Use Brush Pens for Brush Calligraphy
The technique I will show here uses brush pens – those are felt tip pens that have soft bristles instead of a rigid pointed tip that behave like a brush would.
A brush pen has the advantage of being relatively hassle- and maintenance-free – so you can concentrate on your writing technique instead of having to think of dipping, while you experience splattering and brush accidents. So this is just the more convenient route – you’re of course welcome to use actual brushes if you’re more comfortable with that or curious.
There is a wide selection of brush pens available, I’ll show you the most popular models.
Selecting a pen
This is one of the most popular brush pens out there – and I agree. It writes smooth, easy lines and is very easy to handle. Plus, it has two different sides, one with a big brush nib and one with a smaller pointy (rigid) nib that you can use to add smaller writing. The Tombow pens are available in many different colors, and there are even blending techniques so you can achieve a beautiful ombre effect. My pen of choice for a lot of projects, although you have to write fairly large.
Faber Castell PITT artist pen
These brush pens are slightly smaller, but they still write beautiful brush lettering. I love the different colors of these pens. They wear out after a while but since they are not too expensive I don’t mind (and use the fuzzy brushes for adding texture to letterings)
Pentel Color Brush
I have to admit, my first impression of the Pentel Color Brush Pen wasn’t the best – the ink flow was not very consistent and I was getting a bit frustrated because of the broken strokes it produced. It turns out I was using it wrong and you can (and should) activate the ink flow by pressing on the side of the ink container until you get a solid black line – this is kind of like dipping your pen in ink from time to time. After that, using this bristle-based brush pen is simply wonderful. It’s become my favorite brush pen over the years. It’s flexible, has a great thick stroke and it’s very versatile. When the pens are empty, you can refill them, or use them for making textures, or simply dip them in and continue writing.
This small brush pen is very flexible and soft, so you need a steady hand to write harmonious lines with it. If you want to write in a very small size, it’s ideal.
Other Brush Pens
There are a lot of other brush pens out there which I haven’t tested out, or which I simply haven’t mastered at all (like the Copic Sketch pen which comes with a huge, soft brush), so you might want to investigate and try out for your own with which tools you like to write your brush lettering. It’s always best to see for yourself what you like best!
Unlike calligraphy with a pointed pen, with brush lettering you can get away with using very inexpensive, not-at-all-special paper here. Normal printer paper will do fine. If you feel like you want to treat yourself, use layout paper. Of course, for special pieces some Bristol board will be nice. Read more about different papers here.
Basic Strokes & Warming Up
To get acquainted with the brush pen and the basic writing techniques it’s best to do a few warming up practice strokes. You can essentially use the worksheet I have prepared for practicing basic strokes with a brush pen, you can find the worksheet here, there are different shapes and forms I’ve included.
The most important factor is to remember that you need to draw thick downstrokes and thin upstrokes. Try not to grip the pen to tightly and hold it at a fairly steep angle to ensure you can draw those thin upstrokes.
Practice this until you feel comfortable, then move on to letters and words.
Writing Letters and Phrases
Try combining the basic strokes to single letters or similar letter combinations like „minimal“ or „rimini“. You can also write our your name or words you like and repeat the strokes until you have achieved a harmonious flow. Then you can proceed to write out entire phrases. Don’t pay to much attention to create a perfect layout in this stage – it’s more important to write good letterforms in the beginning.
As with every handwriting technique (and every other craft), regular practice is very important if you want to make progress. You’ll have to build that muscle memory necessary to perform writing movements in a more unconscious, flowing manner.
That said, deliberate practice is even better. You’ll make really nice pieces in no time if you take your time to practice regularly.