I can relate to that feeling when you first realise that all your practice is paying off and you are now able to hand letter. You feel proud about how they turn out and you want to display your creations online. You have come quite some distance from where you started. There is a trap though! It’s one of the common hand lettering beginner mistakes. When you first start feeling confident that you also can letter, you may try and avoid turning corners that you aren’t comfortable with, at least that’s what happened to me. I think it’s simply human to feel so.
I kept repeating the words, which I was confident about. Words like ‘nature’, ’cause’ and ‘sugar’ became my go-to words. These are what I call “comfort words”. They contain alphabets and their combinations that I could letter amazingly well such as a ‘ca’ or ‘su’ that I would repeat so often. Even when I would to try think of new words, my mind somehow would only come up with words that had these combos in them like star, cat, can, care, cap, cars. While it may be valid to argue that this was still practice, my view is that I was practising certain letters way more than the rest.
It was a good few months before I realised this oversight and fixed it by going back to basics. I tried combos I hadn’t tried or those that I had and knew I wasn’t doing well with. This didn’t feel great because they were nowhere near as good as the comfort words, but I knew I had to persist.
Here’s a few things I then did,
- Looked up the dictionary for words that didn’t start with my “comfort alphabets”. This was amazing help. I didn’t have to think up words, could simply look it up and start lettering. It also improved my vocabulary but ,well, I am not going to admit that here.
- Looked up Pinterest for lettering inspiration. It’s ok if it feels like you are “copying” as long as you are only doing so to practise. This gives you an easy benchmark to compare yourself against.
- Looked for short quotes and picked 2 key words out of them that I would hand letter and the rest I would simply type/write around them. Although, in hindsight I would recommend staying with lettering single words for long as you can. Learning to letter and compose combinations can be quite a challenge.
- Looked for lettering on product branding, hoardings and boards. You may be super surprised that they are all around you, heaps of them, and you perhaps never ever noticed it.
- Tried custom brushes. Some words simply look better with some brushes. End of story, no logic here.
This kept me out of the rut of repeating comfort words and repeating the same style. It still inspires me today to keep at hand lettering without tiring out of it or assuming that I cannot get any better.
I hope my experience helps you avoid hand lettering beginner mistakes of getting trapped by comfort words and you look for lettering inspiration sooner than I did in my journey.
Most importantly, I realised over the years that there is actually no finish line! The more lettering you do, the better you get. You come up with better ideas, your style constantly changing and morphing over time.
Oh, here’s the quick time-lapse replay of how the header image in this post was done. Leave me a thumbs-up if you like it.