Introduction: Brushlettering 101

Brushlettering is awesome!

In this Instructable the basics of brushlettering are covered. It will show supplies in action, techniques and examples of projects. Additional information can be found in the 'comments' in the pictures. It is possible that your phone does not show these - if that is the case check them out on your computer. Have fun!


  • A brushpen or a brush with a pointy tip.

Great beginner pens are Pentel's sign pen (and similarly Fudenosuke hard brushpen). These have harder and smaller tips and are easier to handle.
More advanced are for example Tombow brushpen's and other pens with larger and more flexible tips.

  • Some form of 'ink' if you want to use a brush

Watercolors make great 'ink' - just use watercolor paper
Sumi ink is really great black ink
Do not use fountain pen ink or indian ink on regular paper, this is too 'wet' and will lead to feathering.
Paints can also be used on non traditional surfaces like wood

  • Paper or something to write on

Use watercolor paper if you want to use 'wet' inks or watercolors
Inkjet printer paper is a cheaper option for brushpens, and less textured (that writes better).
Rhodia paper (dot grid) is very smooth and really nice to work with

Examples of lettering using different media are included in step6.

Materials and scanned examples can be found in this Dropbox folder:

Small guidelines can be made using this site (or use lined paper if wanted):

Step 1: In a Nutshell

Brushlettering can be summorized in two principals:

  1. Upstrokes (lines going up) are thin
  2. Downstrokes (lines going down) are thick

You can fake brushlettering or calligraphy using this, by adding extra width on every downstroke. This principle can also be applied to chalkboard lettering, or lettering in this style on any other writable or paintable surface (glass, wood, banana's etc).

Step 2: How to Use a Brush(pen) for Lettering

Brushlettering uses the same principles as the 'fake calligraphy' in the previous step. But instead of drawing in the thick downstrokes you make them using your brush or brushpen.

Important - Do not hold your brush(pen) vertically like some people do when writing with an ordinary pen. Your brushpen has a point that cannot handle this.

Practice up- and downstrokes using the materials of your choice to get a feeling for this technique.

Step 3: The Building Blocks of Letters

All letters consist of the same parts (with a little variation sometimes). When you know these building blocks and practice them, combining them into letters is going to be easy.

An 'a' consists of an upstroke, a circle and a u-shape. A 'd' has the same shapes, but the left side of the u shape is longer.

For example compare

  • a + d
  • b + l
  • h + k
  • g + q
  • i + t
  • i + u
  • m + n
  • v + w
  • g + j + y + z
  • a + d + g + q
  • b + h + k + l

Check the Dropbox folder for the scanned materials.

Step 4: Brushlettering With Watercolors

Watercolors make great 'inks' when brushlettering.
If you want a blended effect go for transparant watercolors - if you want an opaque effect go for gouache (not exactly watercolor but it works similarly).

When you want a blended effect, the easiest way is to work with 'wetter' letters and blend quickly. This way your letters won't dry and make the blending harder. Not impossible - you can always add more water, but a bit harder. Adding water can make your brush 'lift' the color from the page, adding a bit of extra coolor after that should do the trick tough.

There are two way's you can use watercolors

  1. Blend letters into each other when writing [see the 'hello' pictures]
  2. Start with water only and drop color into it [see 'joy' pictures]

Option one gives more control over your blending - option 2 gives a more blended effect.

Specific notes are given in the pictures, so do check those out :)

Step 5: A Bit of Lingo and Variations

Ocean and minimum are both words that have no letters above (ascender) or below (descender) the 'x-height'.

Normally all letters rest on the baseline, but you can choose to let them jump up and down. You can also change the shape of the baseline and let the letters follow that line. This is great for cardmaking for example.

Check the Dropbox folder for the scanned materials. (I had not planned to add the scans, so ignore the lack of straight lines :)

Step 6: Different Materials

Step 7: Adding Pazazz

Flourishing can be a lot of fun. It might seem a little overwhelming, but a lot of it is just trying stuff out and seeing what 'looks nice'.

Step 8: Practicing

Drills are very helpful and actually the fastest way to move forward, but making projects and exploring was the most fun way of practicing when I just started.


  • Create wrapping paper/cards/name tags/menu's
  • Make envelope art - Adressing a lot of envelopes for an event is great practice!
  • Come up with new flourishes
  • Letter onto new surfaces (I used a dippen with gold ink on a watermelon once)
  • Try different materials
  • Find a font that you like and try to copy that. Check out

When you get better you probably do want to focus on smaller things and drills are perfect for that.

Tips for drills

  • Repeat one thing (one shape, one letter and eventually one word - minimum/ocean etc)
  • Focus on one thing (slant, up- or downstrokes, consistent shapes etc.)
  • After every 3 attempts check what could be better and mark it on your page. Focus on that. Don't fill a page without giving yourself the chance to lear.
  • Continue to the next thing after mastering the one you are working on.

Add a date to your work! This way you can track your progress.

Examples of some of my practice can be found in the dropbox folder.

Step 9: Enjoy

Final step: just have fun!

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