By: Kristin Nohe

If you’re prone to surfing the internet, you’ve probably noticed the abundance of fun, quirky, hand-lettered quotes, phrases, and words that have been storming the web lately. Don’t let the words “Hand Lettering” fool you. Just because you are drawing the letters by hand doesn’t mean it has to be done with pen and a paper notebook. Gone are also the days when digital words were only fonts and typefaces. It’s easier than ever to use digital tools and techniques to draw exciting lettering by hand. The Bamboo Stylus fineline and iPad are a great way to get started.

How to Hand-Letter Using Your iPad 1

First, it’s important that you get comfortable with your Bamboo Stylus fineline and your iPad. Make sure your stylus configuration settings are correct and you’ve set your writing posture to fit your needs. Play around with all of the tools. Experiment with the pens and markers. Make big loops to loosen up your arm. The looser your shoulder is, the more fluid your hand will move across the iPad surface. Next try out some of the various shading tools. Try varying the pen pressure of the shading, and layering multiple colors on top of each other. See what happens when you draw lines slowly. How about super fast? Does the speed vary the line in a way that you like? It’s all about getting comfortable with the tools you are using. Familiarity will set you up for great success in your hand lettering adventure!

How to Hand-Letter Using Your iPad 2 - Copy

Choosing a quote or phrase to hand letter can often be the hardest part! There are so many awesome quotes out in the world to write. Sometimes it can be tempting to start with a long, complex quote. I find that often, the simpler, the better! If you are just starting out, I recommend choosing a single word, or maybe a phrase that is between 2 to 5 words. It’s easiest to determine word placing and composition when using a shorter quote. Once you’ve gotten the hang of figuring out how to style and place words, move on to bigger quotes.

How to Hand-Letter Using Your iPad 3 - Copy

Once you’ve decided on your quote, think about lettering styles that you are attracted to. Pull examples of lettering that catches your eye from magazines and the internet. Do you like the delicate hand of cursive? Or are you enamored by bold block letters? It can also make a striking image by mixing and matching lettering styles. A fun thing to try is drawing a whole alphabet of letters in different styles.

Now let’s think back to the quote that you’ve picked. Is there a lettering style that you feel embodies the emotion in the quote? Is it a delicate quote about love? Maybe a pretty cursive would work well. Is it a quote that needs to be shouted from the rooftop? Big bold block letters might do the trick.

Here I’ve sketched a bunch of different ideas for phrases I may want to letter. I find that doodling around can spur new ideas I may not have thought of right away. At this point I don’t add much detail or worry about making perfect letters. I do think about what kinds of accompanying imagery I may like, but again, not much detail. Small thumbnail sketches work well for this.

How to Hand-Letter Using Your iPad 4

Once I’ve decided which quote and composition I like, I make a new page to sketch out a larger drawing of my composition. Here I’ve chosen the phrase “do what you love” in a cursive style. Because it is only 4 words, it makes it simpler to lay out. Cursive is somewhat tricky to compose, as the letters have ascenders and descenders, meaning letters such as ‘d’, ‘h’, and ‘y’, where there are lines that extend off of the main part of the letter. With this quote I’ve shifted the words to align at different starting points in order to not overlap the ascenders and descenders with other letters. At this point I’ve roughed in the composition with the pencil tool. I’ve also added some floral embellishments to the sketch.

How to Hand-Letter Using Your iPad 5

For my final drawing, I start on a brand new page. Because I’ve already made a sketch, I have a good idea of where my words need to be placed. I’m using the largest size of the pen tool. I start by drawing each word in cursive, not worrying about anything but blocking in the words.

How to Hand-Letter Using Your iPad 6

Now I want to give my letters thick and thin areas to mimic calligraphic strokes. To determine which side of the letters get the thicker strokes I think about the motions I made with my hand when drawing the words. Any stroke that is being pulled downward gets a thick swell, and upstrokes get a finer line. Here I’ve zoomed in and start thickening up the lines by using the same brush, first by drawing the outline, and then filling it in after I’ve drawn all of the swells.

How to Hand-Letter Using Your iPad 7

How to Hand-Letter Using Your iPad 8

Now the hand lettering is finished! I’ve also gone in with the eraser tool to clean up any wobbly lines or errant strokes. After I’ve gotten the lettering to a place that I am happy with, I can move on to adding any type of embellishment that I like. I’ve chosen to add little delicate flowers seemingly randomly placed around the hand lettering. In reality, I have chosen where to place each flower specifically to balance out the composition if need be. Here is where I start to use some of the different tools in Bamboo Paper. The crayon and pencil tools are great for adding some texture. I like to mix textured and smooth brushes because it gives an interesting dynamic to the drawing. I’ve also used the highlighter marker to add a little color behind my lettering. This tool is great because it places color behind your drawing instead of over it.

How to Hand-Letter Using Your iPad 9

Now that you’ve embellished and finished your hand lettering, it’s super easy to export your drawing from the Bamboo Paper app. Just click on the third button from the left in the top of the app and export your image into your Photo roll on your iPad or directly to the internet to share your new skills with your friends!


The Bamboo Stylus fineline is available at Target.

Kristin Nohe spent her childhood obsessively filling sketchbooks in Bel Air, Maryland. Her first job after graduating with a BFA in Illustration was designing seasonal products for Target for 4 years. She is now a freelancer designer.

Follow her on Instagram for the virtual sketchbook on her life.

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