Tips for Lefty Lettering Artists

Southpaws Unite!

Hi fellow lefties (or those interested in the lettering plight of lefties!) I am Shannon, lettering artist behind Crabby Mermaid! (Follow me on Instagram and Facebook. I’m a wife, a mom-of-three, and a nurse, but most importantly (for this blogpost, anyway), I’m a lefty!

Being a lefty-letterer comes with some challenges, but nothing we lefties can’t overcome. We’re used to adapting in a right-handed world, right? Below I’ve listed some of lefty-lettering hurdles and how I work around them to create high-quality lettering pieces.

The arch nemesis:  Spiral notebooks

Spiral bound notebooks are a long-standing enemy of lefties, but they abound in the art world. If I need to use one, to keep my hand even, I start any lettering project by either turning the notebook upside down (spirals on the right!), or simply tearing the paper along perforations and taping it to my desk.  No more bothersome spiral in the way of my left hand!

KINGART adds: Lefty lettering artists – try our top spiral bound notebooks to combat this issue or try a hard cover sketchbook.    

We can’t see where we’ve been and can only see where we’re going

While this can be a good metaphor for moving on from other life challenges, it is less helpful for the issue of left-handed lettering. Is my spacing correct? Am I keeping things level?  WHO KNOWS!!  

To help combat this issue, I always pencil in an even, erasable guideline and sketch in letters before committing anything to marker and/or paint. Then I go over it with a gray marker and erase the pencil lines (Bonus tip: make sure the grey marker is dry before erasing, otherwise you risk smudging or ripping the paper!)

Physics are literally working against us

That might sound extreme, but it’s true! Lefties physically push a pen/marker/paintbrush across paper instead of pulling it, and it is a decidedly more difficult task. Not only that, the process of pushing a marker or brush causes greater/different friction than the item is intended for. Additionally (at least for me), it complicates a primary tenet of lettering: thick downstrokes and skinny upstrokes. It’s a lot of effort to fight against literal science! 

One thing that helps me with this issue is working backwards. Instead of writing left to right, I paint and marker my letters starting at the end of the word and work left. This allows me to pull the marker or brush instead of push, and allows for better control. A high-quality paintbrush, like the Finesse round size 4, also helps with control.

The smudge is real

If you’ve ever known a lefty, seen a lefty, or been a lefty, you know the left sides of our hands are consistently covered in smudges after writing!  No medium is too dry for us to smear.  

There are writing styles you can develop to help curb this issue, including under-the line writing, using a hook-style writing, or employing a tripod grip. I use these techniques when I’m working on fine details or smaller lettering work. My favorite technique, though, is the one from above:  working right to left. I stay in my lettering lines by following my grey guidelines, and this technique allows me to stay smudge-free without messing with my grip.  

All that said, I still have my fair share of lefty-lettering mishaps, but I find when I stick to these tips, I am much less likely to have lefty problems. I hope some of these tips and tricks have been helpful to you!

Reviews (1 comment)

  • Frances Smokowski On

    Great to see lefty issues discussed. They are real. There is a way to work “overhand”…hand above the work providing visibility. And I’ve found a drawing bridge can be useful, if even a sturdy steel ruler spanning across two books. The pincer, or tripod grasp is essential providing many advantages. Sadly, in this era of keyboarding many kids use a static grasp disconnecting their thumbs from pinching… lazy thumb, which works for printing but not fit cursive or drawing. Use of a cover sheet around the target area is helpful. If the paper is taped to Masonite or a drawing board it can then be rotated as needed. Also working at an easel, like the watercolor easel you have that’s a flat board that is propped at a tile. A 22 degree tilt can help a lot with issues of seeing the work rightly. Your highlighting the opposite motor pattern, right to left is spot on. That alone helps many. My tutoring website is:

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