Learning hand lettering from traditional to contemporary is an in-depth process that takes years to perfect.
Significant historical styles
I started learning calligraphy by first learning the TRADITIONAL calligraphy styles of lettering:
Roman, Uncial, Gothic, Carolingian, Bookhand, Italic, and Copperplate.
Italic and Copperplate remains fundamental to today’s hand lettering
All the TRADITIONAL styles are made with a Broad-Edge Pen or Brush, except for Copperplate which is made with a Pressure Point Pen. Traditional calligraphy was a hobby did for purely for fun. I did make a little money addressing envelopes. I rarely do traditional calligraphy anymore.
Some years later that I started learning commercial lettering by first learning Brush Script, made with a Pointed Brush. I’ve since learned to draw lettering, develop scripts and typographic styles, create fonts, and use the computer to manipulate, apply special effects, clean-up, and vectorize my lettering.
BROAD EDGE PENS & BRUSH
A Pen with Speedball C-1 nib
B Automatic Pen
C ½” Broad Edge Brush
PRESSURE POINT PENS
D Pressure Point Pen with Hunt Imperial nib
E Fountain Pen
F Strathmore Kolinsky – sable hair brush
G Pentel Color Brush – synthetic fiber (my favorite brush)
H Pentel FRH brush – synthetic fiber
POINTED BRUSH EXAMPLES
The Pointed Brush is just one of many tools available for contemporary hand lettering.
The Brush/Marker is very popular. I do like the brush/marker, but I am still partial to ink.
The Ruling Pen is worth trying…it has a rugged look and can even splatter.
BRUSH/MARKERS & RULING PEN
I Tombow ABT N15 – brush/marker
J Staeddtler Mars Graphic 3000 duo – brush/marker
K Ruling Pen
RULING PEN EXAMPLE
There are many more real and improvised tools to make marks. Almost anything you can dip in ink and draw a line with is a tool.
Examples: a Q-tip makes a great mono- weight tool. A stick can make some wicked lettering. Ink made lettering can even be used as a template for hand drawn lettering.
HAND DRAWN LETTERING
Making lettering with an ink tool is just one side of contemporary lettering. The majority of “modern” hand lettering is drawn. Having a knowledge of pen and brush made lettering would be useful, but certainly not required. Drawing lettering is the quickest way to jump into lettering. If you can draw, you can draw letters. There are no tricky techniques to learn or rules to follow. Tools would include; pencils, mechanical pencil, felt pens, ball point pens, ink pens, and technical pens.
Ultimately all art ends up digital. For me, in nearly all cases, that means Adobe Illustrator vectors. This is when I do the final tweaks and get it all perfect.
The computer enables you to do many things to the lettering you’ve created using vectors, filters, image adjustments, and special effects.
You can also create everything using the computer and not even touch a primitive drawing tool.
Try this without a computer!
About Dan Cotton
Dan Cotton is a letterer and type designer.
He provides lettering designs for businesses,
design studios, ad agencies, and corporations.