I’ve been brush lettering for about a year now and I think I can safely say, I’m able to teach someone else the basics of brush lettering (I probably can teach other elements too, but I’m gonna start here). If you have no clue what brush lettering is, or want a more thorough post about brush lettering, start with this post.
Basic Brush Lettering Tools
First and foremost, you need the right tools. The basic tools are this:
- A fudenosuke pen (I prefer hard, but soft is ok too)
- Smooth paper like Canson Marker paper, or tracing paper to use over your paper to prevent your pen from shredding
- A willingness to try, fail, and be frustrated 🙂
I’ll post a reference sheet at the end of this post so you can print & find these yourself.
Brush Lettering: Lines
Do you remember handwriting in school? You had paper with two solid lines and in the middle was a dotted line. You used the dotted line to keep your lettering straight and letters like h, n, and p from being to high or low on the line. Well, it just so happens that those lines have names and I will sometimes refer to them so you can understand what the heck I’m talking about.
- The top line is referred to as “cap height“. When trying to figure out how tall a letter should be, this line lets us know where to bring the letter.
- The dashed line in the middle is referred to as “x-height” and as I’ve already mentioned, it helps us keep things aligned and centered.
- The bottom line is the baseline, which is a line we use to keep letters on a “base”. That doesn’t mean some letters won’t go beneath this line. It just means that to keep our letters straight, we need them to rest on this base.
There are two other lines I want you to know about besides these three. They look like this:
Ok, maybe it doesn’t look exactly like this in some instances, but for now, let’s go with this. The line above the cap-height and below the baseline are known as ascender & descender lines. An ascender letter would be a letter like the “h” pictured above. A descender is a letter that comes down like the “p” or “y” above.
In traditional calligraphy, you must stay in the lines and be perfect and uniform. It’s important to learn these rules–however boring they may seem. Eventually though, you will break these rules and develop your own style. But for now, pay attention to the rules, trying to make your letters uniform and balanced. Once you know the rules, it will help you down the road.
Here’s a reference sheet of what I posted about today. Download this and use it to get started. You can also download this practice sheet and make several copies to help you practice. Just be sure to print it on smooth paper, or use tracing paper over it to prevent your pen from shredding. You could start off by writing the alphabet in cursive. Keep this sheet and we’ll look back at it to see where we’ve improved.
I’ll be back next week to discuss some strokes that are good for practicing.
If you want to watch me discuss this on YouTube, you can watch that here:
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