Intro to Hand Lettering

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There are a few tools that, tips and masters you should follow to get you started on your handlettering journey. We've got the basics covered here for you.


Paper is an obvious need for this craft, but you need a specific kind of paper, so lets get nerdy about paper for a minute: 

Paper is made from trees, trees have fibers, and these fibers are ground up and mashed together to make paper. The rough paper has long messy fibers. Smooth paper goes through a refining process and doesn’t have long fibers and is pressed again while drying. The long fibers cut through your pens and which can shorten their life.

Don’t use printer paper when hand lettering with your rough markers. As you can see below it has a lot of long fibers which means you will kiss your pens goodbye sooner than you’d like.

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So how do you know which paper to get? Grammage. Grams per square meter or g/m squared or GSM. That’s how paper people measure the fibers. the higher the number of the grammage, the finer and smoother the paper, and less tooth, which means longer lasting markers, which makes for a happy hand lettering artist. (it's like sandpaper or sheets. High number = smoother/softer feel)

Here's where to look when you're on the hunt for paper and notebooks (We are not affiliated with any of these paper/art suppliers, this just for the sake of education):

NO BUENO! 75 gsm = Printer Paper

75 gsm = Printer Paper

Meh... Good/Better 180 gsm = Marker Paper or Multimedia paper

Meh... Good/Better
180 gsm = Marker Paper or Multimedia paper

YEEUUSSSS!!! BEST!!! 270+ gsm = Fine

270+ gsm = Fine

Note: not all marker paper is 180 gsm. They vary from 100 gsm to 300 gsm


Pens + Markers is where we can get carried away. There are thousands of pens and markers out there that you can use and experiement with. If you’re on a tight budget just pick up some thick Crayola Markers from Walmart, but if you some spending money and want to invest in good markers and pens, here are a few brands to look into:

  • Tombow

  • Primacolor

  • Sakura (Micron)

  • Pentel

If you’re wanting to explore different pens and markers check out or and search for “brush pens” or “brush markers.” If you want to play with a more watercolor looks search for “watercolor brush pens” 


When you first start using a brush pen test it out by drawing simple shapes and letters like S, cursive L, circles to get a feel for your pen, marker or brush. 

Thick downstrokes thin upstrokes. Remember that.

In other words, when you create a downstroke you apply more pressure to your marker, using the side of the brush to make a larger mark on the paper, making a thicker line when going in a downward motion. And visa versa for making an upstroke. Press lightly, or apply less pressure to make a thin mark using the very tip of the brush when you make a line going up.


Tip: Hold you marker or pen at more of slant when you write, it makes it a little easier to create upstrokes. 

Practice makes progress. Here are some other exercises to try if you don’t know what to write:

  • Put on some of your favorite tunes and hand letter some of the lyrics that stick out to you.

  • Pick inspiring quotes and hand letter them.

  • Watch a movie and hand letter your favorite lines.


  1. Sketch it out with a pencil on scratch paper. Try different ideas with letter shapes, embellishments, flourishes, shadowing, lines, etc. to get a unique composition.

  2. Write the focal point first, meaning the word(s) you want to stand out the most, should be sketched out first so you can find your center.

  3. Write the rest of the supporting words around that focal word.

  4. Play with embellishements and flourishes.

  5. Transfer your sketched out composition to nicer paper and write out with a pen or marker. This last step may take a few tries and that’s okay.



Awesome practice sheets here from the Pigeon Letters

Supply List here from Amanda Arneill

50 ways to letter each letter of the alphabet on Nichole's Pinterest DIY Board. 


Amanda Arneill - Great tutorials, giveaways, and eCourses. @amandaarneill

by Dawn Nicole - Very extensive blog and following, plenty of tutorials. @bydawnnicole

Courtney Casper - Has a unique black ink/brushy style @courtneycasperletters

Chalk Full of Love  - Published a couple books on hand lettering that are very useful @chalfuloflove

Molly Jacques - Has several eCourse on how to do lettering on an iPad. @MollyJacques

The Pigeon Letters - Animal lover and published several books about hand lettering. @thepigeonletters