Hey lovelies… it’s Lauren and I am so excited to share some lettering love with my fellow lefty friends today! I have been brush lettering for a little over a year and a half and am absolutely obsessed with Tombow products! About a year ago I had the opportunity to write on the Tombow USA blog for Lettering week. I decided to share some basic lefty tips with my blog post Tombow Like a Lefty and created the hashtag #tombowlikealefty (make sure to check them both out), which now has over 3,000 posts from fellow lefty Tombow lovers. Today, I am taking my initial post to the next level for some more intense lefty help! I often get asked by other lefties where to start and if it’s possible to letter with brush pens and be left handed…OF COURSE it is! I also get asked many questions about the problems and misconceptions associated with being left handed and I am so happy to share 5 common problems and what I have found to be the solutions through experience and practice as a lefty. I want to start by saying that though I am a lefty and strive to give tips and help other left handed letterers, I am sharing the tips and tricks that I have found success with. There are many different ways to hold a pen as a lefty and what works for me specifically may not be the best strategy for everyone. HOWEVER, that being said, I try to go beyond how I specifically brush letter with my left hand and guide you to find the best way for your own success. So sit back, make sure your coffee mug is full (even if you are reading this at 5pm… you know you need your coffee) and get ready for some lefty fun!
NEW TOMBOW LETTERING SETS
I got some really happy mail a few weeks ago when these beautiful lettering sets full of my favorite supplies showed up on my doorstep! Tombow USA launched the new Beginner Lettering Set and Advanced Lettering Set that seriously flew out of the warehouse shortly after being released on September 1. If you were lucky to snag one already… YAY! If you are still interested in getting your hands on a set, sign up for the Waiting List on Tombowusa.com . They will be restocked again soon!
While I LOVE both sets, today I’m going to be focusing on the Beginner Lettering Set. I think this set is perfect for the beginner lefty. The writing tools available in this set are the Tombow Fudenosuke Hard Tip Brush Pen, 2 Tombow Dual Brush Pens (gray and black), a Tombow Monotwin Permanent Marker, a Tombow Mono Drawing Pencil, and a Tombow Mono Eraser. There is also a cute little lettering guide inside that gives you basic tips on how to brush letter. The advanced set contains more Dual Brush Pens (colors!) and a Tombow Fudenosuke Soft Tip brush pen that are both a little more flexible in the tip and easer to use when you have some practice under your belt.
LEFTY PROBLEM #1: FRAYED TIPS
I remember the first time I saw someone lettering with a Tombow Dual Brush Pen on Instagram. I thought “I have to have one of those magical pens.” With little lettering experience I made an order. Within a week of ordering and using the pens I had already frayed some of the tips. Fraying happens when the tip of the Dual Brush Pen gets shredded on the end. When tips are frayed they are not able to create the precise upstrokes and downstrokes that make up brush calligraphy.What was I doing wrong? Well… I jumped right into brush lettering without fully understanding that the pressure that should be applied on the downstrokes and lightened on the upstrokes. I also had been holding the pen at the wrong angle. A brush pen is to be held at an angle from the paper and not upright. When lefties do upstrokes we are pushing the tip instead of pulling it like righties do. If the pen is held at the wrong angle it is super easy to mess up the tips. The correct pressure and angle are aspects of lettering that are learned through lots and lots of practice. Choosing smooth paper (Rhodia Dot Pad, Canson Marker Paper, etc.) can also help you take it easy on your brush tips.
When you notice that you are getting frayed tips, it is time to take a step back from Tombow Dual Brush Pens, and focus on some easier quality lettering tools. The Mono Drawing Pencil is a perfect tool to practice thick downstrokes and thin upstrokes which help you get the hang of applying the appropriate pressure and write extremely smooth. Once you feel comfortable with a pencil, then work your way to the Fudenosuke Hard Tip brush pen and eventually you will be ready for the Dual Brush Pen, again.
LEFTY PROBLEM #2: SMUDGES
The most common question I hear from lefties is how I don’t smear ink when I write. First, I have to admit that just because I feel comfortable as a lefty letterer and have lettering videos without smudges on Instagram, it doesn’t mean that I don’t ever make mistakes. However there are several things that you can do to limit or get rid of lefty smudges. First, you can always slant your paper to the right about 45 degrees. This will lessen how much your hand goes over your writing and there will be less risk of smudging. Another solution to smudging is to figure out how to write without your hand dragging through what you wrote. The bottom of my left hand very rarely touches the paper as I use the muscles in my left arm to write instead of the muscles in my hand. I place my elbow on the table and use the muscles in my arm to float my pinky and hand over the page as I write. However, don’t worry if you get the occasional smudge, the Tombow Mono Sand Eraser (not pictured) will totally come to the rescue!
LEFTY PROBLEM #3: INCONSISTENT STROKES & SPACING
The best cure for inconsistency in anything is practice. When you are having inconsistent strokes or spacing, I recommend practicing the same drills, letters, or words over and over again. In the beginning maintaining thin upstrokes that transition into smooth, thick downstrokes can be a difficult task. Don’t be overly concerned with the the the thickness of these strokes as they will improve the more you practice. Spacing can be an issue because the left hand covers what is written, however using a dot pad or a grid paper can help you learn appropriate spacing.
Again, when struggling with a skill, I recommend using the pencil to get the hang of it and then trying the Fudenosuke Hard Tip Brush Pen before going to the brush pens with the more flexible tips, like the Dual Brush Pens or Fudenosuke Soft Tip Brush Pen. This will not only save paper, since you can use your MONO Eraser to correct pencil mistakes, but will also help you feel more comfortable with different kinds of writing tools.
LEFTY PROBLEM #4: HOLDING THE PEN “WRONG”
I often get asked the “right” way to hold a brush pen. The cool thing is that there really isn’t a wrong way to grip or go about writing with a brush pen as a lefty as long as you are holding the pen at an angle (not straight up and down) and are able to write successfully. There are two main grips of a lefty. Underwriting is when the wrist stays straight, but when the wrist bends or hooks this is called overwriting. Most lefties use underwriting for pointed pen calligraphy and overwriting for brush calligraphy to help apply the appropriate pressure on the downstroke.
I would say that my grip is a hybrid of both underwriting and overwriting since my wrist stays quite straight but does slightly bend at times to apply more pressure on downstrokes. When it comes to grip, it’s really all about what works best to you. I suggest trying several grips until you find that you are able to write comfortably. I have so many lefty friends and everyone that I know holds the pen differently, but the beautiful thing is that they all get a gorgeous result.Write how you feel comfortable and find your own style. If you currently feel like you are holding the pen “wrong”, just keep practicing… it’s only a matter of time until you find your signature brush pen grip.
LEFTY PROBLEM #5: MISCONCEPTION- “I’M A LEFTY… I CAN’T DO BRUSH CALLIGRAPHY!”
I cannot count the number of times that I have been asked if lefties can really do brush calligraphy. Of course, the answer to this question is YES! Is it easy at first… no. Does it take tons of practice and determination…yes. With a little creativity and practice you’ll be creating lettering compositions you are proud of in no time. Don’t be afraid to try something new or create letters that you haven’t seen before. Push yourself to create and grow as a calligrapher.
The power of community is amazing on Instagram. When I started the hashtag #tombowlikealefty about a year ago I had no idea it would grow to over 3,000 through the participation of other fellow lefties! Crazy and so fun! Here is my challenge to you! Post your work and say hello over one instagram using the hashtag #tombowlikealefty and show some lefty love to others who use the hashtag! I can’t wait to see what you come up with! Also, let me know if this post is helpful and what you are still wanting to know about being left handed and brush lettering.