Creative Lettering for Art Journals


Adding lettering to an art journal page or scrapbook layout is often one of the last stages. Sometimes we are so pleased with the page that we are fearful of spoiling it by adding the actual journaling or whatever words you were planning.

There are many ways to add lettering – from simply handwriting your text or by using some other means to get words onto the page. Here are some of the techniques I use.

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Doodle letters

The lettering in the image above right looks difficult, but it is really quite straightforward. Using a fine liner pen, draw a standard uppercase A. It needs to be quite large, say an inch tall at least. If you like, you can curve the sides a little. Draw more lines close to the first. Have some lines broken. Add curlicues at the ends of the lines. Draw some short lines at the base of the A 'legs'. Fill some of the spaces with tiny doodles -- zig-zags, 'UUUU's and little circles are good. Use a marker or fine paint brush and watercolor to some parts of the A. Repeat for the rest of the alphabet. Tip: draw your lines quickly, rather than cautiously to avoid wobbles. Practice makes perfect!

Embellish your handwriting and decorate the guidelines with line and color.
Embellish your handwriting and decorate the guidelines with line and color. | Source

Hand Lettering - Your Own Handwriting

Many of us dislike our own handwriting, especially as nowadays we seem to use keyboards much more than our penmanship. However, your handwriting is part of who you are and it is a worthwhile thing to use it as the basis of your journal lettering. It is surprising how much you can improve the appearance of your handwriting with a little highlighting and embellishment. If it really is awful, then you could always change it.

The trick to a good-looking journal page is to leave a space or spaces for adding your writing. In the space draw some wavy guidelines with a black pen. Use a pencil if you prefer – you can either go over it with black pen or you can erase them completely. When you write, make your letters go from the top to the bottom guideline as shown in the picture. Also mix up upper case and lowercase as this gives the lettering an odd, quirky look that is particularly appealing on an art page.

Embellish the lettering by filling in the closed loops with color, thicken parts of the letters. Use a white pen or a metallic gel pen to highlight where imaginary light might be touching the letters. You could also use a light gray marker to add a little shadow to the opposite edge of the letters. Suddenly your handwriting has more substance about it.

Marker pens are magic for art journaling.
Marker pens are magic for art journaling. | Source
Marker pen, writing with a brush tip.
Marker pen, writing with a brush tip. | Source

Hand lettering - Marker Pens

Marker pens with a chisel tip are wonderful tools for creating eye-catching letters. The secret is to hold the marker so that the chisel tip never turns. In that way, you can create almost calligraphy-style thick and thin lines. Embellish with white dots, mini-doodles and shadow. Many journalers and scrapbookers swear by Copic markers, and it is indeed worthwhile having a black Copic Original or Sketch pen. However, if you don't want to spend $5 on a marker, there are many others out there that will do the job. Look for double-ended markers – some have a chisel tip and a brush tip. A brush tip can form gorgeous Chinese-type letters but it takes a little practise – it's almost like painting your writing. A bullet tip is also good – try holding the pen at different angles to see what effects you can achieve with your lettering.

Dymo font.
Dymo font. | Source
Journal page using Betsy Flanagan font, printed, cut out and glued.
Journal page using Betsy Flanagan font, printed, cut out and glued. | Source

Printed Lettering - Creative Fonts

You have lots of fonts built into whatever word processor you use on your computer. It's good fun to type out an interesting word or phrase and try it out with all your fonts. Make the word huge, say 24 point, and print it out on plain printer paper. Cut it out and paste it in your journal.

My favorite is Dymo Font Inverse. It's really great in black and white, when printed out it looks just like the labels from the old Dymo machines. Get it free right here: Dymo Font Inverse. You can see it here in the image, "Some days I think I have given birth to monsters." (You know those times when your kids seem almost alien!).

Another favorite is Betsy Flanagan. You may well have this one already but if not, you an download it here: Betsy Flanagan. You can cut out individual letters or keep the words intact and shade between the letters as I have done on the page to the right.

Alphabet rubber stamps are good for headings or as main page elements.
Alphabet rubber stamps are good for headings or as main page elements. | Source

Printed Lettering - Rubber Alphabet Stamps

If you are an art journaler or scrapbooker, then you are probably already familiar with rubber stamps. There is a huge choice of alphabet stamps available in various configurations of mounted, unmounted, cling, foam, acrylic and even digital stamps that are printed out ready for coloring.

It's worthwhile having one or two alphabet stamping sets around for when the rubber stamping mood comes upon you. I only have two sets. One is wood mounted and the other is unmounted. The image shows the wood mounted one, which has been highlighted and shadowed. A little charcoal around the left side and bottom of the print gives each letter a 3-D look.

Simple stencil lettering.
Simple stencil lettering. | Source

Stencil Lettering

Stencil lettering is another good choice if you are not confident using your own writing but still want to be able to color and embellish your lettering. There is a huge variety to choose from. Check out your local craft store or visit an online retailer. Stencils can be used in many ways – you can simply trace around the letters as I have done here – this is a stencil I found in the kids' craft box. I made the letters lean in a drunken sort of way to create a little more interest. You can use a stencil brush and paint, or, if you just want letter forms on your page, rather than coherent sentences, then use an ink spray. This last technique is really good for creating backgrounds.

Quirky, drawn lettering.
Quirky, drawn lettering. | Source
Experimental collaged strips.
Experimental collaged strips. | Source

Collage Lettering

Collage lettering can be applied in two ways. The first is quite straightforward where you just cut or tear words from a printed source, such as a magazine. The second technique is where you add your own handwritten text to strips of paper and then collage them to the page. The advantage of this, besides the fact that it looks cool, is that it enables you to experiment without committing to the page; if you make a mistake, you simply start on another strip of paper, rather than having to salvage the page somehow.

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I wish you could hand-write a note... 10 comments

Lynn S. Murphy 4 years ago

ooooooo you are so right about one's own handwriting. I just finally like mine after appreciating finding my ancestors. It's such a personal thing. Great hub. Love all your funky styles. I too am a font junky.

theraggededge profile image

theraggededge 4 years ago from Wales Author

Thank you, Lynn. My handwriting is... let's say 'variable', but it's definitely possible to make a silk purse from a sow's ear, as they say.

NatalieSack profile image

NatalieSack 4 years ago from Pittsburgh, PA

I liked this very much and have already downloaded Dymo Font Inverse. Thanks for the creative boost!

kartika damon profile image

kartika damon 4 years ago from Fairfield, Iowa

I love this! This has great tips for lettering for journals - I always love to read art journal tips!

GoodLady profile image

GoodLady 4 years ago from Rome, Italy

Such a lot of fun. Your fault I just spent half an hours messing about with letters, loved it. And it's getting pinned so I wont lose it next time I want to play with calligraphy. Thanks.

theraggededge profile image

theraggededge 4 years ago from Wales Author

Thank you, Natalie, Kartika and GoodLady. Your comments are very much appreciated.

Judi Bee profile image

Judi Bee 4 years ago from UK

Doing this tomorrow evening in the art journal I bought after reading another of your fab hubs. You are an inspiration.

theraggededge profile image

theraggededge 4 years ago from Wales Author

And I cost you money! It's just lovely to have someone say they are inspired by something I wrote!

Natashalh profile image

Natashalh 4 years ago from Hawaii

I followed the link from marker painting and here I am! I really like these letters and the marker painting idea. I am in no way confident I can come close to recreating this, but I'm going to try. I have some craft fairs coming up and I need a sign for my 'store.' I would much rather have something hand-done than just another computer print out!

theraggededge profile image

theraggededge 4 years ago from Wales Author

@Natashalh - the secret is to just have fun with it. It's just paper/card/board anyway; you can always start over. Would love to see it when you finish!

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