Brush Lettering Tips + Practice | Part 2 by Jo Cheung
Now that you have all your tools ready, you probably want to begin writing. You may find it difficult to get adjusted to the brush nib of a brush pen in the beginning. Don’t worry! I have a few handy tips and practice exercises that can help you use your brush pen to its full potential. A lot of these tips will be demonstrated in photos or videos to give you a visual guide. The brush pen I used in all the photos and videos is a Daiso Pocket Brush Flexi-Brush.
Thin strokes up, thick strokes down.
Applying pressure for down stroke and avoiding pressure on you up strokes is usually the way to achieve the line variation in brush lettering. Here’s some tips to getting the thickest down strokes and the thinnest up strokes.
Thick strokes: Hold your pen slightly slanted to the right while applying pressure downwards produce a nice thick line.
Thin strokes: Hold your pen more perpendicular to the paper to get the thinnest stroke possible. The tip of your pen is the finest, so take advantage of it! I tend to write the upstroke faster to avoid a shaky line.
Play with the position of your pen relative to your paper and see how that changes the thickness of your letters.
Though, you don’t always have to make every down stroke a thick one. Sometimes if a letter has more than one down stroke, I will only make one of them thick. The lowercase ‘a’ and ‘d’ are the letters which I commonly do this to.
Treat each letter as an individual
I find that writing each letter separately allows me to have neater lines. Trying to write a word without lifting your pen up can lead to cramped lettering. Writing each letter on its own also give you the freedom to space out your letters as you wish. Don’t forget to include your ligatures when you write your letters. Ligatures are the little flicks that allows you to join your letter with the next letter.
However, if you do feel that writing certain letters together is easier than writing them separately, go right ahead! I have a few letters such as the “br” in “brush” that I have a hard time writing separately.
Here’s a short video showing how I write each letter and sometimes, each stroke separately.
Use guidelines if you need to
In order to create a nicely centred piece of lettering, you may want to draw some guidelines to help you determine where to write you letters.
X-height – The height of your lowercase letters
Baseline – The base of your lowercase letters
Cap height – The height of your capital letters
Descender – The length of your tails such as on the ‘y’, ‘g’ or ‘z’
Ascender – The height of the tallest lowercase letters, such as ‘t’, ‘l’, ‘h’ or ‘f’
The height of your x-height, ascender lines and descender lines can vary depending on your personal handwriting style. If you have smaller writing, then your x-height would be smaller.
Bear in mind that these are just guidelines and therefore, are a guide only. For a contemporary look, you can extend some part of your down strokes into the descender region, such as with the ‘h’ or ‘l’ shown above. Do keep most of you letters on or close to the baseline or your word can end up looking lopsided is you have too many extended lines.
Practise, practise, practise!
Practising your thin and thick strokes can be very helpful when you are trying to create letterforms. Practising the ‘o’ formation is also important as it’s a basis for many other letters such as the ‘d’, ‘a’ or ‘g’. After you’ve gotten used to creating the carrying up and down strokes, you can practice using them in words.
There are a few words that I love to practice writing and there’s a good reason for it!
The word ‘minimum’ fits between your x-height and baseline guidelines. It helps you write in a straight line while the variation in up down strokes helps you practise your thin upstrokes and thick down strokes. This word also helps you learn to write your words in a way that makes it easy to differentiate each letter. If it’s not written properly, it can look like a jumble of squiggles!
‘hello’ has a few lines reaching into the ascender region and two small vowels to fit between your x-heights. The double ‘l’ also lets you play around with how to position two of the same letters next to each other.
‘Happy Birthday’ is something that you may be writing many times after you get the hang of brush lettering for one very obvious reason. Birthday cards. Of course you want to show off your beautiful lettering, so why not practise this phrase now? The same can be said for any other phrases that you know you may write often in the future.
Do what feels right
If you feel like a letter looks better a certain way, by all means do it that way! Brush lettering is all about developing your own style, after all!
Watch me letter a full quote:
Read part 1 of the series here.
Jo is a bunny loving creative spirit from New Zealand. She’s obsessed with brush lettering and all things handwritten. Find her on Instagram, Etsy and Pinterest : @zuerdesigns.