I’ve been practicing hand-lettering for many years. It wasn’t until recently that I started putting my skills to use on more than birthday card envelopes. If you have been working on your hand-lettering, you’ll know these 11 statements are 100% true.
11 Things You Know If You’re Into Hand-Lettering
These 11 statements are truth for anyone who is on the path to killer hand-lettering skills. Whether you’ve just begun or you’ve been casually practicing for years (like myself), you can’t deny these 11 facts:
1. You have favorite letters.
Oh, we absolutely hate writing certain letters and we’ll go out of our way to avoid them. Nothing throws a whole lettering project like trying to get that least favorite one down perfectly on paper. We might try and sketch it about 15 times, but we’ll still stare at it when the project is completed. Why are certain letters so frustrating? (I’m looking at you, uppercase “R” and “Q”)
There are also letters we love to write. They flow from our pen without having to think twice, and we’ve definitely practiced all the angles and flourishes to dress them up. They become the star of the show whenever we get the chance to use them.
2. You write common phrases and words everywhere.
We don’t always have something to write, so we tend to gravitate towards phrases and words we use lettering to write the most. It might be “happy birthday,” or “thank you,” or anything else, but we’ve definitely got our go-to lettering doodles. If people don’t know us very well, they probably think we’re a little strange.
“That lady over there has “Merry Christmas” and “Happy Birthday” written about 15 different ways on paper all over her desk?”
3. You’re always checking out new words and phrases.
There are phrases we’ve perfected, but we’re always on the lookout for a grouping of words or letters that inspire us to get out a sheet of clean paper and try it out. It might not be a phrase that means a lot, and it might even be in another language.
There’s just something special about the way some words spread across the paper. Some seem to be made for a curly cursive or a bold block. Try both and see which one conveys the right tone? Don’t mind if I do!
4. You prefer to take handwritten notes.
It’s simple, our notes feel more like an extension of ourselves when we take them down by hand. Sure, typing is faster, but handwritten notes are easier to remember. Plus, we can decorate them as we go, which (if you’re anything like me) keeps you busy during long meetings/classes without completely slacking off.
This might not be true of those of us with really poor penmanship, but handwritten note-taking is a great way to work at improving penmanship and lettering skills.
5. You have a standard layout for your to-do lists.
Writing out the weekly or daily to-do list is a great excuse to do a little hand-lettering with a purpose. We’ve all got our own specific headers and formatting for to-do lists that works with the way our mind sees the world. (my traditional to-do list features the heading “Things:” and then is followed by a square checkbox list in order of priority)
Our to-do lists always look similar because we learn early on that we need to be able to reference them quickly and remember tasks and priorities according to their importance. For hand-lettering lovers, this just means lists are pretty AND useful.
6. You spend too much time on Pinterest & Instagram.
Every time we finish a hand-lettering project, we feel accomplished. But then we go to Pinterest and Instagram to scroll through other artists’ work and suddenly we have a lot of improvements to make. It can be exhausting just looking at all the really gorgeous lettering out there, but we can’t let it get us down.
We know that we have our own unique style to offer, and other artists are a great source of inspiration and challenge us to try new things.
7. You love checking out other people’s handwriting.
Some people have really cool penmanship, no lettering skills needed. They just put words on paper in a unique way that stands out and seems so incredibly effortless. We, of course, love to peek at their notes and scribbles when we get the chance. It’s so cool how everyone has their own unique handwriting.
How do they write so small and concisely? Why does their uppercase “W” look so much more polished than mine? Should I change the way I finish my descenders on letters like “g” and “y”?
8. You still use pencils to write everything.
Why does everyone commit to using pen? Of course, when I went to college, I started using pen a lot MORE, but to give up pencils altogether is beyond me. Those of us who work on lettering know that erasing is still very necessary — how many times have we gotten the spacing wrong and had to squish or un-squish letters? If we were committed to writing in pen at the first go, we’d be throwing away a lot of paper.
Hand-letterers still use pencil for notes and especially for sketches, even if the rest of the world has moved on. We also get to laugh whenever someone has to opt for the white-out.
9. You’re too critical of your own work.
No matter how much we practice, we are the most critical of our own work. There are so many extremely polished and seemingly perfect examples of hand-lettering out there. Odds are that whoever created them probably feels the same way we do.
However, being critical of our own work does come with the added bonus of pushing us to improve the next time around. We’ll never be perfect, but practice gets us closer.
10. You daydream of buying all the fancy lettering tools.
There are so many different pens, brushes, and markers out there. We see other people use them and put them down on the list of must-haves that never seem to make it into the budget. It would be neat to have every tool for lettering within reach, but some of the coolest pieces come from artists who are using basic tools.
For example, Ian Barnard is known for creating some totally amazing work using Crayola markers and even vegetables. Seriously. It doesn’t get much cooler than that.
11. You’re super into the beauty of a sharp line.
When we’ve turned a sketch into a finished piece, the final step is always going through and cleaning up any smudged lines. The look of a clean line really makes our brains happy (unless of course, a messy line was the intention). It’s almost as satisfying as icing a cake, or power washing dirty siding. If you’ve seen those videos, you know what I mean.
Sharp, clean lines are beautiful and nobody will ever convince us otherwise!
More Hand-Lettering Tips & Inspiration
Whether you’ve on the road to better penmanship or you’ve been at it for a long time, check out the other blog posts on the Penmanship and Lettering category page. I’m working to improve my lettering and try new things all the time.
I post a lot of hand-lettering doodles and sketches on Instagram. Check it out!