How to Make it Look Like You’re Good at Lettering or Calligraphy

Decorative lettering has become a more popular hobby lately, likely due to the increase in shareable videos on social media and the latest trends in popular wall art. You might think to yourself, “I can’t write like that,” but I am here to tell you that you can. You might not become a master of the art of calligraphy and lettering overnight, but if you do these 3 things, you’ll be impressed with how experienced you seem.

I want to start this off by saying that these are just some short cut tips for getting started. This is not the way to become an expert at hand-lettering or calligraphy, but merely a quick method for gathering a few basic skills.

4 Steps to Become Competent in Hand Lettering in Less than a Week

The timeline for becoming somewhat competent in anything really depends on your commitment level. However, with some serious practice you can learn some basic skills in hand-lettering in just a few days. Follow these three steps and you’ll find that you appear to be better at hand lettering than you really are:

1. Always start with a sketch for yourself.

Professional hand-lettered signs, posters, and wall art all started from a sketch. Mapping out the available space, the size of each letter, and ensuring that things line up are all important reasons to start with a sketch.

I always use a pencil and I sketch so lightly that it’s almost impossible to see. The lesson I’ve learned from not doing this way too many times is that I will overestimate my space. I end up having to scrunch letters together at the end of a line or the side of a page. So frustrating!

2. Become comfortable hand-lettering your full name.

Signing your name in cursive is a simple, yet under-emphasized way to showcase your lettering talents. Start off by focusing on writing it neatly in cursive.

From there you can branch out a bit to mix up the height of different letters, adding weight to the downward strokes (making them wider) and changing up your use of cursive and print letters.

Where you’ll use this skill:

  • Signing birthday, holiday, and other event cards
  • Wedding guest signature books
  • Anywhere you want to brand yourself

3. Move on to the “staple” words and phrases.

There are certain words and phrases that I use hand-lettering for more often than others. They revolve around times I need to make or write out a card, decorate a cake, or make a sign for a party or event.

The only words you NEED to know how to write:

  • Happy Birthday
  • Congratulations
  • Happy Mother’s/Father’s Day
  • Love
  • Thank You
  • Merry Christmas (Or any other of your favorite card-giving holidays)

In order to get through an average year of semi-competent hand-lettering, I started by becoming very comfortable with writing all of the words on that list. Beginning the same way I did with my name, I practiced writing them neatly in cursive until it was easy, and then began to experiment with flourishes and added details to fill out the available space.

4. Finish off by teaching yourself a few extra flourishes.

I’ve mentioned flourishes a few times. All this means is adding the extra curls, swooshes, and other fun details that make hand-lettered words look fancy. Of course, these aren’t necessary, especially if you’re going for a more minimalist look.

Some common places to add a flourish are at the beginning and/or end of a word and on letters that dangle below the baseline (think “y” or “g”). Truly creative lettering can incorporate flourishes in other places, but I’ve found that the basic swirls or curls are enough to make a word feel complete without requiring as much practice.

3 Historical Facts About Decorative Lettering & Calligraphy

Nerd alert: I thought I’d share some interesting facts about the origins and history of decorative lettering and calligraphy.

  • The word “calligraphy,” means beautiful handwriting and was traditionally created by use of a brush or quill and ink.
  • The practice of calligraphy is considered a major art form in the Middle East and East Asia where the skill has been carefully and painstakingly passed down for centuries.
  • Some of the very first standard fonts were derived from hand-written script forms often used in the copying of old texts and the Bible by monks.

Want More Hand-Lettering Tips and Examples?

If you’d like to learn more about or see more examples of simple hand-lettering techniques, let me know! I would be happy to write more about my tips and tricks and how I practice lettering in my everyday life.

In the meantime, check out my other blog post, “Take Control and Improve Your Handwriting in 5 Steps” to learn more about my method for working on updating sloppy penmanship. I changed my bad habits, and it has been well-worth the effort.

Let me know in the comments below if you have any other favorite ways you use decorative lettering, or if you have any specific tools that have made hand-lettering easier or more fun!
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