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.

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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!

 

Handlettering on a Budget: Affordable Tools to Start Your New Hobby

One of my favorite things about handlettering is that you can take it anywhere, and practice with any writing instrument! But when you start going through YouTube or Instagram for tutorials, it can seem like you have to buy a lot of tools. It looks like everyone’s got Tombow dual-tip markers, Ecoline watercolor markers, oblique dip pens with fancy holders, and the iPad Pro… and you don’t have the cash for all that.

Beginners, don’t be fooled.

Yes, there’s value in having good tools. But you don’t need the expensive stuff to practice! Here are the basic supplies that I think beginners need, and you can find all of them under $20 (and a good number of them for free if you’re… uh… resourceful like me).

    1. Pencil + a good eraser: Drafting is a must. I wasted so much paper and ink as a beginner because I was watching Instagram videos that were sped up and doctored. I also suggest wooden pencils over mechanical ones. The trusty yellow school pencil is a lot less harsh on paper. Art people can probably tell you why, but I’m not an art person. I think it’s because the lead doesn’t stay deadly sharp the whole time you’re drawing. You want something that’s softer because it doesn’t make ridges in the paper as you draw. These ridges could divert water when you’re watercoloring, or show through when you’re coloring with crayons or colored pencils.
    2. Ruler: Duh, it keeps straight lines. You can use this to draw out really specific guidelines for the tops, bottoms, and crossbars of letters if you’re a perfectionist. I just draw out lines like ruled paper so I don’t draw all over the place.
    3. Black pen: You pick the kind of black pen. Pictured is a gel pen that I stole from work. It writes fairly smoothly, and best of all, it was free! I also suggest the Papermate Flair pen… it’s just lovely.
    4. Sketchbook: Cardstock or printer paper are fine for practicing or sketching, but they’re not really absorbent. If you want to try color blending or brush lettering, get a sketchbook with thicker paper. Pictured is my favorite cheap Target sketchbook with 75lb paper. My favorite one is the U-Create Sketch Book!
    5. Washable markers: I cannot stress how amazing washable markers are. They allow you to blend colors like the pros, and they’re great, affordable tools with which to practice calligraphy! I recommend this pack of fat Crayola markers because 1) 40 colors!, and 2) they’re a lot more durable than the Super Tip markers that so many people recommend. My toddler has stolen quite a few of the thin markers and ruined them… but the fat markers have lasted!

I’ll be featuring these tools all week this week on my Instagram account. Follow the hashtags #letteringonabudget or #cheapaflettering, or just find me @nerdladydraws to see some awesome things that you can do with these basic tools!