I love finding great tutorials and online classes to improve my lettering techniques, but sometimes there’s just no competing with a physical book. Over the years I’ve amassed quite a library of design, calligraphy, and lettering books. It’s tough to find books that are more than just a gallery, but also contain easily digestible information.
Here are five must-have books I think every hand letterer should own!
This book is a great overview of typography basics, and is really insightful about the ins and outs of designing letters. If you’re looking for a book that explains the start-to-finish process of a lettering design and gives you actionable how-to’s, this is the best one I’ve found. The book looks small but it’s very thorough – it provides specific exercises to improve your lettering and goes over everything from developing a concept, to refining your sketch, to finding great ligature opportunities.
This title doesn’t lie. Molly Suber Thorpe is an incredible calligrapher, and this book takes you through all of the beginner steps. She provides detailed instructions for setting up your supplies (including tips for you south paws!), tips for improving your technique, and a step by step process for many creative calligraphy projects. I bought this book when I first started practicing calligraphy, and I think my work would have been an inky mess for much longer without it.
This book is a fantastic coffee table book, but it also has a little more substance than that. The photos of work in various stages of polish lets you peek into an artist’s process, and the text has some great insights from many lettering artists with tips for lettering and details about their process. I like to flip through this book when I’m feeling uninspired.
Louise Fili is basically the master of script lettering, and this book contains a huge collection of some incredible examples of script lettering from many time periods. If you’re interested in a book that delves into the history of script type (not a how-to for script lettering) this is a must-have. It’s also very useful as a reference if you’re looking to evoke a certain period or era in your lettering piece.
If you’re struggling with hierarchy and composition, you need this book! It’s focused on sign painting, but all of the tips and examples translate easily to lettering. It’s a comprehensive and approachable overview of the fundamentals of layout design. It helped me learn how to prioritize words in a phrase and build a layout that showcases the most important parts. The comparisons between different layouts of the same content are helpful for understanding that even though a layout may not be bad design, it doesn’t necessarily emphasize the most important information.
Together, these five books are a great starter library for any budding hand letterer. What are your favorite lettering books? Are there any I missed?