5 Tips: Is It Time To Replace My Calligraphy Nib?

Tips On When To Replace Nibs via Happy Hands Project

I’ve encountered this question a lot of times, and for beginners, it can be quite tricky. Some have asked me how long a pointed flex nib typically lasts. However, this question can’t be answered precisely — it would depend on how often a nib is used, or how much writing one has done with it.

There are some nibs in my stash that I only use from time to time, so therefore they have a longer life span. I have favourite ones, and I replace them more often. The key indication of a nib that needs to be chucked is when it starts ‘misbehaving’ (yup, sometimes I treat them like they’re my kids). Here I broke it down to 5 signs:

1. The nib is snagging the paper

This works specially when you’re used to how a certain nib behaves. Most often than not, I use a Nikko G, and I know that it glides onto my paper and doesn’t give me a hard time. When all of a sudden the tip starts scratching the surface of the paper during upstrokes, I know it needs to be replaced.

2. The upstrokes start skipping

Oh, that occasional ink splatter still catches me by surprise. Sometimes, I might be using a different kind of paper. But a splatter of ink on an upstroke? On my Rhodia?? That is totally unheard of. I would probably write a few more lines and see if the ink continues to skip and/or splatter. If it continues, the best thing to do is start again using a freshly prepared nib. Trust me, it works.

3. The ink flow is somehow different

If the ink just stays on the reservoir (that tiny hole in your nib that holds the nik) and wouldn’t flow, it can mean a few things. The ink may be too thick (or old, even), your nib needs washing, or it needs to be thrown into the bin. Combine this indication with any of the 2 above, and it means a new nib is the way to go.

4. The pointed tip is deformed

I had a Brause EF66 once, and it used to be my favourite nib. I used it all the time. Sadly, it was the last piece I had and obviously, I was holding on to it for as long is humanly possible. It did all those things above but I turned a blind eye. When I couldn’t take it anymore and my writing was a mess anyway, I took a closer look at the tip and realized that the tines were misaligned. The tines are the two parts of the nib that separates on the downstroke. Sometimes, it can still be repaired. I’d say retire the nib and use a new one.

5. The nib has rusted
Well, I have to say I’ve used some nibs that have slightly rusted and they still worked well. Given Singapore’s humidity, nibs always have this risk of rusting. I’d recommend placing packs of silica gel in your nib boxes. Slight rusting on the nib that is far from the tip is fine, but if the tips are corroding, it needs to be retired.

There you go! I hope these tips have given insight to this issue of nib replacement. If you have any other tips just let me know in the comments and I’ll update this post to add it!

Font Fancy: Besom + Free Watercolour Printable

So I’m sure you all know that brush lettering is like a craze right now, and a lot of brush lettering fonts are popping up for sale. I’ve been looking for a high-quality free font to share here on the blog, and I’ve been looking for a long time! Finally (drum roll please)… I finally found Besom!

Take Chances Printable via Happy Hands Project

I love how the brush strokes look so natural, yet still readable. Look at the tips of those letters! It looks like it was written with a dry brush. The problem with some fonts out there is that some of them are quite difficult to read — and that’s one of the most important characteristic that I’m looking for.

This is definitely a steal, as we’re all paying zilch for personal use. You can find it in use on these posters if my description doesn’t convince you enough. Go get your font here, and that A4 printable up there that I’ve designed here. Print it on a 300gsm textured card and you’ll have a pretty realistic-looking watercolour artwork ready to be frames.

Much love, you guys!

Free Brush Lettering Photoshop Brushes

Brush Lettering Photoshop Brushes via Happy Hands Project

I’m back with free Photoshop brushes! The last time I gave away some was 2 years ago, I cannot believe this. This is a fun brush lettering  set that you can use for note cards and greeting cards. I saved it in a very raw setting — meaning it’s organic, and the different colour hues have been retained for a realistic hand-lettered look.

Here’s a quick way to load your Photoshop brushes. According to this tutorial :

Put the brush presets you have downloaded into the folder Photoshop\Presets\Brushes in the Adobe folder in Program Files if you use Windows or in Applications if you use Macintosh. The original brush presets that come with Adobe Photoshop are kept in this folder. The brush presets should have an .abr ending.

When you open a new file in Photoshop, select the brush tool and you will be able to view the new brushes from the fly-out panel. Just a tip on using these lettering brushes — the opacity is a bit light. One click of the brush and you’ll get a pretty translucent effect. If you want a richer, bolder colour, click 2-3 times to reach 100% opacity. That’s what I did in the sample above.

Download your brush lettering pack here and start creating! Looking for calligraphy brushes to add to your collection? The ‘hello’ set can be downloaded here.

Lettering Without Thinking: Part II

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.

Brush Lettering via Happy Hands Project

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.

Brush Lettering via Happy Hands Project

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!
  • Don’t think — just go crazy!

Have fun lettering, everyone!

Brush Lettering via Happy Hands Project

Calligraphy Drills: Why They’re Important (Albeit Boring)

Calligraphy Drills via Happy Hands Project

Most of you might not know this, but I’m a self-taught calligrapher. I was able to take a course with Eleanor Winters (all hail), but that was after I struggled for a couple of years to teach myself. I must admit that I had experience in Italic and Blackletter when I studied Art in college, but those two styles really did not strike my fancy. Fast forward to 2010, this was the time when I became very much influenced by the beautiful scripts I saw on wedding stationery.

I told myself — you can do this! Remember your Typography class? Piece of cake!

Um, no. The flexible pen used to write scripts is difficult to control, ink was splattering everywhere, a bazillion sheets of paper was wasted. So I did my research and taught myself. During that time, there was no abundance of workshops like what we have now, so I guess ‘struggled’ is an understatement. I went straight to writing letters and sentences, flourishing here and there as I went along. I told myself, you can do this! Write longer words and everything will all fall into place!

Calligraphy Drills via Happy Hands Project

Again, no. I realised after a bit more reading and practicing that I need to start at the very beginning. I need to start with the basics, and basics meant drills. Those boring, repetitive loops and strokes that I tried to avoid for as long as I possibly could. There was no escaping it. So I got myself the best book in my possession (after my Harry Potter collection, I suppose) — Eleanor Winters’ Mastering Copperplate Calligraphy. I drew my grids, prepared my workspace, took a deep breath and started writing. And you know what? A few years later, I’m still practicing with drills and have become really fascinated with the rhythm and consistency of the letters I make. These exercises made me write better.

My simple advice? Practice with drills before you actually start writing. Throw in some fun coloured inks to make it more enjoyable (I usually practice with walnut ink). Think of it as a warm up, and would give you the momentum when you finally start writing your project for the day. I’m always looking forward to finishing calligraphy commission works because that means I’d have more time to practice. Have fun writing!

The ‘Manansala’ Wooden Oblique Holder

I don’t own a lot of custom-made wooden pens for calligraphy. I’ve gotten by with my century oblique holder for a loooong time. Well, I’ve been looking around for custom-made pens and I must admit they’re all extremely beautiful. I’ve ordered a few wooden pens for the last few months (I feel sorry for my credit card, but hey, I call it Investment), and I’m looking at ordering one or two more in the next few months.

Manansala Oblique Holder via Happy Hands Project

First off, this is not a sponsored post — I just fell in love with this pen! The latest one I’ve acquired (or more like invested on) is this beautifully-handcrafted wooden oblique from the Philippines. It’s called the Manansala, named after cubist painter and illustrator Vicente Silva Manansala (1910-1981).

This belongs to a family of pens which are the first oblique holders ever made in the Philippines, thanks to Lennie of The Curious Artisan. She describes the pen as ‘made from Kamagong (Ironwood) with Mother of Pearl shell body; Magnusson-inspired silver nickel flange; comfort curve pen foot and is approximately 8.5 inches long. The cube pattern shell inlay of the holder’s body using Mother of Pearl shell is inspired by Manansala’s signature cubism’.

Manansala Oblique Holder via Happy Hands Project

It’s my first time to try a Mag-inspired flange and I love it. It’s perfect for Copperplate, and I’ve been using it to practice lately. I think this has magic powers as well because somehow my writing looks prettier when I use it. Not kidding. Oh, and I haven’t even started on the packaging yet. Look at that typewritten note!

If you’re in Singapore — news flash — this pen and the rest of its siblings will be coming here! I’ll be updating on Facebook, and you can also contact @thecuriousartisan on Instagram for overseas orders.

Hand-Lettering Workshop In Singapore

 

I never knew that preparing for a workshop on hand lettering would be this fun. In collaboration with The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf Singapore, this class has been months in the making (we actually started planning in 2014!). This workshop is in conjunction with SG50, Singapore’s 50th anniversary of independence.

Coffee Bean Singapore Lettering Workshop via Happy Hands Project

We started with lettering exercises, with worksheets that I designed myself. There were also hand-lettered cheat sheets and prints that they got to bring home, on top of the markers and goodie bags from Coffee Bean. Each participant was to design a piece as an entry to Coffee Bean’s SG50 card design contest.

Coffee Bean Singapore Lettering Workshop via Happy Hands Project

We had a wonderful combination of coffee, pastry, conversations and laughter — apart from the actual lettering, of course. It was an awesome way to spend a Saturday morning!

Coffee Bean Singapore Lettering Workshop via Happy Hands Project

 

Head over to the Coffee Bean’s Facebook page to see more photos, and who knows, they might have more activities in store for us in the near future.

Coffee Bean Singapore Lettering Workshop via Happy Hands Project

Coffee Bean Singapore Lettering Workshop via Happy Hands ProjectThe video and all photos are courtesy of The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf Singapore.

 

 

Finding Inspiration The Analog Way

Find Your Inspiration via Happy Hands Project

I’m sure a lot of you are big fans of Pinterest, and other social media. If you’re stuck in a rut, it’s so easy to look something up through good ol’ Google and voila — you’ve got your momentum back again. When designing, it’s obviously so much easier to ‘find inspiration’ online than detach yourself from your computer (or smartphone) to overcome the block.

I’ve been in this stage more than a few times. I see designs, lettering, calligraphy, in the same styles. I can tell when a certain font is overly popular, and I can tell when everyone’s trying to imitate a certain calligraphy or watercolour style. We can’t help it. We see the same style all the time!

Sometimes (and when we have the luxury of time), it’s pretty cool to get out there to get our creative juices flowing. One thing to remember is that we need to keep our eyes open because you’ll never know when inspiration will hit you in the face. Here are a few simple things I do (stressing on ‘simple’) to get inspired and be able to come up with new things for my art:

GO OUT FOR A WALK

Find Your Inspiration via Happy Hands Project
Found this wall while walking along Chinatown.

Singapore is a tiny city with lots of nice restored architecture. There are cafes with wall art worth looking at, little indie shops that have interesting nooks and crannies. There are a number of hidden gems where you can get your creative juices flowing.

VISIT YOUR LIBRARY

Find Your Inspiration via Happy Hands Project
Above: Calligraphy on display by Dr Ludwig Tan. Bottom: A scene from library@orchard.

If there is no library nearby, why not read some magazines at a local cafe? You can even browse magazines at some bookstores. The only good thing about the library and cafe is that you get to bring your notepad and be able to write down or sketch ideas instantly.

SPEND TIME WITH LIKE-MINDED PEOPLE
Spending a couple of hours with fellow artists is enough of an inspiration for me. A great conversation would leave you with good vibes to last you a while, and this helps. A couple of weeks ago I was at library@orchard, listening to a talk about Western Calligraphy (because there’s also Chinese Calligraphy here) by local calligrapher Ludwig Tan. Listening to an expert talk about the history of calligraphy was awesome and made me appreciate this art even more.

ATTEND A WORKSHOP

Eleanor Winters Singapore via Happy Hands ProjectI’ve been to one modern calligraphy class with Maybelle Imasa-Stukuls, and one on Copperplate by Eleanor Winters. These were important parts of my journey in calligraphy and wouldn’t trade it for anything else. If there’s a class in your area, go and participate! It’s perfectly alright to be self-taught, but having your heroes teach you and tell you that what you’re doing is right absolutely inspires to keep going.

Well, these aren’t so bad, weren’t they? Hope we’ll always be inspired to make beautiful things, and always find inspiration when we need it.

The Happy Hour Calligraphy Workshop In Manila

Last month, I had the pleasure of bringing the Happy Hour Beginners’ Calligraphy Workshop to Manila, Philippines! It was for the Picasso Boutique and Serviced Residences‘ Live Art Project, where they invite different artists to teach a craft to a select number of people.

Calligraphy Workshop in Manila via Happy Hands Project

The Picasso is a boutique hotel known for having an Art Gallery and Picasso-inspired pieces of art in their rooms (which are amazingly spacious, by the way). It was an evening class, which was a first for me. It was also catered with delish finger food and champagne – which was definitely another first for me! Didn’t dare take another glass after the first one, though!

Calligraphy Workshop in Manila via Happy Hands Project

 

Calligraphy Workshop in Manila via Happy Hands Project

Everyone was really into the craft, with some practicing the letter forms even before we started. I’m hoping they will continue practicing calligraphy after this class. It was an awesome group, and the lovely staff at The Picasso were very warm and accommodating. Some of them even tried their hand at calligraphy as well!

Calligraphy Workshop in Manila via Happy Hands Project

I cannot wait to be back in Manila and meet another group of calligraphy enthusiasts. Thanks to everyone at The Picasso for having me!   Calligraphy Workshop in Manila via Happy Hands Project

Lettering With Sharpies

Lettering With Sharpies via Happy Hands Project

I’ve been using selected colours of Sharpies in the past few years. Aside from black which I use almost every time I do script lettering for commission works, I also have silver, gold and bronze. As a graphic designer, I create all my lettering in black then colour them in my trusty laptop.

Everything totally changed last week when I received a full set of Sharpies for a class I will be teaching in a couple of weeks. I wanted to test the tools and see if the markers will work well with the paper. I made my sketch in pencil and started filling it with colour… and I was hooked! I just realised that it’s actually fun to go totally traditional and colour my artwork on paper.

I mean seriously, why would we rely on the computer when it’s all the more fun to fill in the colours by hand? I was thinking about why I didn’t do this before, and I could only think of a couple of things — first, colouring it in Illustrator is more convenient. I can do and redo as I please. Command Z. Trusty shortcuts. The works. Second, I wasn’t confident that I’ll be able to nail the colours in one go. There’s no ‘undo’ in the analog world. If I’m not pleased with my work in the end, there’s no other choice but to crumple the paper and do the whole thing all over again.

Well, obviously my lettering still needs a lot of improvement, but I’m quite happy that I did it anyway. I guess it never hurts to try a new tool, and if it doesn’t work the way you expected it to, don’t give up! I’ll probably be opening a Beginners’ Lettering Class here in Singapore in the near future so if you’re on this island, email me if you’re interested! In the meantime, here are a few more Sharpie DIYs around the web that I think might be fun to try:

  • If addressing envelopes in calligraphy seem intimidating for a beginner, here’s a way to use Sharpies instead. So pretty!
  • For coffee lovers like me (who can’t get enough of mugs), this is a fun DIY to try.
  • I’m in love with these black journals with gold Sharpie lettering! Gold on black never goes out of style, even if it’s not Christmas.

Have fun lettering with colours! xo