Don’t get me wrong — I love my Silhouette. But since I write about it all the time and do projects with it every day, sometimes I need to take a break from it and express my creativity with other crafts. Last spring it was watercolors. Over the winter, I pulled my crochet hooks back out to make a stocking for my grandson. This spring, I’ve gotten into brush lettering. You know, writing fancy letters that look like you did them with a calligraphy pen or paint brush. (I tried the latter — it wasn’t a pretty sight). With all the wonderful fonts I have in Silhouette Studio, I have been making my own brush lettering practice sheets to print so I can trace letters. Today, I’m going to share with you several ways I do this.
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I’m learning that the way you start with brush lettering is to use guides. We’re going to cover how to create lines and grids, as well as add letters and phrases. I’ll give you the tricks for spacing your lines evenly and printing them.
I’m not going to go over things like what markers to buy, or what paper, or how to make strokes. That’s for the experts. I’m just here to show you how to create and print the practice sheets. You can print them on paper you’ll practice on, or a lower quality paper that you put behind your good stuff.
Basics you need to know first
Some things will apply to making any of the brush lettering practice sheets.
- Your printer probably uses 8.5″ x 11″ paper. Set that as your page size and turn on Show Cut Border.
- To draw a line, click the icon near the top on the left side.
Move your mouse to your Design area where you want the line to start. Hold the mouse button down and drag your cursor to the right. Release where you want the line to end.
- To make a perfectly horizontal line, hold the SHIFT key as you draw. Be sure to release the mouse button before you release that SHIFT key. This works for perfectly vertical lines also.
- Lines you create in Silhouette Studio have no line thickness, so won’t print. By raising the line thickness you give it something to print. Change the line color to black, because you can easily print it on any printer and can see it through the sheet you’re tracing on.
- Similarly, text won’t print unless you alter it. Raising the line thickness only prints the outline and the letters are still hollow. Instead, fill it with black. I like to change the line color to clear, but you don’t have to because if you don’t raise the line thickness it won’t print anyway.
- To space your lines out evenly, use the align options in the Quick Access Toolbar or Transform panel.
- Without anything selected on your drawing area, you can change the line color, fill color and line thickness. Anything you create will automatically have those attributes unless you change it or close the file. So you don’t have to keep changing it as you create.
Brush Lettering Practice sheet idea #1: Lines only
I know myself well enough that there’s no way I could do brush lettering without some cheats. That’s mainly because I can’t draw a straight line to save my life. Fortunately, pretty much all brush lettering teachers have you practice with lines.
To create the first type of brush lettering practice sheet, you just draw lines. Make the thickness whatever you like (I used 1pt). They can be the same or not. Sometimes I make the x-height line lighter in weight or make it dashed. How far apart do you put them? That depends on what markers you’re using and what type of letters you want to practice. For example, about 5/8″ is good for using the larger brush markers.
Draw your first line, then use the keyboard shortcut CTRL/CMD+c to copy it. Then do CTRL/CMD+f to paste that line right in front (on top of) the original one. While it’s still selected, you can use the Move tab of the Transform panel to move your copy exactly 5/8″ down. Then copy that one and so on down the page.
HINT: After you create and move your first copy, the second time you can copy, paste and move both lines. Just move it down the amount twice. Then you can do it with those 4 lines and so on.
Print those out and you’re ready to grab your markers and practice.
Brush lettering practice sheet idea #2: Lines and letters
Okay, let’s say that, like me, you need even more help so you want to print out letters along with your lines. Here’s what you do this time.
- Pick a font and type out a letter you want to practice. I’m going to use Dahlia. Remember how you can automatically set attributes like fill and line color before you create shapes? That works with fonts too. Just click the Text Create icon, make your selections in the Quick Access Toolbar or Text Style panel, then move your mouse cursor to your Design area and begin typing.
- Make a copy of the text box and pull it off to the side. That’s just for safekeeping.
- Create your lines as described, using the letter you typed as a guide.
- Put your letter at the left end of the lines. You can type multiple copies of the letter, or just 1, or just half a line. It just depends on your personal preference.
- Continue typing letters and creating lines.
Brush lettering practice sheet idea #3: a grid of lines
A grid is another great brush lettering practice sheet. First, you’ll create your lines as in sheet #1. They will probably be closer together, though. Maybe 1/4″. Copy the whole set of lines and rotate 90°. While they are still selected, make them longer. Delete any extra lines and you have a grid you can print.
Brush lettering practice sheet idea #4: Slanted lines
Another aspect of many brush lettering fonts is that they have a consistent slant. You can take the vertical lines you created on sheet #3 and rotate them to help with that. Because they are on the diagonal, you’ll need to do a couple of extra steps.
- Make more copies.
- Extend the length.
- In the Transform panel, rotate all the lines at once by a set amount. I did mine at 28° the first time, but then decided later I didn’t want quite that much slant.
- Delete any extra lines.
- Adjust the length of the lines. You’ll need to do this one by one.
- Alternately, you can draw a rectangle over the parts that fall outside the sheet, then use Subtract All in the Modify panel. That will slice away what’s behind the rectangle. Then move to the next edge and repeat. Once you’ve got them all, delete the rectangle.
Brush lettering practice sheet idea #5: a grid of dots
This is for those of you who use bullet journals and want practice sheets for those. I even printed some off and used them in a journal with removable inserts. Or, you can use it for brush lettering as it’s similar to a grid or lines but can be less distracting. Here’s a really easy way to do it and have them spaced evenly.
Turn on your grid and set the spacing to as far apart as you want the dots. I’m going to use 1/4″.
Draw a small circle and position it over the intersection of 2 lines in the upper left corner. If you want to be precise, you can set the specific x and y axis locations. Be sure to fill it with black.
In the page setup panel, turn on Snap to Grid. Make a copy of the dot with CTRL+c and then CTRL+f to paste in front. While it’s still selected, start moving it. Because you have Snap to Grid on, it will only land in a location at the junction of 2 other lines. Continue doing this until you have a full set on the page. HINT: Remember you can copy and paste more that one at a time. So, after you have a whole row you can just copy the whole row and move it down.
Here, I’ve filled my page and turned off the grid so you can see all my dots. Isn’t it nice to have them spaced evenly so easily?
Brush lettering practice sheet idea #6: Words and Sayings
You can type out full phrases you want to practice. This is nice because you can mix fonts and add designs. I find it helpful for bounce lettering as well.
I’m sure there are many other brush lettering practice sheets you can make. But this has inspired me to go practice right now!