How to Do Brush Lettering to Sign Your Paintings

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The Best Brush for Signing a Painting

How to sign a painting with a brush
Photo ©2012 Marion Boddy-Evans. Licensed to About.com, Inc.

When it comes to the lettering for your signature on a painting, I think its time for a specialist brush called a rigger. This is a brush with long hairs that is designed to give narrow lines while holding sufficient paint so you don't have to reload it for each letter.

It's worth spending the money on a top-quality one. You want it to retain its shape, the hairs to keep a sharp point so you're painting a line with a consistent width. For the brush have a bounce in the hairs that makes it respond to a flick of your fingers. You don't want the hairs to splay out every which way giving squiggly lines.

Get a narrow rigger rather than a bigger one. It's easier to get a fatter line by using the side of the brush (rather than only the tip) on a small brush than it is to get a fine line using only the tip of a bigger brush.

Next page: How to Hold a Rigger Brush

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How to Hold a Rigger Brush

How to sign a painting with a brush
Photo ©2012 Marion Boddy-Evans. Licensed to About.com, Inc.

You want fine control over a rigger brush, but you don't want to strangle it. Put your hand above from the ferrule and balance it in your fingers, rather than grip it tightly and anxiously near the hairs.

If the painting is dry, you can steady your hand by resting your little finger on the surface. Be really sure the paint is thoroughly dry, and that your hands are clean, because it's all too easy to inadvertently spread paint around by doing this. Your attention is focused on the lettering and you don't notice the paint on your finger until it's too late! A mahl stick was invented for a reason (or use your other arm as a mahl stick).

Next page: How to Brush Capital Letters

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How to Brush Capital Letters

How to sign a painting with a brush upper case letters
Building up individual letters with a series of short lines and curves is easier than trying to do a whole letter as a continuous line. Photo ©2012 Marion Boddy-Evans. Licensed to About.com, Inc.

Capital letters are the easiest as you can create most of them as a sequence of short, straight lines. Touch the tip of the brush to the surface, turn your wrist slightly in the direction you want the line to go to move the brush across the surface, then lift off. For a curve, such as you'll need for a B, move the brush in your fingers. Start by touching the brush to the surface, then twirl your fingers in a curve or semi-circle, and lift off.

If you lift the brush up as you head towards the end of the line, you'll get a line that narrows. With a little practice, you'll instinctively flick up the brush to end a line.

Watch out for pausing when you start and stop, as you can end up with a blob of paint. You can see examples of this on the U and Z.

 

Next page: How to Brush Small Letters

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How to Brush Small Letters

How to sign a painting with a brush lower case letters
Photo ©2012 Marion Boddy-Evans. Licensed to About.com, Inc.

Small letters, or lower case, aren't complicated shapes to create with a brush either. Though more do involve a curve or semi-circle, which isn't quite as easy to do as a straight line. Put the tip of the brush onto the paper, then swoop it around with a flick of your fingers. The hardest part is to do it the exact size you intended.

Next page: What Letters You Need to Learn...

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What Letters You Need to Learn

How to sign a painting with a brush
Photo ©2012 Marion Boddy-Evans. Licensed to About.com, Inc.

I know, it's tedious hearing that something will get easier with practice. The bad news is it's true. The good news is that you are unlikely to need all the letters of the alphabet to sign your name. You can practice only the ones you need!

To help guide you so your lettering is in a straight line, put a piece of tape onto the painting (if it's dry!) and use capitals rather than lower case as these all line up at the bottom. Again, it does get easier with practice, and you'll learn to judge the alignment of your letters by eye. It's no different to painting a straight row of tiny tree trunks or blades of grass!

I need 12 different letters for my signature, and only three for my initials (which I use on small paintings). I tend to sign a painting in capitals because I like the neat arrangement they make (see examples).

If, ultimately, if you truly find this too difficult, then you could take the path of Dürer (he of the famous Hare painting) and create a recognizable icon to use as a signature. Whistler was another; he used a butterfly symbol. Or sign only part of your name, as Vincent van Gogh did, using only his first name (see photo).