My Hand-Lettering Journey : A Piece by Piece Discovery of Technique and Style

A Favorite Lettering Piece & A Step-by-Step Breakdown of an Old-School Design Technique

I’ve written a few posts about my still evolving journey into the world of hand-lettering. As I continue my lettering journey I find that my passion for the creative possibilities it offers grows more and more!

I can’t tell you how how much fun it has been to devote my time and energy to delving deeper into my love of art and creativity. I am constantly learning new things (which is always a goal for me), meeting new people, and learning to follow my passion without hesitation or uncertainty. One outlet has been especially helpful in not only teaching me to express myself creatively, but also showing me how gratifying it is to take the risk and share what I create with others. I credit the Better-Lettering Course from MadeVibrant and the wonderfully positive lettering community for supporting my journey!  

So much beauty and personality can be expressed through creative hand lettering. The art of lettering is especially attractive because you don’t need much in the way of supplies to produce artfully composed alphabets.”  — Jenny Doh in More Creative Lettering

So far, I have participated in 3 1/2  months of the lettering challenges offered by MadeVibrant (August, October, and November). Flexibility is the beauty of these classes. You pay a one time fee for ALL the lessons and gain unlimited access to participate in the challenges whenever, however and as often you want! I was actually selected as one of the winners for the month of October– I never win anything! But what can I say — the streak is broken. The awesome prize pack I won from is posted below.

A box full of goodies that any creative would love to open:) 1. Prismacolor Premier Colored Pencils 2. Sharpie Markers in Bright Colors 3. “Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert 4. A Custom Print by Carolina Kelso 5. “Just Add Color: Geometric Patterns” Artwork by Lisa Congdon

letterring gift 2

If art can’t serve a purpose — should I really spend valuable time making it? Like, just because it’s fun?


I swear, I was a Shaker in a past life or something:)  I know this is something I need to work on. But…… for now, my inner bargain-hunter/pragmatist just COULD NOT pass up all the Black Friday deals from printing companies, like Shutterfly, Moo, and Vista Print, to put together some super cute holiday gifts for my friends and family USING my hand-lettered designs!  What a wonderful way to utilize lettering designs and turn them into the unlimited gift options these companies specialize in!

I’m in the process of trying to find a healthy balance between my practical nature and my creative soul.

In this post, I show you one of my favorite hand-lettered pieces, followed by a short description of what makes this one special, including what I learned, techniques I used, and a style that inspired me. I also share my ideas for how I plan to use the pieces in a functional, practical way this holiday season. While l do love being creative, and making art unlocks a part of my soul that I rarely allow myself to explore, at my core I am a super practical person.

Favorite Lettering Entry #1:   “I’ll plan on being spontaneous tomorrow.” Better Lettering Month: October Instagram Challenge Topic: SPONTANEOUS[/su_frame


This is one of my  favorite hand-lettered pieces for a couple of reasons. What I like most is the STAMP & SCAN technique I used to achieve the cool, steampunk-style background. As I reflect on how I developed the BACKGROUND image, it is hard to believe that one simple, old-school step could make such a big  difference in how I approach my entire lettering style.

This lettering experience helped me discover a new technique that blends old and new design methods. I realized that the old-school ways using scanners and printers, cutting and pasting, can be just as valuable as the more tech-savvy methods I’m more familiar with.

At the time, I didn’t have a very good understanding of Adobe Illustrator. Being the resourceful woman I am (lol), I used what I had! I improvised with my Epson printer’s scan function, good, old-fashioned stamps & ink, and some awesome printer paper. I used these to get retro, in both style and technique!  In the end, I created an industrial, steampunk timepiece background that I’m still really proud of, mostly because it’s mine– from start to finish!

A Step-by-Step Breakdown of my new (and old) favorite STAMP & SCAN Technique

  • STEP 1: I rummaged through my mom’s giant stamp collection & found some really cool stamps that related to the theme of spontaneity and the quote I chose for the topic — a clock, compass, numbers, a world.


  • STEP 2:  I positioned the stamps in various layouts until I found an arrangement that worked with the composition I sketched earlier. I knew I wanted the stamped image to function as a border for my lettering & anchor the quote in the center of the page.


  • STEP 3:  I allowed the stamps to overlap each other when arranging them.  Since each stamp was circular, it helped me arrange the images so they looked symmetrical and balanced.


  •  STEP 4:   After deciding on a layout, I inked the back of the stamps with a Distress Ink Stamp Pad by Ranger. You can use any kind of stamp pad, but Tim Holtz’s Distress Ink creates a unique, aged look. I used slightly more ink on the areas of the stamp I wanted emphasized. For example, I went over the clock face, the numbers, and the compass twice with stamp pad.


  • STEP 5 :  Once the images were stamped on the ivory card stock, I ran them through the Epson scanner. After previewing the image on the screen, I lightened the density and printed a copy.


  • STEP 6:   After looking at the copy, I reevaluated my placement of the stamps — “reevaluating” is something I tend to do A LOT! I decided I needed an image in the upper-right corner for balance.  Fortunately, I have learned how to be flexible, and really I had NO choice but to become less of a perfectionist during my years of teaching middle schoolers every day. One of my friend’s dad says, “I have the patience of Job.” And…and usually do, when it comes to kids anyway!

**TIP** Instead of starting from the beginning, I used a little time-saving trick!  I cut the image into segments, laid it out in pieces, and arranged it the way I wanted it to look on the page. I used double-sided tape to keep it down and ran it through the scanner a second time. Once I printed it out — it was beautiful and balanced, like I had imagined it in my head!

Printing a copy of your lettering piece, cutting out a section you (maybe:) messed up, replacing it with a finished segment, and then reprinting a final copy is ALWAYS a good option if you spent a looooonnngg time on a piece and made a tiny mistake towards the end. Don’t freak out — cut it up!!


  • STEP 7.  Finally…. success! Using the printed images of the clock, globe, compass, and numbers as the background, I started lettering the quote in pencil. Once I was happy with how the quote and background looked together, I ran it through the scanner one more time and made a final copy on ivory card stock. Printing a copy helps you keep from smudging your pencil all over your piece as you letter! You will also have a hard copy of the background, in case you ever want to use it again!


  • STEP 8.  I inked over my lettering using a Tombow Dual Tip Pen in black. I wanted certain images emphasized and I did this by using a Micron Pen (nib size .500). I lightly inked over, in black, the areas of the stamped images I wanted to stand out in the final piece.


  • STEP 9. My final piece ended up being a hand-lettered quote, I’ll plan on being spontaneous tomorrow, overlaying the stamped background image. I always use my iPhone for taking pictures. For the best light, I place my sketchbook under a Natural Daylight Ott-Lamp (I always seem to finish my lettering LATE at night:)


It’s worth taking the time to get to know your photo editing APPS. Find your favorites. Play around with the same image to test multiple filters & effects to find what works for you.

  • STEP 10: Find the Right Filter: I have a bunch of different photo editing APPS on my phone — mostly because I like to use certain ones for different things — filters, auto-enhance, frames, fonts, borders, artistic effects, sketches, etc. Occasionally you will have a lettering piece that is very different from your usual, like this piece in neutral tones, that requires a little more exploration into the features your APPS offer.

Try a couple different filters in your favorite photo editing program or APP before picking your final photo.


  • STEP 11.  I ran the photo through my favorite photo editing program, KVadPhoto+ Pro, which has the BEST filters and effects EVER.  **A TINY TIP** After hours of staring at the same image, we can sometimes lose focus and perspective. I try to get someone with a fresh pair of eyes to look it over before posting, especially if I’ve spent a loooonnngg time editing it. There have been mornings where I’ve checked Instagram and been like, “What?!? Why did I choose THAT filter?!?”

The final filter! A nice mix of opposites–the antique & old + trendy industrial gears & whimsical letters. A balance of OLD & NEW, just like the technique outlined in the post!

I chose my entry for “SPONTANEOUS” because I learned quite a bit from this lettering experience. I learned things about myself — my own developing, artistic style,  bad habits I need to break when it involves trusting myself and taking risks, and lessons I still need to work on learning! “We’re all a work in progress!” — “Hey! I should letter that quote.” 🙂

Creative Hand-lettering sometimes requires the use of different mediums to create one piece. Having a unique background, made by your own hands, using your tools, and designs can really make a piece special. I love knowing that I have this STAMP & SCAN technique in my creative arsenal!

My work on the “Spontaneous” lettering entry also helped me discover a favorite technique that blends old and new design methods. I learned that the old-school ways that use scanners and printers, cutting and pasting, can be just as valuable as the more technically-savvy methods I’m more familiar with.

Also, when a time comes when I’m in need of an interesting background for a piece,  I have a variety of options to choose from. Whether I need an image to supplement a quote, or I happen to find a stamp that I want to center a hand-lettered piece around, I KNOW that my STAMP & SCAN technique will always be a useful tool in my arsenal!

Take a look at my Instagram feed for more examples of my hand-lettering!

Hope y’all learned a little something and gained some insight on the many ways you can enhance your hand-lettering style & techniques in creative, and unique ways!

All the best,


@ Textile + Type