Super Easy Hand Lettering Techniques with an Artful Spin


The end results of hand lettering are fun, beautiful, often mesmerizing, and leaving many of us thinking, “I could never do that.” But you can! We have it on good authority that hand lettering doesn’t have to be difficult. In fact, you can create easy to intricate letters from A-Z. Joanne Sharpe shares 10 hand lettering techniques, from simple to complex, that are all simple to follow and fun to do, excerpted from her book Artful Alphabets.

And remember rule #1 for hand lettering: enjoy the process and embrace “imperfections” as you go! If you purchase your copy of Artful Alphabets now, you will also get a bonus hand lettering lesson free!

hand lettering

10 Hand Lettering Techniques from Easy to Intricate

Hand lettering art can absolutely be a stress-free process, as you explore the components of letters and how they become art images. These hand lettering techniques are somewhat easier than traditional calligraphy or type design because your personal handwriting will be used as the style foundation for each new alphabet and won’t require involve years of practice for immediate success.

As we get started, keep in mind it’s OK to copy at first to get comfortable and confident with the creative lettering process. Be inspired by each sample alphabet and imitate the details. But don’t ever be afraid to put a little spin on the ideas to make the hand lettering reflect your own personal style and your creative voice.

Artful Calligraphy

Artful Calligraphy | 10 Hand Lettering Techniques with an Artful Spin by Joanne Sharpe | Artists Network

If you’ve never had formal lessons in calligraphy, try using a specific calligraphy marker to make a stylized alphabet with your own handwriting. You can achieve a lettering look unique to you using the features of a chisel-tip marker and being comfortable with your hand movement and letter formation.

Materials list:

  • Black Elegant Writer Calligraphy Pen, medium point
  • Bristol paper
  • Ruler
  • Waterbrush

Artful Calligraphy, Step 1 | 10 Hand Lettering Techniques with an Artful Spin by Joanne Sharpe | Artists Network

1. Create guidelines that are 1-inch (25mm) tall. Inside the lines, hold the Elegant Writer medium-sized calligraphy pen at a 45-degree angle and write the upper and lowercase alphabet.

Artful Calligraphy, Step 2 | 10 Hand Lettering Techniques with an Artful Spin by Joanne Sharpe | Artists Network

2. On the next row, write the letters with the same pen but on a slant for a slightly more stylized look.

Artful Calligraphy, Step 3 | 10 Hand Lettering Techniques with an Artful Spin by Joanne Sharpe | Artists Network

3. On the next row, write the letters at a back and forth slant with a flourish at the end, making the 45-degree angle of the pen do the work for you. You can also explore a new look by wetting the edges of the letters with a waterbrush to let the ink pool out.

Artful Calligraphy | 10 Hand Lettering Techniques with an Artful Spin by Joanne Sharpe | Artists Network

Great Gray Shadows

Gray Shadows | 10 Hand Lettering Techniques with an Artful Spin by Joanne Sharpe | Artists Network

Create some dimension and drama using a basic chisel-tip-marker font with gray shadows along each letter. This bold hand lettering technique is super simple yet always impressive.

Materials list:

  • Black and gray Copic permanent markers
  • Bristol paper

Gray Shadows, Step 1 | 10 Hand Lettering Techniques with an Artful Spin by Joanne Sharpe | Artists Network

1. Write the alphabet using the broad chisel tip of a black permanent marker to create the uppercase bold alphabet.

Gray Shadows, Step 2 | 10 Hand Lettering Techniques with an Artful Spin by Joanne Sharpe | Artists Network

2. Use the pointed tip of the chisel to draw the lowercase alphabet.

Gray Shadows, Step 3 | 10 Hand Lettering Techniques with an Artful Spin by Joanne Sharpe | Artists Network

3. Using the brush end of a gray permanent marker, add the shadow along the left edge of each letter so the light seems to come from the right.

Matisse Inspired

Matisse Inspired | 10 Hand Lettering Techniques with an Artful Spin by Joanne Sharpe | Artists Network

Study famous artists and their signature styles, techniques and characteristics to create new letters. This sampler imitates the typical colors, bulbous shapes and moving line forms in the art of Henri Matisse. What other artists could inspire letterforms?

Materials list:

  • Bristol paper
  • Pencil
  • Prismacolor markers

Matisse Inspired, Step 1 | 10 Hand Lettering Techniques with an Artful Spin by Joanne Sharpe | Artists Network

1. Study the style of your favorite artist and sketch the alphabet on the paper using a pencil. This hand lettering example uses the whimsical colors and letter shapes inspired by Henri Matisse. Identify characteristics of Matisse’s style such as the color palette, brushstrokes and line formation that could be used as letters. Use the stylized shapes on each alphabet letter.

Matisse Inspired, Step 2 | 10 Hand Lettering Techniques with an Artful Spin by Joanne Sharpe | Artists Network

2. Color the hand-drawn letters, creating rounded edges, drips and split tips to make a complete alphabet.

Matisse Inspired | 10 Hand Lettering Techniques with an Artful Spin by Joanne Sharpe | Artists Network

Watercolor Puddlers

Watercolor Puddlers | 10 Hand Lettering Techniques with an Artful Spin by Joanne Sharpe | Artists Network

Let puddles of watercolor create colorful, light and airy letters.

Materials list:

  • No. 4 and 6 round brushes
  • Waterbrush
  • Watercolor paints, liquid and pan
  • Watercolor paint

Watercolor Puddlers, Step 1 | 10 Hand Lettering Techniques with an Artful Spin by Joanne Sharpe | Artists Network

1. Lightly pencil the outline of a hollow alphabet if you need to. Using a paintbrush, write the letter of the alphabet with clean water, creating a water path. It will take a few tries to gauge just the right amount of water. You don’t want too much or too little, so experiment and practice first.

Watercolor Puddlers, Step 2 | 10 Hand Lettering Techniques with an Artful Spin by Joanne Sharpe | Artists Network

2. To paint the letters, drop in watercolor paints and let the colors pool, allowing them to migrate and swirl to fill the letterform. This works especially well with liquid watercolor. Watch the color spread throughout the letter, giving it a somewhat marbled look. Tilt the paper as needed to allow the color to spread through the water. Let the letters dry overnight and then erase the pencil lines.

Watercolor Puddlers | 10 Hand Lettering Techniques with an Artful Spin by Joanne Sharpe | Artists Network

Seurat’s Dots and Dashes

Seurat Dots | 10 Hand Lettering Techniques with an Artful Spin by Joanne Sharpe | Artists Network

The style of artist of Georges Seurat is a playful inspiration for an artful alphabet font. Using dots and dashes of color in the impressionistic pointillism style creates an optical treat as the energetic filler for hand-drawn letters.

Materials list:

  • Bristol paper
  • Eraser
  • Pencil
  • Prismacolor markers

Seurat Dots, Step 1 | 10 Hand Lettering Techniques with an Artful Spin by Joanne Sharpe | Artists Network

1. Draw chunky block letters with a pencil. I made some of my letters overlap one another.

Seurat Dots, Step 2 | 10 Hand Lettering Techniques with an Artful Spin by Joanne Sharpe | Artists Network

2. Using the tip of the end of a marker, add dots to the letterforms. Applying different amounts of pressure will create different-sized dots. Within each letter, use a dark, medium and light shade of the same color to create variation.

Seurat Dots, Step 2 | 10 Hand Lettering Techniques with an Artful Spin by Joanne Sharpe | Artists Network

3. Erase the pencil lines so the dots and dashes create the letterforms.

Seurat Dots, Step 4 | 10 Hand Lettering Techniques with an Artful Spin by Joanne Sharpe | Artists Network

4. In other letters, use the bullet tip to fill the letters with dashes going in a variety of directions. Combine dots and dashes within a letter for even more variation.

Seurat Dots | 10 Hand Lettering Techniques with an Artful Spin by Joanne Sharpe | Artists Network

Floating Feathers

Floating Feathers |10 Hand Lettering Techniques with an Artful Spin by Joanne Sharpe | Artists Network

There is so much imagery that can be used as inspiration for letter making. Here I choose feathers and an extra-fine pen to draw letterforms that create a whole alphabet.

Materials list:

  • Black uni-ball Vision pen
  • Bristol paper or cardstock
  • Eraser
  • Pencil

Floating Feathers, Step 1 |10 Hand Lettering Techniques with an Artful Spin by Joanne Sharpe | Artists Network

1. Sketch the alphabet in upper and lowercase using a pencil. Elongate or change the letter shape slightly to make a more interesting letter. Using a black permanent pen, turn the stem of each letter into the center of a feather with wavy feather lines coming out from it.

Floating Feathers, Step 2 |10 Hand Lettering Techniques with an Artful Spin by Joanne Sharpe | Artists Network

2. Add dots around the letters to give them an airy, floating appearance. Erase any visible pencil lines.

Floating Feathers |10 Hand Lettering Techniques with an Artful Spin by Joanne Sharpe | Artists Network

Watercolor Ombré

Watercolor Ombre | 10 Hand Lettering Techniques with an Artful Spin by Joanne Sharpe | Artists Network

Draw big, bold letters and add watercolor paint in the colors to create a blended, ombré effect.

Materials list

  • Eraser
  • No. 4 or 6 round paintbrush
  • Pencil
  • Water container
  • Watercolor paint
  • Watercolor paper

Watercolor Ombre, Step 1 | 10 Hand Lettering Techniques with an Artful Spin by Joanne Sharpe | Artists Network

1. Draw the alphabet in chunky, stylized block letters using a pencil. Fill the shape with clean water (mine is slightly blue here so it photographs clearly).

Watercolor Ombre, Step 2 | 10 Hand Lettering Techniques with an Artful Spin by Joanne Sharpe | Artists Network

2. Load a brush with watercolor paint and apply it to the top of the letter.

Watercolor Ombre, Step 3 | 10 Hand Lettering Techniques with an Artful Spin by Joanne Sharpe | Artists Network

3. Rinse your brush and gently guide some of the paint from the top of the letter down into the water puddle to create an ombré effect. Work from dark at the top to light at the bottom. Let your alphabet dry completely and then erase the pencil outlines.

Watercolor Ombre | 10 Hand Lettering Techniques with an Artful Spin by Joanne Sharpe | Artists Network

Decorative Creative Cursive

Creative Cursive |10 Hand Lettering Techniques with an Artful Spin by Joanne Sharpe | Artists Network

Embellish simple, personal handwriting with bold and expressive lines, decorative details and movement in a stylized script or cursive.

Materials list:

  • Black Faber-Castell PITT Artist Pen
  • Bristol paper or cardstock
  • Eraser
  • Pencil

Creative Cursive, Step 1 |10 Hand Lettering Techniques with an Artful Spin by Joanne Sharpe | Artists Network

1. Write the alphabet using a combination of print and cursive letterstrokes. Allow the letters to be fun and whimsical. They don’t have to match.

Creative Cursive, Step 2 |10 Hand Lettering Techniques with an Artful Spin by Joanne Sharpe | Artists Network

2. Using black permanent pen, thicken the letters by reshaping and adding weight to random areas.

Creative Cursive |10 Hand Lettering Techniques with an Artful Spin by Joanne Sharpe | Artists Network

Bonus tip for better letters: Embellish each letter by drawing leaves or flowers that “grow” off the letterforms or decorate the interior of a letter. Expand the size of the letters by creating spaces to fill with pattern or color. Add a light color shadow and tiny dots around the letters to add interest.

Font in Floral

Font in Floral | 10 Hand Lettering Techniques with an Artful Spin by Joanne Sharpe | Artists Network

Embellish simple letterforms with elaborate, colorful and hand-drawn floral and leaf patterns.

Materials list:

  • Black ZIG Writer pen
  • Eraser
  • Markers, watercolor paint or colored pencils
  • Pencil
  • Watercolor paper

Font in Floral, Step 1 |10 Hand Lettering Techniques with an Artful Spin by Joanne Sharpe | Artists Network

1. Use a pencil to create rounded block letters. Fill the letters with assorted flower shapes and designs using a black waterproof pen. Go all the way to the edges of the letters with the designs.

Font in Floral, Step 2 | 10 Hand Lettering Techniques with an Artful Spin by Joanne Sharpe | Artists Network

2. Erase the letterforms leaving just the linked flower design. Add color to the letters using markers, watercolor or colored pencil.

Font in Floral | 10 Hand Lettering Techniques with an Artful Spin by Joanne Sharpe | Artists Network

Storybooks and Scenery

Storybooks and Scenery |10 Hand Lettering Techniques with an Artful Spin by Joanne Sharpe | Artists Network

Create an optical illusion or trompe l’oeil scenes inside chubby alphabet letters. Draw landscape imagery, such as a garden or beach, so the art reads across the letters.

Materials list:

  • Black Platinum Carbon pen
  • Colored pencil
  • Eraser
  • Pencil
  • Prismacolor markers
  • Watercolor paints and brushes
  • Watercolor paper
  • Water-soluble markers

Storybooks and Scenery, Step 1 |10 Hand Lettering Techniques with an Artful Spin by Joanne Sharpe | Artists Network

1. Sketch the alphabet with a pencil. Outline the letters to create large, soft block letters.

Storybooks and Scenery, Step 2 |10 Hand Lettering Techniques with an Artful Spin by Joanne Sharpe | Artists Network

2. Inside the letters, draw scenes or words that illustrate a particular word. In the sample, I illustrated a beach scene insight the word “bliss.” Use ink to go over the scene. Do not ink the outline of the letters.

Storybooks and Scenery, Step 3 |10 Hand Lettering Techniques with an Artful Spin by Joanne Sharpe | Artists Network

3. Color the scene with colored pencils, permanent markers, water-soluble markers or watercolor paint. Erase the remaining pencil lines so the letters are created by the sketches inside.

Storybooks and Scenery |10 Hand Lettering Techniques with an Artful Spin by Joanne Sharpe | Artists Network

Having a “Look”

If you think all my letters look similar, you are correct. A personal lettering style should reflect and identify the individual creator. All the sample alphabets illustrated here use my personal print or script handwriting as the foundation. Handwriting is unique to each of us, and it’s my hope that as you are inspired by each one of my hand lettering techniques, your personality and style will shine through.

While you work on your artful alphabets and styles, allow your own handwriting to evolve and influence what you create so when someone looks at your lettering, they recognize you in the lettered messages.

You can use your artful hand lettering in many ways, including but not limited to:

  • Art journaling
  • Card-making
  • Planners and bullet journals
  • Scrapbooking
  • Decorative invitations and announcements
  • Envelopes
  • Canvas wall art and paintings
  • Room décor
  • Party and celebration décor
  • Handmade gifts and wrapping paper
  • Cake decorating
  • Signs and banners

Your Next Steps

Did you enjoy these hand lettering techniques? Tell us which one is your favorite in the comments. And, be sure to check out Joanne Sharp’s Artful Alphabets. This easy-to-follow and exciting resource includes 55 inspiring hand lettering techniques and ideas. Why not try them all?

For a limited time when you buy Artful Alphabet you will receive a FREE Lettering Lesson! Get yours now!

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