Easy Artful Lettering Tutorial Part Deux: Thickening Strokes

Letters and words can surely be fun to draw, no doubt and that!  But, like anything, they take practice.  Lots of practice, allowing yourself the room to make mistakes, and access to a good lettering book.  Mary Kate McDevitt, illustrator, graphic designer, and author of a most awesome book, Hand Lettering Ledger, has done a wonderful thing.  She has placed  in the front of her glorious text, a 2-page lettering terminology diagram.  McDevitt has diagrammed (in a super-fun way) the different parts of many letters.  There are sooooooo many different parts of lettering that we, the viewer, or artful letterer, take for granted.  Things like ligatures, dingbats, serifs, bowls, swashes, fillets, and ball terminals.  There’s more:  strokes, eyes, ears, tittles, counters, beaks, tails, and feet.  OH HOW I LOVE LETTERS!  And words. I love words.

Occasionally, I teach a fun, one-night class on artful lettering where I show several approaches to low-stress, letter depiction.  It’s marketed towards the doodler or art journaler.  Now, equipped with the knowledge of letter terminology, I feel greatly empowered!  I know that I can teach the class better now.  Thus proving the equation: knowledge=power.  I’m a better letterer. Did I mention that I love letters?

I’ve become apt at my own wonky font as of late, a tutorial of which can be found here.  This style is one I seem to be stuck on and thus am always looking for ways to embellish it further.  Or change it up here and there.  So, I bring you a quick and easy way to embellish my tall, chubby lettering.  Here is a sentence using my Mandy-style letters:


I realize that the above pangram (a sentence containing all the letters in the alphabet) is supposed to read “…jumps over the lazy dog,” but I always mess that one up.  I guess I want there to be more than one dog.  I like dogs.

So to embellish these letters, while making them  a bit bigger, or more visually prominent, I like to thicken the vertical (or closest-to-vertical) strokes.  Strokes are simply lines drawn upward or downward with a vertical-ness about them.


My thickened strokes are in orange.  When drawing the orange line, I generally stick to the inside curve of each letter, start at the top, and draw down.  I call this “dropping a vertical line.”  It’s not actually vertical as it mimics the curvature of the letter at the very top and bottom, but it’s a good description.

This is sort of my first draft and I’ve quickly realized something:  I like the look of the letters that have only one thickened stroke, better than the ones with two.  Unless it’s a W or an M. Those can have 2 thickened strokes if needed.  I colored in the spaces below:


I also like the look of the words that have letters with the same side thickened. Like below, each letter in the word “brown” has thickened strokes on only the right side.  I like how this looks.  It reads better.



So when attempting this at home, make sure you form wide enough letters, thicken one stroke per letter at first, always try to draw on the inside of curves, and stick to thickening the same side of each letter, each time.  You can try embellishing further with decorative serifs, like below:



Have fun, mix it up, do your own thing, make glorious mistakes, and check out that book!

And now for something quick that has nothing to do with lettering.  Macro lens garden shots:


Spider eyes!  Cuteness (and hairy-ness) on an Annabelle hydrangea leaf.


A massive orange poppy bud after a bunch of rain.  (More hairy-ness).


A peony bud.  Not hairy at all. Smooth and waxy.


Lastly, what’s left after a bright orange azalea flower drops all it’s petals.



Share this post:
Pin It

One Comment

  1. […] this inside your shape using the blue Marks-All pencil. Unsure of your artful lettering ability? Visit my website here for a couple quick and easy tutorials on my style of lettering. Activate the blue penciled letters with a small wet watercolor brush and let dry. Since the […]

Leave a Reply