy and lettering. I’d say I’m quite a visual person — I get inspired by the things I see. The lettering and calligraphy community on Insta is like one big happy family, and when one is stuck in a rut, there’s always someone out there who’s ready to help. I’ve personally met some really inspiring people over there (if you’re reading this, hi!) and it was awesome.
For those of you looking for inspiration on social media, look no further. Here, I’ve compiled 8 up-and-coming lettering artists from different parts of the globe to inspire the handlettering lover in you!
Are you just starting to hand-letter using a brush pen? Or are you interested in creating brush lettering pieces but don’t know where to start? Well, I’ve been there. About 3 years ago I wanted to hand-letter using a brush but was totally lost. I tried using a small brush and some paint but found it extremely tough.
After some research, I stumbled upon the first ever brush pen in my collection — the Tombow Dual Brush. Oh, I didn’t traipse into brush lettering wonderland right then, but it was a good start. For beginners in brush lettering, let me share with you 6 brush pens that you can start with. My advise is try 1 or 2 of these and practice, practice, practice. You’ll get better I promise!
Kuretake Fudebiyori Pocket Color Brush Pens
I love this pen. If I will be asked to bring just one tool for lettering, this is what I will most likely bring. This nifty brush pen has the perfect bristles for lettering and will give you a good variation of thick and thin strokes. I say it’s perfect because there are brush pens that are either too soft or too stiff, but the Kuretake pen has just the right flexibility.
Tombow Dual Brush Pen
Aah, the pen that started it all. For me, at least. The Tombow dual brush has a great tip and is slightly softer than the Kuretake. As the name suggests, each pen has a brush tip on one end and a fine tip on the opposite end. Some letterers use this pen for blending with other colours and they work great. The ink colours are a little less saturated and will not be so vibrant especially when used on coated paper, but I don’t mind this one bit because these are really great for practice and these pens have served me well during my learning journey in brush lettering.
Pentel Fude Touch Sign Pen
The Pentel Touch has a small brush tip, and is pretty stiff. It’s great for writing small letters and is easy to use. It won’t give you drastic line variations like the first 2 pens mentioned above because if its small brush tip but if you want to practice writing small letters and strokes, this works great. It’s a small pen that can fit in your pocket, and has bright colours to choose from.
Copic Ciao Marker
Honestly? The Copic Ciao marker is on this list mainly because of its availability here in Singapore — Art Friend has a bazillion colours of the Copic Ciao that it’s so difficult to walk away with just one. It has a thick body which gives the writer a good grip. The brush tip is on one end and a broad edge tip is on the other end. It has great colours as well, and is refillable! That’s awesome, don’t you think?
Lyra Aqua Brush Duo
This pen is very much similar to the Tombow with a slightly smaller brush tip. This will give you good line variation, and it also has 2 tips — one with a brush and another with a fine tip. Here’s the first time I tried it, and I fell in love with it instantly! It’s very comfortable to write with and I highly recommend this for beginners.
Pentel Aquash Waterbrush
Now this one’s different from the rest, and slightly more challenging to use than the rest of the pens on this list. The water brush from Pentel is super convenient to use, has lettering-friendly bristles, and is lightweight. This practically replaces your jar of water when doing watercolour lettering or painting because the water will be in the pen itself, and you just give the pen a little squeeze to make the water come out. Talk about convenience! The Aquash also has a variety of brush sizes, and my favourite is the fine tip. It gives me a lot of flexibility and lets me blend colours nicely so obviously, that one’s my absolute favourite.
Unfortunately I haven’t seen the Kuretake Fudebiyori pen in any of the shops here in Singapore, but Overjoyed has several kinds worth checking out as well.
So there you have it, 6 brush pens that beginners in lettering can try. I know I’ve left out some pens that are really popular to letterers, but I guess some of those pens don’t really work for me. Do you have a favourite brush pen? Lemme know in the comments!
I always love doing lettering for company logos, and this hand-lettered logo for Lamb Cupcakery here in Singapore is one of those. Lamb was moving to a new location at the time, and will be having a branding overhaul. It included the logo, storefront signage, in-store signages, and menu.
I designed a few versions, some with foliage and florals, some with flourishes and swirls. Finally, we settled on a pretty yet uncomplicated brush lettering style that’s as delicious-looking as the cupcakes they make. I mean, seriously, don’t these little babies look so scrumptious? My heavily pregnant self is craving for some right now.
Do swing by Lamb Cupcakery for that sugar fix:
8A Marina Boulevard
#B2-61 Marina Bay Link Mall
For me this year, the peak season for wedding calligraphy started on the later part of the 3rd quarter. I was on my first trimester of pregnancy at the time, and I was feeling extra emotional and tired. After tucking my daughter to sleep, I couldn’t get myself to work some more. I thought, how will I get through the wedding season if I was tired all the time? I was worried, but sleep always got the better of me. I hit the sack a couple of hours earlier than usual.
Then I worry again the next day because of the work that has been piling up.
Calligraphy and lettering is something I do because I love doing it. I like writing, and drawing letters, ever since I was a little girl. So why is this whole thing, the thing I’m supposed to love, is stressing me out? Now that I’m well into my second trimester and down to my last calligraphy addressing project for the year, I’m feeling much better and excited for what the coming year has to bring. I was able to accomplish the invitation suites for December weddings (and even one for March!), delivered place cards right on time, and also had a few large-sized calligraphy done for some clients. Let me share with you some of the things that kept me motivated — and sane — during the time when the work load was almost too much to handle.
FOCUS ON YOUR GOALS I was able to do this by listing my goals down on paper. Seeing it on my wall makes it more ‘real’, and I was able to focus on my priorities instead of procrastinating and doing less important things. Focus on your daily or weekly goals and stick to it.
So yes, it’s important to get work done, but you’re headed for burn out if you don’t take a breather once in a while. There was a 250-word poem that I had to rewrite 3 times because of some silly mistakes I’ve made and it was frustrating! There was one evening when everything seemed to go wrong. I knocked my ink over, the envelope drying rack tumbled, and my hand was shaky. Why not take a break? Making watercolour washes on my pad relaxes me, and scribbling with my brush pens calms me down. Trust me, it works. By the time I got back to writing, it was so much better.
CHECK YOUR WORK
I’m lucky to have a husband who designs as well, and was willing to give his creative input into my work. Having another pair of eyes look through your finished work is better because he/she may see things differently than you do. Having someone else proofread is also a good idea. However, some of us would prefer to do things on our own and if this is the case, carefully check your work before sending it out. It saves time because you don’t have to do things over again, and you’ll have happy clients all the way.
ACCEPT YOUR LIMITATIONS
I had to give up some calligraphy workshops during this period. As much as I love to teach this craft, and I get emails asking when my next class would be, I knew I couldn’t handle it. Take a step back and see how your work load is, and learn to say no if you simply cannot handle any more. Your clients will thank you because you’ll be able to churn out better work.
REMEMBER WHY YOU’RE DOING THIS IN THE FIRST PLACE
When work gets too much for you to handle, pause and ask yourself why you’re working so hard for this anyway. I pick up my pen and dip it in ink and get lost in pointed pen bliss because it makes me happy. I’m passionate about this craft, and I want to share the beauty of calligraphy. What makes you do what you do? Think about it, and it’ll put a smile on your lips. Now check your daily goals and focus on them because believe me, it feels pretty good to get some work done.
What a lovely experience this has been! This was kind of a dream project because I get to paint florals and leaves (sage leaves, specifically) and do lettering with my brush as well. Though we eventually dropped the sage leaves while finalising the logo, we retained the 2 kinds of flowers that I painted.
Cotton and Sage is the brainchild of florist E’an here in Singapore. She specifically wanted a certain brush lettering style for the logo type, and gave me creative freedom for the watercolour florals. I liked the lettering style as it was a something that I’ve been trying myself. After a few rounds of revisions, we have arrived at the logo that you can see on the pop-up shop sign below.
It was a breeze working on the Cotton and Sage logo, and I am grateful for opportunities like these. Oh, and did I mention that I got a gorgeous bouquet of thanks from the florist herself? It made my desk pretty despite all the inky mess.
Am I the only one hooked on brush lettering fonts? Everytime I click on Creative Market, there is a vast number of brush fonts for sale. For those who find lettering with a brush a bit challenging, one can always invest in a font or two to make artworks.
After pointed pen calligraphy, I also love lettering with a brush and trying out different styles can be tricky. For the beginner, looking at the structure and letter forms of these fonts can help one understand how these are written. These fonts are so natural-looking and you can even see the strokes on the letters. Talk about organic!
Wish I could give away a font that I have designed myself. But while I figure out how that dream will come to fruition, let me share with you my favourite premium brush fonts so far:
Last year I wrote something called Lettering Without Thinking. With all the calligraphy commission works I’ve been doing lately, I didn’t have much time to use my brushes and just play with them. With calligraphy, I’m always concerned about legibility and balance, and whether the thickness of my strokes are consistent. I do play around with my pointed pen, but it’s not as carefree as no-nonsense writing with a brush.
Let me share with you a couple of pieces I’ve done a week ago, using a round #8 brush and black Ecoline watercolour. The only thing I wanted to do here is to centralise all the words, write them big and small, make a mess, and have fun. And I was able to do all those — I just made sure I had a lot of paper that’s ready to use. I didn’t do these all in one go! I did a few different styles and chose these two as my favourites.
Here are a few suggestions on how to experiment. You’ll get different results every time!
Try different brushes
Use watercolours, and don’t wash your brush when changing colours
Tear your papers’ edges for a rustic look
Splatter some ink when you’re done, just resist the urge to overdo it!