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!

 

DIY Chalkboard Canvas in 6 Easy Steps

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In the winter of 2012, I was in my second year of living alone–my family and fiance were 300 miles away in Dallas while I was working in Lubbock–and at the height of a stressful year of wedding planning. By that time, I had learned to love living alone, but I still craved time with my loved ones. Maybe it was the wedding DIY bug, but that was the year I starting crafting for the home. When the Christmas season started, I discovered Hallmark Christmas and brought out my acrylic paints. Probably in the middle of my fifteenth cheesy romantic comedy, I created this:

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I was so proud of this. It didn’t turn out exactly the way I wanted it to–I wanted a faux chalkboard look, but I didn’t know how to pull it off–but I was still happy with this thing that I created. I’ve brought it out every year as a reminder of my years alone, of the time that I was juggling so much but still embracing the Christmas spirit.

This year, I finally decided to take the art of handlettering seriously and learn how to do it. I started in May, and I can confidently say that I have moved from a beginner level to an intermediate one. Let’s just say that means I’m good enough to cringe when I brought out my Christmas decorations this year.

I decided to put my new skills to use with revamping my old Christmas canvases. I’m really happy with how this one turned out, so I wanted to share with you!

Supplies:

  • Pencil
  • Chalk
  • Handheld pencil sharpener
  • Black acrylic paint (or, a black canvas)
  • White paint pen
  • Canvas
  • Kleenex

Estimated Cost: Under $15. I had all of these items at home already, so it was really cheap.

Step 1: Sketch!

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I went through several iterations of the layout and font here, practicing and experimenting with letter shapes.

I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to do pencil sketching. This was a crucial step that I missed in my 2012 canvas: I assumed my mental picture would translate well on canvas without prior planning. However, sketching helps me see how my hand shapes letters, and how the letters fall into place. It lets me play with layouts and learn what works and what doesn’t.

Step 2: I see a canvas and I want to paint it black.

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You can skip this step if you want–most craft stores have black canvases now. However, I’m cheap and I happened to have a couple of plain canvases in my craft closet. I used about three coats of acrylic paint to completely black out the canvas. I prefer acrylic for crafts like this because it’s cheap, opaque, and versatile.

Step 3: Sketch with chalk.

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Wait for it… in the final step, you can see how I changed this design at the last minute. Again, this is why sketching with erasable media is SO IMPORTANT!

I chose to sketch with blue chalk because it would blend into black well when I rubbed it off. Sketching with chalk allows you to make mistakes–because even if you sketch on paper, you don’t really know how it will end up until you put it to the right scale! For this piece, I ended up doing some last minute changes once I saw how the words filled up the canvas.

Pro Tip: Use a pencil sharpener to sharpen your chalk! It is so much easier to draw with when it’s got a sharper tip!

Step 5: Use a paint pen to paint over the finalized design.

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Again, this step is up to you. I’ve seen perfectionists use a tiny brush to paint in with acrylic paint, and more practical artists use a paint pen. I wanted clean lines, so I chose a paint pen. I used the Sharpie oil-based white pen because 1) I had it already, and 2) my Craftsmart paint pen (Michael’s store brand) was not bold enough on the black canvas. I noticed that the Sharpie pen picked up some of the black paint and blue chalk as I wrote, making it come out duller. To make up for this, I had to wipe it off on another surface every few letters. I also went over the letters 2-3 times to get it as bright as I wanted it.

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I used a stool as my table so I wouldn’t press down too hard on the canvas.

Warning: Oil-based pens can be–well–oily. Watch your hands as you write and give the paint enough time to dry before you attempt to do overlapping lines.

Step 6: Use a tissue to gently rub away the chalk.

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After the paint has dried, use a Kleenex to rub away the chalk. I found that a soft, circular motion was the right amount of gentle and abrasive. This gives the piece a nice, chalky finish to complete the faux chalkboard effect.

Step 7: Display, Brag, Revel in Your Amazingness!

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Show all your friends your awesome skills. I’m going to use this technique to polish up another piece. Follow me on Instagram @nerdladydraws to see how it turns out!

If you tried this technique, let me know how it turned out! If you know a better technique, share it in the comments!