A collection of resources and contacts developed for those that have taken part in a Better Letters workshop. Please get in touch if any links don’t work or if there’s anything you’d suggest adding for the future. Further down is a suggested starter kit with supplies from A.S. Handover.
Films Online are curated on both Vimeo and YouTube, with a variety of demonstrations, documentaries and other lettering titbits. Also recommended is the documentary, Sign Painters, as well as our own films, including the ‘When Better Letters Met…’ series.
The following are some recommended books. It is not exhaustive by any means and will be updated over time. More recommended books can be found at: Lettering Library; Richard Gregory Signs. It is also worth searching for terms such as ‘lettering’, ‘sign writing’ etc. at the Internet Archive.
- Practical Sign Shop Operation, Bob Fitzgerald
- Sign Painting Course, E.C. Matthews
- Sign Painting Techniques, Ralph Gregory
- Signwork, Bill Stewart
- Workshop Booklet (Original), Mike Meyer
Practical Lettering & Layout
- ABC of Custom Lettering, Ivan Castro (also see Ivan’s alphabet contribution in this book)
- ABC of Lettering, Carl Holmes
- Golden Secrets of Lettering, Martina Flor
- In Progress, Jessica Hische
- Mastering Layout, Mike Stevens
- Speedball Textbook
- Studio Handbook, Samuel Welo
- Workshop Booklet & Posters, Mike Meyer
- Writing & Illuminating & Lettering, Edward Johnston
Lettering Inspiration, History & Theory
- A History of Lettering, Nicolete Gray
- Amsterdam Curly Letter, Ramiro Espinoza
- Blaschke, Oliver Linke
- Designage, Arnold Schwartzman
- Fascia Lettering in the British Isles, Alan Bartram
- Fileteado Porteno, Alfredo Genovese
- Ghostletters Vienna, Tom Koch
- Ghost Signs, WM Stage
- Grafica de les Rambles, Louise Fili
- Grafica della Strada, Louise Fili
- Graphique de la Rue, Louise Fili
- Morgue File, Mike Meyer
- Scripts, Steven Heller & Louise Fili
- Shadow Type, Steven Heller & Louise Fili
- Sign Painters, Faythe Levine & Sam Macon (also a feature length film available online)
- Signs of Italy, James Clough
- Signwritten Art, Tony Lewery
- Slab Serif Type, Steven Heller & Louise Fili
- Stencil Type, Steven Heller & Louise Fili
- The Art and Craft of Signwriting, William Sutherland
- The Eternal Letter, Paul Shaw
- The Origin of the Serif, Edward Catich
Starter Kit (Oil-Based Paints)
The links here are to the website of A.S. Handover in the UK. Please also contact them for details of European stockists of paint and brushes. In the USA we recommend Alpha 6 Corp, Mack Brush, and Midwest Sign Supply.
- One tin of 1-Shot Poster Paint or Handover Flat for practise on paper. Try 1-Shot Enamel or Handover Enamel for a slower-drying, gloss finish for outdoor sign work.
- One tin of neatsfoot oil (250ml). Engine grease, vaseline and other petroleum-based products can also be used.
- Some white (mineral) spirits.
- Brushes. Start out with number 6 and then think about an 8 and a 4 for bigger/smaller work. General purpose chisels include the Mack & Meyer Mop, the 2112 series (sable) and the 333 series (synthetic). For a quill, try the Quinn-Mack Brown Quill.
- Mahl stick (or make your own, length is approximately 75–90cm)
- Palette and dippers (if you prefer to using a cup)
- Masking (Kraft) paper is good value and works well with the paint. A dispenser is useful if space allows.
Basic Brush Care (Oil-Based Paints)
- At first your brush may have a hard substance (gum arabic) in the hairs which can be washed out with clean warm water and a little soap before drying off with a rag.
- Soak the hairs of your new brush in neatsfoot oil (see above). Push the oil into the ferrule (the metal part that holds the hairs). Work the brush into the chisel edge using your fingers and stand on end (hairs up) for an hour or more.
- Before use, wipe the excess oil off the brush with a rag and give it a rinse in some clean white spirit.
- While using the brush some paint may start drying and this can affect the cleanness of the chisel edge. If this happens, wipe the excess paint off and give it a quick rinse in some white spirit before continuing to paint.
- After painting, give your brush a thorough clean. First wipe as much excess paint off the hairs as possible with a rag. Rinse it in stages using white spirit, from dirty to clean (1,2,3), wiping off the spirits and paint each time. When pressing the ferrule down in the clean spirits there should be (ideally) no paint coming out. If paint is still visible then continue rinsing and wiping.
- Once the brush is clean, use the neatsfoot oil or vaseline to cover the hairs, massaging it in to get the brush back to a chisel edge.
- Store carefully in a box or upright so that the chisel edge is preserved.
- When you’re ready to paint again, return to step 3 above.
A note on white spirits
It is of course flammable so don’t smoke etc when using it. It also contains alcohol which will evaporate if it is left exposed for extended periods of time so always cover up when you finish painting. It is possible to ‘clean’ dirty white spirits by letting it stand in an airtight container (e.g. plastic milk bottle). The dirt (paint) will sink to the bottom in a few days and then the spirits can be used again for thinning paint and cleaning brushes. Just pour it out carefully, leaving the gunky paint at the bottom. Finally, always allow the alcohol to evaporate from rags or tissue before disposing of it, especially when the weather or room is hot. It is possible for these to spontaneously ignite if placed straight in the bin.