How to Hand Letter the Alphabet in Unique Lettering Styles | Sarah Ensign | Skillshare

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How to Hand Letter the Alphabet in Unique Lettering Styles

teacher avatar Sarah Ensign, Hand Letter Artist

Watch this class and thousands more

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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

6 Lessons (25m)
    • 1. Intro to Creating Unique Styles

    • 2. Cheat Sheet to Create Letters

    • 3. How to Practice Different Styles

    • 4. Style Inspiration A-M

    • 5. Style Inspiration N-Z

    • 6. Final Project: Your Unique Quote

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About This Class

Are you learning hand lettering? Maybe you've been learning the basics for a little while and now you're wondering how to branch out and create your own unique alphabets. In this class, I will give you a cheat sheet with techniques on how to start thinking about your letters in different ways so you can create alphabets unique to you. I will also give you plenty of style inspiration. You don't need to copy someone else's font anymore. Let this class show you that you can create your own alphabets.

Join me in this class and see how fun it can be to come up with different lettering styles!


Under the projects and resources tab, you will find the simple workbook that includes the cheat sheet as well as some extra practice pages to get you started.

Note: the workbook can be downloaded from your desktop, it doesn't work on mobile.


Meet Your Teacher

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Sarah Ensign

Hand Letter Artist


Hello, I'm Sarah Ensign! I'm a hand lettering artist and creator of Ensign Insights where I teach hand lettering. I started hand lettering during a difficult time in 2016 as a way to remind myself how to be happy. I'm passionate about helping you create hand lettering that feels like your best self.

In 2021, I experienced extreme burnout. I started a hand lettering journal simply to make it through each day. It has been an amazing creative outlet and a tangible way to use my hand lettering to feel like my best self!

I can't wait to share more about a hand lettering journal to inspire you to create your own!

Remember, the way you create right now is exactly where you need to be. You're doing great. :)


Did you already take all of my Skills... See full profile

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1. Intro to Creating Unique Styles: Hello, Lettering Friends. I'm Sarah from insane insights, and in this class, I'm going to teach you how to letter the whole alphabet by experimenting with unique lettering styles. Maybe you've been learning lettering for a little while, and you've been practicing a basic font, but you're ready to start creating your own fonts. The best part of him lettering is that it's done by hand, and you get to choose what it looks like. I'm going to give you specific techniques to experiment with unique styles so you can start creating your own letters. In the resource section of this class, you will find some practice sheets. If you were on the desktop, you can download the's in the worksheets. There is an easy cheat sheet you can follow for changing up your styles and a couple of pages of style examples to practice and get you started. The practice sheets are best suited for its small brush pens, but for your own style exploration, you can choose any pen you're going to see me use lots of different pens because different pens give different styles, so choose your favorite pen, where one that makes you the happiest right now, the goal by the end of this class is for you to be able to create unique letters and alphabets that you can feel proud of without needing to use practice sheets or copping an example. By the end, you will learn how to let her a quote in a unique style that you created. If you're ready to start creating your own unique alphabets, let's get started. 2. Cheat Sheet to Create Letters: All right, let's get started with the creating letters Cheat sheet. This could be found under the projects and resource is tab. If you're on a desktop, you can download these and print them off. The first thing on your teach seat is the entrance stroke and the exit stroke. So how does your letter start? And how does your letter end and different letters have different ways that they can and can't start? So I'm just using n for all of these. You could go through every single letter of the alphabet doing this same thing and these air a couple of different ways that you can add on to the end at the beginning, there's no right way. It's about getting creative and seeing what you can come up with. And next with the exit stroke. I'm not concerned about the entrance stroke, so I'm just leaving that normal. And then I am just trying different things. You might do some things and see you don't like that, and that's okay. You're not gonna like everything that you dio the first time you do this. I've been practicing this way for years because first of all, I love it, and also I found that it really does help. Next on the cheat sheet, we are going to look at the shape, size and weight the's air going to be a little bit different for each letter, and you can look at some examples for N. The shape and size are kind of this same. The shape really makes a difference when you have, like an A or a B or in the why the descending strokes. So you have some kind of circle or loop, and that's where you will change up the shape and you can start using that shape consistently throughout your quote or alphabet you can see with my ends. As I started doing this size, I was playing a little bit more with the curve of the end. And so technically, my shape and size lines should be flipped. But this is your praxis, and you can do it any way you want. And you might even want to print out one of these sheets for every letter of the alphabet and try filling in the line with as many different ways that you can think of for each letter to see which ones you like, and you don't like next for the weight. I've tried to make this one a little bit easy for you to think about by drawing a triangle and then adding the weight of the letter at the base of the triangle. So the 1st 1 is on the left side. That's where I tried to make the weight or the heaviest, most obvious part of the letter. And then the 2nd 1 is on the top. So it's a little rounded at the top to make that a little bit bigger, having more weight. And then the 3rd 1 I had the weight on the right, so the exit stroke is a bigger than the entrance stroke. The last one is tricky with the end because the weight of an end is not on the bottom of the letter. So you do have to keep that in mind, depending on what letter you're working with. Next, we are looking at the contrast of the down stroke to upstroke, so the thickness contrast, if you have no contrast, we call this monoline lettering, and you would use a fine liner pen or just any regular pen, and then this is where different pens can create different styles because a really large brush pun can give very thick down strokes. With this one to get thicker down strokes, I'm going over a second time to show you a much thicker contrast. Next on the cheat sheet is the midline and the cap, height and baseline. I have a whole state on just the midline. So first we're gonna start with the cap, height and baseline. So think about where your letter is, touching the top and touching the baseline, and your whole letter doesn't have to be in the same place. This is where we get into some bouncy lettering and I'm going to make a whole class just on the specifics of bouncy lettering. But for now, you just get to start experimenting. You're still within the lines. But what parts of your letter are going to be touching and not touching before I show you the midline? Let's go over the last thing on the TC, which is Kirby versus straight. So is your lettering going to have a lot of loops or is it going to be very straight and sharp? You can see this in all of the different curves and the angles. You could have a really wide, curvy angle vs Appointee Angle, and maybe you really like a lot of loops and flourishes and doesn't have that many. But in some other letters, you can get really loopy or have your flourishes. Or maybe you don't like, Flores says. You don't like loops, and so you're going to stick with keeping it all straight. And lastly, let's take a look at the midline. I have a sheep for you with just the regular midline in the center and then the midline moving higher and moving at lower. And I have given you several different lines because you honestly could do every other aspect while also changing the middling. The possibilities are endless. As you're going through these mid lines and doing a few letters, you can see which one do you like more than the others? Because maybe if you realize that you really like a higher midline, you might want to do all of the rest of the techniques in ah, higher midline and just see how it goes. See if you like it, or maybe you're still unsure which one you like. most, and you can play around and mix it up. This is one of the most basic ways to start changing your letters because, as you see here, I'm just doing a very basic alphabet. Nothing too crazy to it. All I'm doing is changing the midline, and it has a drastic difference on the look of the letters. You can still see that there the basic same alphabet, but it changes the style quite a bit, and it was really easy to change that. Now that you have a handle on the cheat sheet, it will be very helpful as we move through the rest of the class as you get into your own practicing. 3. How to Practice Different Styles: Now it's time for you to practice. Feel free to use the practice. See, I've given you to get ahead. Star on some inspiration. You may want to circle your favorite letters as you go through it so you can try them out on your own. After. As you watch the next couple of videos, you will see ideas to letter in lower case and upper case. You may want to pause the video on ones you like on letter them on your own paper. After that, I challenge you to choose one letter and letter it in his many ways, as you can think of. You will see inspiration first in the next few videos, but then star on a blank page, used the cheat sheet and see what you can come up with. It can take a long time to do this with every letter of the alphabet so you could do one letter each day for the next 26 days. I've done that many times personally, and now I have lots of inspiration letters toe look through. You can even use the cheat sheet to help you come up with some different ways. Toe letter. Anytime I'm struggling with a certain letter in a piece. I'll do this exercise and letter it in as many ways as I can think of now. It continues to be helpful to me, and I have a lot of fun doing it because there's no pressure. Let yourself create letters you don't like, so you can find the ones that you do like. You're not going to get better just by looking at other people's letters. It's going to come by you doing the work, putting the pen to the paper, making mistakes, creating some letters that you have no idea where they came from. You don't like them at all because that's how you're going to get to the letters that you do love and that are unique to you. So for now, go ahead and watch the next couple of videos to get some inspiration. 4. Style Inspiration A-M: four Letter A. You just have to basic strokes, the oval and the under turn, and then you can see all the different details. You can change with thes or change the style completely. And for upper case, there are a few different styles as well. The pens here for a I am using art line sticks. They don't have a super flexible nib, so they don't give a very high contrast between down strokes and up strokes. If you prefer a style with bigger contrast, that is something to look for in the pens that you are trying next with B, we have the A sending loop and then the oval that you can make in all different shapes on the ascending Lupas. Well, this is one that is really fun. Teoh, continue throughout your words because you have a be of an age K. And you can do something really fun with the A sending loop that matches throughout to make it look consistent even as you are changing up your own style. And the pens I'm using here are Cura, taki zig brush nobles. These ones are really bouncy. They do have a good flexibility. So you can get thinner or thicker. These ones would be good if you want a high contrast or low contrast, because they can do both next with C. This one is not my favorite letter just because there isn't a ton of variation that you can dio, and you really want to make sure that it looks like a sea because it is so simple. It's just this one stroke, and it's really easy for it to maybe look like an e of you. Add a loop in it to start, so you just want to make sure that you're keeping it simple so that it looks like a sea that is the most important thing is the legibility and the markers arm RV color in. They are really bouncy. If you like a big bounce. A big contrast. These are the ones that you would definitely want to try. Next with D de once again has that a sending loop. It is a fun way to change up your letters. You can play around with the spacing between that oval and the A sending stroke and the size and shape of all of them with uppercase d. I didn't use still like uppercase D. But then I found some styles that I do like, So there are certain ones that I don't like, and I just don't use them. But I'm showing you different ones here so you can decide for yourself. And these markers are artist's loft do what's it markers? They feel very similar to tumbled all Bushman's. Next with E. This is another one, just like See, that doesn't have a lot of variation. There is a few things that you can do, but you do have to watch out with this one because it can look not like an E. So you want to make sure that it does look like Anne, no matter what style. And with uppercase e, you can dio really script e style, or you can do a more Sarah of print style. The's markers are a stud Lor Morris graphic duo. They don't have a lot of contrast in the obstructs and down strikes. Next F is such a fun letter to me. I love that there are two loops that you can either take out completely or change one of them to be bigger and the other one to be smaller. There is just a lot of variations that you can do and the different styles, so F is a really fun one. These pens are current Taki food, a brewery, and they are so great. They're one of the pens that I recommend to beginners because they have a great bounce and they're just nice to practice with to get the hang of all different types of styles. Upper case F is a little bit more tricky because the script style doesn't connect to the next letters, but that's just something that we have to work with with G. I love G. It's the oval and the descending stroke, and I just think there are so many things you can do with that group or take out the loop completely you can. This is where you would want to look at the different shapes on the TTC and see what kind of shape do you want in that descending loop. Because there are so many different things you can dio and the pens I'm using our Karen markers, the brush marker pro. These ones are really firm, and I personally love a firm nib, but it is important that you find the kind of pen that you like that works with your style and what you're trying to go for in your letters. I love the uppercase G has lots of different script styles, lots of different prints styles and next with eight. This one once again has that a sending loop. And just like the G, you can play with the shape of that group, and maybe you want to think about does your eighth sending shape match your descending shape? You could have just one shape for all of your ace enders and then a completely different one. For all of your DIY senders or toe, add more consistency. Maybe you want them all to be the same on the top and on the bottom. It's little details like that where you can carry that through your lettering pieces and make it unique to you. And I'm using Crayola markers, which are still one of my very favorites for lettering. They are firm and they're not actual brush pens, but I love them for the style that I like. Next is Letter I, and with this one, once again, it's very simple. There's not a lot of variations that you can do with it. But I kind of like that because I is one that kind of has a little bit of a breather in your word. It's one of the little smaller ones, so that the rest of your letters can be a little more dramatic. Upper case. I can be tricky. It's one of those that doesn't connect very easily to the next letter. So sometimes that can look awkward if this style doesn't quite fit very well. And the markers I'm using our secure, coy coloring brush pens. They are very soft. Next with Jay, this is one where you want to watch what your entrance stroke looks like, because that needs to have enough space that you can still have that descending loop and not run into your other letter. So that is why it could be tricky. But it is nice because all it is is the descending loop. There are a lot of fun things you can do with uppercase J, and there are some scripts styles that do connect really easily with the next letter, and I am using the carrion markers deco brush metallics. Thes ones are basically the same as the burst marker pro but in metallic, So it has a really nice firm nip. But if you like a softer nib, then you might not like these ones. And next is K. A lot of people have a hard time with K because this one has three strokes. I remember having a hard time with it when I started, but now it's one of my favorites. And that is because there are so Manu variations that you can do with it, which makes it really fun. So play around with the K. If it's hard at first, just break it up into those three different strokes and try all the different variations that you can find and then see what you like. Uppercase K is also a tricky one because all of them are down strokes and so it can look really heavy. So try changing up the weight of some of them and see how you could vary that a little bit . And I'm using tumbled to a brush pens. These ones are a very long nib, but it's probably medium firmness. Next letter. Oh, this one is just the A sending loop, so there are a lot of fun things you can do with this, but you do want to make sure looks like a knell. It could end up looking like an E if it's too short in your word. So that is something Toe watch doesn't make sure that it does look like an L uppercase. L is really fun. I love the different variations that you can get with it, and I am using the pento touch brush pens. They're nice to practice different styles with because they are pretty easy to use. Another great small brush pin is the Marv E Le Pen flex. If you like small lettering over large lettering, because that does make a huge difference in the style, these ones are a great flexibility. I really like them. Letter M has a lot of variations because you have the two overturns and the down stroke at the beginning that you can change up the entrance stroke with so you can change the height in the shape and the spacing. An uppercase M does have different variations on a script style or a print style. Now we're halfway through the alphabet, so maybe you want to pause and look at the ones that you really like. 5. Style Inspiration N-Z: Now we're moving on to the last half of the alphabet with N. It can be pretty similar to em. Just take out one of the overturns I really like. And it is one of my favorite letters because I like changing of the baseline of that first down stroke. With the curve and the pens amusing, R. Kelly creates small brush pens. These ones are another option of small burst pens if you prefer small lettering. Although I have noticed they do dry out fairly quickly so they might not be the best quality of freshman with uppercase end, there are a few different scripting things that you can do. A really simple one is having what looks like a lower case in just taller and skin year so that it is on upper case in Next with letter. Oh, you can either keep it really, really simple and just to an oval. Or there are a lot of really script e and loopy things that you can dio. This one is fun to change up in your word. If you need to add a fun little loop somewhere and oh could be a great option or it could just stay really simple in lower case you want to watch your connection stroke in upper case, you don't need it. The pens amusing are Marvin La Plume to they are very firm. So if you don't like for markers, you're not gonna like these ones. Next, we have letter p, which can be really fun. You can keep the descending stroke straight, or you can add different types of loops to it. So that will depend on your quote or your word if it has room tohave a really loopy descending stroke or if it needs to just be straight. And I am using Tom Beaufort Yosuke the colors they do tend to dry out, but they are a nice, firm, small nib, if that's what you like. And next with uppercase P, there are different things that you can do. This one is one that doesn't connect to the next letter very easily. There are a few ways that you could do it, but normally I like to just keep it by itself, even in a script, e style or in the Prince with letter Q. We have the oval, and then the descending stroke is more similar. to the F. So it's the opposite loop of the P. You could match what you're doing in your F if you have an F in the same quote and the markers here. These air just really cheap ones that I found on Amazon, and they're not very good. They fray quickly. They don't bounce back very well, so the pen really does matter. Uppercase. Q. I feel like is the weirdest looking letter. It's basically the O and then a little line through it. And some of the scripts styles of like classic calligraphy are really kind of weird looking . But you can play around with different things. Find one that you like. You don't have to like all of the styles. Just find one that you like next with letter R. I really, really love are There are so many different variations that you can dio with loops or straight. I just think are is so fun and the markers that I'm using our curator key food, a brewery, metallics, these air a nice medium in between pen, just like the regular for the brewery, I recommend these does someone who is not sure if they like harder soft lips upper case are is similar to a K where there is a lot of down strokes, and so you really do have to watch the weight and make sure that you are splitting it up enough and changing it up so that it's not too heavy. That is just something to watch for and for us. There are some different basic styles that you can play around with and then change the variations of those basic styles. I love that as can look really elegant. Or it could also be a little bit quirky. And the pens I'm using are equal line brush pens. They're very soft, Neb. Probably one of the softest names that I have Upper case s can look pretty similar to the lower case, but it would be taller and then maybe add a little bit more moves to make it stand out and look a little bit different from your lower case s. And it is nice toe. Have a print style and a script style that you like next with letter T. I really like that. It's just that down stroke and then changing up the cross stroke and you can change the down stroke. Different sighs angle. How curvy is it? But the most dramatic part about the tea is that cross stroke. So do you need it to fill in more of the space? And I'm using Windsor and Newton water color markers. These ones are great for brush markers. There, a nice in between. They're not too hard, not too soft. And for uppercase T, there are some ways that you can connect to the next letter, but you don't need to and on to a letter. You. This one is fun because it's basically just two under turns, and then you can switch up. How you very those. Where are your loops? How curvy isn't what is the spacing? And these markers are Kelly creates dream pens. It's a very thin, never a little bit flimsy, very flexible and upper case. You can look like the lower case, but you're just making it taller and maybe adding a little bit more to it, especially as it is starting the word you can add something fun in the entrance stroke, and when you keep it a basic style, it does connect very easily to the next letter. If that is something that's important in your word. Next with Letter V, this one is pretty simple. You just want to you want the entrance stroke and the exit stroke, especially having that distinction of where the V ends and can connect to the next letter is really important in making your word eligible. So you do want to have either the loop or a thicker stroke. Just make sure it is an obvious connection point, and I'm using the zebra phone worry. These ones are another great option if you like small brush pens. Uppercase V is similar to lower case, but you don't need that obvious connection point with W. It's just two under turns, and once again, just like the V, it is really important to have that distinct connection point as you endure double you so that it is illegible and it doesn't look like your W is a run on of some other letter you're under turns don't have to be really curry. They could be more of a print style, even in the middle of your word. If that matches the rest of your word. Uppercase w can be really fun. There are just a lot of variations with it because there are so many different aspects to it. And once again it is nice toe have, ah good print style that you can go to and a script style. And for W. I was using Crayola Super Tips, which I really love for Letter X, because it's one that we don't use very often. It's easy to be out of practice and then all a sudden award comes up and you need it. And that's when it can be kind of tricky just because we don't use it very much, even though we don't use it very often. But it is really nice to just have one. A go to X that you can use. Uppercase ex especially is one that we don't use very much, but it is fun to play around with and see the different things that you can do with it. The pens I'm using our Prisma color scholar brush pens. They're a nice medium size nib if you just want medium letters. Next, with letter why, this is one of my favorites on. I think it is because of the descending Woop, because there are just so many things that you could do with it. And I love playing around with it and seeing what things I like and don't like about it. And it's just like the other descending loops. You can see how to make them consistent throughout your word. And your quote was there just the little details that people don't necessarily notice right off the bat. But they can tell that something looks consistent and it looks unique. And these pens are zebra mild liner brush pins. They have, ah, really good flexibility, really good bounce. I love them and for upper case. Why this one has some fun script styles that do connect to the next letter or the print styles are also really fun. And finally, our last letter Z. This one is more common than X, but not as common as other letters. This one has that really fun descending loop, and it also has the other style, which is more of a prince style. But you can make it a little more script E. If you don't like the curse of look of that Z, The pens I'm using are heading burst pens. They have a really good flexibility, and with uppercase. It's the same thing. It's the same style, just taller, making it bigger toe look like it stands out a little bit more. So I hope that you found some inspiration in these letters. Try it for yourself. See what letters you can come up with. Use the tee sheet. Be okay with making of styles that you don't like. That's okay. You're gonna find ones that you do like and that you don't like. You don't have to like everything that you dio and then let's move on to the project. 6. Final Project: Your Unique Quote: now that you have seen lots of different letters, and hopefully you have been able to create some of your own as well. You are going to choose one letter that you want to make for your alphabet or quote for the final project of this class. You can see here I am doing an alphabet using the higher midline. And then I didn't want loops. This was one of my favorite styles. And so now, going through the whole alphabet, I'm coming up with what I think all of the other letters of the alphabet would look like. Like I've said before, there's not only one right way, so don't overcomplicate this. You can do so many and hit convivial, pretty overwhelming, so just start and see where it goes. What you create right now is exactly where you should be. You'll keep coming up with more styles, the more you do this. So this is good practice. And now, as you can see, because I have a Nalle fa but that I created, I can just go off of that and start working on a quote and pull the letters from the alphabet to create this quote. If you are stuck on connecting the letters. Check out my other class that I have on skill share just about connecting letters in all different kinds of styles. Don't worry if this doesn't come easy to you. I have been doing this for years now, and so it may look easy when I do it, but it's definitely not. And it does. Take some Practice certainly was not easy when I started. Just focus on having fun with it, creating something that is unique, that is completely your own. And it doesn't have to be something totally crazy to be your own. So this right here you can see there are little details that make it unique to me, even though it doesn't mean that somebody else out there hasn't done something similar to this. I'm not looking at somebody else's while I'm doing it. It maybe comes from a little bit of inspiration of certain things that I like from other people. But there is not one specific person that I am watching as I do it, which means it's not going to be exactly the same as anybody else. There's going to be little details that make this unique to me. And then I wanted to show you a couple of different quotes so that you can get a feel for what this is going to be like. This one has a lot of loops, and it is smaller than the 1st 1 So this one would be on the lower midline and then adding those little loops here and there where I feel like they might fit. Changing up the baseline, the entrance and exit strokes make it feel a little more elegant as it extends. The letters are consistent and they look cohesive. They look like they go together, and that's the goal of your quote. And what you think goes together might be different from what somebody else thinks, because it's those little details that build up the whole style. And if you're really struggling with this, you could use the lines to create your quote first, the guidelines that I've given you or draw your own or you also may want to start in pencil and sketch it out. You might have to dio several different sketches to get it. How you want it. Think about each letter as if they had a personality And how would the rest of the letters matched that personality? And remember, don't overcomplicate it. Just have fun. See what ideas you can come up with. You're not creating one final style or one final piece that's going to be the last best thing you've ever created. This is just practiced. Create something fun and maybe you'll love it. And maybe you won't and you want to try it over again and do something different. That's exactly how it should be. You can see, as I've done several different styles. You could do this again and again with totally different styles every single time. I am so excited to see what you come up with. So in the project section below, share a picture of either your alphabet or your quote and let's share with each other what we've come up with. I want to thank you for watching this class. I'm so glad you're here. If you found this class helpful, you could help me by sharing it with a friend or leaving a review. I wish you all the best in creating unique alphabet styles, and I will see you in the project section