Brush Lettering 101: Tools, Strokes, And Tips To Get You Started
There are many different types of brush lettering, and each one has its own unique look and feel. In this blog post, we will discuss the different types of brush lettering and how they differ. We will also provide examples of each type to see what they look like in action!
What is Brush Letting & Why it's Important
Brush lettering is a type of calligraphy that uses a brush instead of a pen or pencil. This allows for more flexibility and creativity in your letters! This style of lettering is similar to calligraphy.
Brush lettering is commonly referred to as modern calligraphy and faux calligraphy due to pressure and the appearance of the letters. Each letter is written with heavy pressure on the downward stroke and light pressure on the upward stroke. However, they are written in different ways.
Showing its importance because it adds a unique and personal touch to your writing, brush lettering also allows you to create different fonts and styles that you can use for different purposes. For example, you might use a more formal brush lettering style for an important document or a more playful style for a fun-loving friend!
In addition to its significance, brush lettering is also incredibly beautiful and can add a lot of personality to your writing. It's also a great way to add personality to your brand communications, whether you're a small business owner or a big corporation. In addition, it is a great way to relax and be therapeutic.
Modern Calligraphy vs. Faux Calligraphy
Modern calligraphy is a more relaxed form of traditional calligraphy. It often features lowercase letters and doesn't require you to follow the strict rules that traditional calligraphy does. Seems simple right?
But of course, when there are pros, there are always cons. And with modern calligraphy, the con is that it can often look messy and unprofessional because it's more relaxed.
Faux calligraphy is another popular type of brush lettering. It’s when you mimic the look of calligraphy using a normal pen or pencil, and it’s a great way to get the look of calligraphy without investing in fancy supplies or learning new skills. Anyone can do it!
However, faux calligraphy has downsides as well. The main downside is that it does not have the same elegant look as real calligraphy because it's not actual calligraphy.
Types of Brush Lettering Styles
If you've ever been to a calligraphy workshop, you know about a million different lettering styles and ways to write with a brush pen. And, you're probably left feeling overwhelmed and wondering where even to start.
Well, never fear! We're here to break down the seven most popular styles of brush lettering so that you can find your perfect match. These are some of the most popular calligraphy styles.
Basic Brush Lettering
Basic brush lettering - Image by JetPens
This type is created using a basic brush pen. The strokes appear to be thin and uniform throughout the lettering. Because of this, it looks very clean and neat.
When to Use
This style is perfect for those just starting with brush lettering. The simplicity of the font used and the uniformity of the strokes give you more time to focus on the art rather than the technique.
Flourish Brush Lettering
Flourish brush lettering - Image by Happy Ever Crafter
This is a more advanced form of brush lettering that involves adding flourish to your letters. This can make your lettering look more decorative and intricate. Flourish Brush lettering is more ornate than basic brush lettering.
When to Use
Flourish Brush lettering is the perfect way to add an extra flair to your letters. If you're looking for a way to make your letters pop, then brush lettering is the way. And if you want to be more stylish, then learning to use flourish brush lettering is a great place to start.
Ombre Brush Lettering
Ombre lettering - Image by Awesome Alice
Ombre brush lettering is a type of lettering that uses two or more colors to create a gradient effect. Usually done by using a light color at the top of the letter and dark color at the bottom, ombre brush lettering can create a unique and eye-catching look.
When to Use
Ombre brush lettering can be used both formally and informally. Also, if you want to add a special touch to your wedding invitations or simply want to liven up your daily correspondence, ombre brush lettering is a beautiful and eye-catching way.
Watercolor Brush Lettering
Watercolor brush lettering - Image by Ensign Insights
Watercolor brush lettering is a beautiful and unique form of calligraphy that combines the fluidity of watercolor paints with the elegance of traditional lettering. This type of lettering can create some stunning pieces of art.
When to Use
Whether creating expressive backgrounds or adding splashes of color to your letters, watercolor brush lettering can be an incredibly rewarding and enjoyable way to add some dimension to your artistic endeavors.
Cursive Brush Lettering
Cursive brush lettering - Image by Stefan Kunz
Cursive brush lettering is a more advanced form that involves using multiple strokes for each letter. This gives the letters a more flowing look. It also involves using a small brush to create more stylish letters.
When to Use
If you're looking to add a touch of romance to your designs, cursive brush lettering is the way to go. This lettering style is both stylish and sophisticated, and it's perfect for adding a personal touch to invitations, cards, and other design projects.
Block Brush Lettering
Block brush leterring - Image by Letterboy
Block brush lettering is a unique form combining hand lettering and brush lettering. This lettering is a modern take on traditional calligraphy and uses a larger brush to create simple block letters. This style is ideal for signs and logos.
When to Use
Block brush lettering is a great option if you're looking for a more modern look for your business cards or want to update your office's signage.
Brush script lettering- Image by Letterboy
Another type of brush lettering is the Brush Script Lettering. As you can see, this brush lettering is written more stylishly. The letters appear connected, which gives them a more organic look. It involves using a small brush to create letters with many little details.
When to Use
Whether creating wedding invitations, party announcements, or personal notes, brush script lettering is the perfect choice for a timeless aesthetic.
Essential Tools for Brush Lettering
Now that you know the different types of brush lettering, let us move on to the right supplies you will need. You may think that brush lettering calligraphy needs a lot of special materials, but the truth is you probably already have most of what you need at home. Here are the common tools you’ll need.
- Brush pen
- Paint or ink
Real Brush Pen & Felt Tip Pen
People will often talk about using a "real" brush instead of a felt tip brush pen in the modern calligraphy and hand-lettering community. So what's the difference, and which one should you use?
A real brush is just that - a brush with bristles like those you would find in a paintbrush. Felt tip pens mimic the brushstroke, but they don't give you the same control as a real brush. Confusing right? Don't worry; the information below will shed light and help you decide which to choose. Let's look at their pros and cons.
- Gives more control over the thickness of your strokes
- More forgiving if you make a mistake
- Can create a more natural-looking brush lettering style
- Takes more practice to get the hang of using it
- Challenging to find the right type of brush
Felt Tip Pen
- Much easier to use than a real brush
- More widely available than real brushes
- Less expensive than buying a real brush and ink
- Easier to control for beginners
- Good for small projects
- Less control over the thickness of your strokes
- Not as forgiving if you make a mistake
- Creates less natural-looking brush lettering style
So, which would you choose? Just a piece of advice, if you're just starting, we recommend using a felt tip pen. However, if you want more control and are willing to spend more money, go with a real brush.
The Right Paint or Ink
People nowadays prefer to use colorful markers. However, if you want to use black ink, we recommend using brush pen inks specifically designed not to clog the tip. It is also important to find a waterproof one to help your work last longer.
No matter what you choose between colorful and black ink, the important thing is that you have fun and enjoy the process! Here are some common inks and paints for your brush lettering.
- Acrylic Paint
The Right Papers
Calligraphy papers - Image by Happy Ever Crafter
As for the type of paper, you need something smooth but not too slippery. The smooth paper will allow your pen to glide across the page, making it easier to create consistent lines. While the slippery paper will make it difficult to control your pen, and you'll have wonky lines.
Look for a pad designed specifically for calligraphy or a smooth sketchbook.
It's even possible to use practice sheets! These are excellent for obtaining a feel for the pen's operation and practicing various strokes.
You don't need expensive calligraphy paper to practice, but it might be fun to use! So that your ink doesn't bleed through, choose a pad with thick pages. Specialty papers come in a variety of colors and textures.
Here are some of the best papers for your brush lettering journey!
It's also a good idea to have some additional tools on hand. After all, you never know when you might need them! Here are some additional tools you may prepare.
- A pencil
- A ruler or a triangle
- Rubber and a sharpener
The Basic Strokes
It's time to start working on some fundamental strokes. These strokes are the foundation of all brush pen lettering, so it's critical to master them before moving on. So, what exactly are these strokes, and how do you create them?
There are three basic strokes in calligraphy: the downstroke, the upstroke, and the curved line. These strokes can be combined to form all of the letters in the alphabet. And to do that, you need to use consistent pressure as you draw each stroke.
The Downstroke or the Thick Line
You can do this stroke by drawing the brush in a downward motion. You must start at the top of the line and press down to create a thick line. And remember, the downstroke is the thickest part of the letter.
Downstrokes - Image by Pieces Calligraphy
The Upstroke or the Thin Line
Upstrokes - Image by Pieces Calligraphy
And for the upstroke, do the opposite. Start at the bottom to create thin upstrokes and press up as you move your brush tip towards the top. Don't forget to use light pressure as you release the brush at the top of the stroke.
Upstrokes - Image by Pieces Calligraphy
The Circle Stroke or Curve Line
This is one of the more difficult strokes, but don't worry; with a little practice, you'll get it. Begin at the bottom of the circle and work your way up clockwise. Release the pressure on your brush as you reach the top of the stroke. This stroke is only used for letters like "o," "b," and "d."
Circle, Curve lines - Image by Happy Ever Crafter
Alternate the Downstroke and Upstroke
Excellent work! Try to make a letter by alternating between downstrokes and upstrokes. This will assist you in getting a sense of how the brush moves.
Upstrokes, Downstrokes - Image by Pieces Calligraphy
Combine all the Strokes
It's time to put them together to make letters. You can begin with simple letters such as "a," "b," and "c." Once you've mastered them, you can progress to complex letters.
Downstrokes, upstrokes, and circle lines - Image by Lettering League
Check out the video below if you'd like to see how the basic strokes perform in action.
The Advanced Strokes
One way to add variation to your letters is by changing the width of your strokes. You can add pressure to the pen while making a downstroke or using a thicker pen. You can go heavier or lighter on the downstrokes.
Stroke width - Image by JetPens
Shifting the Baseline
You can also make small adjustments to the baseline as you write. This is called "shifting the baseline." You can do this by making some downstrokes slightly higher or lower than others.
Shifting the baseline of letters - Image by JetPens
Slanting the Letters
Another way to add personality to your lettering is by slanting the letters. You can do this by tilting the paper or holding the pen at an angle. You can make the letter straighter or slanted.
Slanting the letters - Image by JetPens
Brush Lettering In Comparison To Other Forms
Many think brush lettering is just a fancier print or cursive handwriting form. But there are some key differences between their styles. Although they all have something to do with creating stylized letterforms, the ways and results may vary greatly. Let's start by defining each one:
Brush lettering is a type of hand lettering, but there are some key differences between the two. As the name suggests, brush lettering is done with a brush, while hand lettering can be done with any tool (pencil, pen, etc.) In addition, brush lettering tends to have a cursive look, while hand lettering can be more blocky. Moreover, brush lettering is generally more difficult than hand lettering.
Calligraphy is similar to brush lettering in that it is a form of hand lettering, but there are some key differences. First, calligraphy is done with a nib and ink, while brush lettering can be done with any tool (pencil, pen, etc.).
Second, calligraphy tends to have an ornate look, while brush lettering can be more simple. Finally, calligraphy is generally considered to be more difficult than brush lettering.
Typography is the art and technique of arranging type, typefaces, and fonts. While brush lettering and calligraphy are done by hand, typography is done with a computer. This means that typography can be used for both print and web design.
Serif, sans serif, script, and decorative are all different types of typography. Each has its unique look and feel.
Let's now take a look at how they differ when written:
Brush lettering - Image by Ensign Insights
If you would notice, brush lettering has more thickness in the downstrokes than upstrokes. This is because of the pressure you need to put when holding the brush. The strokes are also not very consistent in width.
Hand lettering - Image by AmandaRachlee
In hand lettering, you will see that the strokes are a lot more consistent in width. You are not using a brush but rather a pen or pencil. The pressure is also evenly distributed throughout the stroke, resulting in a much thinner line.
Traditional calligraphy - Image by Calligraphy Masters
In traditional calligraphy, the strokes are more consistent in width because the nib is held at a fixed angle. It can be written with a fountain pen or a dip pen. The pressure you put also doesn't change the thickness of the stroke that much. The thinnest part would be in the upstroke when it comes to the thinnest part.
Typography - Image by GCFLearnFree
As you can see, typography differs from the rest because of its way of being written. Although it can actually be written by hand, it is more often created digitally. When you look at it, the strokes appear uniform in thickness because of how they are made. The thinnest parts would be on the sides.
Brush Lettering - What To Consider
The different types of brush lettering can be classified based on the type of brush used, the size of the brush, and the pressure applied to the paper. Let's take a closer look at each of these factors:
Type of Brush
There are two main types of brushes that can be used for brush lettering: synthetic fiber and natural hair. Synthetic fiber brushes are usually made of nylon or polyester and have a stiffer feel. Natural hair brushes are made of sable, hog, or pony hair and are more flexible.
Size of Brush
The size of the brush can also vary depending on the type of lettering you want to create. For example, if you want to create thin, delicate lines, you would use a smaller brush. If you want to create thick, bold lines, you will use a larger brush.
The pressure you apply to the paper also affects the type of lettering you create. For example, if you want to create light and airy letters, you would apply less pressure to the paper. If you want to create bold and impactful letters, you will apply more pressure to the paper.
Tips for Learning Brush Lettering
Brush lettering is more than just holding your pen in a certain way and making strokes. To create beautiful brush lettering pieces, you must follow a few rules.
Use Your Pencil
If you're just starting with brush lettering, we recommend using a pencil to lightly map out where your letters will go before going in with the brush. This will help you feel how much space each letter takes up and how they connect. Once you're comfortable with how the letters are supposed to look, you can start tracing over your pencil marks with the brush.
Always Pay Attention to Details
When you're joining your letters together, it's important to pay attention to the direction of your strokes. For example, if you're connecting a downstroke to an upstroke, you'll want to make sure that the downstroke goes over the top of the upstroke. This will ensure that your letters are consistent and easy to read.
The first rule in brush lettering is to be consistent with your brush strokes. This means that you need to use the same pressure and speed for each letter. If you vary the pressure, you will get different widths for your letters, which will make your piece look messy.
Keep a Light Touch
Another rule to keep in mind is to keep a light touch. This means that you should not press too hard on the paper. If you press too hard, the brush's bristles will spread out and make it difficult to create thin lines.
Follow the Pencil Pattern
When you create your pencil pattern, use them! You should ensure your brush points are in the same direction as your pencil lines. After all, you want your brush lettering to look like it was written with a pencil!
Use a Single Stroke
Lastly, you should use a single stroke for each letter. This means that you should not lift your pen while you are lettering. If you lift your brush, you will get uneven lines, and your lettering will not look as smooth.
Brush Lettering FAQ
1. Is brush lettering the same as hand lettering?
Well, they both involve letters but other than that, they are quite different! Brush lettering is all about using a brush to create thick and thin lines, whereas hand lettering is done with a pen (or even a pencil).
2. What kind of paper should I use for brush lettering calligraphy?
You can use any kind of paper, but we recommend using thicker paper so that your brush doesn't bleed through. However, you may use inexpensive paper that won't break your bank if you are just starting. You can always try any fancy one when your get used to brush lettering.
3. Is brush lettering considered modern calligraphy?
Yes, it does! As mentioned above, brush lettering is often known as modern calligraphy.
Brush lettering is a more free-flowing style, often done with a brush instead of a nib and ink, and thus, can be considered modern.
4. How do I get started with brush lettering calligraphy?
The best way to get started is to find some resources (like this blog post!) and practice! Also, keep in mind all the rules of calligraphy we learned earlier, like slant, pressure, and letter formation. And lastly, have fun with it!
5. Do I need special tools aside from a brush, pen, ink, and paper?
Nope! Just those two things. But if you want to get fancy, you may invest in some nice tools like calligraphy paper or a nib and ink set. Remember, there are endless possibilities when it comes to calligraphy, so don't limit yourself with a brush pen and paper. Level up!
Brush lettering is a fun and unique way to create beautiful calligraphy pieces. It's not as hard as it appears, and with some practice, you'll be able to create stunning works of art like the ones shown in this guide. Feeling challenged to start on brush lettering calligraphy? No worries! Practice makes perfect, and sooner or later, you'll be an expert. Thanks for reading, and happy lettering!