The world of handlettering is vast and extends far to each corner of the world. It’s amazing, but can be a bit scary. There is a lot to learn and tons of content being produced every second, and you wonder if you could ever “catch up” or be as good as you hope to be.
While it can be intimidating and overwhelming as you discover more in the creative community, getting started does not have to be complicated. This post is designed to help you get started so you can begin your own handlettering journey today!
Grab a cup of coffee (or tea!) and read on below to see how you can start lettering today!
Gather Your Supplies
To start handlettering, you really need two things: paper and a writing tool! Nothing fancy, no special paper or expensive calligraphy pens. You can get those later. 🙂 If you want to learn about more advanced supplies, you can see my favorite supplies in this post, or my favorite brush pens in this post.
For now, take a look around you (you may have to get up and walk around). Grab a piece of paper and something to write with, it can be anything!
I have even written on the back of receipts and scrap paper. I have used nearly any writing tool within my reach: pencils, ballpoint pens, markers, highlighters, chalk, and crayon.
Did you get your paper and writing tool yet? Go get them now and then continue reading.
Line it up
Yes, you could try writing without lines. But if you’re like me, you writing starts to slant and follow an odd (and often crooked) line of its own! Not to mention how challenging it is to maintain a consistent height and width the entire time!
Make things easy on yourself. Draw a few lines across the page to prepare the space for you to begin writing. Trust me. If you do not set yourself up for success, you will waste tons of paper and you will be frustrated not being able to focus on the actual letterforms because you cannot write straight.
Only exceptions: If you already have lined paper (skip this step!) or if you are a machine and write straight and perfect naturally. Then I would just be jealous of you.
Practice writing the alphabet
Like with anything new that you learn, you have to start with the basics. You must establish a solid foundation before proceeding to the next step.
What better basic concept is there to begin with than practicing the alphabet?! You learned the alphabet as a child and use it every day. It’s something very familiar to you, and therefore it serves as a great way to practice handlettering.
Do you literally just start writing your A-B-Cs? Yes! Write as you do any other day, but this time, go slow. Write each letter out carefully. Be mindful of staying in the lines and be conscious of how the letters are made up of individual strokes.
To see actual drills and learn more about breaking down the alphabet into specific strokes, read this post on improving brush calligraphy or this post on practicing thick and thin strokes.
Or better yet, join me and my friend Nina on Instagram in an alphabet challenge called #handletteredABCs! We started very recently and it’s never too late to join. The idea is to commit yourself to focusing on one letter a day, sharing your work with others, and learning from others as you browse the hundreds of posts already added to the hashtag.
Video: Start handlettering today
Watch this video to learn how you can start handlettering today!
Need more? Visit these amazing resources to get started with calligraphy and lettering!
I Still Love Calligraphy (Melissa Esplin)
The Ultimate Modern Calligraphy Starter Kit (The Postman’s Knock)
~ ~ ~
It’s your turn!
Are you interested in handlettering? Where are you in your handlettering journey?
To help me prepare for future blog posts, what is something you want to learn more about?
~ ~ ~
P.S. If you liked this post, I’d love if you would share it!
P. P. S. Be sure you are subscribed to my blog below so you don’t miss a post!
29 thoughts on “Start handlettering today and build your calligraphy foundation”
Oh Sharisse you’re such a great teacher and so generous with your time and knowledge! I will start practicing these tips little by little! Crafty hugs!
Thanks for you’re kind words, Heidi! Crafty hugs – I LOVE that! Sending good, crafty hugs to you!!!
When drawing the lines for practicising, how far apart should they be? If the information is here, I apologize but I can’t find it. I generally write small letters but I can also write large. Would appreciate an actual width for starting. Thank you!
Great question. It all really depends on the size of your pen and the pen tip, as well as your writing. And it also depends on what look you are going for – if you are writing a long passage or doing a lot of drills, you may want smaller lines. If you want to write a few words in a big size, then obviously you’ll want larger lines. I can’t really tell you a specific size, but I can tell you to experiment until you find a width you like. Have you tried writing on a legal pad, binder paper, or other lined paper? That also helps to get an idea of how “big” or “small” you want to write. 🙂 Let me know if that helps!
Love you honesty and calligraphy. I’ve wanted to do this for many years but never had the time until now. I’ve ordered the different pens you love and will start practicing as they arrive. BUT what’s next after this? I follow you on IG but seem to have missed the lettering contest. Thanks, Kat
Hi Kat! I’m so happy to hear you are getting into calligraphy! And you are in the right place because my #1 goal is to help beginners with getting started. You will want to learn your pens and get very familiar with them. See how they write, see what the effect is of different amounts of pressure. Don’t worry about writing out long words and phrases just yet. Try writing different sized strokes and slowly write out the alphabet.
Check out my “Learn” page: https://piecescalligraphy.com/learn. Under the section, “Calligraphy Tutorials,” you will find many other beginner tutorials and videos. Keep me posted and let me know what questions you have!
I was wondering how long you recommend that we practice handlettering for beginners?
LikeLiked by 1 person
Hi, Navreet! It looks like you found my YouTube channel! Have you also checked out my “Learn” page here on the blog? Go to https://piecescalligraphy.com/learn to see all of my tutorials and video posts. They are categorized and sorted in order – so let me know what you think!
Hello Sharisse I’m starting practice but Im not sure I know how to do all the letters is any video tutorial where you shows how to do each one of the alphabet?
Hi, Monse! I am working on creating an alphabet guide at the moment. I am so excited to share it. In the meantime, if you are on Instagram, you can search for my posts under the hashtag #piecesABCs, or find my videos at #piecesvideos. Let me know if you get a chance to check them out. Hope that helps for now! Stay tuned in the next week or so – I should be sharing the guide soon!
This website has really helped me jumpstart my calligraphy! The articles are so helpful. I practiced simply doing the letters of the alphabet for at least an hour last night! I saw the link to this site in your Instagram bio. Thank you for helping me!
Yay! Thanks for stopping by, Ava. Happy to help. Let me know if you have any questions.
Greetings Sharisse. Great site. You have a tremendous talent. My wife and I are starting on our calligraphy journey soon as our hobby. I noticed that you instruct us to practice the letterforms using pencil/pen before using brush pens. Is there a typeface I can use for a template? Or if I do a search for “basic script cursive” will this be accurate as the typeface you are teaching?
Thank you Sharisse. We look forward to our journey.
Hi there! First off, how wonderful you and your wife will be doing calligraphy together! I cannot tell you how fantastic that is.
Second, you are in luck! I recently shared a free downloadable worksheet of my basic strokes and lowercase alphabet, which includes some practice sheets. Find them on my learn page under “Worksheets” (piecescalligraphy.com/learn). Let me know if you need help finding them.
I plan to put out a worksheet for capitals once I finish the ABCs challenge on Instagram. Are you and your wife on Instagram? Over at @handletteredABCs, we’ll be going over each letter of the alphabet starting January 3rd!
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thank you Sharisse. As an added coincidence. My wife and I have 10 month old twin girls. Best to you and your family.
Well that is just awesome!!! Happy new year to all of you!!!
Hi Sharisse! I’m writing from Argentina. I stumbled upon your instagram account and just loved it! I’m doing major changes to my life and 2016 is a promising year. Learning calligraphy has now become one of my new year’s resolutions and I’m already super excited. Thanks in advance for all your help.
Wishing you a happy New Year, a new fan,
Hi, Carolina!!! I’m so excited to connect with you! Are you going to participate in our #handletteredABCs challenge on Instagram over at @handletteredABCs? I hope so!
Wishing you a wonderful new year. Happy 2016!!!
Hi Sharisse! May I know if you have any helpful practice sheets or letter templates I could follow please? I noticed that you wrote from letter a to g but did not continue further. 🙂
Thank you and happy new year!
Happy new year, Sophie! Yes – I have a free downloadable worksheet on my “Learn” page. Go to piecescalligraphy.com/learn. Let me know if you found it. Thanks!
Sharisse, I am enjoying your site and all that you have to share. I want to join in, but I want to commit to the good old pencil and paper and see where it takes me. Is it ok to post my mundane pencil drills at @handletteredabcs? I’m a newbie to instagram as well as handlettering but I am very inspired by what you are doing.
Hi Elaine! You can NEVER go wrong with good ol’ pencil and paper!!! Please share with us for the alphabet challenge at @handletteredABCS!!! There are some amazing penciled works floating around on Instagram. What is your IG name? I’ll try to tag you in a few.
With pencil, not only is it the foundation of sketching and handlettering, it is VERY possible to do calligraphy with a pencil! The idea is to chisel down the tip so it has a slant, and then you would still try to create the thin/thick strokes. Off the top of my head, check out @masgrimes, @bienfaitcalligraphy, and @loveletterer who have done some stellar penciled calligraphy lately.
Thanks, Sharisse! I’m @charlie_brownzie. I will check out the accounts you shared. Never thought of doing more than just practicing strokes with my pencil. You opened up another door and I’m only getting started!
Awesome! Glad you reminded me about the pencil. I forget to share helpful pencil warm-ups that will prevent so much wasted paper. 🙂
Sharisse, thanks so much for sharing your expertise here. I’ve been very interested in hand lettering and you have a great site where I feel confident that I can learn this if I practice enough. I want to start off with good old pencil, and I would love to join in on the next round of #handletteredabcs for the sake of accountability . I am new to lettering and Instagram, and everyone’s posts look so sharp, is it appropriate for me to post there?
Hi, thank you so much for this! I’m in love with brush calligraphy now and is starting to practice.
Do you mind to show me the full 26-alphabet for this font? thank you 🙂
Hi Nicole! I have the full lowercase alphabet in a guide on my Learn page. See here: https://piecescalligraphy.com/learn. Hope that helps!
LikeLiked by 1 person
Hi! Thanks for providing such an amazing platform for me to refer to while starting out brush calligraphy! Just wanted to ask, what are some ways to combat shakiness? Thank you!
Hey Darius! Shakiness is totally normal, especially for beginners. In fact, I’ve been doing this for over two years and I still get pretty shaky! Think of it like riding a bicycle – in the beginning, you’re shaky because you’re learning and getting used to the bike. But as you get more familiar with it and practice, the shakiness decreases and soon you can ride with a lot more control. This is similar to learning the brush pen. So my advice is to not worry about shakiness right now. Instead, focus on letterforms and putting the right amount of pressure on your pen tip so that it produces consistent thin and thick strokes. Hope this helps! Please let me know.