Introduction: Making a Handwritten Sign Practice Board

About: Based in San Francisco I strive to incorporate custom lettering in the art that I design, print, and make.

The best way to prepare for creating a handwritten sign is to practice the lettering using the actual final material with a variety of hand written fonts. When making handwritten signs you will develop the best style with practice. For example writing the final text while practicing at least 2 dozen times will make the actual final lettering look most fluid. 

Remember to breath while hand lettering and keep your lines smooth and sharp.

Submitted by SFlettering for the Instructables Sponsorship Program

Step 1: Practice on Final Material and Select Best of 24 Practice Words

When starting out with your practice to hand letter a sign consider experimenting with a few ideas until you get to the style that looks best. Use the second practice column to improve your selected best "practice word" from column 1.

Note that this example is of a handwritten sign using freestyle lettering without letter guides or pre-written letter outlines. It is always important to use a straight edge guide either on the final sign or by placing a long ruler at the top and bottom as temporary guides. I made it at Techshop

Step 2: Test Different Markers, Paints, and Pens

Once your basic style is selected test more than one pen. paint, or marker to get a good idea of options for the final hand lettered sign. In this image I tested an orange marker (pantone 16) that wrote well but is not dark enough for use on the final sign. 

Step 3: Consider Outlining the Letters

After you have selected you materials and practiced your basic text consider the following.The best final result will be achieved after your selected word is a constant style, height, and width. Notice how the first line is not as consistent as the 3rd and 5th lines which are highlighted with an outline in black to show the best examples in that column.

Step 4: Test Different Font Widths - Practice Your Best Style a Few More Times

Before reaching the end of your practice test out a few more font styles to regain a fluid motion when writing that will make your final hand lettered sign look the best. In this example you can see the first line where I tested a double marker style to determine a best final look. While practicing I selected the best lettered example for a black outline to show progress toward a final style.

Step 5: Hand Lettering Consistency

Now that your practice is improving and your are able to achieve a consistent look and style with you hand letters on the selected surface slow down your writing and attempt to gain a "professional" consistency of the look, feel, width, height, curves, and individual letter thickness (from constant selected pen width). In this example the 3rd and 4th line show the best promise.

Note: when outlining letters always go from left to right to keep the earlier letters "on top" of later letters. Some great styles can be created by letter outline overlapping techniques.

Step 6: Final Practice Board: Hand Lettering "San Francisco" Sign

Ideally a practice board should be the actual final material that you are going to use for your sign. I advise practicing writing the final wording at least 2 dozen times to be able to test out different techniques and to make the best final product.  This examples shows a practice board using more than 6 similar but different lettering techniques while choosing the best final look.

After competing your practice board it is a good idea to take a 5-10 minute break before doing the final hand written sign to achieve the best look. (Optional: leave one column blank and do that practice right before the final sign)

FYI: If you are constantly getting ink or paint on your writing hand realize that this is an indicator that you can improve your form as smudging the letters with your writing hand does not make for a great hand lettered sign unless you are going for the distressed lettering look.

practice, practice, practice and make great hand lettered signs.