How to Practice and Improve Your Hand Lettering

Want to get better at lettering and learn how to practice in the best way?

Get ready to improve your hand lettering skills with these practice tips!

If you’re completely new to hand lettering, start with this post: How to Start Hand Lettering: A Simple Beginner’s Guide

overhead view of a paper that says "hand lettering practice tips" with a hand holding a pen

Best ways to practice hand lettering

Here are eight hand lettering practice tips for more effective practice.

These are some of the best ways to practice hand lettering and really get better at it!

Use a pencil

Using a pencil gives you freedom to try things, erase what you don’t like, redraw, and refine.

There’s less pressure to draw perfect lines, so it’s easier to come up with different ideas and practice smooth curves.

Most of my hand lettering practice is done using a pencil.

And of course, it’s a good idea to sketch out hand lettering in pencil before doing it with a pen.

(Did you know that hand lettering is different from calligraphy? More about that in this post.)

Practice with repetition

Repetition builds muscle memory, which makes it easier to draw letters the more you practice.

If you really want to get better at lettering, practice letters and words repeatedly.

Trace or draw them over and over until you get really used to it.

This helps you get into more of a flow and trains your hand to make the strokes.

Find inspiration and ideas

If you’re stuck on what to practice, look for inspiration and ideas to try.

Pinterest, Instagram, or font websites are good places to look for lettering inspiration online.

Lettering books are another great place to look. Here’s a list of best lettering books by How Joyful.

Finding new alphabets, styles, or techniques you like is a good way to get inspired to practice your lettering.

(Just be careful of copying someone’s work and then calling it your own.)

Trace letters

Tracing letters is one of the best ways to start practicing hand lettering.

It helps you learn the letterforms and structure and is such an easy way to practice!

Pay attention to things like the letter shapes, where serifs go, and where the thickest areas are.

Once you’ve traced letters several times, start drawing them on your own.

You can easily find lettering worksheets to trace, or you can make your own by typing out the alphabet in various fonts and printing them.

You could even trace lettering that you see on things around your house! Tracing paper is perfect for this.

Related: 6 Ways to Use Tracing Paper for Your Lettering

Study letters

Exploring different styles of lettering and studying them is another great way to learn.

You’ll probably start to notice lettering everywhere (I do).

When you do, you can look at it more closely and think about things like…

  • Is it a serif, sans serif, or script style?
  • Where is thickness added?
  • How much contrast is there between thin and thick lines?
  • Where do serifs go?
  • What do I like or dislike about it?
  • How would I draw this style?

Use guidelines

As you practice hand lettering, use lines to help guide your work and keep it consistent.

If you need a refresher on how lettering guidelines are set up, look at the example below.

an example of how to set up hand lettering guidelines

You can draw your own guidelines with a pencil and ruler, or print out a sheet of guidelines to use.

Here’s a free guideline generator website you can use to easily set up guide sheets.

You could even just use a regular school notebook for guidelines, which is what I do often. It doesn’t need to be fancy!

Or if you use Procreate, turn on the drawing guide.

Date your work

Putting the date on your lettering work is one simple thing you can do to keep track of your progress.

It seems like a small thing, but years from now you’ll be glad you did!

If you ever feel like you aren’t getting anywhere with your lettering, just look back through your old work and you’ll see the progress you’ve made.

There’s nothing quite like it!

Instead of comparing your lettering to someone else’s, compare it to where you were previously.

Make lots of sketches

Making lots of sketches helps you come with ideas that you might not have otherwise.

This is especially helpful when you’re laying out a quote or coming up with new lettering styles.

Don’t stop at just one! See how far you can go.

Sketching is the way to experiment and figure things out before picking an idea.

Find ways to practice in everyday life

Don’t have much time to practice lettering?

Look for ways to use hand lettering in your everyday life so you can keep practicing.

Here are some ideas of ways you could use lettering in everyday activities:

  • Writing on sticky notes
  • Making to do lists or grocery lists
  • Taking notes
  • Adding to a calendar

I’ve seen some artists do a “sticky note a day” where they do a quick lettering sketch on a sticky note every day.

Even just a little practice each day will add up to great progress!

How to improve your hand lettering

So you know you have to practice hand lettering to get better at it…

…but what exactly should you do when you practice?

Here are seven things you should do to improve your hand lettering as you practice.

1. Work on consistency

Practicing consistency will have a big impact on your lettering skills.

Letters drawn by hand don’t have to be totally perfect, but consistency plays a big role in making your lettering look good.

Here’s where you should pay attention to consistency:

  • Angles – the slant of your letters, and anything written on an angle, should be consistent
  • Line widths – work on keeping line widths consistent
  • Sizes – the general size of letters should be consistent with the others
  • Letter heights – ascenders and descenders shouldn’t extend much higher or lower than others
  • Spaces – spaces between letters, words, and lines should be about the same

If you’re not happy with how your lettering looks, it’s likely that one or more of these things are inconsistent and you haven’t realized it.

Using guidelines is a great way to keep your lettering consistent.

You’ll also develop an eye for consistent letterforms over time.

2. Learn where to add weight

Many lettering styles have both thick and thin lines.

You can learn where to add thickness to letters by studying and tracing fonts or other alphabets.

As you practice lettering, you’ll probably start to memorize where to add weight to letters.

For script styles, it’s typically added on the strokes that move in a downward direction (downstrokes).

There are so many lettering styles. Different ones have thickness added in different places, and some don’t have varied thickness.

But for the ones that do, it’s helpful to learn the usual places to add weight.

Eventually you’ll know where the weight should go without thinking about it!

3. Keep transitions smooth

On that same note, smooth transitions from thin to thick lines (and vice versa) are a good thing to practice.

This is especially important for script styles, because you want them to look smooth and sort of fluid.

When adding thickness to certain parts of letters, work on smoothing that transition between line weights.

It’ll take some extra sketching and refining.

Here’s an example:

example of hand lettering with abrupt width transitions vs smooth transitions

4. Try new techniques and styles

Expand your lettering skills by trying new styles and techniques!

Once you’re comfortable with the basics, try branching out to new alphabets and lettering styles.

Or work on learning things like flourishing, adding illustrations, doing more complex compositions, drawing ribbons, shadows, or even 3D effects.

There are so many possibilities, but you don’t have to do all of them.

Look for inspiration and ideas like I mentioned above and pick something new you’d like to try!

5. Practice letter spacing

As you practice hand lettering, pay attention to the space between letters.

Spacing between letters is particularly noticeable when the letters aren’t connected (e.g. basic block letters).

Even just a bit of uneven spacing can make a whole word look a little off!

Some letter combinations, even though they’re technically evenly spaced, look uneven because of the letter shapes.

Kerning is a typography term for adjusting the spacing between two letters to correct that uneven appearance.

Here are some examples:

example of even letter spacing vs visually even letter spacing using kerning

The spacing in the second example is visually even, and that’s what you’ll want to aim for as you draw your own letters.

To practice this, here’s a fun kerning game to play.

The more you study letters and practice, the more you’ll have an eye for things like letter spacing and kerning!

6. Practice smooth curves

Practice drawing smooth curves in letters and flourishes.

Making rounded letters and especially flourishes smooth makes a bigger difference than you might think!

A good way to practice this is to use a pencil to draw lots of ovals, swirls, loops, and flourishes.

Get used to the hand movements and practice smooth lines and curves.

7. Experiment

One of the best ways to improve hand lettering is to just experiment.

Experiment with the way you draw letters, arrange letters, what you add to them, or what you use to draw them.

There are no real rules for hand lettering. Try something different and see what happens!

It could be as simple as lettering on an angled baseline instead of a straight one, or drawing letters bigger than you usually would.

Try using a paintbrush instead of a pen, or drawing letters made out of ribbon, or lettering on a different surface.

Push past what you normally do and see where it takes you!

Here’s a fun exercise: pick a letter (or word) and fill a page with all the variations of it that you can come up with.

How long does it take to get good at lettering?

With lots of practice, you could get “good” at lettering in just a matter of weeks or months.

Of course, that depends on what “being good at lettering” actually means!

I’d consider having a good understanding of the basics and being able to do really nice-looking lettering as being “good” at it, even if it’s very simple.

No matter where a lettering artist is at, there is always room for improvement.

I’ve been doing hand lettering for a while, but there’s still a lot I could learn and improve.

As mentioned earlier, compare your current work to your old work, not to someone else’s.

Have any questions? Drop them in the comments!

And save these tips for later with one of the images below ⬇️

16 ways to improve your hand lettering
how to improve your hand lettering

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