How To Practice Lettering and Get Better Faster
Learn hand-lettering more effectively with my Free Lettering Practice Worksheet, so that you can become a better craftsman.
With hand lettering becoming more and more popular, people of all industries are starting to take a crack at learning this age old craft. They see all the wonderful motivational quotes floating around Pinterest and Instagram, and they feel inspired to try their hand at creating their very own compositions with lettering.
But did you know that the majority of these people are actually practicing lettering the wrong way? Not to mention that people aren't practicing enough to get better. So if you're serious about learning how to hand-letter, then you need to start with the basics and get in the habit of practicing every day.
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Make practicing easier by taking the pressure off
I know what you're thinking, “I don’t have time to practice every single day! I have a job. I have kids. I have a life.” And my response to you is this; the only person in charge of your time is you, and if something is important enough - you make the time.
The hardest part about committing to practicing every day, is starting. This can happen for a lot of different reasons; poor time management, laziness or fear of failure - to name a few. Regardless of what has been holding you back, you aren't going to become a lettering artist just by thinking about it and trolling Pinterest. You won’t know if you're any good, or if you even like lettering until you at least try it for awhile.
I completely understand, learning something new can be frustrating because you’ve never done it before, and you're probably not very good. So take the pressure off by starting out with just 15 minutes of practice a day. You can even set up a timer on your phone if you want.
By doing this, you’ll create a habit out of drawing every day, and this whole lettering thing will start to feel a little less foreign and a lot more fun. Plus, you’ll be surprised how easily 15 minutes can turn into 3 hours once you get into the creative flow of working with your hands.
Practice vs. deliberate practice
So what is the right way to practice lettering? Well, I’ll tell you one thing. You can’t just open up a sketchbook and start drawing quotes and expect to see noticeable improvement. You need to build your way up and learn the basics of typography first before you get too far down the rabbit hole.
Just like how a guitarist needs to learn their scales before they can start writing music an artist needs a foundation before creating works of art on their own. This means that you need to work your way up to an everyday routine of deliberate practice, where you set aside time each day to practice with a purpose.
Yes, practice of any kind is good, but deliberate practice is much better. Deliberate practice comes down to clear objectives and goals so you can go into your practice session with a mindset of improvement. If you just start drawing quotes and you skip all the basics, you won't have the knowledge on how to improve and eventually you’ll just feel stuck.
Every time you pick up that pencil you need to choose something to improve upon and then work on it till you feel that you have a professional grasp on the concept. Don’t just mess around and hope you’ll get better accidentally.
Sign up for my free lettering practice sheet
Receive this free Type Study Worksheet and follow along with the rest of this tutorial. This printable practice sheet will help you learn the basics of hand lettering with the san serif font Helvetica, in both uppercase and lowercase letters.
Practice drawing the letters themselves first
Most people start practicing lettering the wrong way. They jump the gun and just skip all the basics and go right to the finish line. This will only hurt you in the long run, and it will take ten times longer for you become a professional. So instead of starting off creating long phrases, you need to develop a foundation by drawing each of the letters individually.
Print out your practice sheet or create your own. We're going to start this process by drawing the lowercase alphabet of Helvetica in pencil. I gave you three chances to trace the letters with red dots to help you reproduce each letter along the guides.
1. Draw the skeleton of the letter in pencil first, this will give you a better sense of how each letter is formed.
2. After you're done with your outline, you can begin to add some bulk to your letters. It’s important to draw the skeleton of your letter first, and then add weight to make sure the structure is intact. Don't just outline the outside of the letters.
3. Practice this again but this time color over your lines with either a dark pencil or a thin-tipped micron. Then fill in each letter to help you visualize that the weight of your letters is consistent.
4. Now, I want you to draw this alphabet again, but this time without tracing and using the type example as reference. The tracing phase is more for the muscle memory of your hand to get used to sketching letters. Drawing from reference is the real beginning of you learning lettering.
5. Finally the last phase of deliberate practice to draw that same alphabet but this time 100% from memory. You can use one of the blank practice sheets for this, or practice on your own with a scrap piece of paper.
Once you have completed the lowercase worksheet, repeat this same process for the uppercase letters as well.
Breaking down each style of lettering piece by piece is the quickest route to finding your unique style because when you're practicing this way, you can start to build a type library in your head, rather than having to use a reference every time you work.
I hope that this article was enlightening and that you feel motivated to start practicing hand lettering the right way. By choosing to do deliberate practice, you’re setting yourself on a path of originality because you’ll be able to draw from your head instead of relying on references to fuel your creativity.