Arts and Crafts

The Busy Mom’s Guide to Brush Calligraphy

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easy brush lettering alphabet pens video

How to learn easy brush lettering when you’re short on time.

A few months ago, one of my crafty sisters offered to give the rest of us a tutorial on calligraphy. She’d been posting some gorgeously written words and quotes on her Instagram account. She would send us cards and little paper gift packages with our names and messages written beautifully. Apparently, she’d taken a class and spent a lot of time practicing. That was well and all but for me, it sounded like a daunting, time-consuming task and considering that I’ve got two littles, a house to take care of, and school work to do, it wasn’t something I wanted to get into just yet.

Then came Christmas. I was preparing gifts for my teenage niece. I made boxes out of pretty craft paper tied with satin ribbon. I wanted her to have the experience of engaging in something beautiful and personal as she opened her gifts. And then I wished I knew just a little bit of calligraphy. I ended up crudely writing messages by Googling words in brush lettering and trying to copy them.

It worked! She was delighted by the packaging and lettering.

So I thought, maybe I can do this. Maybe it won’t be as much work as I thought.

I told my husband “I think I want to try to learn some calligraphy. I think I can do it.” He replied, “Of course you can. It’s just writing.”

If you want to improve the appearance of your cards and messages to make them just that much more memorable or if you’d like to pretty-up those quotes, affirmations, and scripture you’ve written on pieces of paper around the house, but you really just don’t have much time, then read on for simple step-by-step instructions to get you started and you’ll be writing lovely letters in no time.

Start brush lettering in 5 simple steps:

STEP 1:  Figure out what your lettering goals are.

When I set off to learn brush lettering, my goal was to learn enough so I could write out nice cards for a couple of birthdays that were coming up. Having a goal will help you to stay motivated to learn and practice.

To figure out what your lettering goals are answer this question:

What will you do with brush lettering once you’ve learned how to do it?

STEP 2: Learn the basics in 5 minutes.

Get a pen. You’ll need a brush pen or a marker. When I first started, I just happened to have some Marvy Uchida brush pens that I bought several months back when they were on clearance at Michael’s. Crayola markers or even dry erase markers would work. You just need a marker that has a bit of an elongated tip.

Here’s a list of some brush pens and markers that I use:

Get some paper. Some regular lined paper whether college ruled or wide ruled would work. Graph or dotted paper would work also.

Watch this video to learn the basics in 5 minutes:

STEP 3: Find your style.

It’s helpful to print out a couple of different brush lettering alphabets (a.k.a .exemplars) to use as a reference.

From there, figuring out your style is a matter of determining how you want to write each letter and what you want in the overall look. I wanted my lettering to be slanted, look mostly clean with a tad of flourishment so I kept an eye out for ways to write letters that matched what I liked.

Here’s the current lettering I use:

Here are some links to a couple other exemplars that I really like:

Do you like straight or slanted?

If you want slanted lettering just turn your paper counter-clockwise until you get the slant you want.

STEP 4: Practice a little bit each day

As they say, practice makes perfect… in this case don’t worry about perfect, instead, practice for progress.

Now that you know the basics and you’ve got reference alphabets, you can start squeezing in practice every day.

Ideas for practice as a part of your busy day:

  • Parts of your to-do lists
  • Words in your journal such as month and dates
  • Daily scripture
  • Daily affirmation
  • Names of your children

STEP 5: Refine

As you start to get more comfortable, you’ll want to go back often to review the basics to continue to improve. It’s good to keep practicing the basic strokes as well as letters that you have trouble with.

Remember these tips as you practice:

  • Keep pressure super light on the upstroke.
  • If it helps, say “thin” as you make your upstroke and “thick” when you make the downstroke.
  • Go very slow. Slower than you think and definitely slower than cursive.
  • Focus on each stroke.
  • Use lined paper to get used to writing straight.

More Resources:

Chances are once you get started you’re gonna get hooked. You’ll want to learn more and write more, even when you know you should be tackling a mountain-sized pile of laundry. Nevertheless, following are a few of my favorite blogs and videos with more info, free worksheets, and tips on improving.

If you liked this post or if it has inspired you to start lettering, let me know in the comments below.

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