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Online Workshop : Penmanship With A Pencil

by Designhill Tweet - in Webinar

Penmanship With A Pencil

Once some special writing instruments were used to create attractive lettering. Such beautiful lettering art was always in demand to celebrate festivals and commercial signages. But today because of advanced technology used to make pencils, these are artists’ favorite instruments to create unique lettering art. Designhill conducted an online session where a lettering expert Coroline Staniski showed the right way to use a pencil to do lettering. Have a look!

Hand lettering is an art that has never faded away from the mainstream of advertisements and marketing. Since there is always a classic touch to hand lettering, people use this art to express the importance of an occasion. So, most cards for birthdays, anniversaries, and other occasions are mostly written in hand lettering styles.

Today, when it comes to the use of writing instruments for lettering art, pencils are widely preferred. This means that budding artists do not have to spend much on buying those expensive writing tools. Instead, they can use any pencil today for lettering purposes. This is because modern pencils are manufactured using advanced technology. So, you have a variety of strong pencils that meet your lettering art requirements.

Designhill conducted a workshop on Penmanship With A Pencil with Caroline Staniski on 10th October 2020 to educate aspiring lettering artists. During the workshop session, she showed how to use a pencil, an eraser, and a workbook to create attractive letters.

The attendees learned about the five lettering styles that can be created using pencils. Caroline gave guidelines on how to use a pencil for the purpose. The other topics covered during the workshop include five different kinds of letters, attributes to different typefaces, and how to build letters from a single sans serif alphabet.

About Caroline Staniski

Caroline Staniski carries a rich experience of over 5 years working as a graphic designer and hand lettering artist. She is from Gainesville, FL. Currently, she runs her one-woman-led design business. She also holds a Master of Science in Entrepreneurship from The University of Florida and a BFA from The University of North Florida.

Key Attractions:

  • What the five styles of lettering are, the types of pencils you can use
  • Guidelines and how to use them
  • Five different kinds of letters and their names
  • Attributes to different typefaces.
  • Learn how to build out letters to a single Sans Serif Alphabet
  • Why should people attend this Workshop?

In this post, we have shared the workshop video and its transcript in the form of Q/A where you will be learning everything about lettering.

Transcript: Here Is How Beginner Artists Should Proceed Using A Pencil To Create Attractive Letters

Basic Styles Of Lettering

Caroline Staniski: I am going to start with the basic styles of lettering in typography. Typography is the art of arranging type that is completely different from hand lettering and lettering. Typography is very much structural. Unlike lettering, which is more custom, typography is more uniform. That is what you use when you are typing or using fonts, like, Google doc or Microsoft Word.

But, lettering is any form of a written letter. Lettering is when you are writing by hand and doing calligraphy. Calligraphy itself is when you are writing with pen and ink. If you see those fancy, custom script letters, the beautiful wedding style invitations, that is calligraphy.

Hand-lettering is about drawing letters and creating custom typefaces by hand. So, those are the styles of lettering.

Different Pencil Types:

Mechanical Pencil

There are different pencil types that you can use. You have your basic mechanical pencil. This is great for quick sketching. It is also the cheapest option available for sketching and lettering. I have always started with it.

Fancy Pencil

Then you have a little bit of a fancier pencil. This is from fabric Estelle. This is a to-be pencil. And this is also great for sketching. It’s moderately priced, and it comes in different shades.

Drafting Pencil

Then there is also a drafting pencil. Its lead quality is a lot better and suitable for tight sketching. But it is the more expensive option because of better quality lead.

Pencil Lead Styles

There are different pencil lead styles. 6B – It is the softest HB, which is kind of in the middle of the range. 6H – It is the hardest lead. Usually, I sketch pretty heavily.

I try to stick with an HB or two B which usually most mechanical pencils or HP This is to be. This is a little heavier. But depending on how heavy-handed you are, I would pick the pencil lead that best suits how heavy-handed you are.

Use Grids

Grids are very essential when it comes to creating hand-lettering elements. You want to have a grid because when you are drawing, things can get crooked. It may be that you get off the wrong angles. When you are drawing an A without a grid line, you may draw it wrongly downward. You should have grids when drawing because it’s good for alignment.

Different Types Of Grids:

Slanted Grid

You can use the slanted grid for drawing letters individually. You can draw each letter in each part of the grid to get them nice and even.

Cursive Grid

This grid is for writing calligraphy and things like that. This is easy to see the letters on each line. We all have used this grid in our elementary school.

Square Grid

It is mostly for making block letters, like an H. It is easy to get those lines tight with this grid. You can get your letters in uniform when you are filling them in.

Blank Grid

I usually use a blank grid because I am more advanced than the beginners. So, I can just draw on the line and place the letters in a better manner.

Different Letter Styles:

These are the most common. These are the ones that a couple of them. I am going to teach you today, not all of them. But then you can do some more research if you like some of the letter styles. Then, you can try building them out yourself after the workshop.


Scripts are very personal lettering styles. You use script lettering style for greeting cards and elegant designs like beautiful scripts.


Serifs are small lines. They have little pieces at the end. And those are called Serifs.

Sans Serif

If they are missing a serif which has a little piece on the end, and that is called a Sam Serif and so they don’t have to extend features. These are the most simple and modern styles of lettering. Most type-based like your keyboard is a Sans Serif. And it’s the style Google logo nowadays. Most companies use sans serif because it’s easy to read.


Then, you have Western which is less common. If you’ve ever seen old western movies or old TV shows from the 60s. They use those fonts a lot. And those have long forms on the ends to make it more bulky and clunky.


Decorative style of lettering is a little bit different from the script. Because these are usually better for short headlines. In bits of type, but not body copy, you usually do not use decorative fonts for body copy. Body copy is like a paragraph. But it is hard to read. So, the decorative part, you would use a sans serif, which is what all of this is written.

There is, for the different letter styles we can do is we can kind of just ease into this get a little bit of practice. If you have a blank sheet of paper, and a pencil, just grab that fast. You can download a practice sheet of paper with letters on it. We will use that sheet to practice different letters.

Practicing Letter A

While practicing the letter A, you will always start going upside on the letter. Then, the second step is to go down. Then, the third stroke is across the letter. You’ve successfully majored in the first letter.

You can also draw a detailed letter A. You may not have guidelines on your paper, have a blank sheet of paper, or lined paper. Then you can just take a ruler, or draw across two lines across your page. So, to make them a little bit more detailed, use the skeleton, which is the basic drawing of A.

Then to make it a little thicker, you draw around the element. It is the same, you have your one, which is the square, you have your two here. Then, you have your three, which is across. These are called the close. You have the skeleton, then you have the clothes, and then you fill it in. That is called your basic sketch. And then that is your sans serif A.

Now, let us draw the script lettering style ‘a’. If you had a brush pen, which is more of a calligraphy pen, there are these things called thick and thin parts. The thinnest part is down the letter ‘a’ and the thickest part is upside down. Those Brush Pens will create those thick and thin strokes for you. Pencils can’t draw these strokes.

For this sans serif ‘a’, first, you bring down the pen from the top of the letter and then up. Then, take the pencil off the page after each stroke. And then you go down again. Just like that. Then we are going to do the same thing as we did with the sen serif of a, we’re going to go down and up, down. And then we’re going to draw into you just like that. Fill it in. You have sans serif a.

For the serif letter a, it’s just like a sans serif, but you add the little pieces on the end. You are going to go up as the first stroke, down the second stroke, and then go across for the final third stroke.

If you are left-handed, it is very hard for you to draw sometimes. This is because you are always dragging your arm across the page. And then you get a black line on your hand afterward.

Then we fill it in. After that, add the serifs, little pieces, I am just going to draw the serifs over the letter A. Just make these little triangular serif pieces. So, If you eliminated the serifs, it would be a san-serif.

Decorative Lettering

Moving on to decorative A. This one’s probably my favorite because they’re just so whimsical and fun. And you can do so much with them.

Here also, draw a curvy line up and down on the left side of the A. You will take upward, downward, and across strokes. I always take my pencil off the paper after each stroke and then three, and then four. Then, add a little bit of thickness to the edges.

You take this decorative part a step further. With an outlining pen, you can outline on top of the letter. Then, take an eraser and erase it to make a nice thick and black outline letter. But we’re using a pencil right now to make it simple for you.

Western Lettering A

Now, we create Western-style lettering A. You should always start with kind of a San serif flutter. Take the one, two, and three. Then we’re going to add a little bit of a dimension to it by thickening the letter. And then you add the thicker serifs on the ends to make them more Western. Then you have all this inside. You just fill it all in. Just like that. Now, you have successfully done five simple letter style A’s.

Letter Building Basics


Caroline Staniski: I am going to talk a little bit more about letter-building basics. This is called the skeleton. First, we have a basic outline of a letter. It is called the skeleton. Here, we have the skeleton of the letter E.

Then, you will be drawing block shapes around the skeleton lines of the letter. You have that skeleton inside. Then, you are drawing around to make it a little bit thicker.


Then, you have the body of the letter E. This is when you are shading inside of the letter and filling in. Then we are going to move up. then you add the serif. You shade those serifs.

The Clothes

Then, you have this thing called the clothes, which is like adding ornaments, flourishes to the letter. These are fun elements. You can then add shadows to have even more dimension to your letters, and decorations like leaves or flowers. And you always do that stuff at the end. You want to start very simply with these skeletons and work your way into the clothes.

Typeface Gestures

Now, let us talk about typeface gestures. You have your basic sans serif and serif letters. But they also have these special pieces inside of them, where they have different variations.


You have boldface letters, light letters, condensed letters, and extended letters. A bold a would be a lot thicker. To make it bolder, you would add a ton of thickness to that letter.


A lightface letter is the thinner one. You would make it very thin instead of it being thick just like this letter L. All you do is draw just a little bit around the edge of the L.


Then, there is a condensed letter face. It is about condensing a letter and pushing it together. While the boldface is wider, the condensed letter is very thin and squished. Then, draw around it.

Now, I make this look easy because I am doing it for a while. When you are doing this workbook, if it seems frustrating, it’s totally fine. Because some of you all might be doing this for the first time.

Extended Letter Face

We now work on extended letter faces. Take your pencil and draw one semi-circle up and then the other at the downside. Then, draw inside of them.

Serif Letter Styles

Now, we are going to practice some serif styles. As I said before, serifs are the pieces at the ends of letters that get them in shape. There are also different types of serif styles.

Old-style Serif Lettering – In this, You have curved edges at the bottom.
Slab – The slab style is the one that has a rectangular slab at the bottom of the letter. ,
Modern – The Modern serif lettering style has a little bit thinner slab.
Decorative – And then you have your decorative style, which is almost like a Western.

Designhill: How to build out the tariffs?

Caroline Staniski: When it comes to building old-style serifs, you start on the left side of the slab to make a subtle shape. Make a short curvy line on both sides. Then, a downward line, then across, and then come back up. Repeat it on the other side.

To draw slab style serif is simple and easy. Just make a rectangle. That is all. Similarly, to draw the modern serif style, make the rectangular slab shape a little bit thinner. For decorative serif lettering style, create a mustache shape.

Sans Serif Lettering Style

Letter d

For d, you are going to start with making a rounded circle. It doesn’t have to be perfect. You are going to drop it down to create a basic d without an outline. Then to add an outline, as I did before, you draw that inner shadow piece around the edge.

Letter g

Let us keep just like the d, where you draw a circle around the edge. Then you draw a shadow around it to get a nice and fancy g.

Letter k

Draw one line down, one on up, and then another down a bit farther to outline the letter k. Then, follow the same process for every letter. where you draw a couple of lines. And then if you want you can leave it like that. But to make it a little bit thicker, you draw around.

Letter m

Draw a line down and then create two little humps of the letter m. Because you are using a pencil, so do not worry if it is messy. It’s not going to be perfect. The reason why this looks so good is that I did it digitally. I erased all the messiness. But honestly, that is not how it starts drawing letters. It is to be messy.

Letter s

To create letter s, you can split them up. You can first draw a kind of c at the top. Then, come down and draw an inverted c. Draw a line to do the edges and then shade.

Letter W

Letter w is pretty easy to draw. You just draw two V’s. So, you draw a little bit of an angle when you draw a line coming up, and then you copy that while drawing another one coming down. That makes the w. there is also the uppercase. Now, we just did the lower case. There is also the up. I am going to do a couple of letters from here.

Letter Uppercase C

C is like half O. Draw one little circle like o. Then, cheat just a little bit to erase a bit of its part to cut it into two pieces in the middle. Next, have the edges of the letter by drawing parallel lines along with the letter.

Letter H

Draw one line down and another one down. Then, a line coming across in the middle of the letter. Create your edges and then fill them.

Letter K

First, have the number one stroke coming down. Then, have a 45-degree angle line going up and the 45-degree angle line coming down. After that, drawdown the edge and fill.

Letter N

Draw the one stroke straight down to the bottom. Then, draw a 45-degree line down from the top of the letter. After that, bring up the third stroke by having a straight line from there to the top. Then, create the edges and shade them fully.

Letter Z

First, one stroke across, then the second stroke is 45 degrees line downward. After that draw the third line parallel to the one at the top. Create the edges and shade them.

Serif Lettering Style

Creating serif letters is a little bit more difficult as we go.

Letter a

Draw a half-circle and come down a little bit. Bring the curvy line down to the letter to create a tail of the letter, which is called a serif. Then, at the top end of the letter, draw a little circle, which is a serif. Then, create the edges and shade them to form the lowercase serif letter a.

Letter g

First, draw a bit oval shape at the top. Then, bring down a bit curvy line and join it to another bigger oval shape at the bottom that you need to draw. So, the letter shape becomes a bit of eyeglass in the end. Then, create the edges and fill.

Letter n

First, draw down a straight line and then from a little bit down from the top, create an arch-like shape by drawing another line down. Then, draw three little serifs in the shape of a thin slab, one at the top and the other two at the bottom. After that, create the edges and shade them

Creating Good Compositions:


Good compositions have good contrast. And that is the thicker forms in contrast to the thinner forms. You want to make sure that you have one thick form. And one form of thin.


A good composition has a good hierarchy. This means that such a composition has a small to large ratio. Make sure that one part is a little bit smaller, and one part is a little bit bigger.


But it should be balanced. Everything follows the same line.

One to Two Typeface Styles

And then you want to use one to two types of styles in the composition. Also, make sure that you do not use more than three styles like that. So, one typeface used could be script while the other may be sans serif.


There are also some fancy things such as flourishes at the end of the letters or words. I wouldn’t recommend doing these until you were comfortable doing full words. I didn’t start doing words until probably two years into doing hand lettering. This is because I just didn’t even know the placement of them.

But, I included it in the workbook for you to see where they are supposed to go. Usually, they go tastefully on the ends of letters, words, or phrases. For example, I wanted to add a flourish because it just naturally has that curvature. There are different styles and things to do.

Designhill: What kind of pencil is this that we can write like this?

Caroline Staniski: I use the tool pencil. And I got this in America Law Office Depot. I don’t know if they have that brand and other countries. But any kind of drafting pencil, I think Stedetulear has that. But drafting pencils are great. And any mechanical pencils will work fine. The pencil doesn’t have to be fancy. You can use a mechanical pencil and achieve the same thing that I am doing with this.

Designhill: How did you find your artistic style?

Caroline Staniski: Yeah, so there is a woman who I look up to who is a Hamlet artist and her name is Jessica hitch. She is an amazing lettering artist. She primarily focuses on vector lettering, which requires the use of Adobe Illustrator. But she starts the same process like I do, where she uses a pencil. And then she builds things digitally.

She is the person who I have been taking inspiration from for years, probably since 2013. And I didn’t start professionally lettering until about 2017. 2017 was the year I started getting good clients. And I have been doing it since then. I focus on a letter or vector lettering.

Designhill: How do you go about digitizing your work, and how do you sell it off?

Caroline Staniski: have been a graphic designer since 2015. I went to business school at the University of Florida, Go Gators. That is where I learned to market and sell my business. I started my business when I was in college. And I started doing things with the local community. I started going to networking events, where my target audience was.

I would go to a mixer and there’d be a bunch of other designers So, I would go to the places where I wanted my artwork to be. I focused a lot on hand lettering, custom signage, and things like that. Also, I would just network with a local community and the network online. I follow ad people on Instagram, pick their brain on things like that.

Then, I started at Etsy and posted my work on their marketing through Instagram and Facebook pages. I looked for just any freeway that I could get my foot into. So, I looked around to marketing my work to other designers and other lettering artists. Then, I was doing illustrations and fun stuff. I am posting that on Instagram.

Show Your Process

I would say make drawings or letterings every day. I post it even if it’s bad. Just show people your process of messing up and then making it better. Because that is what I am noticing now that people love it when you give them value. I have started doing on my Instagram more teaching-based things like the reels.

Just teach people things that you know. They love hearing from you. And if you fail. Just try again.

So, make sure that you follow these tips while thinking of creating unique lettering art using a pencil. You should be practicing the art regularly to achieve perfection.

You can practice your lettering art by working for clients as well so that it becomes rewarding as well. To do that, you can visit Designhill to find plenty of design contests launched by various clients. You can also display your lettering art on this platform’s PrintShop as well to sell your art.

Wrapping Up

You can create attractive and unique hand-lettering art with the use of a pencil even without much experience. But Caroline Staniski advises first to consider some lettering basics such as the use of the right pencils and grids. Know the type of lettering styles as well. Then some basic lettering strokes should be followed to write sans serif and serif letters both in upper and lower cases.

Designhill is the most reliable and fastest-growing custom graphic design crowdsourcing marketplace that connects a thriving community of graphic designers from across the globe with clients looking to source high quality graphic designs such as logo designs, banner designs, packaging designs, merchandise designs, web designs and many other designing works at affordable prices. In just six months of going live, the startup has helped more than 1500 businesses source unique graphic designs and has paid out more than $70000 to its ever-growing community of 29,000+ graphic designers, logo designers, visual artists and illustrators from all over the world. Facebook | Twitter | Google+

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