There’s a lot that goes on between learning how to print as a child and forming your own unique handwriting that you use today. Lettering artists obviously don’t have decades to create every lettering style, so how can you and I overcome the ‘impossible’ and DIY your own lettering style?
In this relatively short post, I’m going to show you exactly how I come up with lettering styles in 5 simple steps. I mostly use this for brush lettering, but you could totally use it for serif, pencil, chalk… Whatever goes!
Step 1: Learn the Anatomy of Type
Before we get into tweaking, there’s some learning to do first. Type has many different components and it’s crazy helpful to know what you’re tweaking! When you do, you can make sure to change it across all the letters, which helps you build a consistent style.
Here’s a quick summary of all the different terms. You don’t have to memorise them, but it’s useful to know them — or have a copy on hand.
Step 2: Research and Find Your Favourites
Research sounds really dull, but I promise this is fun research! All you need to do is find your typefaces you like. DaFont and Creative Market are great places to look for inspiration. My favourite though, is Pinterest.
Some boards I like to look at for inspiration are this one and this one. I have an entire board dedicated to my favourites where I pin all the typefaces and typography that catches my eye. Pinterest is the way to go to collect your favourites. Just create a board and pin everything on it. It makes the next step much easier!
Step 3: Analyze Your Faves
Once you have all your favourites, put them all in one place. Pinterest is ideal for this, so you can see everything at once to to dissect your type — pun totally intended!
Here are some things to consider:
- What sort of vibe do your favourites have?
Round, bouncy letters are playful, while skinny italic cursive is more elegant. Capitals are loud. Serifs can create a more mechanical or formal vibe. What is your type like?
- What patterns can you see in the anatomy of your favourite types?
Beyond the basic level, use the terminology introduced earlier to look at your favourite typefaces critically and try to find a pattern. Are your favourites skinny or wide? Are they tall or short? How do their ascenders and descenders compare to the x-height?
You may see more than one pattern and that’s totally okay! You don’t have to only create one lettering style. I have about three or four that I use on a regular basis!
Step 4: Creating Your Lettering Style
The part we’ve all been waiting for — actually making something! What you want to do here is to add the qualities you like in your favourites to your own lettering.
Rather than go cray cray with it all from the start, I’m an advocate of starting small. Pick one or two patterns you spotted in the previous step and add that to your lettering style.
For example, maybe you noticed you like wider bowls and tall ascenders, so you can add that to your natural writing first. If you like it, great! If you don’t, that’s what the next step is for.
Step 5: Experiment!
If you don’t like your first style, you can always tweak it or just go back to the drawing board and create a new one. And if you liked your first one… Well, don’t just stop there! You can always create more.
Once you have a few going though, it can be hard to keep track of them in your head.
For that purpose, I made a collection of Lettering Style Sheets — and you can get it too! This set of style sheets has a page for each letter, and also pages where you can put an entire font together.
I printed mine small and bound it into a cahier-style booklet, because I don’t create that many styles. But what about you — has this gotten your creative juices on overflow? How do you store your styles? Let me know in the comments!