Monday, March 7, 2016

Tips for Lettering with a Brush Pen

I've noticed a lot of beginning typographers have questions about how to create the look of calligraphy with brush pens. I do believe it is a learned skill--it takes practice to master it--but there are some tips that can help you get started.

For this example, I used the Faber-Castell PITT Artist Pen Soft Brush (SB) in black. I wrote the letters on a Strathmore Mixed Media notebook. You can use any type of brush pen. I also highly recommend Tombow Duel Brush Pens (one end is a soft brush tip, the other end is smaller and firmer) as the brush tip is a little firmer than the Faber-Castell pen and can be easier to control.

The key to creating the appearance of calligraphy, with thick and thin lines, is using varied amounts of pressure. Apply little to no pressure on all upward/sideways strokes and heavier pressure on all downward strokes. Another way to think about it is in terms of the brush tip. Use the flat, long edge to create a thick stroke and the pointed tip to create a thin stroke.

In the above example, I used virtually no pressure to begin and end the letter "C." I simply rested the tip of the pen on the paper. As I arced over the top, I applied more pressure on the down-stroke, and ended with no pressure to complete the letter. The key is to switch up the pressure at the right moment to create the desired shape and style of the letter. This is the main difference between calligraphy with a brush pen and lettering with a standard pen in which you would use uniform pressure for all strokes.

I think the hardest aspect to learning brush lettering is mastering this concept of varied pressure. The best thing you can do is practice regularly, working through the alphabet or different words. Take the time to learn how much pressure you need to apply to achieve your desired down-stroke thickness. For some, a little pressure and a thinner line are best, while others (like me), prefer a thicker down-stroke.

The thin strokes are also what you will use to connect letters, as shown in the word "hi" above. As a visual guide, see the image below for which strokes have no pressure applied and which have heavy pressure applied. The double-line arrows represent the heavy down-strokes while the single-line arrows represent the no-pressure upward-moving strokes.

Most letters will begin with an opening light stroke, like the start of the "H" above. In my alphabet at the beginning of this post, the letters J, O, T, U, V, W, and Y are exceptions. Your lettering style will affect your starting strokes. If you start in a downward motion, you will start with a thick stroke. Any sideways or upward movement of the pen will be a light stroke.

In the letter H, the light stroke loops around and comes down in a heavy stroke, intersecting with the opening light stroke. From there, you will come back up with a light stroke and end downward with a heavy stroke. To transition into the letter "I," enter with a light stroke and come down with a heavy stroke, ending in a light upward tail.

As you are lettering, you may find it helpful to pick up the pen at transition points. The best times and points to do this are typically at the end of a thick down-stroke. You can lift the pen and continue with a light up-stroke to complete the letter or connect a new one. You can lift after a light stroke, but make sure it's at an ending point or at a place where you will begin another stroke. If you stop in the middle of a stroke, whether light or dark, it will cause your lines to look disjointed rather than smooth.

In the word above, I picked up the pen at the end of the first down-stroke in "H," and again at the start of the down-stroke in "I." The rest of the strokes were continuous. As you practice lettering words, you will begin to get a feel for when you should lift the pen and when to keep your strokes continuous. As with any form of typography, give yourself plenty of time to practice in order to master the skill.

I share my typography on Instagram and Periscope @MrsEliseMance. Follow along for ideas, inspiration, and tips.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

How I Feel About Turning 30

Have you ever had a moment when you finally understood that life was going to change, whether you were ready for it or not? I first had this moment when I realized the 90s weren't going to last past 1999. Somewhere in my kid brain I thought it would be the 90s forever. Then when I realized my senior year would fall in the 2000s, my mind was blown in a slightly disappointed way. I wanted to be a "class of 90-something" not the class of 2004.

I feel like life is made up of many of these little moments where we have to adjust our perspective. High school won't last forever and neither will college. These huge life milestones sometimes feel insurmountable, but before you know it, they're over. That's how I felt about my twenties until this past year. They were a season I spent a decade in, they were my life, I guess some part of me didn't expect them to end.

Yet here I am, 29 and on the home stretch to 30. Soon this season I've been existing in for so long will just be a memory, like high school and college. And as scary as it is to move on, I feel like I'm finally ready. I guess that's what this past year was for. It led me gently into a transition I couldn't get away from. I thought I'd be fearing my 30s and all that they represent, but it turns out I'm excited.

When I look at my 20s, I see messiness. I see a lot of striving to become something. I see many mistakes. I see disorder and my attempts to control my life (which failed miserably). I see the missteps I've taken, the frivolous things I've pursued. I see the people I should never have run after, and the ones who changed my life. I see some triumphs sprinkled with failure and doubt. I see loss, tears, and temptations. Much of my 20s were troubling times.

And while there were definite highs, successes, and joys, I am happy to leave the tumult of my 20s behind. They were a season of painful growth, like a butterfly emerging from its cocoon. As I look to 30 and see a fresh start in a new life season, I see opportunities to grow from the person I was to the person I hope to be.

I want my 30s to be a season marked by a constant movement toward holiness. I want to step farther away from myself and into a life devoted to godliness and Christ-likeness. I want to see less of me and more of Him. I don't want to see the reckless selfishness of my 20s. I don't want to constantly relive the past in an attempt to "stay young." I want to move forward boldly into whatever God may hold. And I know He holds much that I have yet to discover.

I have a lot of hopes and dreams for my 30s. I'm letting them all go for the dream of pursuing God harder than I ever have before. Rather than looking to my goals and being sidetracked by selfish hopes, I'm looking to what God has for me. I know that will take constant refocusing, because if I didn't learn anything else from my 20s, I learned it's easy to become derailed by your own desires. I don't want my 30s to become marked by the same mistake.

Whatever life phase you find yourself in, I want you to know, it's not too late. You're never too old, too young, too lost, or too far-gone to pursue a life with Christ. All it takes is a small step--choosing Him over everything else--to transform your life. And the best part is, you won't be alone. He will always be with you, and so will those who have also committed their lives to Him. Let's go on this crazy journey together and see where He will take us.
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