5 Common Mistakes Lettering Beginners Make and How to FIX Them | Ana Baker | Skillshare

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5 Common Mistakes Lettering Beginners Make and How to FIX Them

teacher avatar Ana Baker, Lettering & Calligraphy Techniques

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Common Mistake #1 Inconsistent Practice


    • 3.

      Common Mistake #2 Angles Are Everything


    • 4.

      Common Mistake #3 Paper Problems


    • 5.

      Common Mistake #4 Pressure


    • 6.

      Common Mistake #5 Starting Too Big


    • 7.

      BONUS Common Mistake #6 Failing to Plan


    • 8.

      Your Project


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About This Class

Have you been wanting to pick up lettering as a hobby but been frustrated by your slow progress? This quick class covers common mistakes beginners make when learning lettering and helps you correct them with practical tips you can implement right now.

Beginners often experience some of the same problems like frayed marker tips, paper that looks bumpy and shreds under markers, and design layouts that are off center or wonky. I cover all of these basic beginner problems (and a few more)  and offer quick correction with actual examples for you to practice right along with me.

Meet Your Teacher

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Ana Baker

Lettering & Calligraphy Techniques


Hi, I'm Ana Baker! I'm a self-taught hand lettering and calligraphy artist with a background in education. I've always loved words and letters and dabbled in calligraphy ever since high school, but really fell in love with the art of lettering in 2016.

My classes focus on practical tips and skills that help your lettering skills grow quickly and organically. Because I am a self-taught artist, I love sharing all of the little things I wished I had known when I first began my lettering journey with you right from the get-go so you can grow even more quickly. 

I also love to create classes that focus on practical application of lettering skills so you can get right to creating things that you love.


I have a passion... See full profile

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1. Welcome: Hi. My name is Anna Baker, and I'm a hand lettering and calligraphy artist. My classes on skill share focused on helping you to implement techniques that will sharpen and develop your lettering skills over time. Have you been wanting to pick up lettering and been frustrated by your parents? Slow progress? Well, this quick class covers common mistakes that beginners make when learning lettering and helps correct them with practical tips that you can implement. Right now, Beginners often experienced some of the same problems, like frayed marker tips, paper that looks bumpy or shreds under markers and design. Lay ups that are off center or wonky eye. Cover all of these basic beginner problems and a few more, and I offer you a quick correction with actual examples that you can follow along and practice right along with me. So let's jump into class 2. Common Mistake #1 Inconsistent Practice: one of the most common mistakes that I see beginners making is not understanding that practice really does make progress. It's very easy to get caught up in all of the beautiful tools that there are in all the Austin markers and paper and techniques. But if you don't take the time to practice some basic strokes or even just writing words out over and over again a little bit every day, you won't see very much improvement. The only way to truly see rial measurable improvement over time is to practice, so there's a couple different ways that I'll show you that you can do this. And it will be really quick, really easy and even some ways to make it fun. The most basic waited practices by doing drills drills involve repeating basic strokes over and over again until you've mastered them. This is a great way to build muscle memory and get accustomed to your pen. Quick drills are also a great way to warm up your hand and get into a rhythm before you start a project. By the way, if you are a beginner and are looking to get more information on getting started with brush calligraphy, check out my class that covers all of the basics in death. Basic drills you can do are up strokes and down strokes, circles and a wave pattern. All of these drills are the foundation of many letters, and you'll find that you will simply be attaching them together in different variations to achieve your different letters. You can see by doing that basic wave pattern which again use all have technical names. Um, you can see that I get a variety of letters. I gotta why? I got an X. You'll also get EMS and ends in ah, whole bunch of other letters just by parrying thes three strokes together in different ways . Again, I cover all of these drills in detail in my hand lettering for beginners, for encouragement class. So if you really need some basic instruction on which drills to do and how, go ahead and check out that class. Another great basic way to practice is by simply connecting your letters in words and in different combinations. You can do this by simply writing out the alphabet, especially the lower case, and this will help you really practice putting together words. Ah, great basic drill is writing the word minimum. You get the most amount of basic strokes together in one word, and it really helps you practice in keeping your strokes consistent and putting those letters together. By the way, here's an example of creating your own practice pages if you only want to invest in one kind of paper. So all you need to think about is drawing in a center line an X height line of baseline, which is where all of your letters were rest and a D sender line, which is where your D senders will fall down to Manuela. You have practice paper as they briefly mentioned before. You can also always just write out words as a way to practice. This is probably my favorite way to practice because it keeps my brain engaged, and I like seeing how the letters come together. Sometimes I'd like to just play music and write out the words that stick out to me, whether that be because of their meaning or because it's an intriguing word to write out the biggest roadblock to practicing and keeping it fresh can be coming up with what to write a fantastic way to have a ready supply of prompts or practicing is by getting involved with lettering challenges on Instagram, you can search the hashtag or join into challenges that people you follow are participating in or sponsoring. This is a great way to get involved in the community. Keep yourself accountable to practice and get rid of writer's block and have a ready supply . What to write, Whatever your interests, maybe there is a lettering challenge for you. So take the time to look around. Instagram. Find people that are like you that do things that you aspire to do and participate in those challenges. Most lettering challenges are announced at the end of the month for the upcoming month. So what I like to do is I like Teoh, save them and have them there for easy reference so that I can find anything I'm looking for and participating in throughout the month. Quickly and easily again, participating in lettering challenges is a really fun way to make sure that you are engaging with your lettering on a daily basis. 3. Common Mistake #2 Angles Are Everything: one of the most common problems that I see with beginners and that I experienced myself as a beginner is the difficulty in achieving thin up strokes and nice, thick, consistent down strokes. It's all down to one main technique, and that is in the way that you hold your pen. Believe it or not, the way that you hold your pen determines how you're down strokes and you're up. Strokes will turn out. So I'm going to show you a specific way that I find helpful to hold my pen and ensure that I'm always holding it at the right angle to achieve that look I'm going for So this is one of again the most common issues that I see beginners ask over and over again in forums and social media. That kind of thing, um, is how do I hold my pen? Why is my pen fraying? Why am I not getting smooth down strokes and up strokes? Why am I getting choppy lines? All of that usually comes down to the way that you're holding your pen. So first of all, when we write naturally the way that we were taught, we hold our pen a specific weight. Or at least I do. And that is, um, loosely and in this general area, and a lot of times the pen will. Her pencil will be held towards the back of this loop that you create with your fingers when you hold a pencil. Now it might move up and down, you know, because it's pretty loose. But I find that a lot of times my pencil will end up down here. So let's say here, I'm gonna write my name. If I was just writing in regular cursive, look at the placement of my pencil. You'll see that I'm holding it towards the back. The difference is when we are using a brush pen or a calligraphy pen, any kind of pen that's going to take pressure as part of the technique to get the look that we want. You want to hold your pen a certain way. Now, for me, this is the best way I have found. So what I like to do is I take my brush pen. If you don't look closely, it's gonna look like I'm holding it the same way as I held my pencil. But I'm actually holding it firmly and I'm tilting my my hand a little bit over to the right. I'm right handed, so I don't know how that would work with left handed people, but there is a subtle change. First of all, I'm holding the pen Morse more, more stiffly, more securely. I'm not kind of like letting it move around because I'm actually moving my hand mawr than I'm moving my fingers and my wrist. I'm not doing that as much as I do with normal handwriting. So you want to make sure again that the 45 degree angle this is 90 degrees, you know, you're looking at it straight up. 45 degrees is halfway between that 90 degree angle and the paper. So you wanted to kind of create a triangle from your paper? What you're gonna do is again, you're gonna hold it securely. And if you'll notice, I tend to hold my pen securely near this knuckle. That really helps to ensure that I keep my pen at the angle that I want it to be yet. So now if I were to hold my pen the way I did when I right, that's a you're going to see me, I get streaky nous I've got no, I'm getting wonky down strokes when I don't got weight in places, I don't want it. And this is This is very typical of lettering that I see beginners doing because they're holding their pen like it's a normal pen. It's not a normal pen, it's a brush pin. So you want to make sure that that 45 degree angle is in place all of the time. This is what ensures you to get this happening instead of this. Okay, this is a perfect example of the difference between the two. So again, I'm holding it firmly against my knuckle, and I'm tilting my pen to the right to make sure that yes, my tip touches the paper, but barely it's grazing it. And when I pushed down to get my down strokes, I'm using that entire side of the new and holding it in that particular angle is what lets me get this in this in this instead of that again 45 degree angles. And this applies to whether you're using a small brush panel, large, fresh pin, anything like that. You want to make sure that the entire time. You are writing that you are still holding the pen in the same position. So you see my actual pen. Is it moving that much? My fingers are really not doing that much. Moving my hand. My arm is actually what is moving more. Hopefully that helps you. You just want to make sure that when you're begin your the way you hold your pen. Making sure that it is at that 45 degree angle with every single moment of your strokes is the way that you're going to get the best results over time. 4. Common Mistake #3 Paper Problems: another common mistake or question that I see a lot of beginners asking is in regards to paper. It's very easy to just grab paper from anywhere and get started, and I encourage you to do so to an extent. If you're using a pencil or a micron pen, something that doesn't have a soft brush tip, any paper is fine, and that's suitable for styles like folk calligraphy. However, if you want to achieve brush calligraphy, you need to invest in some paper even for practice, because this small investment will ensure that your more expensive investments, like your brush markers and your nice names and pens, will last longer. So it's tempting to want to use cheap paper for practice, but actually encourage you to spend a little bit more on good paper and you'll see those investments stretching out further. It will also encourage you as you practice, because you're not actually hurting your tools and therefore getting subpar results. So I'll show you a couple paper options. They're really not that expensive, and when you think of it long term, you're actually spending very little on it, so I'll show you a couple options for paper here in the second general everyday use paper that we tend to see in, we would pick up to practice with, like printer, copier, paper drawing paper, all of those kinds of papers. They're actually quite rough. And so when you practice on those papers using a brush pen or a marker, you're going to actually shorten the lifetime and longevity of your tool. Now that happens, because when you use your brush pen across rough paper and actually causes friction against your brush pen and you get fraying. So later on when you're trying to let her, you get thes streaky lines. You'll often get, you know, kind of loose cannon lines in different areas in your up strokes or even your down strokes . But I tend to find it most often to be frustrating in my up strokes because you have these little loose fibres on your brush pin. So even though you may not think that paper is that necessary, it can actually be the cheapest way to ensure that your expensive tools last longer. I wrote the word am assist out with one of my frayed markers to show you that a lot of my strokes look streaky and choppy, and this is the kind of thing that you'll get when you write with afraid marker. I also find it much more difficult to control this marker, as opposed to other colors of the same brand, simply because it is fraid so. If you look down at the word orchid, if you can see that this was written with a fresh, not frayed marker, and the difference is really noticeable, especially when you're actually writing, everything is smooth. My strokes are blending in seamlessly together. And I'm not having those control issues that I get from having a frayed marker. There are lots of great paper options that are really affordable that you confined online and in craft stores. This particular note pad is great for practicing. It's by Kelly creates, and you can find it in a variety of craft stores. It already comes ruled, and it is suitable for both large fresh pins and small brush pens. I really like this for practicing drills and basic things that you'll practice over and over again. It's also nice to have it in a pad for because you can look back and see your progress. Another great option is this HB premium laser jet paper. I find this to be really smooth, and it offers a lot of variety for me. What I really like is that it's great for pieces that I want to post on social media because it's nice and bright white, and I can write directly on here with my markers. The other great thing is that I can print on it so I can put this in my printer, print off any worksheets or drill sheets. Anything else? I want a practice, and I can actually let her directly on the paper. So this is a fantastic thing to invest in. You can get a huge dream for pretty inexpensively, and it's still going strong for me. A year after I purchased another great option for practicing are the papers by Rhodia. They come in a variety of sizes and styles, and they're really great for markers. They're very smooth. Not only do they come in a variety of sizes, but they also come in a variety of formats. I have a dot grid here. They also come in graph and just plain paper. So whatever you prefer, I'm sure that you can find something that is right for you. Not only is practicing with the right paper essential, knowing what kinds of paper to do specific projects on is also helpful. And one thing that's really popular to do and fund with brush markers is blending, and not all paper is made for blending. So even though you might have some great paper for practicing purposes, you might want to look into other types of paper specifically made for markers and blending those colors together. So I'll show you that and the difference between a paper that's not very good with that and a paper that is actually made for marker blending, and you should be able to see the difference pretty pretty clearly. All right, so I'm going to be comparing the HB premium laser jet paper to this skansen marker paper that's specifically made for markers and marker art. So it takes on that it takes on those layers of marker pigment pretty well, so you'll see on the right. I have the HP paper, and I'm layering my colors over each other and using a blending marker to blend the two colors into each other. If you look closely, you can see that my papers actually shredding and buckling underneath it does not take layers of color well, that also is very difficult to actually get the colors to blend into each other. Those harsh lines are very difficult to smooth out, whereas on the marker paper on the left you can see that it's very easy to blend the color up further without any issues. And I'm not getting any paper shredding either. Overall, everything is smoother and more seamless, and it's much easier to work with than the HP paper. I hope that was helpful and that you find yourself ready to tackle those paper decisions and invest in the right kind of paper for you. 5. Common Mistake #4 Pressure: the next common mistake that I see beginners making is in not applying enough pressure. Um, it's very tempting to apply very light pressure because you're afraid of hurting your markers. But the opposite is actually true and better. Those markers specific markers that are made for brush, calligraphy and lettering or they're made to take on that pressure. So there are variances in the softness of of a tip that you're using. But overall, they are all made to receive pressure and bounce back. I'll actually show you some examples of my own lettering when I was first a beginner, and you can see that right off the bat, I was not applying enough pressure. I am getting definition between my down strokes and UPS trucks because I had some basic understanding of calligraphy pens. But if you can see like here, they're pretty. They're pretty well there, definitely wobbly. My talker also got into this, but you can see here that I am not getting the kind of results that I would get now because I was not applying anywhere near as much pressure as I was supposed to. So don't be afraid to apply pressure. I'll show you how you can do. So, um, and again, holding your pen and the right way goes of a really long way in making sure that you're applying pressure the right way and not hurting those marker tips. All right. As a quick reminder, it is extremely important that you hold your pen the right way. So if you haven't looked at that particularly lesson yet, go back and look at that so that you know that you're holding your pen in the correct angle . Now that you've got your pen in the right 45 degree angle, you want to apply enough pressure that your nib is coming nearly completely in contact with the paper. You want to use the entire side of your nib to create those down strokes. The same is true of a larger brush. 10th. Here I am using a Tom Bo dual brush pen, and I'm applying enough pressure so that again, nearly half my nib is coming in contact with my paper. So by making sure that you are keeping in mind these two elements first, the way that you're holding your pen, which should be in a 45 degree angle and therefore setting you up for success and to putting enough pressure that you're getting a very large amount of your nib against the paper on your down strokes, those air, the two things that you need to think about when doing brush calligraphy. This is why you see so many lettering artists going very slowly. They want to make sure that they're giving their pen enough time and pressure to come in contact with the paper and create those nice, thick down strokes. 6. Common Mistake #5 Starting Too Big: another common mistake. I see beginners making is starting to big, and it can be really tempting to pick up tools that you see experts or more advanced lettering artists using and bypassed those that may not seem as exciting because they're more beginner friendly. But that can be an actual mistake and actually a deterrent to you achieving the results that you want sooner. So I actually recommend that instead of starting with large pens like the Tombaugh dual brush pens that you start with smaller pens like the Tom Bo feud in a Suki pen or the pen tell sign brush pens. I cover all of these and the techniques for both in my hand lettering for beginners class just to give you some brief tips and data on the differences between these brushes, I'll show you an example. So this is written with the Tom bowed dual brush pen. You can see that the letters are much larger, that I'm getting thicker down strokes, and I'm getting dramatically thin upstroke in comparison to those down strokes. Now, these are beautiful markers. I absolutely recommend them. The only thing that I would say is if you are truly an absolute beginner. It's always easier to start with a smaller pen, and that is because it's easier to control smaller movements than larger movements. So you can see that I'm actually using the Tom Bo feuding of Suki pen here, and I'm getting much smaller letters. They're much easier to control. I'm still getting that definition between my down strokes on my UPS trucks, because thes pens are made to do that. But it's much easier to practice with this pen. It's much easier to control its firmer, and the movements that I have to make to achieve my letters are much smaller, So using a smaller brush pan allows you to gain that muscle memory before you move on Teoh using a larger brush pen. So, in other words, if you start with a smaller brush pin, you're able to focus more on the technique that you need of applying light pressure on your upstroke on applying heavy pressure on your down strokes and building that muscle memory. All of that is much easier with a small brush pin as opposed to a large brush pan, so start small, established your technique, established your muscle memory and then moved to a larger brush pens. And then you can just focus on learning how to control those brush pens rather than focusing on how to control it and how to learn the technique at the same time. 7. BONUS Common Mistake #6 Failing to Plan: last beginner mistake that will discuss is failing to plan. Now, this is something that not just beginners deal with. I actually deal with this on a regular basis. Sometimes when you are eager to get started on a project, you might just jump right in and right when you're nearing the finish line of that project , everything has been turning out great so far. You make a manger mistake that could have easily been prevented by having planned ahead of time. And planning ahead of time means simple things, like drawing in baselines of putting in guidelines drawing in the skeleton of your words, putting in a very light layout that you can then use as a map to where you're going. Planning your design layout is actually crucially important, and it keeps you from making mistakes that would have been easily avoided had you taking the time to plan a little bit. Now, if you look on social media at lettering artists, it's very easy to think. Oh, wow. Look, they got it perfect on the first try, you know they're doing it live. Everything's turning out beautifully. I guarantee you that if you scroll through enough of the posts of that person on social media. They will themselves admit that they do multiple drafts before they post one online. And that's the thing about lettering that a lot of people don't understand. You actually can do the same piece multiple times and in order to avoid having to do it so many times, a fantastic way to shorten all of that work is to simply plan. So there are several ways that you can do this. I have talked about this and some of my classes, but I'll just give you a few highlights. The first is to actually draw thumbnails. So, for example, I was working on a design on the Bible verse Philippians 4 13 and what I Did here, which I've learned from several lettering artists that you can even watch here on skill share is I would write out my phrase, my quote, whatever it is that I'm working on. Pick out the specific words I wanted to highlight, and then I would draw several different thumbnails in different styles until I figured out what elements of each one I liked. And then I put them all into one design. Once I have figured out. Okay, This is the direction I want to go in. I can actually go straight to my piece, put in some basic guidelines. Um, one problem that I always have is centering and keeping my letters straight. In other words, honest on the same baseline, I have a tendency to right and have my words turnout wonky when I didn't want them to be that way. So even if you're doing a bounce lettering style, you still want to know where your baseline is so that you can keep all of your letters consistent and look like more professional when you're finished with the entire piece. So taking time to put in things like guidelines. A skeleton of your letters drawing thumbnails and having a basic idea of where your design is going and working from the inside out of your design. Those air things that you can do to prevent yourself from having to make multiple drafts of something or to beef. Nearly finished with an entire project only toe run out of room. Take the time to plan. Take the time to measure things out. Take the time to draw on bass lines and you'll find that you will do a lot less work in the long run 8. Your Project: So that's it. Super quick, helpful class, I hope. Did you find that you make any of these mistakes, or did you make them in the past? I would love to hear how any of these techniques have helped you. And you can do that by simply dropping in a post in the community section or taking a picture of something that you've actually changed. Whether that be the way you hold your pen, the paper that you're using, the drills, that you've implemented, anything like that. Just take a picture and posted in the your project section so that I and the other students can see and learn from what you yourself have learned and shared with us. I cannot wait to see you guys in the next class. If you are hungry for MAWR, be sure to check out my channel and other classes on lettering and D I Y. Projects that incorporate your lettering all throughout your life. I'll see you soon