Hand Lettering 2015

I took up hand lettering and calligraphy this year in earnest. I find lettering is more like illustration than writing, which suits me as my handwriting has always been pretty terrible. I already had most of the tools I need to make a start and I’ve accumulated a few fun new toys as I’ve gone along.


I started working on a Jurassic Park themed illustration near the start of the year with a pretty intensive lettering component. I’ll come back and finish it when I’m competent enough. I got this far and decided that it’d probably be better to figure out how to do lettering properly before I just end up embarrassing myself.

Jurassic Park Lettering projectMay

I put together an aluminium cola pen and practiced with acrylic. Flimsy thing but the effect is messy and fun. This was with diluted watercolour.

Cola Pen and LetteringI also started playing with Ink sticks and bamboo nibs. Lots of fun! I really want to figure out how to use these properly. Generally you use sumi ink with a brush but it requires a lot of paper and lends itself more to Kanji glyphs than to the Latin alphabet. Fairly certain that the ink stick is upside down in this photo, giving you a general indication as to how knowledgeable I am regarding these things. They’re generally made from a combination of pine soot and animal glue, and the ink is extracted by slowly rubbing the stick into a puddle of water.

ink stick alphasI mostly ended up just using it for illustration as a result, as the consistency and weight of lines turned out to be too chaotic for any of the lettering I was trying to work on.

Frank Bird Lettering


I went to the Type By Hand course run by the ATF here in Brisbane. Matt Vergotis and Wayne Thompson put it together. It didn’t get as technical as I’d like but it was a good chance to meet up with some like-minded people and get some guidance.

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I finally got hold of a couple of Pilot Parallel Pens! I sat down with an Isaac Asimov audiobook for a day and practiced writing what I was hearing. Some sloppy excuses blackletter here but I learned a fair bit through repetition.

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Brisbane Handlettering‘s first meetup was this month! A friend I work with, Helen, put it together and brought along a stack of polaroid sized photos to scribble on. I almost missed it when I caught a train to the other side of town by accident, but I’m glad I got in as it was a really lovely morning.

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I put together some more aluminium folded pens and made a lot of mess with a bottle of Sumi ink I grabbed at the local Daiso. The lettering turned out well but the pen tore about twenty minutes into use, so I bought some brass sheeting online to make a more durable nib. 2015-09-14 14.49.07 2015-09-14 16.16.38 sHE2The brass arrived at the end of the month and I fashioned a few rudimentary folded nibs just in time to play with them during Inktober.

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Inktober! I made a few posts about this. I was focused on Illustration but a few of them offered the chance to practise some lettering at the same time.

Inktober Frank 2

2015-10-12 15.51.25 Inktober Postits


The second Brisbane Handlettering workshop! It was at The Edge in The State Library this time so getting lost on the way there was completely impossible and a good group came along. Helen brought along balloons to draw on. I think organising activities for kids probably prepares you pretty well for keeping creatives occupied. It was a great morning!

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While I was there I was talking to Amy Crow, who mentioned using Potassium Parmangenate or Condy’s Crystals to reveal lemon juice used as an invisible ink. I had a play around with the combination when I got home and as it turns out, lemon juice actually sticks fairly well to some of my nibs.

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I textured a page with Condy’s Crystals using a dry sponge and a fine brush and redid a bit of lettering I’d liked from earlier in the year with one of my shiny new brass folded nibs.


I also had a play around using sumi brush pens and put together the beginnings of a simple font family, which I’m still working on. I’m far from mastering any of this but holy crap its fun to explore.