A Hand Lettering Guide for Designers

The digital world represents an enormous database that stores an immense level of information. Say, for instance, you have an essay assignment for college classes – well, you can go and google MBA essay service and you’re now in the possession of important data that can help you out with your grades. Now, that data availability comes in the form of letters and written messages. Here we are not pointing out directly towards essays but we are mentioning it in the general aspect – anything is written, even the T-shirt prints. Well, written messages not only give you something to read but also allow you to experience various emotions through them. Then, won’t it be awesome to possess the ability to draw yourself some hand letters that are beautiful, personal, and interesting?

This is what we’re discussing today, hand lettering – basics and principles. Here we’d talk about the essentials to know. We are doing this to show you the foundation on which you can build upon.

What is That, actually?
hand lettering

Many people use the term “typography” to signify various things. Here they include not only hand lettering. They use the term for calligraphy, too, and for type design or typesetting. Still, they have their own principles and they differ in various ways. Say, type design consists of making typefaces that are later available for wide, extended use by all. The designers give you a system of letters. Those can then be combined in different ways. On the other hand, typesetting refers to the mere arrangement of those.

Now, calligraphy is pretty much familiar to all – flawless and amazing handwriting. Whereas hand lettering tries to imitate that but on the basis of a different main process. Here you draw the letters in traditional, detailed, contemporary, etc. style.

Get the Tools

To begin with, tools are needed. No worries, no need for immense expenses such as “pro” pens and such brushes. All that’s necessary are some paper, together with a pencil, eraser, and a ruler. You can make it without intricate tools, although you can use them for the calligraphic look of the letters. If you wish to create digital lettering, you can use a graphic tablet or iPad Pro coupled with Apple Pencil. Otherwise, you can also upload the lettering by scanning it and editing it via a photo editor.

Understand Construction and Relation of Letters

Guidelines are a must when starting out for they present you the opportunity to properly make the proportions of the letters in a harmonious way. Basics should be considered, like those we’d discuss in the next few lines.

What the ascender line is – lowercase letter ascender’s height. The descender line, though, is the opposite. Cap height is uppercase letter’s height. Baseline, generally, is the “resting” place of all the letters. Then, the x-height is showing us the height of the lowercase letters and holds the crossbar. Still, there are some instances when you can slightly ignore the guidelines, like when the letters visually don’t look good when you are applying the guidelines.

Learn the Letters’ Anatomy

You’d also need to understand some “anatomical” terms when it comes to letters. You’d need to know some basic things like:

  • Crowbar
  • Apex
  • Terminal
  • Aperture
  • Eye
  • Item
  • Bowl
  • Counter
  • Ear, etc.
Choose the Style

Okay, here you can go “roaming wild, free, and cool”. Some knowledge of the different styles is a must in order to be able to properly pick the perfect for the current project, so you’d have to understand the basics. Yes, here there are still rules, yet your imagination is much freer to roam wild.

The top thing you need to remember is to make every letter in a way that allows it to be recognized. After that, you can go after some pretty out-of-the-box designs.

self lettering
Serif Lettering

Serif is a widely used aspect – basically, that’s a small line added to improve the letter recognition. It’s put on the end of the stroke of the letter. But today it has undergone so much reinvention that it now can be in pretty interesting shapes. Here, in the serif category, many styles reside – transitional or modern serifs, some old-style ones, etc.

Sans Serif Lettering

“Sans” stands for “without”. Here the letters don’t have “serifs” attached to them. This is more widely used in contemporary styles. The structure is more basic but still allows for a lot of creativity. You can go for low contrast style, geometric lettering, humanistic, or square one, and others.

Script and Brush Lettering

Or – how are the letters interconnected. It can look formal or playful, still also may seem downright trashy, depending on how well you do it. It’s a bit of an imitation of calligraphy but you draw them with smaller pen strokes. Remember – thin upstroke, thick downstroke. Thus, minimum pressure upwards, pushing and more pressure downwards.

Dimensions, Details, Elements

Alright, let’s bring the level up a notch and add decorations, such as dimensions - by shading the letters with drop lines, shadows, or shades. To make a shadow, draw the same shape behind your main one. Shadows can be added pretty much with great success.

You can also put in various details, some of which are simple, others – quite hard to achieve. Only one rule is applicable here – keep it legible and project-relevant. Plus, there are different decorative elements, as well, when you fill in the empty space that surrounds the letters. Here, once again, you need to remember to keep the readability at the top level.

Expressive Letterforms

You should try to express emotions and feelings through the letters. For example, when you are writing formal invitations, don’t go at too decorative circus-like letterforms. Think about what feelings the words make come about. Think how they can fit your concept.


Okay, now you have everything all set and you can start drawing. At the start, just get the idea down. Then, after you have the idea down on your paper, you can go after the other elements that make the letterforms appear magnificent. Make yourself a nice strong foundation on which to build upon.

Laura Fields is a professional writer and educator who aims to present students – both in high school and in college – to achieve better performance and to learn to express themselves much more fluently. She is interested in all educational topics, as well as in helping digital professionals succeed in their respective fields.

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