Learning about Letters

Signwriting course

I'm taking part in a series of 3 virtual signwriting courses with Joby Carter from Carters Steam Fair.

I wrote about Why I'm learning about traditional signwriting this June.

Part one: "Learn About Letters" ran from 7th to 10th June 2021.


I'm taking to leap to go back to the basics and learn about the traditional methods of drawing letters correctly. Since I've used software to layout text for most of my career, I've never really needed to learn the basics. There's no better time than now.

I use hand-drawn lettering now and then, but I'm a bit freestyle in my approach. I hope to learn more about the structure of letters and gain insight to become more confident in making purely typographical works.



Part one is purely paper-based. So I gathered myself a little kit consisting of pencils, a sharpener, kraft paper, and an eraser. I found the need for larger sheets of paper, as A4 was restricting. A handy tip from the class was to avoid thick paper, as we will need to perforate the letters when we get to painting. For now, we can get on Learning about Letters.


The class has taught me to look at lettering closer to understand why each letter has a particular characteristic. I'm now looking at typefaces in a new light.


Early in the week, I found new joy in the Roman alphabet, a font I avoid when using design software. It's a default font that doesn't fit "my style." The enjoyment of exploring and drawing letters out by hand made me appreciate it.


During lunchtime walks, I have been spotting hand-painted signs around Lerwick. I'm inspired and dreaming about painting signs out in the wild.

I had been avoiding drawing circular letters. I needed to challenge myself to overcome that barrier. The way Joby broke down his techniques for scaling up from reference alphabets using technical drawing skills, lots of measurements, and tick marks made me feel confident to draw out letters and words by hand.


My creativity sparked with the more fluid layout of words using an arc and slanted. I was surprised Joby gave us tips for drawing in block letters in such an easy way using a wedge of card and a 45-degree angle.


There are improvements to be made. I can see my mistakes and know I will make progress with practice. The most powerful lesson is I feel like I am good at working with lettering!

Next week's class is about Brush Strokes - excited to get my new brushes in paint.