Step Four: Get Started Working on Letter Connections

LetterConnections

Did you miss the last post? Click here to go back!

Get Started Working on Letter Connections

In the last post, we talked about using the basic strokes to begin forming letters. Practicing your basic strokes and letters is about the best thing that you can do to improve your lettering and get more comfortable with it.

Lately, I have a lot of people who ask me how to connect letters together and make words have good spacing or look consistent together!

One of the important things to realize and remember about lettering is that it is not the same as cursive.When we write in cursive, we write quickly & do not lift our pen from the paper unless we are starting a new word. When we do calligraphy, we lift the pen between each and every stroke- even multiple times within the same letter. Calligraphy is not as quick as cursive by any means!

The picture below should give a visual representation of each time your pen should lift while you are writing the word “hello” – the little x’s divide up each individual stroke. You may also notice that across the word the little x marks almost line up into a line because you want your exit strokes for each letter to be at about the mid-line level. This will help you to connect the letters a little bit better & more consistently throughout your words.

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The x marks show where I lift the pen between & during each individual letter.

The letters shown above & below are more spaced out than they would normally be to emphasize the different places to pick up the pen. I think that it helps to see the different connection points – while you are practicing this I would challenge you to actually space out your letters like this prior to writing the word as you would like to. This will help your brain to get in the habit of picking up the pen between strokes/letters. It’s a foreign concept, especially if you are a frequent user of cursive!

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The x’s within the word “hello” seem to all be about on the same line- but in the word “welcome” it is not quite linear!

I hope that this has been a helpful post in helping you to start figuring out how to connect your letters together- a bit part of it is learning how to lift your pen between strokes and where to lift the pen at! As your exit strokes become more consistent & meet in the middle of the word- you will start to see your letter connections improve!

Materials:

Crayola Markers*

 *Affiliate links are used in this post.

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The TWO things you need to start lettering!

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When you first start lettering it can seem overwhelming to see all the different kinds of brush pens & supplies that are circulating out there.
What do I actually need to get started?

When I first started lettering I didn’t have a lot of money to spend on supplies, but I wanted to try different pens. The brush pens that I was able to find were not very cheap and I had a really hard time using them. A lot of the pens available at local stores were very difficult to manage and I thought that I would not be able to do brush lettering at all.

Now that I have been lettering for over a year, I feel like I’m able to give beginners a pretty good idea of the supplies that they will need to get started with!

ONE. A brush pen or two.
I think the temptation is to purchase multiple brush pens of all different kinds because you are excited about getting started. I can’t blame you for that because I definitely did the same thing. The downside to this is that you are more likely to ruin your brush pens because you haven’t quite learned how to hold them or use them yet. I recommend buying one or two brush pens to get started with and/or even beginning with a Crayola marker!
Click on the photo below to find what I think are the three best pens for beginners:

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TWO. Soft paper!
Once you have some brush pens, it is important to take great care of them! The Tombow Dual Brush Pens* are often some of the most popular pens around, but they are easily frayed and can be ruined just by writing on one wrong sheet of paper. The best paper that I can recommend to you are the Rhodia Notepads*. The paper is quite possibly the smoothest you’ll ever feel and comes in many different sizes. These are available in blank, dot grid, and grid styles!

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Once you have started to learn how to hold the pen, practice basic strokes, and begin to feel comfortable when building your letters THEN you should move toward buying some more brush pens. There are a lot of things out there on the market that it may feel like you NEED, but if you are looking to try a new hobby and spend the smallest amount of cash possible- I recommend buying a brush pen and a dot pad to get yourself ready!

Beyond those items, you may want to purchase an online class or a lettering guide to help you learn the basics. You can also look for calligraphy workshops within your local area!

*This post includes affiliate links.

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Brush Pen Spotlight: Zig Clean Color

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In my last post I listed what I think are three of the best brush pens for beginning letterers. Click here to check that out if you want to see!

I thought I would highlight some of my favorite things about each of these pens by doing brush pen spotlights!

First up is the Zig Clean Color Real Brush Pen (longest name ever, I know).

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The tip of this pen is made with actual bristles – so you are able to get a very brush-like look without having to dip your “brush” into ink over and over. How you use the pen controls the amount of white space is included in your lettering.

Something that I LOVE about this pen is the fact that you can create so many different styles with this one pen. Your lines can be thick or thin, fully pigmented or given a brushed texture, and there are plenty of colors to choose from!

Here are some examples of the various types of lettering that can be achieved using the same pen (simply in different colors):

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The whole reason letterers tend to buy a lot of different kinds of brush pens is to get a new look in their lettering. That’s what makes this pen so amazing! In one single pen, there are so many different styles of letters possible!

The way to create such different letters?
– Vary in the amount of pressure used on your down strokes.
– Use a greater/lesser area of the (side of the) brush tip when creating strokes
– Leave more space between your letters
– Write slowly so that the pigment flows evenly throughout your letters (for more of a pen look)
– Write quickly, not waiting for the ink to catch up to get more of a brush look to the lettering (see red letters above writing “brush” for an example of this)

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Now, these pens are called Zig Clean Colors- so I know you’d expect there to be a lot of different colors. These colors are vibrant and very fun, as well!

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You can purchase a set of 12 pens like the one that I have for the variety shown above – minus the black pen, which is also included!

Like I said in the previous post, this pen was a unanimous favorite among my friends who were beginners interested in trying out different brush pens. It’s size is a big reason why it’s so easy to learn with. This pen is quite small in comparison to other brush pens and the tip is short. The shorter the tip of a pen, the easier it is for beginners to manage (for the most part). It will help you to master the muscle memory of lettering. These pens aren’t only for beginners, though. As you begin to increase in your lettering knowledge, it becomes more fun to play with them and see what different styles you are able to create!

What do you think of the Zig Clean Color’s? Have you tried them already? Or do you think there is a better beginner pen out there? Let me know!

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The THREE best brush pens for beginners.

The Best Brush Pens For Beginners

The question I get asked most frequently is, “What are the best brush pens for beginners?”
You’ve asked and you shall receive! Here are three brush pens that I will always recommend for beginners. These are tried and true – I’ve given these to workshop students and friends who wanted to learn and all of them have received great reviews!
Don’t forget, you can also start with Crayola markers.

The Best Brush Pens for Beginners

Pentel Fude Touch
The Best Brush Pens for Beginners
This pen is always my first recommendation for beginners. The Pentel Fude Touch is the size of a regular pen, it has a short & flexible tip, and it comes in many different colors. A small pen is ideal for those who are just getting started because it is easiest to manage. I love that I can write more words in a smaller area while I’m using this brush pen. The tip is firm enough that it’s great for beginners, but still has a brush pen’s flexibility. This is the pen that will come along with your Brush Calligraphy Guide when you purchase one!

Zig Clean Color
IMG_9020Here we have another great brush pen for beginners, the Zig Clean Color. This is also a small pen, but instead of a felt tip (one solid tip), this pen has bristles. That makes this pen more like a paint brush than the other two pens I’m featuring here. This pen is also available in many different colors – more than the Pentel Fude Touch. It is small enough that it is easy to manage, but has a very flexible tip, which gives your thicker and fuller letters. The bristles help to create a more brush-like feel to your letters. I highly recommend you try this one out!

Tombow Fudenosuke Soft Tip
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Last but not least, we have the Tombow Fude, Soft Tip. This pen is almost indistinguishable from the Pentel Fude Touch, but it only comes in one color. There are two variations of this pen: soft and hard tip. Both of them are great options for beginners! The tip of this pen is slightly longer than that of the Pentel Fude Touch, which makes some newbies choose it as their favorite! Once again, this pen is small and easier to manage than other brush pens might be. This is another pen that often comes with my Brush Calligraphy Guide.

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I would love your input!
Have you tried any of these brush pens before? Did you love ’em or hate ’em?

Every artist is different and you may think that bigger pens are better for beginners! I am not about putting brush calligraphers into a small box, only looking for ways to help other people as they get started. I started with larger pens and struggled for a long time to gain control over my brush pens. These are three of my favorite brush pens for beginners (that I still use regularly), but that doesn’t mean this is an exhaustive list!

 

Looking for more tips and brush pens to try? Come follow along on Instagram where I post most regularly!

PS. Grab a FREE alphabet practice sheet here!

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Start Lettering with Crayola Markers.

Did you miss the first step? Click here to start with step one!

So, you’ve got your Crayola markers* now. And I know what you were thinking…I had no idea that you could letter with Crayola markers when I first started! I thought that you had to have fancy brush pens to even remotely start brush lettering!

SO. Go grab those Crayola markers again. This time you’re going to create a few different kinds of strokes. These are the strokes that are a tiny little piece of the Brush Calligraphy Guide. You’re going to start with those first thin & thick strokes that I mentioned and then move to some new strokes!

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Now, I thought that perhaps you’re wondering HOW to create those thin and thick lines with a Crayola marker. I was right there with you, too! BUT hopefully this will help you.

When you are creating a THICK line you want to angle the pen (like shown in the photo below) so that a greater area of the pen will be touching the paper! You don’t want to use the tip and push the tip down for a thicker line- this won’t work as you will probably just bleed through the paper! If you tip the pen to the side, you’ll naturally be able to create a thicker line because there is a greater area to work with!

TIP: Focus on using the side of the tip of the pen so that more of the pen is touching the paper. It’s not about pushing down harder, but using a larger area of the pen.

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When you are creating a THIN line you can use the tip of the Crayola marker!
The trick for creating a thin line is to lighten up your pressure – pull up on your pen. While you use the side of the tip for thicker lines, focus on lightening up your pressure and moving toward using the tip of the pen for thin lines.

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So, here’s another important tip about lettering…

You do NOT need to be writing fast. The pace of lettering is much slower than writing in cursive. You can take your time transitioning between those thin and thick strokes. Take your time creating each letter (we will talk about building letters soon, but not quite yet!). Don’t feel like you need to write fast when you are lettering because it is actually a much slower process than you might think!

AND most important of all, be nice to yourself! You are learning something new and you won’t become a professional overnight! Have some grace with yourself and enjoy the process of learning a new skill. Have some of your friends join you in learning this new skill & encourage each other as you finally start to like the lines (or letters!) you create!

What’s next?!
Use the Basic Strokes to Build Letters
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*This post contains affiliate links

 

FOLLOW ALONG ON INSTAGRAM.

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How to Start Lettering.

First Step

One of the things that people tell me the most often is this: “I’ve been really wanting to start learning calligraphy, but I just don’t even know where to begin!”

I totally agree with you there. When you want to learn something new, it’s really hard to take that very first step. It may seem like a huge task to get started with hand lettering, but it doesn’t need to be!

Do you want to know a secret about hand lettering? It has nothing to do with the supplies that you have. WHAT? I know! I was pretty surprised when I realized that, too. Brush lettering has more to do with how you use a pen to create specific lines. You can use a PENCIL to create calligraphy with the right amount of pressure. It’s all about your technique. And it is something that anyone can learn!

So, what is the first step? I know that’s what you’re wondering.

THE FIRST STEP:
Grab a Crayola marker (I’m assuming you have one lying around the house somewhere).
Practice creating thin and thick lines with your marker. Simply make some small, straight lines. Try to create a thick line when you are heading down the paper. Then, attempt to create thinner lines when you go up the paper. Don’t feel like you need to move on to a next step quite yet. Simply try to create these two variations of lines. Thin lines and thick lines. These will be essential for your lettering.

Creating THICK lines: [Also known as downstrokes] Hold the pen at an angle. You want the side of the tip of the pen to lay flat on the paper (usually you write with the tip, but you want to angle it so that a greater surface area of the pen touches the paper!). Put pressure on the pen as you are creating the line so that the line created is larger than usual!

Creating THIN lines: [Also known as upstrokes] Begin to lift up that pressure that you would use for a thick line (or downstroke). For a thin line, you may transition to hold the pen as you “normally” would. You want to use a smaller portion of the pen (most likely the tip) so that the result is a thinner line!

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Don’t worry about creating letters or words quite yet. I know that it can be hard to wait, but focus on these basic strokes until you feel as though you’ve been able to master the variation between thin and thick lines!

This can also be done with a pencil or pen around the house, just to practice putting pressure during downstrokes and lifting pressure during upstrokes.

Let’s Compare Brush Pens!

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When I first started hand lettering, I was eager to try any kind of brush pen that I could get my hands on. I knew nothing about them and had absolutely no idea what I was looking for. I didn’t even know how to use them once I had them, but I was excited to try them out! Because of this lack of knowledge & skill on my part, I ended up ruining a lot of my pens. Yikes! Brush pens tend to be quite easy to mess up, especially when you have no idea what you are doing. I feel as though I’ve messed up enough brush pens that I can now help others avoid that step in their own lettering journey! I’ve decided to give you a little comparison between 7 of these brush pens that I own:

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Pens (top to bottom): Zig Clean Color Real Brush Pen, Pentel Fude Touch, Pigma Brush, Koi Water Brush Fine Tip, Pentel Color Brush, Tombow Fudenosuke Soft Tip, Tombow Dual Brush Pen.

I’ve decided to look at the same elements for each pen, plus a little bit of my own personal thoughts about them. I will be looking at:
Difficulty: Beginner, Intermediate, or Advanced. This should help you determine if you’re ‘ready’ for this pen. If you’re really adventurous, then you can surely ignore this recommendation!
Tip: Bristles, Fairly Flexible, Mildly Flexible, or Extremely Flexible. This will let you know the kind of tip the pen has. Is it like an actual paint brush or a more firm, pointed brush tip. Different kinds of pens will create very unique lettering styles and you want to be sure the pens you buy have the look you’re hoping for!
Colors: Are these pens available in various colors or only black? If you’re looking for bright colors, then some of these pens will not be the ones for you!

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  1. Zig Clean Color Real Brush Pen
    Difficulty: Beginner/Intermediate
    Tip: Bristles, Very Flexible
    Colors: A LOT OF COLORS!
    Recommendation: These pens are wonderful! They were a hit with some of my beginner friends because they are like a real paint brush, but the tip is short so it’s easier to manage. The ink runs smoothly & you can get some beautiful thin/thick lines. I would recommend these, especially because they come in so many fun colors!
  2. Pentel Fude Touch
    Purchased from: Jet Pens, Amazon
    Difficulty: Beginner
    Tip: Short, Mildly Flexible
    Colors: A LOT OF COLORS!
    Recommendation: I LOVE this pen. I wish that I had known about it when I started lettering! It is small, easy to manage, and creates gorgeous lettering! It’s very similar to the Tombow Fudenosuke (#6 on this list!), but for some reason I tend to lean toward this pen more! I love that it comes in various colors, as well!
  3. Pigma Brush
    Purchased from: Hobby Lobby
    Difficulty: Intermediate
    Tip: Long, Fairly Flexible
    Colors: Comes in a few colors.
    Recommendation: This pen is definitely not one of my favorites. The tip is very long, which can be difficult to manage. The fiber of the tip frays easily – definitely a pen that must be used only on smooth paper (like Rhodia). As you can see from the lettering above, this pen creates beautifully thick lines! As long as you maintain the tip, you should be able to create some gorgeous letters.
  4. Koi Water Brush – Small
    Purchased from: Hobby Lobby
    Difficulty: Advanced
    Tip: Bristles, Extremely Flexible
    Color: Doesn’t have a color. This pen is meant to be filled with water, I filled it with black Sumi Ink instead.
    Recommendation: I’m not a huge fan of this pen. The tip of this pen is very long and very pointy. This makes it difficult to manage and to create thick/thin contrasts. The thin tip makes it difficult to get a consistent thick line and smooth transitions between thick/thin lines. I definitely prefer the Pentel Water Brush instead.
  5. Pentel Color Brush
    Purchased from: Paper Ink Arts, Amazon
    Difficulty: Intermediate
    Tip: Bristles, Very Flexible
    Color: LOTS OF COLORS! Most often seen in black.
    Recommendation: Another favorite pen of mine! I have to say, Pentel makes wonderful brush pens. I love this pen. It’s unique because the ink must be squeezed through the barrel of the pen up into the bristles. You have to be mindful of your ink usage and remember to squeeze the pen so you don’t run out of ink in the middle of a word! I highly recommend this pen! You can also purchase replacement inks without having to buy a fully new pen.
  6. Tombow Fudenosuke Soft Tip
    Purchased from: Jet Pens, Amazon
    Difficulty: Beginner
    Tip: Short, Mildly Flexible
    Color: Black
    Recommendation: I recommend this pen for beginners! It is a portable, small pen and creates gorgeous thin/thick lines! You will be writing a lot smaller than you might with some of these other brush pens, so it’s good for details or pieces with a lot of words! This pen is very similar to the Pentel Fude Touch & I recommend trying them both to see which one you like more!
  7. Tombow Dual Brush Pen
    Purchased from: JetPens, Amazon
    Difficulty: Intermediate/Advanced
    Tip: Long, Very Flexible
    Color: SO. MANY. COLORS!
    Recommendation: If you’ve been researching hand lettering, then you have likely seen a LOT of this pen. It creates some gorgeous lettering & is well-loved by many seasoned letterers. These pens are very difficult to use, especially for beginners! I wouldn’t recommend it as your first pen. It has a very flexible tip that is easy to fray! These pens are also not very cheap, that’s why it may be better to begin with an easier pen & work your way up to this one! I will say this though, I love the Tombow Dual Brush very much. It is easily one of my favorite pens & I love the (what seems) infinite color options. I absolutely recommend this pen, but I would say proceed with caution & use soft paper (I’ll talk more about this later, but basically look for a Rhodia notepad)

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Hopefully you’ve found this information helpful as you’re on the beginning of your lettering journey. I would love to hear about YOUR favorite brush pens! Comment below with your favorite pen.

 

*Amazon links are affiliate links.

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