I won’t sugarcoat this – finding your own lettering style isn’t easy. But it isn’t necessarily hard either. It takes work, and practice, and a lot of patience, but as someone who’s come out the other end, trust me when I say that the end result is beyond worth it.
That being said, there’s a much better method than my personal journey (aka just wing it for awhile until I figured it out). In fact, I highly recommend not going that way. It works, sure, but learning from someone who’s already gone the trial + error route is a much more effective use of your time (can I get an “Ain’t nobody got time for that!”).
And so, I’ve put together some basic do’s and don’ts to helping you find your own unique lettering style (with only a smidge trial + error):
DO: TAKE YOUR TIME + PLAY AROUND
DON’T: GET FRUSTRATED IF YOUR STYLE DOESN’T COME OUT RIGHT AWAY
Just like learning hand lettering or calligraphy takes time, so does finding your own style. A lot of this will be playing around and experimenting to figure out what you love, so don’t get frustrated if it’s not an instant process. It might take an afternoon, but it might take a month. Think of your style like a fine wine: it takes time to get 110%.
DO: CATALOGUE STYLES YOU LOVE
DON’T: COPY SOMEONE’S STYLE
I always encourage letterers to pay attention to styles they love. See a letterform or word or flourish that you love? Pin it, snap a pic, whatever. Save it away for a rainy day. The key, though, is picking out what you love about these styles, not just taking these styles outright.
Do you find yourself drawn to monoline script over and over again? Start playing around with monoline script in your own lettering. Or maybe you like designs that are colorful and playful. See how you can incorporate that into your own work. Chances are, you’ll still see reflections of artists you love in your own work, but over time, a distinct style will emerge.
DO: MAKE YOUR “IDEAL” ALPHABET
DON’T: START FROM SCRATCH ALL THE TIME
What about the styles you love stands out the most? Is it all big, bouncy script? Or maybe you really love a good playful sans serif. Whatever it is, take a mental note, and use it to shape your own alphabet.
Decide on things like the type of letter, bounce, spacing, weight, embellishments, and all the other little things that set your letters apart. Then put it all together for a reference alphabet you can refer to time and time again. As time goes on, this style will become second nature to you, but there’s no rule saying you can’t have a cheat sheet in the beginning.
DO: CHANGE IT UP
DON’T: FEEL STUCK WITH THE SAME STYLE FOREVER
Five years ago I was really into messy buns. My hair was almost never not in a messy bun. I was also crazy for flourishes. I flourished All The Things. There was literally no such thing as “too much flourishes.” But much like my messy buns of yore, my tastes changed, and flourishes almost completely went out the window. Your skill set is going to grow. Your tastes are going to change. It only makes sense that your style will change + evolve with them.
DO: JOIN THE SIGNATURE STYLE CHALLENGE
DON’T: SPEND YEARS WINGING IT ON YOUR OWN
I know what a pain it can be trying to find your own style. That’s why I’ve not only put together the Next Level Letters mini-course, but also the totally free weekly Signature Style Challenge. With exercises and prompts delivered to your inbox every week, the Signature Style Challenge is designed specifically to help you hone the different aspects of letters that you love so that your own style can shine through. Because the only thing worth winging is your eyeliner.
Finding your style isn’t some magic potion or secret sauce – it’s simply a series of decisions that you make over and over again. At first, these decisions will be deliberate. You’ll have to think and concentrate about what kind of “b” you want to use, or how much spacing you prefer. But over time, these decisions become second nature, until your lettering style is almost as easy as your own handwriting. It becomes good ole muscle memory, and a lot more fun.