If you’ve never stumbled upon the calligraphy community on Instagram before, beware! You might soon find yourself caught in a captivating world of lettering videos that, if you're anything like me, will slowly consume any free time left in your day. So when both of my sisters got engaged within a couple months of each other, I knew it was the perfect excuse to finally take the plunge and, instead of watching calligraphy videos on Instagram, try my own hand at it.
Armed with all the supplies to set me up for success (see below for details!), I began my lettering journey with slow, careful lines and loops that, after dedicated practice, began to resemble the lettering videos I fell in love with on Instagram. I was giddy with excitement. Now, I can’t help but scrawl letters and words mindlessly as I talk on the phone or watch TV. And in only a couple months time, I’ll be hand lettering the envelopes, table numbers and signage for my sister’s wedding in October. It’s been eight months since I first picked up a brush pen, and as I’ve practiced and found support through other calligraphy newbies via Insta, I’m sharing the six most helpful tips for learning calligraphy before your wedding day.
I can't stress this enough. Learning calligraphy or brush lettering of any kind takes practice, and a lot of it. Before I began, I was confident that my neat, often-complimented handwriting would make lettering an easy task for me, but I quickly discovered that everyday handwriting has no influence on lettering — bad handwriters, rejoice! Learning lettering is more about developing muscle memory and a steady hand than perfecting the way you write. And the only way to do so is slowly. It can be aggravating at first if you're impatient like me, but that's why I highly suggest giving yourself an adequate amount of time to learn. At first you'll start out tracing lines and loops, and then you'll connect those to form letters until you're able to graduate to forming actual words. So believe me when I say, start early!
Determine Your Style
Before you buy any supplies or pick up a pen and paper, browse through Instagram, Pinterest or calligraphers' websites to see what kind of style you prefer. Calligraphy and brush lettering, while the basics are similar, are very different in nature. They require different materials and tactics, so you’ll want to be sure you’re studying the type of lettering you hope to use for your wedding. Formal calligraphy is created with a calligraphy nib that’s dipped into ink and is often used for elegant events, while brush lettering is more modern and is done with hard or soft tip markers. For me, I decided modern calligraphy was the route I wanted to take.
Get the Right Supplies
Now for the fun part — it’s time to shop! While you can certainly learn to letter with tools you likely already have in your home, such as Crayola markers or Sharpies, I found I didn’t really get the hang of it all until I bought the proper supplies. First up, paper! I started my lettering journey under guidance from Becca Courtice — @thehappyevercrafter on Instagram. She leads month-long workshops for beginners along with an incredibly helpful brush lettering workbook. There are many calligraphers I've found on Instagram — such as Kelly Creates, P+H Chalk, Veronica Letters and Jeannie Dickson — who offer workbooks or workshops if you can find a location near you! While it's tempting to think you can master the art of calligraphy all on your own, following a workbook or taking a workshop will arm you with all the tools you need to succeed — because let me tell you, it's not nearly as easy as it looks on Instagram!
I purchased the digital copy of The Happy Ever Crafter's miniscule workbook along with a booklet of tracing paper so that I could continue to revisit each drill with a fresh sheet of paper. Tracing paper is also important because it’s going to provide a smooth surface that will help prolong the life of your pens. Speaking of, Becca recommended the Tombow Fudenosuke brush pens, and they’re still my go-to for everyday lettering. For larger pens, if you're interested in practicing for things like wedding signs, Tombow also has some fun colorful dual brush pens that I also highly recommend.
Master the Basics
Once you have your supplies in order, you're ready to begin! As you're preparing to trace that very first line, my number one piece of advice for you is to slow down. And then once you actually put the pen to the paper, slow down even more. It's tempting to fly through the basics, especially when you start with something as simple as straight lines, but remember the goal is to create muscle memory. So the slower you go, the better. It will come in handy when you make your way to the dreaded ovals.
As you'll soon find, lettering is made up of a handful of basic strokes that, once you've mastered them, you can write almost anything! So go back to the basics as much as possible, even when you feel you've got them down because there's always room for improvement!
Like many things in life, learning calligraphy takes a lot of practice. When I started, I committed to lettering every day, even if it was only for 15 minutes. And one of the first things I began to notice was not only how much I enjoyed those 15 minutes of focused, phone-free time, but I also realized it was becoming an outlet of stress relief for me. So if you're in the throes of wedding planning and looking for ways to disengage and relax, learning calligraphy could be just what you're missing.
From my very first go at it, I held on to every single piece of paper throughout my lettering journey. I dated each one, so after my first month, I went back and saw the incredible strides I'd made since day one. It's like my own personal calligraphy transformation photo, and it reminds me how important it is to practice consistency when it comes to lettering.
When you finally feel confident enough to take a crack at addressing your wedding invitations, or DIY-ing them entirely, make sure you think ahead. You'll want to, most importantly, give yourself enough time to address the envelopes before they need to go in the mail. So when wedding planning timelines suggest ordering invitations four months in advance, doing so even earlier wouldn't hurt. You'll also want to order extras! You're bound to make mistakes no matter how seasoned you are in your craft, so I kept that in mind when I ordered my sister's invites and ordered a separate stack of envelopes just in case. Also, if you plan to letter any signage for your big day, you'll want some extra slabs of wood or acrylic on hand, too. But you should also remember that there's beauty in imperfection, and while going the DIY route for your wedding is no easy undertaking, it is certainly something to be proud of!
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