Last updated on March 1st, 2021
Lettering is an art of making letters stylish and beautiful. This art has found its place even in helping create unique visuals that include posters, wedding cards, and many other promotional items. But, buddy lettering artists must consider some basics before they plunge in this art field to create impressive shapes of letters. During the lettering workshop, lettering expert Catalina Brenes shared useful tips on how to create letters like a pro with everyday office supplies.
Lettering is a fast-growing art in terms of popularity with its use spanning into various business promotional fields. To stand out and look different from rival brands, many of them use unique lettering art to create business cards, posters, etc visuals. These add value to creating the brand identity of a business.
However, aspirant lettering artists need to follow some basic rules. They must first learn the rules of lettering and cover all its various aspects before breaking the rules.
What is more, even common office supplies such as pencils, markers, and text highlighters can be used to create stunning lettering art. So, there is no need to buy something expensive to learn and practice your art.
Considering that, Designhill had organized a tutorial lettering workshop with Catalina Brenes, who is a lettering expert, and founder at EL Tintero CR. The first edition of the workshop was conducted on 1st June 2020 , which was a huge success. In that edition, she explained how you can create amazing letters with the use of common office supplies like text highlights and graphite pencils.
Now, Designhill has come up with part 2 of the workshop with Catalina Brenes given the popularity of the first edition. In this second part, Catalina teaches about how to draw letters using only 2 graphite pencils and a rubber band. So, you do not need fancy expensive tools to do great lettering. She gives you the basics of letter structure on gothic style letters.
Talking about her, Catalina Brenes has a degree in graphic design from the University of Costa Rica & a Master’s degree in Advanced Typography at the EINA Art and Design Center. El Tintero is a platform to teach calligraphy & lettering.
Here Is The Part-II Video Of The Workshop With Catalina Brenes
Here Is Catalina Brenes Sharing Her Expert Tips To Create Amazing Lettering Art With Common Office Supplies
Catalina Brenes: Today, I am going to teach you how to make Gothic-style letters. Last time we learned Roman style letters and what we used are what I asked you to have ready at home are two pencils wrapped with a rubber band. What we’re going to learn today is an alternate way to make letters. In case you don’t have the professional tools, but if you do have them, you can use them as well.
But, I do think that this is a great opportunity to practice since you can erase the mistakes and be more precise on each of the strokes. You should pay attention to the strokes and the technique without worrying that you know, there are no do-overs when you work with Ink. But in case you have any of these tools, then I invite you to work with a pencil. Later, try everything that we learned today with the professional tools, which would be a nib or parallel pen.
Wrap In One Rubber Band
Two regular graphite pencils are wrapped with one rubber band. I do advise using only one rubber band with the markers because they’re not straight, and they do tend to move. But with pencils, I have found that it’s easier and they move less when it’s just one rubber band.
So, you will move the rubber band to one-third of the pencil’s length so that you won’t be holding the rubber band because it’s going to be uncomfortable. If I have any left-hand writers, then maybe you’ll want to have one of the pencils longer than the other one.
Hold It Right
When you hold the longer pencil, it’s going to be on your thumb. The right-handed people can have them completely straight. That is going to be easier for you. But sometimes, depending on how you hold your writing tools, maybe you can push one further away from the other. But you’ll have to measure that. I will show you what I’m expecting of the strokes, and then you’ll have to make that call on your own.
You will need three of your fingers to hold it just like holding a pen, and then the rest of the two fingers are going to be hidden here. If you do use more fingers to hold your pencils, then this might be difficult to process. And it’s something that you do want to aspire to correct further in your writing lettering practice, and now I will use markers.
Suppose you do have a whiteboard at home. In that case, I encourage you to expand the proportion of the letters because using you know, writing in smaller sizes and bigger sizes that do give you more security on the strokes and you know, getting out of your comfort zone. You can also just use a big sheet of paper, and you know, paste it on the wall, regular big markers.
Height Of The Strokes
Now, let’s talk about the height of the strokes. What we call the nip height would be this width here. Dependent on the width on that sighs this with changes, but it’s always called the measure it’s we measure at nips. So of course, in my case, it’s going to be bigger since you know the two tips are further apart from each other.
And if you do use pencils, then they’re going to be closer. If you’re using a regular nib, then it’s going to be smaller. But every time that you start your practice, you need to define what’s going to be the height of your letters. Remember that with all letters, we have different heights, and I’m going to write to them here. So we have the baseline. That’s going to be the mainline where all the letters are going to sit. Then we’re going to have the x-height and space between these two for you guys. I think style letters, it’s going to be five new heights.
Five Pen Width
Now, how are you going to measure five pen width? You are just going to do a horizontal straight line, and then we are the second pen. Did the line then you press the second, third, fourth, and fifth time. So, five pen whips for the x like that, then two for the ascenders and two for the descenders.
So get a ruler and make the lines. I already have them here. I’m going to go and start right away, but do get ready with all the lines so that your letters are straight. We are going to start doing the basic strokes that we need to mix them up to get all the letters. I’m not going to do the alphabet in order, but I’m going to mix the letters depending on what shapes are repeated among a specific set of letters. So this way, you can make sure that the letters that share the same shape are alike.
Letters Are Family
Remember that letters are like a family, regardless of the letter style that you’re working on. They do share a physical character, sticks on height, width, slant, and stroke type. You need to pay attention to these details to make sure that they are all part of one family and share one last name.
I also have a number of my pens or my pencils, whatever you’re using. So, the one that’s closer to your thumb, it’s going to be number one and the one that’s further away, it’s going to be number two, in my case, black, it’s going to be number one, and red is the number two. So, this way, when I tell you which pen is sitting on a specific line, you’ll know where to place it in your sheet of paper. , so let’s start with the basic strokes.
All Gothic letters are super straight. Please don’t feel sad if they are at first, and it’s something you’ll need to practice. But the good thing is that you can fix it with a pencil and feel more comfortable with the construction. When you do try it with Ink, you will be able to just pay attention to how straight your lines are. You do not have to think of the parts, the construction, and the direction of each stroke.
So, you need to think that this is one step at a time, and now we’re just learning the part then I am when you do practice at home afterward on your own page and time that you can pay attention to how straight your lines are. But what needs to be clear today is how you construct its stroke.
The first thing to remember is the angle. That is the most important thing you do need to consider. Sometimes when you use the professional tools, you can miss the angle because you always do a stroke, regardless of the angle is correct or not when you do double pencil calligraphy.
If you’re not doing the angle correctly, then it’s going to show at work. So, it’s easier for you to notice the mistakes. The angle should be 30 degrees. But how do you know if the angle you have is correct? If both the pencils or markers make a single line, then the angle is correct. If they draw two lines, then the angle is incorrect.
So, when they go on top of the other, the stroke of red and black is correct. If the angle is incorrect, then you’re going to have a double line. Please pay attention that every time you have double lines, the angle is incorrect, they always need to match one up or the other.
What I recommend is that you just draw a line in the correct angle at the top of the sheet of paper. And once you have it correct, leave that one line at the top and let that be the reference angle line. Every time you start a new stroke, you place your pens there, and you’ll know that the angle is correct. Now, go ahead and have your 30-degree angle, right.
Drawing The Stroke
Now, I will draw stroke number one. I will do an X-height stroke. I don’t know if it’s going to be easier for you if you do see the lines, but I will write them here. So, drawing the stroke number one, I placed my pens on 30 degrees, and it just will be a straight line.
Now, obviously, with the whole pen style, the strokes are going to be open. You do need to go back and then close them. Once you make one stroke, you go back, and you close it. So, you just use one pencil, and you close your stroke. It is going to have a 30-degree slant.
And how do they know where to start, where to finish you do place pencil number two on the X-height line. Once pencil number one reaches the baseline, then you stop. So you see, my black pen reaches the baseline, my red pen starts in the X-height. If you do have two colors of a pencil, it will be easier.
But you are using colored pencils or any other type of writing tool. So, this is going to be the main stroke. We will do small strokes and then close them. So they should look like the stroke number two. Now we’ve mixed them. So we go, one, we will do them separately. We want there to be a gap between stroke one and stroke two.
Draw Some Guiding Lines
One pen width is the first stroke. Then the vertical stroke and then one pen with the last one stroke. You can make additional lines with your pencil to know where to start and where to end. I’m not going to do it because it will be super confusing for you with all the lines and everything. But don’t pay attention that here I have my pen width.
It would be one for the first stroke, three for the second one, one for the last one. , so now we do them on still, they’re going to be separate strokes, but we do want them to touch so it’s going to be 1, 2, 3 steps and then we need to close the stroke.
That’s the main stroke, and all my letters are going to be constructed using this stroke. This is going to be my star stroke.
Now, we can start the stroke. I stayed with a movement that would help me close the stroke without having to do this at the end. So, how would it be that what would be that movement would be something like this? You start if you place the red pen on the X-height. Then, you have the pen width here. But what if you in that position start the SEC the stroke and now, you go like this, and then you go down like a number one, and then you close.
Use Two Pencils
Please do use pencils. You should be using two pencils or two colored pencils or whatever you have in hand and just wrapped with a rubber band. It’s just that for the scale, I need to use the markers. In this way, the strokes are already closed. So it’s like one pen with here and then one of the strokes, and it’s still very close, so I do need to make my start stroke so it would be close.
Now I have my stroke already closed in one movement without having to go back and then close the end of the strokes. Now, we don’t have to curve everything in our straight line, so we need to make it like a make-believe curve. So, for example, I’m going to use the letter o. So, we can do this from going from left to right or from right to left.
So if I do start on an X-height with my number two pencil, then match pencil number one, go down and then go up. That would be a curb until the strokes are closed. Now, if I match it with the other light on the reflected away of this job, then I will place my two pencils where the stroke started, and go up. And then, do the main stroke and close.
So this would be for my circle shapes round of letters, this would be the main shape. All other shapes are going to use my star stroke, which would be my round stroke. Now let’s get into it and start making letters. If we do have an ascender, then we just need to expand the length and the height. But the movement would be the same. The only thing is that it may be more difficult since you know it’s a longer stroke, but it’s the same.
Now let’s get started with the letters I’m just going to leave my, my 30-degree reference there. I will draw my lines so that you can see them. And, remember that we’re going to make a nod. We’re going to make it so the letters are going to be in disorder.
So I’m going to start with the letter I, which is the basic stroke. But I’m always going to do it with a close end. Remember further away when you hide away from x-height and then go up and main stroke and close.
Designhill: Which specific Ink to use in lettering?
Well, yes. If you do use a pen that comes with Ink, it has its Ink, but if you do use a nip, then there’s calligraphy ink there. I don’t know what to call it in English. If you do translate from Spanish, it would be Chinese Ink. I think most likely that’s not the official word. But that’s how you would buy it if you go to buy it in Spanish. I have to look for the name, but usually, they say calligraphy ink, and its characteristic is that it is a see-through ink, and it’s very thin.
The Ink won’t go when you write. It doesn’t go on the back of the paper, and it will stick only in front. I don’t know how to explain it, but it will stain the back of the paper.
After doing the letter i, I can get a letter n. So we’re going to start with floats and strokes. I’m going to leave it open because I don’t want this line. After all, it’s going to miss that second stroke and then here just again mini-stroke and close it.
Letter m would be accepted the same only three times. So, close stroke at first and you have your letter m
Now we have a letter u. It’s exactly the same as letter n, but slightly down and basic stroke closed and then have to stroke and make a long line of like three pen words. You’ll have enough space to match the stroke when you go down.
Letter v is the same as u, but we’ll add here this part that I raised of all the three packets that I told you. So it would be a closed stroke, basic stroke, and they go, three pathways, and then close. That’s your letter v.
Now w is to letter v, but what we do is two main strokes, and then the third stroke is going to be the incomplete stroke. So, we go one means stroke and two too many strokes, and then we close.
Finally on that same group is letter r and it’s a little different with pencils to do the letters. Well, I have my pencils, but this is my, my cheat sheet in front of me. And, this cheat sheet of letters I did with pencils, and it should be the same drawing of letters on the board. Maybe the difference here on the board is that it is more precise because you see two colors, but I assure you it’s the same.
Why you don’t need to pay attention is always to have the 30-degree angle, and that both strokes match one on top of the other. If you’re having a double line, it means the angle is incorrect, and you’re not going to be able to accomplish the letters. Now our letter r is the main stroke close. We’re going to do like the letter n only incomplete, it’s just the main, the first part of the letter r.
Now let’s start mixing. If we have the same shape that I did for the r, but I have it for a round shape letter, it would be for letters c. So, use the main stroke, but like the bounce stroke, remember that it doesn’t start from left to right, but it starts from right to left.
Put pencil number two place on x-height. Then you go down for the round shape letter. And then you close and then the same movement that we did for letter r would be the closing stroke. And that’s your letter c.
Letter e is exactly the same, but we need to continue that closing stroke until we match the main stroke. Use pencil number two, our next height, you will be close. Both lines match, and that’s where you stop to know that you have to go down. Leave one pen with, and then you break in close the shape and then repeat up here, and here you close the letter e.
The letter f is coming, just bear with me. Remember that I’m not doing them in the correct order of the alphabet, but we’re grouping them in shapes that they repeat. The same shape is repeating and construction. This way, it will be easier for you to remember the type of strokes.
We are going to mix it and go ahead and make the letter q. We are doing a descender and it is a longer stroke. But the construction of the main stroke is the same as letter c. So, we start with stroke number one, and we close and then we do plays at the pop pan number two is placed on x-height, and then we make a horizontal line, which we close and it has kind of occurred. The fact that we’re doing straight lines doesn’t mean that we can do curves with a double pencil, I can make curves and beautiful curves, it’s just, you know, you just need to move with your wrist.
So here, we want a curve at the end of the horizontal stroke. The curve will be out of the letter. We’re going to place the pen right on the x-height but leave the curve; it’s part like a flourish decoration at the end of the letter. So here we go ahead, and we make the descender, and that’s our letter q.
Now, letter p would be the same but upside down. So we start with the main stroke, close and descender height. , and now curb stroke, and the same movement of the curve, we start outside of the main stroke and match. That’s your letter p.
Designhill: Can you please explain how to get started with pencils or pens, how to tie them up using a rubber band, and the measurement we’re using to write on board?
Use Soft Pencils
Let’s the go-ahead to the basics, that two pencils don’t have to be the same size. Ideally, they should be the same type. Your pencil should match, and I do recommend soft pencils, maybe two B three B four B. This is because it’s going to be easier for the movement. If it’s a hard pencil or too light, then it’s going to do friction on the paper, and harder for you to make the double stroke.
Wrap Pencils With One Rubber Band
So, you do tie the pencils with the rubber bands. I use a rubber band. When I work with pencils, I’m using two rubber bands with my markers because they’re not straight. You see they’re wider at the end. They do tend to move because they’re plastic. But usually, the pencils make friction, and they don’t move, and I think it’s more uncomfortable. We do have two rubber bands.
You should push the rubber bands to hold your pen below the rubber bands, and now you’re going to hold them from the wider side. If you’re right-handed, then you should have them aligned. If you’re left-handed, then pencil number two, which is the one closest to your pencil number one, which is the one closest to your thumb, should be longer.
Again, for right-handed people, sometimes it’s easier if they’re not aligned for me towards when they’re aligned. Regardless of the tool, you’re using, this is between the two pencils and the pen width. So, x-height is five pen width, the height of the ascenders is two pen and width descenders are also two pen width. You just need to make the minimum.
Ink for Calligraphy
I love Parker ink or Waterman ink as it is professional Ink. And I use brands like Windsor Newton for calligraphy ink or the speedball calligraphy ink. I think it’s thicker. It’s more like an acrylic style type of Ink, but it also works, and it depends on the most important thing regardless of what you’re using.
It’s the combination of three elements, the tool, the Ink, and the paper. That is not only one recipe because the nips have different common types of things. Metals and some are softer; others are harder and work differently in each kind of paper. But each Ink will react differently to each type of paper. So, you’ll definitely have just to try and experiment.
Designhill: How did you start at calligraphy and lettering?
I Started As A Graphic Designer
I’m a graphic designer. When I was doing my degree, my graduation project, I just signed a book. And that’s where I fell in love with editorial design. I decided that I wanted to learn more about editors. The main thing about editorial design is poverty. So, I started looking for a master’s degree, and it turned out that to learn how to design fonts, you first need to learn how to draw them. So, it’s calligraphy, typographic design, and then editorial design that would be like the steps. And, so it was a one year master’s, and all that I was waiting for was the end of the part of the tutorial.
I love editorial design, but I ended up only doing calligraphy. So I set it in Spain. I’m from Costa Rica in Central America. And so I was a year in Spain, and when I came back, nobody knew what lettering and calligraphy were like. It was a whole new thing here in Costa Rica was 2014. So that’s when I started my blog because I had to teach people what it was that I studied what it was that I learned. And so it started like a teaching blog, a platform to share my knowledge and explain to people what I was doing.
So, Let’s Start Creating Letters
Now, we’re going to do letter J, which you said to the sender, and what you have a curve at the end. So we go ahead, and at a 30 degrees angle, I use my number two pencil on x-height. Then draw the line down and then make a curve to have the letter j.
Now, we’re going to do letter T. Remember that letter T is an exception in most alphabets. It doesn’t go all the way to the ascender height, it just goes like, in this case, since ascenders are two pen widths. It would be only one pen width, and that would be the height of the letter T, and it’s the basic stroke. Then close it and go back to where we started when we placed the pens where we started, and then we go to the left.
Letter s is a bit more complicated, but let’s just get to it. We let some cut and mark our pen width because it’s going to be easier to understand where to start and where to end each of them. We first draw a five pen width baseline. Then, we draw down to number two baseline and then go up to number one, then go down to number four, and then close.
Then we have the structure of the letter S. Now, we have to close it. And this is like a curve movement. We placed point number two in line number three, and we made the curve.
And then we close here again, and the start of this joke and the safe movement, rounded, and we closed. So I’m going to repeat it here without all the mess up the lines. So we position in x-height. Go down, ready, call up Lines need to match. So please be aware of the 30-degree angle, then we go down close, and then curve, close, and that’s the letter S.
Now, We Have The Ascenders
Now we will start with the letter H. We have a close and stroke. One, go all the way down, and we close. It’s like the letter n, where we use pen number two on x-height, main stroke, but pay attention here, we’re going to make the flourishing movement at the end to close. So it has a curve at the end, like a small flourish at the end of the age.
Now we do the letter k. It is the same main stroke here. And now we need to break the strokes just like we do with us. , so we go here, one, and we close. When we end that, we go horizontally and then down, and we close with the main stroke.
Letter b and o
Before starting letter b, it is better to do letter o, which is similar to doing letter b. We shall start the pen at the number two baseline, move down to close it with a slight curve, and repeat it on the other side to finally create a letter o.
Now we need to mix it with the straight upward strokes to make letter b. So we made the ascender stroke one. And then we just close it. And that’s letter b.
Letter f is both an ascender and the descender. First, we go down with a longer stroke. But we go down only one pen width. Remember that we do have to pen width in descender height, and we go down only one pen width. And then, we do horizontal just like the stroke that we did four-letter h or maybe like this little movement for letter k. Then we close, and then we do the curve here to get a letter f.
Now we’re going to do a letter a, which is the main stroke only. We’re going on. Do a double pant with for the clothes in the starting stroke. , so we do double length. So you see that we have two pen weights here, and then we do the main stroke we closed.
And now the same, like for that round once or we do a double stroke down, and then we close, but only we need to do it like from two-thirds of the main stroke height. , the most complicated letter in this file, I believe it’s x letter x.
Let me get to it. And then you’ll tell me if you think it’s the more complicated one, but at least it’s the more flourished one. So I do think that it has more parts, but it’s The same strokes over and over again. So here we close. It’s the same movement as the round one only from two-thirds of the backside.
Now, a letter d, we need to construct half of the round shape that you know, and that letter d is not a straight line for the ascender. But it goes like this. You go from right to left, you move to pan webs, and then you go diagonal and that match and meet the first stroke on the sightline. And then you close.
Now, letter g and letter y. I think they’re my favorite because I think they’re exquisite. Ah, the lower part it’s very elegant, but it has a lot of parts. So, please pay attention. First, we have the same construction as a letter to remember that we did the curb stroke. Then we did the one with the curve and stroke.
Now we’re going to have the main stroke, your stroke, and this is where it gets pretty nice. You continue the main stroke to one pen with the descender. And then you need to close it. And now from where the main stroke and then here you go left, you close it with a curve.
So, a letter d and letter y are the same things. The only thing is that in letter y you miss the closing of the top. So we make the main stroke, and they close it exactly the same.
And finally, we have letters x and z. I will first do x. So it’s the main stroke, then like the letter r Remember letter r, there you have your art, and then it comes to flourish. This is like a thinner stroke. It goes like the Nike logo, and then closes it.
And finally, we have a letter z. So it’s thinner than the rest of the letter in the strokes because you do make a diagonal line, but you need to keep the 30-degree angle. So you’ll just make it like a regular c, And it’s thinner. It’s thinner than the rest, but it’s like a regular seat. That’s all. We have the vampire alphabet.
So letter r, it’s the same as I did letter x word, its main stroke. And then you close. That’s the letter r.
Designhill: In what cases traditional calligraphy is still being used when there are already fonts available online?
Anyone can use a digital font, but not everyone can do it by hand. We are going back to the handmade experience of everything in design. I think that it is a worldwide trend. And the fact that you know that there was a person behind it is like, every time that I don’t know, you, you ask a question online, and you know that it’s about answering is like, Oh my god, can I please talk to a real person? I need a human being to answer my questions. It’s, I think it’s the same experience in design.
So, the fact that there is a person behind it, and that there are mistakes and the irregular things, adds additional value. I have taken advantage of people learning how to do things on their own, trying to specially log out of the screen and the digital part and getting hands-on whatever you have in hand. I think that is why it is important and why hand drawing and design have a comeback right now.
Designhill: What is the style we are learning, called? Is it developing calligraphy or Gothic style?
The double pen calligraphy is a technique, not a style. You can do different letter size styles with double pen calligraphy, and It is the discipline of writing within this specific tool. You can do NIV calligraphy, marker calligraphy, or double pen calligraphy, and last time on part one of the workshop, we did Roman style letters with double pen calligraphy. We can do script calligraphy with double pen calligraphy. These two terms can go along.
Designhill: How do you find inspiration?
I find inspiration by doing and doing and doing, that’s the main thing. You can have your favorite artists, buy books, and look for references. But it doesn’t matter much as you need to try them. And that’s how you will get this variation by making mistakes and seeing what you like and what you don’t. Then the process will give you the next steps.
For example, even if you are a digital artist, I would say do the design or calligraphy on paper first. When you are sitting in front of the screen, you need to make the decisions. You should decide why you will move and click or what tool you’re going to use before doing it.
Get Inspiration Doing Anything You Like
So you’re limiting yourself. But if you just sit down with a sheet of paper and a pencil, and you just start, you know scribbling, scribbling, there’s a point where you just get so intuitive, maybe you are listening to your favorite music, song, whatever inspires you, and getting in the mood. And then, the process will give you the answers.
And the next step, something that I use in a lot for lettering, is tracing paper. You just make one for a sketch, and they just are using this tracing paper and copying bits and bytes of different sections, and then get a completely different result of the first sketch that you did. So, I get my inspiration by doing that, because you’re going to be your main inspiration and own limit.
You need to set the goal higher and further you for yourself. So, practice makes perfect, but you don’t want to be perfect, but you need you to improve, and that is key, and you need to improve on your own pace, rhythm, skills, style, and on your own time. But, you need to do that. That is key in art or any job you need to start doing. That’s my first and most important advice that I could share with you today.
These are the expert tips from Catalina Brenes on how to create letters to turn them into amazing art perfectly. You need to follow her tips ardently and practice as much as you can before finally able to draw on your own.
You can also practice your lettering art on the Designhill marketplace, where business owners launch their requirements in the form of contests. Spot many such illustration and design contests on this marketplace to practice your art and win attractive prizes.
Everyday office supplies like pencils and tex highlighter also can be impressively used to create lettering art. But, it would help if you learned the techniques to use these pencils, markers, and highlighters perfectly. Catalina shows you the way to use pencils with a certain width and angle. She gives tips to do the small case letters in this workshop.