Calligraphy 101: Lowercase Letters

So you’ve been practicing your basic strokes and you’re ready to move on to actual lettering! Let’s do baby steps: this week, it’s time to focus on lowercase letters.

If you’re joining me for the first time, this is Part 2 of a short series in which I curate the best of the best lettering resources for beginners. See Part 1 here: The Basic Strokes. I know you’re busy; I’m busy, too. But I promise it is so worth it to have a creative outlet to escape from that busy lifestyle, if only for ten minutes. In this series, I will provide no more than 5 resources that you can consume at work, at home, or anywhere in between. Let your new hobby begin!

Resource #1: Loveleigh Loops

This is a pretty long video, but an informative one. It shows you how to build a lowercase letter from the basic strokes. If you’re practicing at work or while the baby is sleeping, you could put this video on mute and start at 1:37. Take note of the building blocks of each letter, then see how she lefts her pen/pauses between each stroke in order to perfect the letter. 

***Bonus Resource: @loveleighloops on Instagram***

Twins Jillian and Jordan have a ton of good information on their Instagram feed. Search #loveleighlessons to see their instructional information, or just scroll through their feed to see videos and tips! (This is not a paid advertisement. I just appreciate good information.)

Resource #2: The Lemonade Store

I’ve already said it once: I love lettering with fat Crayola markers. I think they’re the best beginner calligraphy tool–as well as my preferred “brush” lettering tool. This video is much shorter than the Loveleigh Loops one, but it doesn’t break down the letter by basic strokes. This is a good one for those of you who just want a fast(er) overview of lettering each of the lowercase letters. 

Resource #3: Stephen Bradbury Design

Stephen’s lettering style is a bit different from modern calligraphy, but some of you may like to try it. This style is like when calligraphy meets graffiti. I love it!

Resource #4: One Artsy Mama – Free Lettering Practice Sheets

(Image from One Artsy Mama)

There are a ton of lettering practice sheets and workbooks that you can buy through artists’ websites  and Etsy stores. I wanted to find something free, though.  On this page, you can print off free practice sheets and letter directly on the page, or use tracing paper to letter over the page.

Disclaimer: The sheets that you can purchase have more information about the motions of lettering, and how to go about drawing each letter. With this free one, you’ve got to be aware of how the basic strokes fit in yourself.  

Resource #5: My Stories @nerdladydraws!

OK, shameless plug here. But really, I was trying to find more lowercase lettering sources and found them all boring, repetitive, or incomplete. Keep an eye out on my Instagram stories @nerdladydraws over the next few weeks for quick videos on how to letter each of the lowercase letters with the basic strokes. If you miss anything, I’ll save each video in my story highlights.

In these videos, I’ll use a different color for each stroke so that you can see how to build each letter. They will be muted so that you can watch them when you’re supposed to be quiet (because otherwise you’ll here my child screaming or the latest Hallmark movie I’m watching). 

That’s it! Now go practice lettering! Let me know how you’re doing by commenting below or finding me on Instagram @nerdladydraws! 

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Calligraphy 101: The Basic Strokes

This one’s dedicated to my girl Lindsay. You may be like this magnificent woman yourself: tired AF because life kicks your butt every day, and you need a creative outlet. You’re interested in calligraphy and handlettering, you’ve pinned a few things and followed a few Instagram lettering artists… but it’s all overwhelming and you don’t know where to start.

Let me get you started with the basics.

And because I’m tired and busy, too, I’m going to curate for you. Instead of adding to the noise on YouTube and Instagram, I’ll distill the most useful resources for you and give you my suggested steps to learning the art of handlettering.

I’m planning on this being a short series to introduce you to the basics and get you started on your lettering journey. I’ll keep it under five resources so that you can consume, then go ahead and start practicing! Today, you’ve only got three to get through. So let’s get started!

Lesson #1: Learn the Basic Strokes.

Calligraphy is different from cursive. Cursive is all about efficient writing in one fluid motion. Calligraphy and handlettering is about drawing — so that means you’ve got to pick up your pen between strokes, and really practice the shapes of lettering.

All the letters can be formed with the following basic shapes:

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You don’t need to know the names. Just the shapes.

Now, before I show you some videos, let me give you a disclaimer: I’m cheap. I don’t have the money to spend on all the cool tools that these videos will recommend.

My suggested tools:

That’s it. At least until you feel like you’ve gotten the hang enough of it.

Today’s Top 3 Resources

#1: The Basic Calligraphy Strokes

Watch how Becca forms each of the shapes, then try it out yourself! I promise, this works well with Crayola markers. You don’t need to spend a ton on Tombow markers.

#2: Common Mistakes

Maybe this is a 102 lesson, but if you’re like my friend Lindsay, you’re probably ready for this lesson.

#3: Drill Worksheets

There are tons of free worksheets on the internet. It’s the magic of the internet. Here’s a good one to practice your basic strokes. It’s from Dawn Nicole – check out her full blog post on drill basics here!

Two Bonus resources:

  • Becca at The Happy Ever Crafter has an entire Teachable course on practicing your drills (for free!). If you have the time to watch her videos on each of the strokes and practice each slowly, go to showmeyourdrills.com.
  • I learned by watching a ton of videos on Instagram, then trying it out myself. I also needed the videos to be silent, or easy to follow if muted… I was watching them while I was putting my daughter to sleep or feeding her during her first year. If you want to see simple, mute-able videos that show you how to do each of the basic strokes, stay tuned to my Instagram stories this week! Find me @nerdladydraws. I’ll save the demonstrations to my stories in case you join me later.

That’s it, friends! Now go and practice! Next up, I’ll share resources to help you learn how to put the basic strokes together so you can draw the letters. But as Mr. Miyagi showed young Daniel, you’ve got to learn how to wax on and wax off before you can kick ass. Learn your drills!

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5 Instagram Accounts to Improve Your Handlettering Game

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I realize I sound a little snooty when I say I’m a “self-taught artist.” But the truth is, I’m cheap. I’ve seen plenty of lettering workshops in my area and online, and I’ve heard plenty of artists saying, “Invest in yourself! Take a class!” But. I don’t have the time or money for that. What I do have time for, however, is mining through Instagram during my spare time. It’s where I learned the basics of handlettering and calligraphy, and where I continue to learn and hone my style. Here are my favorite accounts to learn from:

#1: Andrea Fowler (@calligraphynerd)

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On Tuesdays, Andrea hosts “Tuesday Tip Time.” She shares short Instagram videos that address common beginner mistakes, like writing too fast or not taking breaks. Her video on the “wedge of space” between strokes completely changed my style of lettering! In addition to great tips, she’s a diehard Potterhead and caffeine addict, so her posts are always relatable and entertaining. Search #tuesdaytiptime or #calligraphynerdttt to go straight to her tips.

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#2: Lise (@inkandlise)

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Lise is the definition of versatility in handlettering. She has so many different styles, and she records herself writing. I am a visual-kinesthetic learner, and I have learned so much from just watching videos, then trying it myself. @inkandlise is the perfect place to start. She’s strong, she’s empowering, AND she even started an alphabet series tagged #inkandlisealphabets. It’s so easy to get stuck in the basic modern calligraphy style — Lise shows all the potential that handlettering has!

 

 

#3: Letter Archive (@letterarchive)

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What an amazing resource for lettering artists! This isn’t merely an account; it’s the collective work of hundreds of artists. If you search #letterarchive_[insert desired letter], you will find hundreds of different styles of writing that letter. I have gone here when my style doesn’t fit the composition that I’m doing, and I need ideas. The account itself features the best of the best, but I like looking through the hashtags for each letter to find what I’m looking for.

 

 

#4: Stefan Kunz (@stefankunz)… and a few others

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I’m attracted to typography and composition. When I started handlettering, I didn’t understand how artists like Stefan Kunz, Alyssa Robinson (@arobinsonart), Stephanie Baxter (@stephsayshello), and Dan Lee (@dandrawnwords) figured out how to make different sizes and fonts of letters fit together into one cohesive piece. But Stefan Kunz is gracious enough to show the secret behind the magic: grids. He has a few composition grids that he’s shared for free through his own account and through @goodtype, and you can buy sets of composition grids through his website. When I want to play with composition, I like to scroll through his, Alyssa’s, Stephanie’s, and Dan’s feeds to get in the zone.

 

 

#5: Lauren Hom (@homsweethom)

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Lauren is my inspiration for finding my own style as a lettering artist and social media content creator. Her account is a must for artists who are hoping to start their own business. In January, she launched #homwork, a weekly handlettering challenge designed to foster originality and freshness in the lettering community. She offers real advice on how to find your own voice and style instead of being just another picture of the same ol’ inspirational quotes on Instagram. I’ve only gone through her free coaching tools—her email newsletter, her Instagram stories, and her features on other lettering accounts like @goodtype—but she does also offer workshops. Hers is the only one I would consider paying for… and if I still feel like I’m serious in a year or so, I may actually cough up the money for her “Passion to Paid” online workshop.

 

I dream of the day when I’ll have enough expendable income to spend on an art class. But until then, I’ll keep digging through Instagram videos and accounts to figure out the magic.

If you’re into handlettering, art, or small business, comment and share the social media handles that inspire you!