Practice is key for thin upstrokes
Practice makes better. As trite as it sounds, lettering is six parts muscle memory, four parts creative expression — Nah, I just totally made the numbers up.
But the fact is the more you practice, the better you get! Once you got the basic strokes down, then you can start tweaking and expressing YOUR style.
The basic stroke that people — myself included — skimp on and then get frustrated over? The skinny, super thin upstroke.
Practice aside, here are a few tips that can help you get that thin upstroke in brush pen calligraphy.
Go slow and check your breathing
Slow gives you the chance to steady your hands. I find it helpful to breathe with it as well, so I calm down and get into the zone. Calm = less nerves = less shaky! I normally exhale as I go up, but play around with your breathing patterns and see what works for you!
It is immensely tedious practice — especially if you’re just practicing the one upstroke. I’ve been practicing Copperplate with a dip pen lately, and the upstroke is so. boring. But slow and steady, right?
Steady even upstrokes are better than shaky skinny ones
Don’t get me wrong, thin lines look fantastic — that’s why we want them! But in our normal writing, with regular pens, we are used to pressing down hard on the paper.
Thin upstrokes in brush pen calligraphy is the opposite. You want the tip of your marker or brush to just touch the paper.
But that means relying entirely on your arm to keep the pen steady. There’s no support from the surface you’re working on — adjusting to that does take a while before you can get steady lines.
My hands shake too, so I started with thicker upstrokes — more support from the paper — and I’ve been gradually making them thinner.
Check your brush pen’s line variation
Every brush pen has a thinnest line and thickest line — and it varies. For example, the thick line on my Tombow Dual and Artline Stix may be very similar but the Artline doesn’t create as thin an upstroke! An older brush pen that has frayed a little will also create thicker upstrokes than a brand new one!
Be sure to check that before getting all frustrated 😉
Also bear in mind that the small pens will be capable of thinner upstrokes than the big ones, but that’s just proportion at work. Think of a script font. Your thicks and thins vary proportionately there. It works the same way.
Related: Ultimate Brush Pen Review
Keep your forearm out there
This isn’t pointed pen calligraphy, where you tuck your arm under your words, in line with the downstroke! With brush pens and paintbrushes, you can put your arms anywhere — but I recommend sticking them out and away from your body.
One way to do that is to align your pen with your forearm. Note that this isn’t a hard and fast rule, but the initially alignment will keep your pen more or less perpendicular to your thick downstrokes. This helps your transitions from thick to thin or thin to thick remain even.
Need some help visualising? I’ve an absolutely FREE 14-day brush lettering challenge for you that comes with video tutorials! Click here to sign up!
I hope to see you in the challenge!
Want free lettering lessons?
Sign up for the 14-day Brush Basics Booster challenge — 14 days of class right in your inbox!