Hand lettering — it’s that creative trend you’ve seen all over your Tumblr dashboard, Instagram feed, Pinterest board, or even MySpace if you’re from 2005. Both experienced artists and regular people have been putting up reminders to “Follow Your Dreams” and “Live Every Day As If It Were Your Last” in every possible medium: pen, watercolor, marker, chalk. But hand lettering is more than just inspirational quotes written in a pretty way — it’s an art all on its own. And just like any art, there are Do’s and Don’ts, there are specific skills to be learned, and there are many important tips from experts, most notably in the form of a book.
Last July 20, the “first book on hand lettering written by a Filipina” was launched at National Bookstore by someone whose name you might have already seen on your Instagram feed — Abbey Sy, letterer extraordinaire and a Young STAR Fresh Grad alum in 2014. The book is cleverly titled The ABCs of Hand Lettering. ABC also happens to stand for her personal motto “Always Be Creating” and coincidentally sounds like her name. (Abbey Sy… ABC… Pretty damn convenient.)
Abbey also held a workshop that tackled hand-lettering basics: the difference between serif and sans serif, what tools to use, etc. But what people were really excited to learn about was her personal process, which was a lot more technical than you’d expect. Alongside her hand-lettering crash course, she did a live hand-lettering demo and later on raffled off the piece. It was a lot of information to take in in such a short period of time, so we’ve taken the liberty of condensing what we’ve learned into three simple points.
A is for Always erasing.
And we mean always. There will always be a better way to execute a font, or rather, better fonts to use altogether. Just like Abbey showed us in her demo, constant experimentation is key. You really never know where your hands will take you! When you have multiple drafts, studies and layouts, one of them is bound to be good.
B is for “Best in Penmanship” my butt.
Forget that “Best in Penmanship” award you won in grade school, this is tough stuff. It may look easy, but you’d be surprised by how much work goes into hand lettering. Like it says in her book, this isn’t just writing — it’s drawing letterforms in order to convey a message in the best way possible. So, there are many things to consider. Font, color, spacing, size — all the elements of your work should be well-curated.
C is for Choose your weapon.
Just as Katniss Everdeen’s choice is a bow and arrow, yours could either be a fine liner, a calligraphy pen, a brush pen, a paintbrush, or a water brush. Each tool can be used for a different effect, some more angular and some more fluid. Some tools are also easier to use than others. In the “Featured Artists” chapter of the book, each artist reveals their very own weapons of choice.
* * *
The ABCs of Hand Lettering is available in bookstores for P295.