A beginner dives into hand-lettering

If you’re involved with the planner/bullet journal community at all, you’ve probably seen countless examples of hand-lettering using Tombow markers or other tools.

And if you’re anything like me, you’re obsessed.

This week I decided to continue arting by trying out hand-lettering, something I’ve always been curious about. I quite like my handwriting as it is, but when it comes to headers my go-to is caps. Sometimes I alternate caps and lowercase letters for (what I think is) a cute, quirky effect, but otherwise I’ve very limited in terms of variety. I thought hand lettering would shake things up for me a bit.

Some quick YouTube searching led me to this introductory video by freelance graphic designer Will Paterson.

This, I figured, would be ideal for me, because while I do not have any expensive Tombow markers (nor do I intend to purchase any in the near future; you’ll see why in a second), I do have cheapy Crayola markers. Mine aren’t exactly the kind Paterson has (his are short and fat, mine are short and skinny) but the basic premise is the same. I pulled out some colors and dove in.

Then I hit the bottom of the hand-lettering pool with a resounding thud.

Guys. Guys. This is much, much harder than it looks. Paterson gets into this a little the video, but it really does require a lot more dexterity and physical control than I anticipated. In particular, I found it very challenging to get real definition between the upstrokes and downstrokes. Particularly with letters like m and n, where there are repeated up and down patterns, it’s really hard to get any distinction between the ups and downs.

(Apologies for my terrible photography skills.)

You can see me struggling to create proper upstrokes and downstrokes here.
Trying out the alphabet and continuing to struggle…

It’s also an incredibly slow process because you really have to think about how you’re holding the pen, what angle the tip is at, how much pressure you need to apply to get it right; so many things that you don’t see at all when you watch people do this on YouTube.

I did find uppercase letters marginally easier to do than lowercase letters. I think possibly the increased space makes it easier to have that room to move the marker to the correct position for a different stroke.

You can see I’m doing a little better here.

I do think it got a little easier just in the hour and a half I spent practicing, but I honestly don’t know that I’m going to pursue this again. It’s a lot of work for a payoff that I’m not particularly invested in because as I said, I do like my handwriting as it is. I do think it’s a good exercise for anyone pursuing art more generally, because it really does promote control and deliberation in the creative process.

Has anyone tried hand-lettering before? What’s your advice for those looking to perfect it?

Going to back to the basic basics: Illustration using shapes

Hobbies are an odd thing. They straddle the line between “things I do for fun” and “things I take seriously” to create an awkward, noncommittal space wherein one’s approach to said hobby can vary widely.

By which I mean to say, what?

No sorry, that’s Bertie Wooster. What I mean to say is that it has been a long while since I did any art. Since I arted, if you will. Finding myself aching for the feel of smooth sketch paper beneath my forearm and the weight of a colored pencil in my hand, I dug out my long dormant supplies and…

Paused.

It’s hard to find art tutorials on YouTube that don’t assume a much higher level of expertise than I currently possess. Plus they go too fast. So I opened a new tab and turned to Skillshare, an online learning platform, and found a class even I couldn’t mess up.

The class is called Start with a Shape – An Illustration Challenge, and is taught by Amarilys Henderson, an illustrator and painter based in Minnesota.

Essentially what Henderson teaches you is how to start with a basic shape and use it as a launching pad to make something more complex. She uses watercolors in the class, but I used color pencils and was very happy with the results.

First, I started with a triangle and made this weirdo (please excuse my poor photography skills):

What is it? Is it a gnome? A Borrower? An off-brand leprechaun? The point is that it has a triangle for a hat.

Then I did a circle and made this cactus, because cacti are in this season.

This I’m actually quite proud of. Not that I’m not proud of gnomey up there. But this in particular turned out better than I expected.

I also used a triangle to make a butterfly, and a circle to make a flower. I haven’t tried my hand at squares yet, but I have (awkward, noncommittal) plans to.

I have a premium Skillshare account because I teach classes there myself, but if you don’t have an account you can use this (affiliate) link to get two free months to try your hand at this class or any other.

What should I try my hand at next?