Some Creative Tips and Techniques for Brush Lettering

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I want my type to feel effortless and spontaneous, which I achieve by writing the words over and over if necessary – until I get it right. By ‘right’ I don’t mean not sloppy – just a feeling that it sits on the page in an okay way.

Here I used Dr. Ph Martin’s Concentrated Watercolour and a synthetic watercolour brush. Then quickly – before the paint dried – I dripped in a few drops of red acrylic ink, using the bottle’s pipette.

You never know how two different kinds of ink mixes, but that’s a part of the process I really love. Very often this results in a mess but every once in the wild magic happens.

When doing hand-painted type my medium of choice is India ink and a big, cheap Chinese brush.

Here I mixed a thinner brush using less in for ‘think and then completely saturated the poor brush with ink for the word ‘big’. The biggest challenge here was to leave the drawing on the table to dry, as moving it or putting it on the floor – like I usually do – would cause the ink to run and change the layout.

I have lots of fun when writing. I use brushes that I beat up as I like the unexpected lines they create. I dip the brush every other letter but let it dry up a bit to live a bit of a dry brush feeling.

I very often listen to music while doing this and end up writing lines I pick up form the music. It is definitely more play than work and something I do in between commercial work or as a warm up, before starting a big project.

I listen to BBC World Service, and this piece was inspired by Trump’s reaction to Kim Jong-il’s nuclear testing. I wrote a bunch of these while listening to Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On. I filmed it for Instagram and tried timing the words to the lyrics.

I love the ink used here, it’s a new discovery for me and it creates wonderful hues. It is from Rohrer & Klingner at I especially love their Leipziger Schwarz no 707 ink. It is black, but also so much more, and can be diluted with water too for lighter shades.

I sometimes add cut paper to the writing. I find it works especially well with black ink – German drawing ink in this case – and bits of brightly coloured paper. I think it adds playfulness or – in this case – hope.

This was used as a sign for the Women’s March in Stockholm this January, which made pink an obvious choice.

I find that bigger brushes are great for script writing.

When working on script lettering it is a good idea to warm up your hand doing swirls on circles first. It really makes a difference!

To create a blotchy line, I first load a pretty thick brush with ink. I hold it more lightly than usual for the thinner lines and then press hard where I think a blob or thicker line would work.

You can always go back and thicken certain lines too.

Handwritten lettering comes in millions of different shapes and forms. Before you get going you need to figure out what kind of natural style your own handwriting is.

For me, it’s always important to look for something new – something that is my own. When I look for inspiration I tend to find myself looking at architectural structures and browsing Unsplash. Nature with its unpredictability, and architecture with its clean shapes, are my main inspirational source.

You don’t need expensive fude pens (a type of brush pen typically used for Japanese calligraphy). If you want a decent looking handwritten brush font you can create one using simple synthetic brushes from an artist store. I have created fonts using brushes even found in household stores.

Try drawing letters with the brushes you already have, and if the result is not what you want, then buy different ones. I use simple synthetic brushes that I bought in one of my local artist stores.

After you’ve decided on a style you want, strive for consistency. All the letters need to look alike. They have to be siblings; otherwise it will look weird when some of the letters stand out from the crowd.