Sometimes, brush lettering projects can look so beautiful that it’s hard for a novice to imagine being able to create the same fluid gestures. But in the same way you can learn how to make a delicious ganache frosting from scratch or master the steps to a new dance, anyone can learn and perfect brush lettering with a little practice (and some helpful guidance when you need it). Below we’ve provided you with brush lettering projects for Mother’s Day, which are a great way to continue developing your skill set while putting a smile on Mom’s face. First, though, let’s do a quick review on what brush lettering is and how you can perfect the craft.
What is Brush Lettering?
Put simply, brush lettering is the art of writing words with a brush pen, or a watercolor pen if that’s your preferred medium, explains Bianca Giarola, an Italian artist who specializes in written art forms such as brush lettering.
“It’s the tool itself that differentiates it from regular calligraphy, where a dip pen and ink are used, along with specific calligraphy nibs. Brush calligraphy is used predominantly for modern calligraphy, rather than more classical calligraphy styles like Copperplate or Spencerian,” she says.
Unlike traditional calligraphy pens, brush pens are already equipped with ink, and their flexible tips requires a gentle press-lift gliding motion — usually with heavier downstrokes and lighter upstrokes.
Miranda Steijger, a Netherlands-based artist who also specializes in written arts, says that brush lettering also a bit different from hand lettering, where you draw each letter with a pen, pencil, or fine liner in either serif or sans serif form. You could technically great the same gliding motion with one of these tools, but it wouldn’t have the same calligraphy effect without the push and pull dance across the page.
Quick Tips on Perfecting Your Brush Lettering
If you’re relatively new to brush lettering, you can practice a few tried-and-true techniques to create a prettier finished result.
Hold the Pen Correctly
“When using the brush pen to write, don’t hold it like how you would with a normal pen,” says Ada Ee, a lettering artist based in Singapore. “Adjust the angle of your hand so you use the side of the brush to write. You want to use the side of the brush tip to create the thick downstrokes.”
Use the Right Tools
Ee recommends the Pentel Touch Fude Pens, Tombow Fudenosuke (hard tip), and Zebra Funwari Fude Pens for beginners, which can be used on any paper to practice. For felt tip brush pens, try Tombow Dual Brush or Artline Stix, though if you decide to use the latter, make sure you also use brush lettering paper with regular paper since the delicate brushes can fray easily.
Be patient (and practice!)
Ask any lettering artist, taking enough time to practice basic strokes of brush lettering is key to your development. “I know we’re all eager to get the words going on paper, but not practicing the basic strokes will only result in a lot more frustration when it comes to actually writing letters,” says Giarola. “Fill pages and pages with basic strokes before you jump into the letters.”
Think of It Like Meditation
Steijger says, “Brushing is like meditating, taking time for every strike.” You’ll need to go slowly, thoughtfully, and methodically even once you’re a full-blown pro, too.
4 Brush Lettering Projects for Mother’s Day
Ready to get to work? Mother’s Day is the perfect time to put your new brush lettering skills to use. Perfect or imperfect, there’s no way Mom won’t love receiving one of these fun projects.
“World’s Best Mom” Coffee Mug
For this project, you’ll need a mug that’s made from glazed ceramic, porcelain, or heat-resistant glass, as well as oven-bake brush pens (these are a good option). After you’ve sketched your design to perfection (using regular brush pens), replicate it on the actual mug and then bake as instructed. Along with the mug, you can include a box of Mom’s favorite tea or a bag of her go-to coffee. A gift card to her preferred coffee shop is a no-fuss alternative or addition.
Her Favorite Quote or Poem Framed
Using your brush lettering skills, write her favorite poem or an inspirational quote on high-quality calligraphy paper and then put it in a beautiful frame.
“Composition is key to this project, and the key to good composition is sketching first,” says Giarola. “Take out your sketchbook and a pencil and try out different ideas, decide the hierarchy of the words — AKA which words are more important — and see how the words interact with each other. If you’re short on inspiration, Pinterest and Instagram are great.”
Once you've found a style you like — be it minimalist, 3D, ornate, or colorful — and the sketch looks exactly like the picture in your mind, replicate it on your good paper. Giarola says you can even lightly sketch the design out with a pencil before going in with your brush pen. “A lot of pros still do it to get the perfect shapes and spacing,” she notes.
Personalized Agate Keychain
“Agate keychains are beautiful and surprisingly very easy to do. You can buy the agate slices either in your local gems store or directly online, along with the little rings to attach the keys to,” says Giarola. “The only thing you need to do is hand write her name on the slice using an oil-based marker, which is more durable.”
Since there aren’t any oil-based brush pens, Giarola says to create a similar brush lettering effect with a technique called faux-calligraphy. “Traditional calligraphy uses the contrast between thick and thin strokes, but in faux calligraphy this is created just by running the pen again over the downstrokes so they look thicker than the upstrokes,” she says. Instead of an agate keychain, you could also make agate coasters.
Watercolor Mother’s Day Card
Go wild by infusing a little watercolor aesthetic into your brush lettering Mother’s Day gift. For this project, suggested by Ee, you’ll need an A4 stockcard folded in half, Tombow Dual Brush Pens (dark blue, light blue, and purple), a monoline pen, and a watercolor brush.
Start by using the lighter shade of blue to write the words “Super Mom,” or your preferred phrase, in the center of the paper.
“Next, color in some shades of dark blue and purple in the thicker strokes of the piece, then go over the words with the watercolor brush to create the watercolor effect,” she says. “When the water has dried up, use the monoline pen and draw lines around the words to create shadows. If you are unsure [about where to place them], just draw lines on the downstrokes.”
Come Mother’s Day, we’re sure that whatever brush lettering gift you gift to your mom will be received happily. You’ll also be giving yourself the gift of honing a new skill, which will undoubtedly come in handy in the future — and for other gifts — as well.
Want to learn more about how to master brush lettering, hand lettering, and calligraphy? Check out Skillshare’s classes to learn how to create your own distinctive, creative lettering projects.