9 Basic Brush Pen Strokes You Should Practice

How to get started in brush lettering

Brush lettering is a beautiful art form that allows you to create very delicate and intricate letterforms with just a single stroke. It’s no wonder so many are getting into brush lettering. However, despite it’s obvious charm, brush lettering can be somewhat intimidating as many beginners may come to realize... It does take a bit of practice to become more comfortable and confident with this art form. Nonetheless, with consistency and a few tips along the way, you’ll be able to create amazing brush letterings in no time. 

The only supplies you will need are your brush pens and your paper… Now of course you can’t just use any old pen or paper. The type of pens used in brush lettering are actual pens, with tips that mimics the flow and movement of brush bristles, hence why they are called brush pens. It’s basically removing the act of having to mix pigment, applying it to a brush and dealing with the messes of painting letters.        

There are many brands to choose from when getting into brush lettering, so it’s all about exploring and finding what works best for you. These brush pens vary in color, size, softness, flow and the material of the tips vary from synthetic hair, to natural hair, to felt which is very common because of how much easier it is to use.

When selecting the paper to do your lettering, make sure that the surface is smooth, with low absorbency. If the surface of the paper is too textured then you risk the tip of your brush pen fraying. 

So if you are looking to get into brush lettering but uncertain on where or how to get started, here are 9 basic brush pen strokes you should begin to practice now.


1: Downstroke/Full pressure

Whenever you’re writing your downstrokes, regardless of what letter, when your pen has to move downwards and towards you, you’re going to be applying full pressure on your brush pen and that is called your downstroke. This will provide you with those thicker and darker lines. Always remember that the ‘down’ and ‘up’ strokes are the core strokes of brush lettering.


2: Upstroke/Hairline

Now as you move away from your downstroke and you’re beginning to make a curve to move back up, and away from you, that’s when you lighten the pressure. Your upstroke is when your lines are thinner as you move upwards. Just like in the case of writing the lowercase letter ‘a’, that starts at the top with a hairline stroke that then transitions down into a downstroke, and then around with an upstroke and then back down. This method gives you those lighter, thinner and delicate lines that creates a nice contrast beside your downstrokes. It is important for you to remember that up means light, feathery and minimal pressure.

So a good practice is to get comfortable with creating both downstrokes or full pressure and your upstrokes. 


3: Overturn

Another brush pen stroke you need to remember and practice is your overturn. Now your overturn is used when writing the lowercase letter ‘n’. You start by applying minimal pressure creating an upstroke and then you slowly transition into a downstroke applying full pressure. This allows you to practice your transitions.


4: Underturn

The underturn is used when writing the letter ‘u’ or any other ‘u’ like shaped letter. This is the opposite of the overturn where you start by applying full pressure to create your downstroke. As you begin to move into the curve of the ‘u’, where the corners meet in the middle, begin the transition from full pressure to minimal pressure to create your hairline stroke.


5: Entry Stroke

Now we have the entry stroke which will be the beginning of many letters, or will be the connection of more than one letter. This is where you will have a light upstroke at the beginning of a letter with a curve, like writing a lowercase ‘a’. The curve will begin at the base and move upwards diagonally. Where the entry stroke ends, that will serve as the entry for whichever letter you are about to write.


6: Ascending Stem Loop

This stroke is used when writing the letters ‘b, k’ and other lowercase letters with an ascending stem or tail. You practice by creating a light upstroke curve and then at the top or at the halfway mark of the curve begin to transition into your downstroke. 


7: Descending Stem Loop

The descending stem loop is the opposite of the ascending stem loop that is used for lowercase letters like ‘j, g, y’ and others. This begins with a downstroke that transitions where the curve begins into an upstroke. Don’t be afraid to take it slow as you are learning how to control the pressure you apply, and moving from one stroke to another without lifting the pen.


8: Oval

The oval is a combination of your overturn and underturn. To create your oval, begin with a curved downstroke, and at the base of the curve begin to transition into an upstroke. Now when doing this, you’ll find that you may begin to shake a bit on the upstroke. To minimize this you can begin your oval by starting a bit lower on the top right side of your oval, then move your way across and down into your downstroke, and back up with your upstroke to connect both. If this is not working for you, try to use your wrist and arm to get you through the movement, which helps you to remain steady.


9: Compound Curve

And lastly there is your compound curve. This is basically a merger of an underturn transitioning into an overturn. You begin by creating your downstroke and then up into your thin upstroke, and then with a slight curve move back down into your downstroke.


You can also try to do your compound curve by starting with an upstroke and then moving into your downstroke and back up again with another upstroke. Try practicing both compound curves until you are comfortable doing them.

These are the 9 basic brush pen strokes that will help you to become a brush pen lettering pro, so practice and practice some more until you’re comfortable and confident in your ability.

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