Hand Lettering Tips for Beginners Using Zebra Metallic Brush Pens

Hey everyone! It’s Erin from @the.lettering.fern and I am here to tell you all about the Zebra Metallic Brush Pens. I’ve tried many different Metallic Brush pens and these Zebra ones are some of the best! They POP on black paper, write smoothly, and have a great flexible brush tip. The pens have plenty of ink to give you those juicy downstrokes when hand lettering.

There are 3 parts to this hand lettering tutorial: Basic strokes, some letter connections/words, and finishing up with a small project. The Metallic Brush Pens from Zebra Pen have a soft and flexible tip, so you can get a variety of stroke sizes. Let’s get started.

Basic Strokes

So let’s talk about the basics of hand lettering. I am going to break down all the basic strokes for you. These strokes are what you would call the outline, or the basic “rules” of lettering. I say “rules” in quotations because once you develop some muscle memory, you are going to want to break the rules to start developing your own style! Let’s get to it.

Before we even talk about strokes, I am going to give you a quick anatomy lesson of line spacing. There are basically 4 lines you want to keep in mind. The very top line is the ascender. This is where all the tall letters like to hang out like h, l, k, and t. The tops of these letters will touch this line. The next line is called the waist. Think of it like the middle of your body. This is the middle line. Most of the basic strokes will hang out in this area (along with letters like m, n, e, r, and s). Next you have the baseline. All letters will touch this line. The letters that have a tail like g, j, and p will go below to the very bottom line called the descender.

Now, let’s talk about the first two strokes: The upstroke and the downstroke. This is where you get the pressure of lettering into your muscle memory. One of the most important things to remember to get the different weighted lines is thin/light upstrokes and thick/hard downstrokes. When you are doing an upstroke, you will start at the bottom of your line, the baseline. Then using the tip of your pen, draw a light thin line to the waist. When you are doing a downstroke, it is the opposite. Start at the waist, pushing with a pressure you are comfortable with, draw a slight S shape. For the downstrokes, I have found that holding my pen at about a 45 degree angle helps. Practice these about a billion times (you think I am kidding but the more you practice, the happier your hand will be).

The next strokes are the overturn and underturn. The underturn looks just like a U and the overturn is, well, just an upside down U. These strokes help you combine your upstrokes and downstrokes in a fluid way. To form the overturn stroke, start at the baseline and work your way up to the waist with a thin upstroke. As you approach the top slightly curve, follow an arch shape, and head back down to the baseline with your thicker (more pressurized) downstroke. The underturn is the exact opposite. This time, start at the waist with a thick downstroke and as you approach the baseline, start that curve into an upside down arch shape and head back up to the waistline just like you are making the letter U. Remember, as you are headed back up to the waistline it should be a thin upstroke. Letters you will need this stroke for m, n, y, u.

After you have practiced the overturn and underturn a million times, you can combine them into a compound curve. For the compound curve, you start with the overturn but when you are finished, you immediately head into the underturn stroke. This is a fun one to practice because you really develop your muscle memory of the pressure you need to get the ups and downs. Always remember: Up is thin, down is thick. Letters you will need this stroke for: h, v, x.

The next stroke is called the oval, well, because it looks like an oval. This stroke will come in handy for letters like a, q, o, g, and even c, if you can believe it. This stroke is also kind of tricky because you are going to want to start at the waist line, but you really need to be starting halfway in between the waist and baseline. You are going to start with a small upstroke, arch around on the waistline into a thick downstroke, arch around again on the baseline into a thin upstroke to finish off the oval. Starting in the middle of the two lines helps to give the oval a more rounded look. Letters you will need this stroke for: g, d, p, b, q.

The last two strokes include loops. Yes, I said loops. There will be a descending loop and an ascending loop. Do you remember the anatomy of the lines earlier? Then you guessed it! The descending loop will stretch down to the descending line and the ascending loop up to the ascending line. Let’s break down these strokes starting with the descending stroke. You will start this stroke at the waistline, do a thick downstroke to the descending line, and then curve back up with a thin upstroke and connect the loop at the baseline. The ascending loop will start at the waistline, do a thin upstroke to start the loop. Once you get to the ascending line, curve back down into a thick downstroke all the way down to the baseline (make sure your starting point connects the loop to the downstroke). Letters you will need these strokes for: f, h, k, j, g.

Letter Connections/Words

You want to take all of the information you learned about the basic strokes and start combining them to create letters. For example, for the letter a, you will connect an oval + and downstroke. The letter b is an ascending loop + an oval. The letter h is an ascending loop + compound curve. The letter d is an oval + an ascending loop. The letter g is a oval + a descending loop.

The word hello is: ascending loop + compound curve + e + ascending loop + ascending loop + oval.

** Make sure to pick up your pen and focus on your strokes!

Now let’s jump into a small project.

Small Wreath Project

  1. Start with a basic circle shape (freehand it or trace something). Then use the metallic brush pens to build your project.
  2. Use the Green Brush pen to create some simple leaves.
  3. Use the Copper Brush pen to draw some simple flowers. I like to just draw some spirals.
  4. Then add more leaves to the other side.
  5. I then added in some berries with the Red/Pink Brush pen.
  6. I finished off the simple wreath with the word LOVE, lettered in Silver. *Make sure to erase any extra pencil marks

Get started practicing the hand lettering basics with my free lettering practice worksheets. These downloadable PDFs include a variety of practice strokes and letters and work perfectly with the Zebra Metallic Brush Pen. Download Practice Sheet 1 and Practice Sheet 2.