Learn Wedding Calligraphy: Practice Lettering!
I’m really excited to get started with a new series all about learning how to do wedding calligraphy and where to begin. This’ll be perfect for any bride who is in the middle of wedding planning and wants to DIY her way through the day of details like: seating charts, place cards, and signage. Or maybe you’ve been handlettering for a while but you’re not sure how to get started with wedding calligraphy! You’re at the right place.
Today, we’ll be starting with the very essential first step: practicing lettering! You won’t get very far without it.
Why do you need to practice?
Your natural writing and calligraphy look worlds apart, and you can’t just tell your hand to have gorgeous calligraphy. It takes muscle memory, which requires practice! With writing, you can do it basically without thinking, but calligraphy requires paying attention to each and every letter. It’s an art!
Some of the materials and pens you use are tricky to handle and require practice to make it look smooth and comfortable.
It’s soothing. So many people report it to ease stress and anxiety as they practice and get lost in the letters.
Materials you’ll need
Ink friendly paper. I recommend some kind of tracing paper so that you can place practice sheets underneath and trace letters or use the guidelines! Layout bond or tracing paper works great, and you can find them at any local art store.
A lettering guide! And I got you covered below!
Now, the pens!
Crayola Finetip markers - These are great because you can get a thinner line with the tip, and then a thicker line using the side! A very friendly intro to brush lettering.
Microns or Sharpies - These are monoline ink pens, which means they just create lines of one thickness. This is great to practice getting the shape of letters right without worrying about pressing more/less to get the thick and thin lines that we love in calligraphy.
Brush Pens - See what your local art supply store has in stock and try a few different ones to see what you like. My favourite are the Tombow Fudenosuke in both the hard and soft tips.
Pen + Nib - These are definitely harder to learn with but are the most classic representation of calligraphy!
Brushes + Ink - This will give you slightly similar look to brush pens, but here you can do things like watercolour! Also trickier to control.
Do the ‘practice strokes’. A lot.
You might look at the drills and think, “What’s the point? I’ll just skip to the letters.” Don’t! The drills form the basis of what we call “muscle memory”. You hand/arm needs to learn how to do some of these movements automatically, and to do that, you need the drills. The drills get you warmed up, and then also solidify all the shapes that every letter uses. You can practice the shapes, and eventually put them together to form letters. So then, rather than needing to know how to do 26 individual letters, upper case and lower case, all you need to know is how to form the shapes and movements that build up those letters.
The only way to “get good” is to practice a lot. At the beginning, shaky letters are common, tired hands are common, and inconsistencies are common. The way to change that is to keep going. Consider using your practice as a time in your day to free your mind from the worries in your life and just think about forming letters and practicing the change between thick lines and thin lines. It’s hard to think about much else when you’re focused on lettering.
Maybe you have time for 5 minutes a day or 15 minutes a day. The key is consistency in showing up, no matter how long you can show up for, and teaching your hand to move the way you want it to.
Repetition is key.
Especially at the beginning, it’s not very helpful to jump from shape to shape and letter to letter. In order to teach your hand consistency, practice the same drill or shape over and over and over. And the same letter over and over and over to build that consistency. Sometimes it can feel monotonous, but these are the building blocks to good lettering!
Don’t think of it as writing.
I have terrible hand writing. Okay, not terrible when I actually take the time to write slowly, but who has time for that? But that’s the thing, writing and handlettering/calligraphy are different. Think of it as art, not writing. Take each movement slowly and don’t rush through a letter or word. Be deliberate about each stroke you make.