Creative Outlet - Handlettering

Who needs a new, fun creative way to unwind at the end of the day? Take your mind off real issues and only think about swirls, dots, and shadows? Sounds nice, doesn't it! 


The art of handlettering fell into my lap a few weeks ago. It's something I've hardly thought about, though I've always admired a nice looking chalkboard menu in a hipster coffee shop in the South End. Learning handlettering has been a really great, random, new hobby that doesn't bear any stress or pressure. Though I kind of started out wrong, which is why I'm writing about it!

One of the first things we learned in architecture school was that “Good architects borrow. Great architects steal.” as is evident in every building made ever - they’re all just idea-frankensteins made with repeating principals either founded in the 16th or 20th centuries. But anyways..

It’s okay to steal! So long as you’re stealing for good, right? Stealing and copying ideas for the sake of learning and training is actually okay to do. Stealing to receive credit that doesn’t belong to you isn’t such an okay thing to do. When I started handlettering, I just jumped right into it and tried making up random “fonts” without really knowing any fonts in the first place, except the staples of course: Helvetica, Futura, Gill Sans, etc. And I knew the technical terminology: kerning, leading, ascenders, and other words anyone outside of the design realm will never hear. But of course being as pig-headed as I am, I didn’t consider any of that when I started out and I wondered, “How the hell am I supposed to just start doing this? How do people just do this?” Well duh, they start off trying to imitate other handlettering techniques. What a fantastic idea! I always thought of this as cheating, but it’s just the way anyone in architecture school made any of their designs, including myself. First you learn about several different types, methods, techniques, then you learn why and when they are used best, and then you apply them to your own designs based on everything you just learned and your creative intuition. Voila!

Hand lettering is been a great way to go home and draw to relax your mind and let the creativity just flow freely. Even though it uses words and letters, handlettering is more about drawing the letters and you add as much flair and detail as if you were drawing an 11th century castle set in the jagged northern alps on the day of the princess’s wedding in the fall… maybe that’s too much detail.

I’ve included some of the best websites and instagram accounts I’ve found for tips, inspiration, and ideas of how to start. I’ve decided that whenever the opportunity arrises to use handlettering, such as making birthday cards or invitations, I’m totally going to use that as chances to practice. Everyone likes hand-made gifts better right? And this is a really fun way to do it!


Creative Market has a couple of articles on handlettering and how to jump into it. There are also MORE resources on this website like what kinds of pens are best, some expert letterers you could learn from, and practice sheets that people have made.


Just My Type is a book I bought a while ago about type, not handlettering (which are two different things people). It’s honestly a great light read with fun historical facts about fonts and type. Though, I wouldn’t say that it’s a staple for people who are looking to draw more because like I said, it’s about type, but still very informative.


This website actually explains the difference between lettering and type for anyone who is dying to know the differences.


This page isn’t about lettering, but looking in this collection will make you realize the possibilities of black ink pens and paper - oh the places you’ll go with these two things!


This is exactly what it sounds like - a collection of digital drawings and handlettering made into pieces of art.


This guy has a collection just full of things he writes/draws and he’s a graphic designer who adds … well … graphics to his lettering that are straight up pretty to look at! And he’s from NY - represent!


And of course the guy who opened my eyes to this realm of design if the first place, Ian Barnard from the Honest Designers who I talk about in my previous post. He’s kind of a guru and super inspiring!


Of course, when you're seeking something creative to do, draw, or write, every knows that Pinterest is a staple, but just make sure you actually use and act upon those ideas and don't just sit in your bed on your laptop stuck in a routine of *Scroll "oo that's pretty" *Scroll "oh I could do that" *Scroll "oh I should make that for Christmas... next year". 

Happy Creating!