art & design

Sharing My Hand Lettering Process

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At the beginning of April I started the 100 day project. This is a personal challenge where you create something every day for 100 days then share it online. I’ve been working on improving my hand lettering skills for two years now. Practice is an essential element of this particular skill and the 100 day project sounded like the perfect motivation to practice more. Today I wanted to share my hand lettering process when creating a piece of calligraphy.


To learn the basic letterforms I bought Modern Calligraphy Workshop by Imogen Owen. I traced the letters till I had a good grasp on how they flow together. I was then able to be more expressive, add more of my own personal flourishes into the letterforms, making the calligraphy more unique to me.

When I sit down to do some hand lettering the first thing I need is a quote or a phrase to write. This could be a song or a passage from a book. I particularly enjoy lettering motivational quotes, lines taken from musicals are also good.

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The materials I use for hand lettering can vary. Since I’m writing with wet media I will use a thick card or watercolour paper. The Daler-Rowney mixed media pad is good for practice. For larger finished pieces I use the Canson aquarelle paper. Both have a smooth surface which make fine lines look crisp.

For pens I will either use a dipping pen with a fine nib, or a brush. This gives a more unfinished look compared to the dip pen. The size of the brush will vary depending on the size of the quote. For ink I will either use watercolour, gouache or a black ink.


I start by writing the quote in pencil. This helps me figure out where the line breaks should go. Knowing how much space the quote will take up is very useful. Especially if it has to be a specific size. Depending on the quote I may write it out multiple times, with different layouts. This is so I can find the layout which works best.

When I have decided on the final layout I will again write this out in pencil. I will then go over it using pen and ink. I find by doing it this way I don’t need to worry so much about the layout. And can therefore focus on how much pressure I am putting on the brush.

From there I use my phone to take photos of the quotes. Creating a nice layout is a skill all in itself. The photos are then edited in Photoshop before being scheduled to post on Instagram.


And there you have it. My hand lettering process. This usually takes me around an hour for a single quote. I prefer to take my time when doing the actual lettering. Going slow, focusing on what the brush is doing, and how much pressure I’m applying results in a much better piece of calligraphy.


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