Beginner Brush Lettering: Learning Curves

Friends, it’s time for the second installment of our Brush Technique Series…
Beginner Brush Lettering

Brush lettering is a style of hand lettering that’s become incredibly popular lately and although you can totally fake the look, it’s actually accomplished by combining thick down strokes and thin up strokes you create based on the angle and pressure of your pen. In the first post of the series, Basic Brushstrokes, we learned how to hold the pen and how to apply or release pressure to create thick and thin lines. We also looked at how to combine those lines to create some simple print letters.

Although what we all want is to create the beautiful script and embellishments right away, the reality is that it takes practice…lots and lots of practice…and basic steps to master the technique. Then, once you’ve gotten the hang of it, you’ll be able to write anything. We talked about going through the motions over and over to get them into your muscle memory. In your sketchbook, you should have lots of things that look like this:


If not, you’ll want to go back and start there to get the feel for how to use your pen for the up and down strokes first. Then, come on back and pick up right here with the next step.

Now that we’ve practiced our straight lines, it’s time to move on to learning curves. {Yes, the pun is intended…there is definitely a learning curve to this whole thing.}

Basic Brush Lettering: Learning Curves

For these exercises, you need:
Paper {any scrap paper will do, but you may find lines or guide dots helpful}
A Brush Pen {I recommend the Tombow Fudenosuke Soft Tip for beginners.}

FAQ: No, a regular pen will not work. You need something specifically designed with a brush tip to get the effects we’re working on here. The tip of a brush pen is flexible and meant to bend and react under pressure. You can order Tombow Fudenosukes or Dual Brush Pens on Amazon, or find other brush tip markers at your local art/craft store. Just like you wouldn’t golf with a broomstick, you can’t brush letter without a brush tip!

Ok, ready?

Downward Curves

The first thing we’re going to do is make a downward curve. All we’re doing is connecting your down stroke with an up stroke. It’s similar to what you did when you made a capital “V” or “W,” we’re just not going to pick up our pen! Place your pen at a 45 degree angle to the paper, apply pressure, and start making a downstroke. As you get to the bottom, start to release the pressure and switch to an upward motion to create an upstroke on the other side. This will create a “U.”



Trust me, I know your first few won’t look fabulous. When I started out back in October, mine were all kinds of terrible, honestly. But as you practice, you’ll start getting the hang of where and when to release pressure and you’ll get shapes that look like the ones above. Make an entire page of these in your sketchbook. Maybe even two or three. Honestly. I want you do to this over and over and over again…it may be repetitive, but that’s what it takes to teach the muscles in your hand how this works.

Upward Curves

Now that you’ve tried some downward curves, we’re going to reverse things and do upward ones. Instead of transitioning from a downstroke to an upstroke, we’re going to start by going up and switch halfway to using pressure and going down. This is very similar to making the capital “A.”, we’re just rounding the top a little to make the connection more fluid. Now what? You guessed it…make a whole page or two or ten that look like this!


Connected Curves

Now comes the really fun part. We’re going to put the downward and upward curves together into one big squiggle! Start with a downstroke, make an upward curve, then a downward, another upward, and continue on like so:


Don’t worry about them all being the same height, just play around with keeping your hand and pen moving the whole time. Do this over and over so that you get comfortable with the motion. For future reference, we’re going to call one downward curve plus one upward curve a full squiggle. Got that? 😉 So technical, right?

Forming Letters

Guess what? Those squiggles you made? You were actually forming letters in there, you just didn’t know it! I know we started with print, but right this moment, it makes sense to spend a few minutes forming some script letters, because, watch this…

Make a full squiggle. Start with a downward curve, then make an upward curve that’s a little bit more closed. You just made yourself a “u.” Check it out!


Pretty snazzy, huh? Now make ten million and two of them. Seriously. Well, at least fill a page.

I’ll wait.

Done? Now we’re going to make the same squiggle and a half, but we’re going to make the first upward curve a little tighter and go up on more of a diagonal. Instead of a “u” shape, we get a script “n”!


This time, we’re going to take it up a notch and make TWO full squiggles. Like we did for the “n,” we’re going to keep the downward curves tight, almost pointed. And we get…the letter “m”! Look at you, lettering!


As you make a million practice ones, feel free to play around with the height of the curves. A lot of letterers like to make the first “bump” of the m higher than the second to stylize it and make it look definitively like the letter and not just squiggles. See what you like best!

Last but not least {for now!}, we’re going to create a “w.” This time, we’ll make a squiggle and a half. That means we go down, up, and down, but when we get to the top with our last upstroke, we’re done. Well, after we get a bit fancy, that is! If you want to just pick your pen up, you can, but it’s more fun to add a little loop instead!



Now it’s time to…you guessed it…make a page of “w”s! Remember. Practice makes progress!!!

What do you think? Are you starting to get the hang of it? Next time, we’re going to look at rounded letters like “o,” “a”, “c”, “e”, “g”, and more. Stay tuned and keep on lettering. The more you do it, the better you’ll be. Promise.

Here’s a link to the next lesson when you’re ready: Rounded Letters

Plus, check out these printable practice pages for the lowercase brush alphabet!

Questions? Thoughts? Something to share? Join us in the One Artsy Mama & Friends Facebook group. We love to chat there. Also, be sure to check out my other hand lettering posts for embellishments, projects, and more tutorials.


Similar Posts


  1. Thanks for creating these guides, I’m really enjoying learning brush lettering! When is the rounded letters blog going to be posted?

  2. I’m loving your tutorials. My only problem is, I’m left handed! So pushing the pen in upward and downward strokes is ruining my bristles. I wish someone who was a left handed calligrapher could post a step by step with tips just like this one.

  3. Thank you for all your explanations and your practice pages ! I’m discovering Brush lettering, it’s really beautiful and I’m motivated to try 😉

  4. Thank you Amy for the tutorials, within 2 hours of practice, I learned brushstrokes for straight n curved letters!

  5. Amy, you are the best! Thank you ever so much for your very detailed tutorials, constantly reminding us to practise and practice, which is indeed the only way to gain confidence. Thank you for your texts, drawings and words, I am completely in love with lettering and I am your avid follower. Keep on with your great work and God bless you!

  6. Thank you, It’s amazing explanation that include your feelings and mentority who wants to start handwriting,calligraphy etc. I am just looking forward for two days about lettering and I explored your blog, It’s a big chanxe for me, Lots of love.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.