The look of hand lettering can be seen everywhere you turn these days. It’s a look we love because, in a digital world, something so obviously created by hand speaks to us and reminds us of our shared humanity, or at least, that’s my view. Consider having fun with hand lettering this year as you think about making your own holiday cards to share with friends and loved ones.
Hand Lettering is Not Scary!
Hand lettering is not the same thing as handwriting. Whether or not you love your own handwriting, hand letting is a creative process you can enjoy and it can be as approachable as sketching and doodling if you want it to be. Yes, just as there are professionals with any creative outlet, there are artists who have a passion for hand lettering and do amazing work. But don’t let inexperience stop you from playing with this fun process. It’s perfect for simple and sweet holiday cards.
One Word Works!
All you really need for a great card is an endearing single word (or sometimes two). We’re all familiar with words of the season such as joy, hope, peace and snow. Think of a word that embodies the message you’d like to share this year and maybe it’s two words, but keep it simple. There’s a lot of powerful punch in a just one word.
Hand Letting How-To
I’ll share with you here, two quick approaches—the modern calligraphy look and artful hand-drawn letterforms.
What You Need
eraser (white is best)
permanent pens (I used a Sharpie and a few sizes of Pigma Micron pens)
other materials to embellish your word (optional)
The Modern Calligraphy Look
1. Using a pencil and a light hand, loosely draw your word. Create large, loopy descenders for letters such as G, J and Y, and try not to have your letters too tightly packed together.
2. When you’re happy with your penciled word, go over it with a black permanent pen. I used a regular Sharpie.
3. Here’s where the real fun starts! Using a black pen with a fine point, draw a second line along any parts of the letters where you’d naturally go in a downward motion. Taper this second line when the motion starts to become horizontal rather than vertical.
4. Fill in the spaces created with the second lines, using a finer pen for the points of the shapes and a larger pen for the larger areas.
5. Add some embellishment, if you like, but try not to be tempted to add a lot. The key to this approach’s success is its simplicity. Here I used a metallic silver paint pen to make a star-like dot on my J, and I outlined it with a fine-point black pen.
1. Decide how high you’d like your letters and draw parallel lines to indicate where the tops and bottoms of the letters will go. To get your word easily centered on your card, mark the center along each ruled line. Draw the center letter of your word in the center of the card. If your word has an even number of letters, obviously one letter will be to the right of the center dots and one to the left. Just freehand these letters; don’t worry about keeping things exact and perfect. We’re going for a hand-drawn look.
2. Draw the remaining letters. This may require a bit of erasing and starting some letters over. Take your time and use your pencil lightly.
3. When you’re happy with your penciled letters, go over them with a fine-point pen. Here, I used short, sketchy lines.
4. Have fun embellishing! Simple pointillism can be added to serifs. I also added a little snowflake. Letterforms are a lot of fun to color in, too. Get out your watercolors (my favorite) or markers and color away, or keep it minimal and leave it as is.
Here are some other very simple approaches to using hand lettering for your holiday cards.
Strands of lights are one easy element to hand draw on your cards. I wrote my words simply with a pencil, then went over them with concentrated watercolor using a liner brush. Lastly, I went over the letters with a fine-point pen.
Experiment with using the same words, but playing around differently with the style. Who says all of your cards need to be the same?
For this example, I wanted to play with a flat brush and some India ink, but I didn’t want to go crazy with letters. The ampersand works perfectly!
Yes, this is more than one or two words! I just wanted to have some fun with letterforms and I loved this challenge of adding depth to my letters.
Hopefully, by now you’re inspired to try hand lettering a few cards as we approach the holidays. Making your own cards is so rewarding and a great way to relax during what can otherwise sometimes get a bit crazy. Those who receive your cards will feel extra special, too.
If you love the idea of adding hand lettering to your art, and you’re looking for additional inspiration, you might enjoy Lesley Riley’s book Creative Lettering Workshop.
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