hand lettering

5 Places to Learn Hand Lettering Free Online

Free Hand Lettering Guides
Free Hand Lettering Practice Sheets – Printable Brush Pen Lettering Guides

There are many paid lettering courses available online, but what if you’re strapped for cash? Here are 5 resources where you can learn the art of hand lettering for FREE online!


1. Printable PDF Hand Lettering Guides by Maker Lex

Guess what? You don’t even have to leave this blog to start learning hand lettering for free. I’ve created some incredible practice guides to take you through the whole alphabet: uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, punctuation marks, and various decorative strokes. I think they’re amazing, but don’t take my word for it. Download them now and decide for yourself!

2. iPad Lettering Guides by Holly Pixels

https://hollypixels.com/ipad-lettering/

These iPad Lettering Guides by Holly Pixels are perfect for anyone who wants to learn how to letter digitally with an Apple Pencil. Just import the guides into an app like Procreate and get started lettering right away.

3. Lettering Stroke Practice Sheets by Teela @ Every Tuesday

https://every-tuesday.com/lettering-stroke-practice-sheets/

Teela at Every Tuesday has tons of amazing tutorials for creating digital artwork, including these lettering practice sheets. You can download the guides and print them off to practice with a brush pen on paper, or you can use them digitally with apps like Procreate and Apple Pencil.

4. Lettering Practice Worksheets by Tombow

https://www.tombowusa.com/lettering-practice-worksheets.html

Tombow is the famous manufacturer of incredible calligraphy brush pens like the fudenosuke brush pen and these famous dual-ended brush pens, beloved by hand-letterers everywhere, so it’s no wonder that they created these free hand lettering practice worksheets to go along with them!

5. Hand Lettering Basics: A Beginner’s Guide by Irene Khan on Skillshare

https://www.skillshare.com/classes/Hand-Lettering-Basics-A-Beginners-Guide/2024511764?via=browse-rating-all-layout-grid

Skillshare is an amazing website where you can learn all sorts of cool skills including hand lettering. Click on this Skillshare course link by Irene Khan. In the course description, you’ll find a link to download her free lettering alphabet practice sheets.


Have you used any of these resources to learn hand-lettering? If you know of any other places to learn lettering for free online, be sure to drop a link in the comments! Be sure to pin the image below to share this article with friends, or to save it for later.

download free hand lettering guides

Happy Lettering!

Maker Lex Signature

Free Hand Lettering Practice Sheets – Printable Brush Pen Lettering Guides

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of the links, I receive a small commission (at no cost to you, of course!)

Free Modern Calligraphy Hand Lettering Guides

Today we’re going to talk all things hand-lettering and modern calligraphy. And at the bottom of this post – I’m sharing my FREE lettering guides with you, so you can start your own brush lettering practice at home.

Let’s get started!

Here’s what we’ll cover in this post:

  1. The difference between hand-lettering and calligraphy
  2. The basic principles of modern calligraphy/brush lettering
  3. Tools for hand lettering and calligraphy
  4. Tips for beginner letterers
  5. Practice Guides for modern brush lettering

The Difference Between Hand Lettering and Calligraphy

I often see and hear the terms hand-lettering and calligraphy used interchangeably, but technically– they aren’t the same thing.

In fact the history of handwriting is a long and convoluted one – but I’ll make it simple!

Hand lettering is any form of lettering drawn by hand, but it isn’t just cursive or script.

Come with me back in time for a moment. A time before sign shops- as we know them- existed. Take the sign shops of colonial America, for example- which wouldn’t have been equipped with industrial size printers or plastics or neon, because none of that existed yet.

If you needed a sign for your store front, someone would have had to hand carve or hand paint it for you.

And they may have painted it in any style – big block letters, script, or letters that mimicked the penmanship of those days.

Calligraphy – on the other hand- was first practiced in China in the 3rd Century BC and eventually led to cursive script, though not the English style.

English letters come from the Romans, the Latin and Gothic alphabets – and evolved over the years with the introduction of pens. Lower case letters and script were formed as a way to speed up the writing process, and many of the styles & shapes were inherent to the instrument used to form the letters.

Of course- today- calligraphy and hand lettering have taken on a new, modern style. This is the type of lettering we typically think of when we say we want to learn hand lettering:

Modern Calligraphy / Lettering

Modern hand lettering is a script style with a mix of thick and thin strokes inherited from calligraphy styles. This is the style I’ll be referring to for the remainder of this blog post!

If you want to see some inspiration or get ideas for your own hand lettering – check out 6 Hand Lettering Artists to Follow On Instagram.

The Basic Principles of Modern Calligraphy / Brush Lettering

Now that we’ve had a brief history lesson on the origins of lettering, let’s get started with the basic principles you need to know to create modern calligraphy.

Modern calligraphy – with it’s thin upstrokes and thicker downstrokes- is usually created with a brush pen. I’ll recommend some good brush pens you can purchase a little later, but for now, let’s talk about the basic rules to follow when you’re learning modern calligraphy.

If you don’t want to bother with a brush pen, check out my easy tutorial for How to Fake Calligraphy

Modern Calligraphy / Brush Lettering
Principle 1

The first principle of modern calligraphy is that the upstroke is thin. You can see this illustrated below:

up stroke calligraphy thin line

Any time you’re moving your pen up to form a letter, like when we begin writing the letter A, you will make a thin stroke.

Modern Calligraphy / Brush Lettering
Principle 2

The second principle of modern calligraphy is that the downstroke is thick. You can see this illustrated below:

down stroke thick how to fake calligraphy

Any time you’re moving your pen down to form a letter, like on the second half of the letter A, make the stroke thicker.

Modern Calligraphy / Brush Lettering
Principle 3

The third principle of modern calligraphy is that cross-strokes vary in thickness. See this illustrated below:

When you’re printing (ie not cursive) your letters, your cross stroke will usually be thin.

cross stroke how to fake calligraphy

When you’re forming script letters, your cross stroke might be thick and thin.

stylized cross stroke fake calligraphy

And those are the three basic principles to remember as you start practicing your hand lettering.

Tools For Hand Lettering and Calligraphy

With the three guiding principles in mind, it’s time to decide which tools you’re going to use to start your hand lettering practice.

Here is a list of my favorites!

Tombow Fudenosuke Brush Pen

The Tombow Fudenosuke Brush Pen comes in hard tip or soft tip. I recommend hard tip if you’re just beginning and soft as you get better at working with a brush pen.

Tombow Dual Brush Pen Art Markers

The Tombow 56185 Duel Brush Pen Art Markers have a brush pen on one end and a fine tip on the other end. They are available in a wide range of blendable colors- making them perfect for hand lettering.

iPad + Apple Pencil with Procreate App

If you want to start lettering digitally – you need this blessed triad of tools: an iPad, an Apple Pencil, and the $10 Procreate App.

At one time apple pencil was only compatible with iPad Pro (read: expensive). Lucky for us, this is no longer the case.

New model iPads are compatible with Apple Pencil and will only run you about $400 USD. However, you can find iPads even cheaper if you look for sales or wait to purchase during shopping holidays like Black Friday.

Tablet

If you want to letter digitally in Adobe CC Apps like Photoshop or Illustrator – your best bet is to purchase a tablet with a pressure-sensitive stylus.

Make sure the stylus is pressure sensitive – otherwise you won’t be able to make thick and thin strokes by applying varying amounts of pressure.

Tablets can range anywhere from $20 to $300+, and this is one of those instances in life where you get what you pay for.

If you’re planning to use your tablet only ocassionally for lettering – a $40 Huion Tablet will do just fine. This is what I have & use personally, and it’s still working great a year later. The more expensive tablets are really aimed at freelance and commercial digital artists.

Other Miscellaneous Tools for Hand Lettering

If you plan to get fancy with hand lettering, you’ll probably want to grab yourself some basic tools also.

This is where all your old school supplies comes in handy!

Be sure to check out 3 Cheap Pens For Hand Lettering – I’ll bet you probably already have them at home!

5 Tips for Beginner Letterers

If you’re brand new to lettering, it can feel a little overwhelming at first, but here are a few tips you can use while you practice

  1. Practice every day!

    Even if it’s just for a few minutes, try to set aside some dedicated time to practice your lettering every single day.

  2. Start with Pencil

    I know it’s tempting to run out and buy a brush pen right away, but practice your calligraphy letters in pencil first. One reason for this is that brush pens are pricey and can dry out quickly.

    But a better reason is that pencil is actually useful for beginners, because you can apply lighter pressure to mimic a thin upstroke and heavier pressure to form a thicker downstroke.

  3. Use YOUR handwriting

    It can be tempting to copy the same style as someone else, but your handwriting is unique! Don’t try to force it to be something it isn’t.

    Just use your own style of handwriting, and incorporate the three principles of modern calligraphy as you write. It will evolve over time into something truly beautiful!

  4. Get Familiar with how Letters are formed

    Even though everyone’s hand lettering will look a little bit different, it’s all down to the same stroke patterns: thin upstrokes, thick downstrokes, and varied cross-strokes/flourishes.

    Practice individual strokes on their own before trying to combine them, and also try picking up your brush between strokes. Eventually you’ll get a feel for it, and modern calligraphy will become second nature.

  5. Use FREE Resources

    The internet is full of free resources to help you learn lettering, so take advantage! I’ve created free lettering guides for you to start practicing with.

    Scroll down to get them absolutely FREE!

FREE! Practice Guides for Modern Brush Lettering

I’ve created a series of lettering guides for you to download. This 13-page Hand Lettering Guide .PDF is available in my Free Resource Library.

In order to access the Free Resource Library, you’ll need the password. If you’re already on my mailing list – the password is always at the bottom of every email I send! Search your inbox for “Maker Lex” to find my latest email.

Otherwise, you can obtain the password by filling out this form:

If you don’t see an email from me within a few minutes of signing up, check your Spam or Bulk Folder!

You can print these guides as many times as you like and trace over the letters with a brush pen or pencil. The guides contain 13 pages of practice sheets including strokes, upper and lower case letters, numbers, some punctuation, and a few practice words.

What are you waiting for? Go get started with your hand lettering and make sure to tag me @makerlex on Instagram so I can see what you create!

If you enjoyed this post, pin the image below to share with your friends on Pinterest, or so you can navigate back here later!

free hand lettering guides modern calligraphy printable practice sheets

Happy Designing!

Maker Lex Signature

3 Cheap Pens for Hand Lettering You Already Own

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of my links, I’ll earn a small commission (at no cost to you, of course!)

cheap pens for handlettering

There’s no denying that hand-lettering is having a major moment.. it feels like everyone I know is embracing this hobby, and I love it, too!

If your Instagram explore tab is anything like mine, you’ve probably watched letterers showcasing their free-form calligraphy on almost every surface possible (paper, clothing, tile, glass, etc). They use fancy brush pens, paintbrushes, or even traditional nibs dipped in shiny metallic ink. And these tools are awesome, but not the most budget-friendly.

(Speaking of Instagram, here’s 6 inspiring hand lettering accounts to follow on Instagram now).

You may be tempted to think you need all the tools the professionals have in order to get started, but I promise you don’t!

Today I’m sharing 3 ideas for cheap pens that will help you kick-start your hand lettering hobby (or career). And the best part is you probably have these pens at home or in your desk drawer already. 

Cheap Hand Lettering Pen #1: Ballpoint Pen

BIC Ballpoint pen handlettering for cheap

Ah, the ball point pen. The cheapest pen on the list. Accessible to nearly everyone.

Coworkers everywhere love to argue about which ballpoint pen is best and which one the manager should order for the entire office. Some ballpoint pens click open/closed, some of them have a cap. Mostly they possess black, blue, or red ink, but they are available in every color of the rainbow.  If you can’t find one at home or at work, you can order a box of 24 on Amazon for under $5 — that’s less than 25 cents per pen! But if you can’t find a dime, you can probably get one for free — it’ll even come with the name of your bank screen printed on the barrel — the next time you make a deposit or withdrawal.

I know what you might be thinking — you aren’t able to vary the thickness of your stroke with a ball point pen, which is true. BUT this is the perfect opportunity for creating modern faux calligraphy. To learn this technique, be sure to check out my post on How to Fake Calligraphy.

Cheap Hand Lettering Pen #2: Felt Tip Pen or Marker

Sharpie for handlettering cheap

The second cheapest pen to use when you’re getting started with hand lettering is a regular marker. It can be a permanent felt tip marker like a Sharpie, or a washable Crayola marker.

Single Sharpies can be purchased for less than $2.00 each, and an 8 count pack of Crayola Washable Markers can be purchased for less than $5.00! Markers make quick work of coloring in down strokes for fake calligraphy.

The best part of felt tip markers is the wide variety of ends, called nibs. Markers with tapered ends (like the original Sharpie or Crayola) can be used like a brush pen. The more pressure you apply, the thicker the stroke will be.

For markers that come with a fixed wide, flat nib.. use the corner for thin strokes and the whole nib for thick strokes.

Cheap Hand Lettering Pen #3: Highlighter Marker

Hi-liter marker for hand lettering cheap

Technically a highlighter is also a felt tip pen, but in this case, the ink is neon. It’s also more transparent than a regular marker, so you can use it as a background to make one word stand out from the others in your composition. The fixed nib size is great for drawing thick strokes, but you can also use just the corner to get thin strokes.

I love these highlighters because they have a transparent nib so you can see exactly where you’re highlighting. A clear nib is one of those things I never knew I needed until I used it for the first time, and now I’ll never go back.

My favorite way to use highlighters is for a drop-shadow effect that adds major dimension to your hand lettering. This is the perfect way to start getting fancy and exploring styles you thought were only achievable using digital tools.

Free Lettering Guides

Ok! What are you waiting for? Go ahead, grab your pens and markers and give hand-lettering a try!

If you need a place to begin, I’ve created a lettering guide .PDF for you!  Download  my Free Hand-Lettering Guides now in My Free Resource Library. If you need the password, fill out this form:

learn to hand letter using pens you already have

6 Hand Lettering Artists to Follow on Instagram

Today I am rounding up my favorite hand letterers to follow on Instagram, and all of them happen to be women! #girlpower

These ladies are seriously talented, and most of them are doing this for a living (#goals). So if you’re interested in developing hand lettering skills, or just looking for inspiration, make sure to check out these Instagram accounts.

6 Hand Letterers to Follow On Instagram

hand lettering accounts on instagram

1. Jessica Hische | @jessicahische

The first time I stumbled upon Jessica Hische was while listening to this episode of the Creative Pep Talk Podcast.

I liked what she had to say so much that I immediately followed her on social media only to discover that I recognized so much of her work already. I’d seen it pinned on Pinterest and shared across the web hundreds of times, & usually without proper credit.

Lettering is Jessica Hische’s actual profession (hello, dream job), and she has worked with some major brands/companies. Think Starbucks, Mailchimp, Wes freaking Anderson, and my personal favorite: Jeni’s Ice Cream.

Within moments of following her, I purchased her book, In Progress, which details her lettering process from rough sketch to finished design. I haven’t finished it yet, but I love it already.

2. Lauren Hom | @homsweethom

I love Lauren Hom’s Instagram feed, full of bright colors & big murals & mega inspo. I’d say she’s the most “Instagram famous” person on this list. She’s well on her way to 200K followers, and I’m sure she’ll grow far beyond that because she’s clearly very smart and a hard worker. Lauren has a down-to-earth/open-book vibe that I love.

And spoiler alert: you’ve probably seen her work IRL. Specifically while standing in the checkout line at everyone’s favorite store: Target! Yes, Lauren Hom has designed hand-lettered gift cards for Target. I think I actually squealed when she posted it on her Instagram and I realized I’d admired her Thank You gift card hundreds of times. It just makes my heart happy to know that Target invests in artists like Lauren Hom.

Lauren’s Instagram and website is super helpful, too. She has tutorials, classes, resources, and a great FAQ page with all the answers you’re looking for.

3. Martina Flor | @martinaflor

Martina Flor is based in Berlin, and I recently started following her on Instagram. She is- of course- a super-talented letterer, but she also travels around speaking at all sorts of amazing conferences. The kind of conferences I want to attend. Like Tedx and Adobe Max, & even Apple.

Like others on this list, she has a ton of resources that can help you learn lettering – and as an added edge – she offers classes, books, and other resources in other languages besides just English.

I plan to check out her classes on Skillshare soon.

4. Becca Courtice | @thehappyevercrafter

How about some love for Canada, eh? That’s where you’ll find Becca Courtice, a master of modern calligraphy.

If you’re looking to explore lettering as a hobby, and maybe one day have your friends hire you to hand letter the seating chart at their wedding, then Becca Courtice is your girl. Her blog has tons of practical tips for every lettering scenario you can think of.

Rather than just a collection of works, Becca’s Instagram feed and her website are heavily focused on learning. She can teach you the basics of modern calligraphy, and then she’ll show you how to turn your new skill into a business.

5. Amanda Arneill | @amandaarneill

Amanda Arneill was one of the first ladies I stumbled upon on Instagram who was practicing, perfecting, and pretty soon.. teaching hand lettering.

It was her hand lettered sermon notes that first got me hooked, because I am the biggest sermon note taker. And I wanted my sermon notes to look. like. that. Plus, she shows you how to do all sorts of fancy things with pens and markers like combining colors, shading, flourishes, etc, etc. And she letters funny things her kids say.

Anyway, Amanda has a ton of courses on lettering & more. She’s teamed up with friends to offer classes on watercolor lettering, iPad lettering, illustration, and even social media.

6. Eline | @elinescreativeprojects

I haven’t been following Eline for very long, but during that time she’s already grown from 100ish followers to over 2500! It isn’t hard to see why. She’s only fifteen, creating amazing hand lettered artwork and watercolor illustrations, and making it look easy. Consider her a hand letterer to watch.

PS – after seeing her recent post I’m ready to go buy some sparkly gel pens.


Hand Lettering Accounts to Follow on Instagram

Know someone who you think should be featured on this list? Let me know in the comments!

How To Fake Calligraphy – Easy Tutorial

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of my links, I’ll earn a small commission (at no cost to you, of course!)

How to Fake Calligraphy - easy step-by-step tutorial

(Skip the lengthy explanation & head straight to the Easy Fake Calligraphy Tutorial by Clicking Here.)

Hand lettering is all. the. rage. right now.

Like, when was the last time you saw someone’s blog logo that wasn’t either 1) hand-lettered or 2) typed from a hand-lettered font?

Yeah, not since 2008.

And when I say hand-lettered in this post, what I’m actually referring to is what I like to call modern calligraphy.

It looks kinda like this:

Simple Calligraphy Wedding Invites Dunkirk Designs
https://www.dunkirkdesigns.com/products/simple-calligraphy-wedding-invites-salmon-pink

And today, I’m going to show you how anyone & everyone can write like this without any special tools or skills. Yep, you heard me: ANYONE, even you!

In this tutorial, I’m going to show you how to easily & quickly fake calligraphy.

Tools for Modern Calligraphy

First things first: what tools do you need?

The professionals use a brush pen, or even a paintbrush. To achieve the thick strokes, they apply more pressure with the pen on the down-stroke of the letter. On the up-stroke, they apply less pressure, and they get a thinner line. The finished result looks gorgeous, but the skill takes a lot of time to master. If you want to get technical, mastering calligraphy is down to muscle memory, which requires a lot of practice, and patience, and time, and did I mention practice?

The good news is that for fake calligraphy, there is no brush pen required. And you don’t need to worry about varying pressure or muscle memory, either. You can apply the techniques I’m about to show you to any style of penmanship, print or cursive.

And – you can use any writing utensil you have. Check Out 3 Cheap Pens For Hand Lettering You Already Own

Tools You Need for Fake Calligraphy

Ready to get started?


Learn From These Hand Lettering Books


Calligraphy 101

Before we start forming our fake calligraphy letters, there are three simple characteristics of calligraphy to know.

When forming letters, you move the pen up (up stroke), down (down stroke), and across (cross stroke).

Calligraphy Characteristic #1: Down Stroke = Thick Line

The down stroke is a thick line. Notice the down stroke in the letter A, as illustrated below:

down stroke thick how to fake calligraphy

Calligraphy Characteristic #2: Up Stroke = Thin Line

The up stroke is a thin line. Again, notice the thin up-stroke in the capital letter A, illustrated below:

up stroke calligraphy thin line

Not all up & down strokes are as obvious as in the letter A. Think about the letter C. This one is a little tricky, but just visualize writing a letter C in your head. You’ll start in the upper right corner and move the pen up just a little, then pulling the ink left, you’ll round the top of the letter and stroke down. Finally you’ll round the bottom of the letter towards the right and do a little swoop back up. So, in the letter C, there are two small up-strokes.

letter C how to fake calligraphy up stroke thin and down stroke thick

Calligraphy Characteristic #3: Cross Stroke = Thin Line/Add Style!

And finally, the cross stroke. Cross strokes happen when you’re moving your pen from left to right, or east/west instead of north/south. The cross stroke is usually thin.

Again, I’ll demonstrate with the letter A:

cross stroke how to fake calligraphy

It’s worth noting that a cross stroke is a great place to add style. So if you’re going to draw a fancy A, you might have a cross stroke that is both thick and thin, like the ones below:

stylized cross stroke fake calligraphy

These cross strokes don’t just move east to west, they are up and down and even loopy, so they take on the characteristics of up and down strokes, too.

How To “Fake” Calligraphy

Understanding those 3 characteristics of calligraphy strokes is going to help us understand where to draw in our thick lines and where to leave our line thin as we fake it… because faking calligraphy is all about faking the down-strokes/thick lines!

Ready? Let’s do this.

How to Fake Calligraphy Step 1: Write out the Whole Word

Write out your whole word, whether cursive or print. I’m going to write out the word “hello” in both script and print. See the two examples below:

how to fake calligraphy step 1
how to fake calligraphy print step 1

How to Fake Calligraphy Step 2: Draw in the Down-Strokes

Think about which parts of the letters are “down” strokes, and now you’re going to draw in a line to help thicken that stroke. Below, I’ve drawn the down stroke lines in purple so it’s easy to see:

how to fake calligraphy step 2
how to fake calligraphy print step 2

How to Fake Calligraphy Step 3: Color in the Down-Strokes/Thick Lines

Now that you’ve drawn in the down-strokes, you need to color them in to get the visual effect of a thick line. I’ve colored in the strokes in blue, so it’s easy to see what I’m talking about:

how to fake calligraphy step 3
how to fake calligraphy print step 3

How to Fake Calligraphy: Finished Word

When you’re finished with Steps 1-3, you’ll have a finished result that looks like this:

how to fake calligraphy step 4
how to fake calligraphy print step 4

& Voila! That’s fake calligraphy.

How to Fake Calligraphy: Letter Reference Sheets

Upper-Case Letters

For reference, here’s a list of Capital Letters in both print and cursive/script, so you can see where the down-strokes should be. For some of the letters, I left a secondary down-stroke thin, like with the letter H. This is my personal preference, but it’s up to you how to form the letters and where to put your down stroke.

Remember, your letters don’t have to look exactly like mine.

Lower-case Letters

For reference, here’s a list of all Lower-case letters in both print and cursive/script, so you can see where the down-strokes should be drawn in. Unlike with the upper-case letters, I pretty much added all the down strokes possible to these letters. Again, this is a personal preference, so if you don’t want to add another downstroke on the arch of the little “h,” that’s cool, too.

Fake Calligraphy – Numbers

Guess what? You can apply this hack to numbers, too. You’re bound to need them. Here’s a list of faux-calligraphy style numbers, so you can see where the down-strokes should be.

how to fake calligraphy numbers guide

A Note About Making the Most of Your Handwriting

While this is an easy hack for faking calligraphy, you may not end up with wedding invitation-worthy modern calligraphy just yet. If you don’t like the way your handwriting looks, just keep practicing and let it evolve over time. Find your own style of lettering!


Read The Beginner’s Guide to Hand Lettering


Free Download: Modern Calligraphy Reference Sheets

Download my FREE Hand Lettering Practice sheets, available in my Free Resource Library. You’ll need a password, but you can get it by entering your email below. Look for an email with the password in a few minutes – and if you don’t see it, be sure to check your Spam or Bulk Folder.

The letters you’ll be practicing in my Lettering Guides were made with a brush pen. However, you can also use them to practice fake calligraphy. Just use the hacks we learned in this blog post!

free hand lettering guides printable

So what words or letters are you eager to get started with? If you decide to try this tutorial out, send me a picture of what you come up with!

Happy Lettering!

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