Monday, July 18, 2011

The Artist's Hand: Lettering Part 3

Happy Monday!  My July blogging series, "The Artist's Hand," continues today with more on lettering.  I began with ideas for adapting and altering lettering "products" such as foam stamps & stencil templates and continued with some ideas on how to use rubber stamp fonts.  Today we are going to venture into something that can be scarier territory: your own handwriting.  The following post is adapted from class materials I developed back in 2002.

"I hate my handwriting:" This is a common refrain in art classes and I've read that phrase over and over again on blogs.  It seems that for many, the art of lettering is frighteningly close to the seemingly impossible art of drawing.  There are many lettering books on the market that give you lots of ideas for fonts to "draw."  This scares off many people right from the beginning.  So I decided to develop a way to teach lettering using an individual's own handwriting as the starting point.  Thus, each and every one of us has a ready-made font "skeleton" immediately at hand!  By making simple changes to your existing handwriting, you can confidently create beautiful lettering for any project.

One of the best things for practicing your handwriting are children's lettering pads.  Remember those from way back?  They come in different line thicknesses, depending on the grade level they target: little ones just learning to create letter forms use pads with really wide lines and as kids get older, the lines get closer together.  All of these pads feature a dotted center line and that's useful when you start transforming your letters into unique fonts.

As far as other tools are concerned, I encourage you to practice in pen because many times a pencil (and its tempting eraser) causes students to spend more time editing and criticizing their creativity than actually lettering.  However, as long as you can keep a muzzle on your inner critic, by all means use a pencil.

Begin by writing out the alphabet (upper and lowercase) in your neatest printed handwriting just like you did in grade school.  DO NOT make this an exercise in agony.  Lettering that takes you ten hours to print out is neither useful nor fun.  Get used to smoothly but quickly printing out the alphabet.

This is what I call your "PBA" (Personal Baseline Alphabet) or your personal starting point for developing fonts.  With this method, you will always begin with your PBA.  Practice just writing the alphabet so you don't stress over your handwriting.  You just need the letter forms to play with. 

On Wednesday, I'll continue this post with ways you can alter and add to your PBA.  For now, make friends with your handwriting; it is a deeply unique and personal part of you that your heirs will treasure.

Note:  I always hope this goes without saying but unfortunately, I sometimes discover it is necessary to throw out this reminder: Any written & visual material here at Lost Coast Post AND at my Etsy shop, Hand & Soul Studios, is copyright-protected and is for your personal use only.  Links are warmly welcomed but please don't copy my posts to your own blog or take my images and copy them line for line in your own work.  Many heartfelt thanks to all who work to respect and protect artists' copyrights...


  1. you know its true we lose our writing skills after grade school..I think its lovely to add hand writing to some of my art, we should practise just like in grade school..

  2. Thank you so much for all your valuable information. I am in love with your blog, I am also a member of FTB. Appreciate your posts.

  3. I truly love my visits to your blog!! Truly. Thanks for such great inspiration.

  4. You are an exceptional talent Michelle! My handwriting has declined so badly after working a day job for 30 years! This is a wonderful idea. I am grateful for all of your suggestions and info!

  5. Perfect timing, all those school supplies are on sale right now! Thanks for sharing all your tips.

  6. I'm so happy that I stopped by today!!! Lots of eye candy, organization tips (LOVE those tins and the idea of 'tagging' spiral notebooks!), and lettering lessons. Whew!!! You've been b-u-sy, Michelle!

    Thank you so much for these lettering ideas. When I was in college, I had to take an architectural lettering class and spent Hours, upon Hours trying to "develop my own style". What a great idea to use a child's lettering grid to develop new "fonts"!!! I think I may just pass this along to my "followers"!!! One can NEVER have enough lettering (or organization) tips!!! Love & Hugs, Terri xoxo


Thank you for visiting my blog and taking a moment to comment! If you would like a response to a specific question, you are welcome to email me directly at

Thank you again for the time you've spent here. Most sincerely, Michelle

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