A Lost Art: Pretty Lettering

I miss my handwriting!

How to improve your handwriting in a few easy steps.  Mine went from bad to wow - so easy to do with a normal marker, pen, or pencil.

I used to love my handwriting and enjoyed writing a personal note and addressing it with flair without any effort involved. It was a natural extension of my personal style – the flow from my brain to pen to paper.  I enjoyed doing it and seeing the pretty script of others arrive in the mail or a note set on my desk at work and being able to recognize immediately who wrote it just by their handwriting.


What happened?  Computers, email, and smart phones are making our handwriting obsolete – a lost art. Even our signatures can be digitally created nowadays.  I don’t want this to happen, but there seems to be less and less need to reach for a pretty pen and paper when a few strokes on a keyboard does it all for us.  In my daily life, the only thing that seems to get written down anymore – pen to paper is my grocery list tacked to my refrigerator or a quick note left on the counter to remind my hubby or kids to do something.

I can’t bear to see handwriting become obsolete. I want to start or be part of the “Save our handwriting revolution!”


Handwriting is as much a part of our personal style as how we decorate our home or what we choose to wear. It can tell so much about us.  The way we form our letters and put them together so they flow into words is truly an extension of our personal style that I miss seeing in myself and others.  It is one thing that we can claim as truly our own

A reader left me a comment recently wanting to know if I knew of a site where she could get a font of her handwriting.  I love fonts and they have become wildly popular as a way to express our style digitally. I think we or at least us visual types also need our very own font of our real handwriting as a way to express ourselves online and a chance to say –” look” – “this is me” -“who I am” – “my style”.


I have been intentionally trying to find more ways to put pen to paper over the past few weeks.  I do write in my daily planner and that gives me some personal satisfaction.

Paperfinger Calligraphy Workshop

Image: PaperTasteBuds

I follow a few stationery blogs  – they always have such inspiring images.  Recently on PaperTasteBuds they posted about one of their Paperfinger lettering workshops.  Doesn’t it look like fun event?  Girlfriends being creative, wine, and pretty handwriting. Seeing this tells me I am not alone in my love for handwritten script.


My love of handwriting goes back to when I was just a kid. I remember Santa bringing me a book about handwriting analysis when I was in junior high.  I found it fascinating that every single time you put pen to paper, you are revealing a little bit about yourself.

You may be saying to yourself that your handwriting is awful and that there is no help for you.   I like to think about it this way. Our handwriting is a bit like our body type. We can’t choose it, but we can exercise to get in shape – same with your handwriting – a little practice and learning some new techniques will get your handwriting in shape in no time.

How to Improve Your Handwriting:


As a creative blogger, I receive books to review from time to time. I only review the ones I like and this one, Creative Lettering – Techniques & Tips  From Top Artists arrived on my doorstop last week. I never know what book is going to be in the package and was quite excited when I opened this, since improving my handwriting has been on my mind lately. It was one of those meant-to-be moments.

I have been practicing what I learned in the book.


The best way to start trying to make your handwriting prettier is to simply start writing with a pen or pencil more.  Gather some pens to find out which one feels right in your hand and that flows across the paper nicely for you.


If you don’t have a favorite – try a fountain pen or calligraphy marker. I like the markers made by Sanford and one that is called – Elegant Writer.  I buy them at the craft store.  Most writing looks much better right away with one of these pen’s intense ink and slight variation in width because of the flat nib.

My favorite pens are called Penstix’s. They are made with India Ink. I don’t have a photo of them, but you can find one in this post: Hand Lettering an Envelope for a Wedding or Graduation

If you know how to write the alphabet, all you need is a little practice on lined paper to gain lettering as a useful and beautiful new skill set and one that will improve your handwriting at the same time.  It doesn’t require changing your basic handwriting – just taking it up a notch with better spacing, a curl or a flourish.


In college, I took a hand lettering class. Before we were allowed to use ink and fancy metal nib pens, we had to use a carpenter’s pencil – they have a wide flat lead – like the nib on a calligraphy pen.   It allowed us to see how each letter we made in italic calligraphy had thin and thick strokes as we formed them.  Most of the class was spent just using the pencil and holding it on an angle and drawing slanted lines across the lined paper over and over again.  Having to make page after page of angled lines until we got the feeling for holding the pencil the right way felt a little like having to write – “I will not chew gum in class…” on the grade school blackboard a hundred times as punishment for doing something wrong in class.  I may not have liked it but also recognized how important it was to acquire this basic skill.


Only when we had the basic strokes of each letter down were we allowed to graduate to a real pen and ink.  Our final at the end of the semester was being able to do the complete alphabet and numbers from 0-9 in the traditional italic calligraphy style as well as a modern lettering alphabet that we created ourselves.

It is practice that makes perfect when forming letters over and over again on paper. It really will help make your handwriting pretty.


Creative Lettering highlights a collection of artists – including calligraphers, painters, collagists, card makers, and graphic designers – offering up their own unique perspective on hand lettering.


Each of the 16 lettering artists has provided an explanation of their favorite tools and how they use them, an overview of their signature lettering style and technique with step-by-step instruction complete with photos, and an alphabet sampler of their own font that you can study and practice.


They give great advice.


There are even a few DIY projects in the pages – like this hand lettered ornament.

inspiration-ideas for-hand lettering

They also provide pages of ideas on ways to find inspiration to enhance your own unique script.


I started practicing to find my style of pretty lettering using this tutorial from Lisa Engelbrecht.


I gathered up my pens and tried out a few of the techniques.

Pretty handwriting samples

I used a fine tipped Sharpie and wrote my name a few times.

Pretty-handwriting tutorial

and then made a double line on the left side of each down stroke – cool!  Not too hard.

Pretty-handwriting how to

I went further by filling in the double lines with more ink to create a bolder look.

I started out by printing my name and making flourishes on printed letters as I got the hang of accenting down strokes or adding a curly cue here and there. It is when you start connecting those letters into your script that your efforts will pay off.  I promise if you practice a little you will reach an Aha! moment.

I may never be a pro, but I can enhance my own handwriting and print to enhance a note, gift tag, a letter to a friend, or even my grocery list.


One of the tips that got me the most excited is to use a paper stump.  When you pencil-in letters. It gives a shadow effect that adds dimension to each letter.  When trying it out, I got to thinking that this technique could work when doing chalkboard lettering – a way to add some dimension to the overall effect of the chalkboard design. I tried it and found that it worked very well with chalk!  You can buy paper stumps in the artist’s supply aisle at the crafts store.

Pam-Garrison-Lettering-Flower-Power Lettering

There are so many tips in the book from which I know you will glean insight – even how to make dingbats and doodads to enhance the look of your letters and handwriting.

How to draw handmade letters

I truly enjoyed this book, cover to cover, since it is written in a very open and personal meet-the-artist kind of way.  All of the artists have websites so you can learn even more about their techniques by visiting them.

One of the fun features to read about each artist was discovering which letter they most enjoyed drawing.  I am a doodler and know I have my own favorite – it is the letter “K”.   What is your favorite letter to write in script?

Creative Lettering by Jenny Doh

Creative Lettering will guide and inspire, it will encourage you to creatively experiment with lettering and develop a style of your own. From grocery lists to chalkboards – pretty penmanship can be yours.


  1. says

    What absolutely fabulous post. I agree that the decline of hand written & cursive writing is wrong. Having the computer is wonderful but does not compare with the beauty of a note from a friend or loved one. My favorite letter is a D. Not surprising as it is my first initial. I wonder how many chose for that reason?

  2. says

    Wow. I so agree! My favorite letter to write is the friendly letter. I love being able to send a piece of me personally to a friend far away. It means more to open a hand written letter than to open a cold email with no personal flare. So my fav is the friendly letter format! My hand writing can surly use a tune up. I would love help! I hope to win your book!

  3. says

    What fun! I actually am a calligraphy (albeit, a rusty one!), so I love seeing anything that is promoting handwriting! Sure would love to be one of the winners! I hope I’m not too late!

  4. Janet says

    I also take pride in how my handwriting looks on the page. I still write note cards by hand and a few letters, but not as much as in the past. I think I like the capital letter G. It has loops and changing which one I make largest changes the whole look. It’s also the beginning letter of my favorite brother’s name. Sadly, I agree that handwriting is becoming a lost art. Kids today just don’t see the romance and beauty of good cursive handwriting. The book looks amazing!

  5. says

    Thanks for this great post (I see I’m a little late to it, it’s from February this year). I do a type of Japanese folk art called etegami that integrates images and words, and I’ve made it a goal for the latter part of the year to improve the English lettering I do on my etegami. (I sometimes use Japanese, and feel okay about my characters at this point.) I feel my English lettering, however, is too slapdash — it looks too much like what I scrawl on scraps of paper! I’ll follow some of these tips on working on my own lettering. Thanks!

  6. yvonne pesantes says

    When I was about 7 or8 ,my uncle force me to practice penmanship using a calligraphy pen . I hated it, but handwriting did improve and as the went by ,my handwriting become beautiful! I get compliments all the time. Thank-you!!

  7. Raciel says

    Thank you for this post. It is indeed sad that not many people write longhand these days. I have great respect for people who still do, and especially for those who try to write beautifully. Whenever I see beautiful handwriting, I feel like all the world is civilized, all the world is nice. Tres fou, I know.

  8. Nana says

    I love to write and do all of our Christmas cards by hand. I have been told that I have pretty handwriting still at my age. And I am left handed also.
    I do take pride in my penmanship.
    I would so enjoy the handwriting book as learning new information is very important to me.

  9. says

    Thanks for sharing. As I was writing in my journal before bed I came across your post on handwriting. I feel you on the lost art of pretty penmanship – thanks to technology. When I was younger I used to do calligraphy with my grandmother. I want to get back into it. I will check out your suggestions.

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  11. Jeremy says

    There is a great website where you can create your own font. It is http://www.yourfonts.com. I did it a couple of years ago and it makes addressing party invitation envelopes and Christmas card envelopes a breeze! When I did it, the cost was $9.95. You write the letters on a template, scan the page, and then it generates a font file that you save to your computer. It works in the Microsoft office suite. You can even set it as your email font, but the person reading the email won’t see that font as it is only installed on your computer. Warning: Make sure there is no dust or anything on your scanner as it will pick it up, and make sure you use the preview option to review it before purchasing. Hope that helps! Jeremy

    • says

      Hi Jeremy – I have been wanting to do this for a long time. Thanks for the site name and the tip about a dusty scanner. :-) I am going to try it out.


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