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Learning to Letter - Where to Start?!

Updated: Sep 16, 2022

So we have all been there. You discovered this fantastic new hobby that you want to learn, and you want to jump right in and get started. But what is the best way to learn the basics and master this new skill? There are a million books out there, YouTube videos galore, all of these perfectly curated Instagram videos where everyone makes it look so incredibly simple. Frankly, it is information overload. I spent YEARS digging into all of the resources online, trying to learn all of the tips and tricks to master my lettering techniques. I would spend months trying to mimic certain styles only to finally find some little nugget of information that showed me I had been doing it wrong the entire time, and one small change made it 10x easier. Or I would buy best selling books that claimed to teach you how to letter or learn modern calligraphy only to realize they were just script fonts someone had printed in greyscale, and weren't actually teaching a lettering technique at all. So off I went on my journey to write a book that I was determined would be easy to understand, informative, introduce all of the necessary drills and techniques, and would help someone start off on the right foot without having to dig through the abundance of internet resources.

So out came my original lettering book - The Ultimate Guide to Modern Calligraphy and Hand Lettering.

To date this book has sold over 2 million copies and has been the #1 best selling calligraphy guide on Amazon for two years. So I knew I was onto something and I continued to pour my heart into creating additional resources and lettering supplies for anyone eager to earn the art of lettering to use (if for nothing else than to prove to my fellow lefties that it was indeed possible for them to not only letter, but letter well). But which book is right for me?! A common question I get. So here is a breakdown of my lettering books that are available, and an overview of the differences between them. 1. The OG: The Ultimate Guide to Modern Calligraphy & Hand Lettering.

This book has proven to be the ultimate lettering book for beginners wanting to learn how to letter. It is 108 pages of content, and contains guidance starting from how to hold your pen and the proper posture to use, creating your first basic strokes, combining those basic strokes to form letters, using those letters to form words, and then ultimately creating finished design pieces. This book teaches you a basic brush alphabet as well as a monoline alphabet, and then helps you build on those basic alphabets with flourishes, as well as combining serif and san serif fonts together with your scripts to create dynamic and engaging lettering pieces. You will learn the alphabets, how to connect the letters together and then several pages of practice words for each style so you can become comfortable with how it all flows together. I have two versions of this book, a paperback and a spiral bound hardback version. The paperback is available on Amazon for $6.99, and the hardback is available on Amazon or direct through my website (The Ultimate Guide to Modern Calligraphy & Hand Lettering). I'll start by saying that the content in these books are IDENTICAL. So, why the price difference?

It all comes down to the quality of the paper, the material of the cover and the binding. I created my original book as a paperback version and it utilizes a less expensive paper and a gluebound binding, and has a black and white interior. The only way I could make a book and sell it as inexpensively as I do ($6.99 people...) is by doing it this way. The paper in this book is a bit on the thin side, which means that yes, if you are trying to use brush pens with higher ink saturation directly in the book, you will likely experience bleeding. Now I do offer a free download of the practice pages of the book for anyone who buys it - which allows you to print the practice pages out (I always recommend printing them on a premium laser printer paper, which is thicker and smoother and will help reduce any fraying to your brush pens) and practice as much as you want. But some people, ignoring the fact that the book was only $6.99, complained that the paper was too thin and it needed to be able to lay flat. Which I COMPLETELY AGREE!

2. So I introduced the spiral-bound hardback version of this book, which utilizes a silver metal spiral allowing for a completely lay flat book, and it has a much thicker paper so you will experience much less bleeding

(if any) if you choose to letter directly in the pages of the book. I still offer the free downloads for people who buy this book as well, so you are still able to print the pages off and practice your drills as much as you like. This book is available for $19.99 directly through my website here (you can also find it on Amazon here, by selecting the spiral bound version). 3. Modern Lettering.

A couple of years after I released my original version, I really wanted to do another lettering book - one with more content, more design, more color, just...MORE. So I wrote Modern Lettering. While my original lettering book was approximately 108 pages, Modern Lettering has over 170 pages of content, and is the definition of luxurious. It has a full color interior, teaches you 6 script alphabets as well as serif and san serif options, instructs you how to properly use flourishes and lettering enhancements, different ways of incorporating color into your lettering, the basics of more advanced styles like 3D lettering and more. Modern Lettering provides you not only the foundations of forming the basic strokes and individual letters, but also contains 18 pages of more than 125 words

to ensure you have all of the guidance necessary to take your lettering to the next level. This is one thing that is missing from many of the other lettering books on the market - they will teach you a bunch of alphabets but when it comes to putting those alphabets to work, they lack the work practice that is necessary to really help you put your lettering into practice.

In addition to everything previously stated, there are several gorgeous, frameable project backgrounds at the end of the book for you to use once you are confident in your lettering skills and are ready to try lettering a final piece, which you can then remove from the book and frame. 4. Hand Lettering Practice Pad.

And finally, I have my Hand Lettering Practice Pad. I have gotten bad reviews on this book on Amazon because people didn't read the description or look at the photos and assumed it was an instructional book - so I want to make sure I clarify what this is. It is a practice pad full of a high quality lettering paper for you to practice on. It has pre-printed guides throughout - with half of the book containing guide lines (for use with practicing your strokes, letters and words), and the other half containing dot grid paper (for use with practicing lettering projects). The paper is ultra smooth so it won't fray your lettering pens and is thick enough that you will not get any bleed through to the following pages. So the question - which book is right for you?! Ultimately it comes down to what your goals are. If you are just curious about lettering and not really looking to make a significant investment yet, then my original paperback book may be exactly what you are looking for. If you know you want to practice the very basics and you prefer lettering directly in the book, then the spiral bound version might be a better fit. Whereas if you are looking to really learn as much as you absolutely can (or are looking for a gorgeous gift to give someone), and want to not only learn the basics but also go a bit beyond that, then Modern Lettering may be more in line for what you want. And if you are looking for supplies to use to practice what you are learning in the books, then the practice pad and the pen set will be perfect for you. An important reminder is that my goal with all of my books is not to teach you to simply trace what I have done, but to teach you the foundations of lettering so you can do it on your own, understand the basic concepts and ultimately come up with your own individual lettering style. And I absolutely LOVE to see what you all create after making your way through my books, so please tag me in all of your beautiful creations on Instagram (@juneandlucy). And as always, I'm here to answer any questions you have! So there you have it - comment with any additional questions, otherwise let's get lettering!

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1 Comment

Telani Nelson
Telani Nelson
Jun 26, 2023

Hi Kristin Love this post - thank you for creating amazing resources! I purchased the paperback version of your guide in South Africa. Where can I get the practice sheets to print out?

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