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Hand lettering is the artistic drawing of letters instead of writing or typing them. It is used in creative applications such as interior design and home improvement to produce expressive text as a form of art. Modern hand lettering uses several media, such as ink, chalk, or paint. It can also use more creative materials like makeup or food.
Hand lettering is not the same thing as calligraphy, although calligraphy can be a form of hand lettering. Hand lettering is less strict with its strokes and techniques than calligraphy. Calligraphers create a traditional style of writing using very specific techniques, but hand-lettered pieces are more creative and unique, and they can encompass a vast range of styles.
Pens and Pencils
As with most artistic endeavors, having the right supplies is important to creating a piece. To get started, you must have some sort of writing implement, usually pencils or pens. Pencils used for hand lettering can be either mechanical or wooden. Wooden pencils are graded according to the hardness or softness of their lead. Letterers often begin sketching with harder lead and then do subsequent shading with a softer lead. Pens are also a popular choice for lettering, and a wide variety of options are available, with a person's choice often based on their preference of a finer or broader point. Most letterers choose pens that have a soft or angled tip, which helps to create varying line thicknesses.
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There is no specific standard for the paper used in hand lettering: Paper choice is very much in accordance with personal preference. Sketchbooks are good to have on hand to capture ideas, and the paper in a sketchbook will keep inks from bleeding through from one page to the next. Graph paper is another useful tool to have, as it can help keep your design consistent and scaled correctly. When designing and experimenting is done, a finer type of paper is often used for the finished piece.
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Hand letterers should warm up a bit before starting their project to avoid cramping and ensure smooth lettering. One way to warm up is to take a ruler and draw straight lines on a sheet of paper. Then, begin making straight lines on this line at an angle. Next, move into curves and other shapes. Each should be the same size, and the spacing should be even. All letters are built from shapes and lines, so this exercise translates directly into the skills needed for drawing letters. This exercise is also a good one to try out new pencils, pens, and types of paper.
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Once you are warmed up and feel comfortable with basic shapes, you are ready to start lettering. Hand lettering allows for a great deal of freedom, and knowing the basic techniques is just the starting point for going in any creative direction. The initial step is to experiment. Draw letters or words as many ways as possible. Don't be concerned with creating a final project, just brainstorm until you find the look you like the best. Doing some research ahead of time is also a good idea. Look around for inspiration to see what has already been done and figure out what you might like to do. Explore the white space and the weights used, then go from there to create something new.
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The Finished Piece
After the experimentation part of a project is done, you are ready to create a finished piece. Start by planning out the basic layout, then sketch in the words lightly to assure a good fit and aesthetic. Feel free to mix styles and let the words and letters interact with each other. Then, add details and shading to put the finishing touches on your creation.
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