I have an exciting piece of news! Jo of Zuer Designs will be writing a mini series for Surely Simple – all about lettering. You will get to learn a lot about the basics, finding inspiration and lots of helpful tips! Stay tuned! She is a lettering artist from New Zealand, you can find more about her here.
Getting started with Brush Lettering by Jo Cheung
Brush lettering may seem like a difficult task and no matter how much you try, the experts you see on Instagram just make it look so easy. The truth is, brush lettering isn’t as hard as you would think. There are a few steps to get started, and begin your brush lettering adventure!
Begin with the right tools.
All brush pens may look the same to you, or you may be overwhelmed with the amount of brush pens that are available to you. Don’t worry, it’s very simple! Each brush pen tip or nib, is made up of different materials and can affect the way you write. Generally, there are only two main types, a felt tip or a brush tip. A felt tip nib is basically a solid felt mass on the end of a pen, while brush tips have individual hairs, like a paint brush.
Felt tip brush pens are often what beginners will go for, as it resembles a marker and makes the transition to brush pen writing a little easier. Brush tips can either have synthetic or natural hairs, although synthetic brush hairs are more common as they are generally more durable.
Brush pens don’t only differ in their nib types. They also offer a difference in flexibility. Most brush pens with individual hairs are very flexible and soft, while felt tipped pens can vary from firm to soft.
You might be asking, “So which one’s the right pen for me?”
Well, that depends. If you’re just starting out, I would recommend felt tip brush pens such as the Tombow Dual Brush (softer) or the Pentel Fude Touch Sign Pen (firmer). However, if you know that you have a heavy hand, the felt tipped brush pens can sometimes be a hindrance as they can fray very easily. Fraying occurs when the nib of your pen becomes worn out, leading to a line that is messy and uneven when you write.
In this case, you can try brush pens with individual hairs. I would recommend a size 0 to size 2 round brush (often used for water colours) or a Pentel detailer water brush. Keep in mind that these types of pens will require paints for you to use them as they don’t come supplied with ink. If that’s an issue for you, the Pentel Color Brush (also known as the Kuretake Art Brush) may be a better option.
In the end, it’s up to trial and error to determine which type of brush pen is right for you.
It’s not just about the pen.
Sometimes, it’s not just the pen that affects how you write, although it does account for most of your success. Having the right accessories to accompany you when you write can be just as important.
A ruler for creating guidelines, a soft dark pencil for drafting your lettering, and good quality paper are often things I have on hand. Any pencil that is B grade or softer will be perfect for creating a guideline for neat lettering while quality paper such will prevent your pens from fraying as easily. If you are on a budget, regular copy paper is perfect to practise on. If you want something more luxurious, the Rhodia Pads with blank paper have a super smooth surface that allows your brush pens to glide on top of it, creating smooth lines. However, if you are using water brush pens or round brushes with watercolour, watercolour paper is recommended. The wetness from your paints can cause regular paper to warp. Look for any watercolour paper that is 150gsm or greater.
Find sources of inspiration.
Now that you have your tools for brush lettering, you would probably want to begin practising. But wait! Before that, you do want to find inspiration to guide yourself towards finding your own style. Often times, looking at other people’s work can help you to understand letterforms, give ideas for pieces, and provide inspiration.
Social media is the perfect platform for finding inspiration. Instagram and Pinterest are my two favourite sources. Searching for relevant tags such as #brushlettering or #lettering can turn out thousands of amazing pictures.
The most important thing is to have fun!
You’ll never fully bloom if you don’t enjoy brush lettering. Sure, there might be some initial frustration if you haven’t gotten the hang of things, but don’t worry, you’ll get there! It’s always important to have fun and experiment along the way.
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.