Lesson 1 – Brush Lettering Basics



Welcome to Lettering Studio! I’m so glad you’ve signed up – lettering gives me so much joy and satisfaction and I really want to pass that feeling on to you.

I’ll be taking you through 5 quick lessons over the next 5 days, starting with the very basics of brush lettering, all the way up to working with your new lettering pieces digitally.

At any time, please feel free to email me directly with any questions or concerns – my email address is hello@jamesdaly.me

Alternatively, you’ll find a feedback button at the bottom of every lesson, or the chat bubble in the bottom-right corner. I want to make these lessons the most useful resource for beginning hand lettering, and your input and feedback is absolutely key to that!

With all of that said, let’s begin!

In this lesson we’ll be working with basic strokes and movement of a brush pen. Don’t worry too much about what paper you’re using or what brand of brush pen, as the important thing here is the motion itself. If you’d really like to follow along exactly I’ll be using a Tombow Dual Brush Pen

Keep in mind that there are so many ways to hand letter, and so many styles! This here is how I learned and the style I generally use today.

What You’ll Need For This Lesson

  • Paper
  • Brush pen
  • Ruler
  • Pencil

The general theory that rules brush lettering is this: downstrokes are always thick, and upstrokes are always thin. This is a great way to learn to structure letters, but keep in mind that, like in all art, this ‘rule’ is more of a suggestion! Once you’ve understood these rules, don’t be afraid to break them.

We’re going to start with some exercises to get you used to this concept.

Setting up your workspace

To begin with, let’s set up our workspace. Take a sheet of paper and rule parallel lines. I find that the width of my ruler works perfectly for this, but experiment until you find the distance you prefer.

This will be how we set up our page for most of these exercises – working within these lines will help with keeping letters a consistent height.

Exercise 1

Holding your brush pen in a relaxed, light grip, firmly press the whole side of the brush at the top line and slowly draw a diagonal line, ending at the bottom line. Do this while applying a relatively high amount of pressure – you want to use the whole side of the brush while creating this line. Keep this pressure steady and constant throughout your line, as you want a nice, even line!

Fill a sheet of paper with these lines, and make sure to try to keep the same diagonal angle for each! The aim here is consistency and control. Don’t stress if your lines don’t look the way you’d like them to at the beginning – once you finish filling your first page compare your last lines to your first, you’ll be surprised at the improvement.

Exercise 2

Alright, let’s add some pizzazz to these lines! We’re going to prepare a second sheet of paper and repeat the same motion, however, this time when you get to the bottom line, very lightly move your brush back in an upwards direction, creating a ‘flick‘ effect; a tail for your diagonal line.

To create a natural-looking line, reduce all the pressure as you get to the end of your stroke, and create the second, upward stroke with just the tip of the brush. This is a pretty important motion in hand lettering, and is what you’ll be using to join your letters together when forming words.

To create a flow-on effect, align your next stroke so that it passes through the tail of the previous. Go ahead and fill your second page with these little guys.

Exercise 3

This next exercise is quite similar, however, this time we’re not going to flick up in a tail shape, we’re instead going to connect the thin upstroke to the next downstroke, like one long, infinite letter ‘m’.

The aim here is a flow-y movement, as if it’s a long, unbroken line. On that note, though, don’t feel you have to create the down- and up-strokes with 1 single movement. It’s totally your call whether you lift your pen between down- and up-strokes. There are no rules, so do whatever feels the most comfortable!

And that’s it for Lesson 1! How you understand and use your brush pen is key to being comfortable with hand lettering, especially when we move into working digitally. It will allow you to understand the structure of letters and be able to experiment with different letter styles, so make sure you practice these exercises until Lesson 2 arrives tomorrow!