Common Beginner's Mistakes to Avoid

Enthusiasm is great to get you started, just don't make these common mistakes as a beginner practicing hand lettering. 

Tired of people realizing you are a rookie in your hand lettering? Perhaps you need to stop making these common mistakes! 

Know Your Terminologies
If you've decided to give this a go and are serious about it, the terminologies in lettering are important to help differentiate what you are doing. You need to know what calligraphy is versus hand lettering. Calligraphy is lettering is decorative handwriting or handwritten-lettering, often used with a nib and ink. In calligraphy you learn to master the motions and strokes with a specified pen/nib. Hand lettering is the drawing of letters. Other terms you need to know: Type is the printed characters or letters, where as a typeface is a particular design of type. 

W and M's are different. 
W's are wide, M's are a bit more narrow in comparison to a W. You should never flip a W upside down to make an M. You can immediately see that something looks off. This brings me to the anatomy of type. 

There are so many components that make up the anatomy of a type. And while you may not remember all of them, it's important to study them and become familiar with it. At the very least know the guidelines and use them: the x height, cap height and baselines help you in making beautiful compositions. Knowing the anatomy of type will help you with the structure and form of your letters. 

The overshoot in lettering helps to optically achieve an effect of being the same size; it compensates for inaccuracies in human visual perception. Your letter "O" doesn't sit on the base line. It is slightly below the baseline. (Hey look, there goes a terminology!) Other letters that fall in this category are A, N, Q, V, W, O, C. 

Skipping History hinders you from knowing why letters are formed the way they are. When lettering you are communicating a message. You'll need to know what type of message you are trying to get across and how you want your recipient to respond. This will help you in choosing a style and pushing an emotional response with your pieces. Next week we'll talk a bit more about the history of type, in the meantime you have to remember you are communicating in your work.  

Your lettering needs to be legible. It is afterall text, formed together to give a message. After this has been accomplished you should strive to give it beauty. "Art in lettering is only to be attained by solving the problem of legibility in the way most pleasing to the eye. Good lettering should appeal both to the eye and to the mind. Only when it combines legibility with beauty can it be excellent."

Not using Guidelines will have your letters all over the place, in all sorts of heights and wacky spacing. Learn to put guidelines in place to help you in aligning your letters properly. 

Not Making Time to Practice! 
There are no shortcuts to being great at something - Lettering is no different. Many of these mistakes can be avoided by scheduling time to practice. I've shared with you in previous posts how I schedule my deliberate practice sessions. 

It's time you grab your pencil along with some paper and get started. 

What common mistake did you make in this list?

PRO TIP: Curious to see which letters have an overshoot? Print out the uppercase letters on a blank sheet of paper, grab a straight edge and align it to the very base of the letters in a line. Notice which letters sit on the baseline and which ones do not.

Keshna Donia