The ABCs of Hand Lettering: Recommended Reads

The ABCs of Hand Lettering is a series of posts on hand lettering – a few tips and guides by yours truly to kickstart your art venture into drawing letters and creating your own lettering style.


Apart from being asked frequently about the materials I use, I always get requests to share my favorite art books. And it’s funny, because while I have my fair share of type and lettering books, majority of my shelf consists of self-help creative books, which deem to be more helpful for us creatives, in my opinion.


Today I give a rundown of my recommended reads – most of which are remnants of places I’ve been (to get these titles fresh from the bookstores) and art forms I’ve been working on for the past years. I also give a few points on which are my favorites and where you could get your stache of art books as well.

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Type & Lettering Books

My collection of type & lettering books range from merely inspiration-centric to terminologies-based ones. I use them (more than Pinterest) for inspiration and idea generation. Most of the styles showcased by different creatives vary a lot in terms of aesthetic, and it’s really nice to explore these as I venture out into projects and see which types can complement my personal lettering style.

  • Drawing Type by Alex Fowkes. A compilation of different lettering and typography artworks showcased by artists around the world, Drawing Type is a visual representation of the art of drawing letters.
  • Reinventing Lettering by Emily Gregory. Similar to Drawing Type but in a handier format, Reinventing Lettering exhibits type work in various fields that portray creativity through letters and typefaces. (Trivia: this is the same as “The Little Book of Lettering” – it was just published in a different country I think)
  • Draw Your Own Alphabets by Tony Seddon. Both a tutorial and activity book, this is a perfect tool for those interested to have hands-on drawing sheets while reading through instructional content.
  • Thinking with Type by Ellen Lupton. This is a rather detailed and informative approach to typography (not lettering) – from technical terms to application of typefaces on digital formats. I personally haven’t read through it yet (because I have no time) but if I consider making my own font (#goals), this should be very much useful.


Self-Help Creative Books

I personally find self-help books on creativity & productivity a better option for those dabbling into creative fields or are aspiring to work in this industry. While most people assume that creativity is the only essential thing as an artist, you have to realize that the left part of your brain plays an equally important part in this process. This helps in streamlining the gap between just an artist and being able to make money out of it, as well as building a decent portfolio. Finding out your work habits is essential if you’re eventually going to work as a creative in the future, and these are just some of the books that constantly help me plot out my own journey as a freelance artist.

  • The Creative License by Danny Gregory. A comprehensive guide on overcoming artists’ block and finding your inner artistic self, this was one of the first few books I purchased (like, last 2011 at Fully Booked), and is still a favorite read.
  • Steal Like An Artist & Show Your Work by Austin Kleon. These 2 books are all about the trade secrets to becoming a great artist – wonderfully illustrated and written in an honest and non-intimidating approach.
  • Hegarty on Creativity. Hegarty (an advertising legend) shares his experiences through tips and pointers you should remember as a creative. This is a slow read, only because I feel that the information in this book doesn’t deserve to be digested in just one sitting. But it’s a nice convenient little book to carry around with you if you’re feeling uninspired.
  • Day-to-Day & Maximize Your Potential by 99u books. Another of my favorites, the 99u books are all about insights and advice from some of the best creatives and gamechangers in the industry. It’s a good guidebook for those who are looking for advice on building yourself as an artist and working towards becoming the best version of your creative (and productive) self.



Where To Buy

I don’t have a complete list of places to buy books – but here are the places I  go to for my literary fix.

  • Manila: Fully Booked & Powerbooks
  • Singapore: Basheer Graphic Books & Kinokuniya
  • Hong Kong: Page One


5 Tips!

  • Read up on reviews. Amazon has a lot of customer reviews that may help you in considering your options before buying.
  • Think before you hoard. Again, as I always say – what you want isn’t necessarily what you need.
  • Refrain from purchasing books with similar content. Books in general are expensive, so know the types of books that will cater to your preferences. Just because everyone’s buying it doesn’t mean you should also get a copy.
  • Invest in selected titles. You don’t need to buy every book you see on the shelf about lettering or illustration or photography. One or two is enough – and it’s better if you find titles that really resonate with your interests and passions.
  • Learn and do. Books are just tools for progress. Always remember that the only way to improve is to practice constantly and put effort into your work.

EDIT: My book, The ABCs of Hand Lettering (same title), is now available at major bookstores nationwide for P295. Read more about it here :)

ABC Shelf

And if you’d like to learn more about lettering, join my workshops!


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Hope to see you soon!

What are favorite books you have at your stache right now? Care to share? :)

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38 Responses to “The ABCs of Hand Lettering: Recommended Reads”

  1. Nurul
    February 11, 2015 at 4:17 pm

    I love Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon! I don’t really do creative work but I think Steal Like an Artist will inspire anyone in their pursuits. Anyway, I’ve got my eye on Manage Your Day-to-Day and Maximize Your Potential by 99u for a long time – and I’m so gonna get them now that you’ve mentioned about these two gems :)

  2. Abbey
    February 11, 2015 at 5:24 pm

    Yeah Austin Kleon’s books are pretty much relatable to any field :) 99u’s books are super helpful – and handy, too! Have fun reading :)

  3. Jae
    February 11, 2015 at 4:49 pm

    Ang cool nung book na mukhang logo ng Instagram! :D

  4. Abbey
    February 11, 2015 at 5:23 pm

    Instagram book siya! Hahaha pinadala ni Instagram sakin.

  5. Kaila
    February 12, 2015 at 9:25 pm

    hashtag this is why we are friends haha! <3

    parang bet ko ng creative license!

  6. Abbey
    February 16, 2015 at 6:43 pm

    Hahaha. Super okay yung Creative License! :) I used that to get over my creative block phase nung high school :))

  7. yan
    February 16, 2015 at 11:19 pm

    hi abbey! i hope you don’t mind but most of your images load slow :( i guess you’re jpeg’s are saved baseline. >XD i hope you don’t mind me suggesting you save them as ‘progressive’ jpegs instead. saves loading time esp that your images are big. :) <3

  8. Abbey
    February 18, 2015 at 9:07 am

    Thanks for the heads up, Yan!

  9. Aleyna
    March 13, 2015 at 8:17 pm

    Hi! May I know where you bought the Draw Your Own Alphabets by Tony Seddon? :) Thanks!

  10. Abbey
    March 14, 2015 at 8:18 pm

    Hello! Powerplant Fully Booked :)

  11. Michelle E. Black
    March 31, 2015 at 11:17 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing what inspires you and these valuable resources. You truly make the world a more beautiful place to thrive in.

  12. Abbey
    April 1, 2015 at 4:55 am

    You’re most welcome :)

  13. Musings on Materials (+ a Giveaway!) | Le Rêveur
    April 16, 2015 at 1:20 pm

    […] Type has always been part of my recommended reads as it showcases a variety of typography, calligraphy & lettering artists that may inspire […]

  14. jona
    June 18, 2015 at 3:09 pm

    hello po, gusto ko po sana malaman po ung mga gamit nyo pong pens, kso once iopen ko po sya napupunta po sya s books, salamat po, btw po super like ko po lahat ng gawa nyo, so happy! while i’m browsing, i read about ur article on yahoo philippines :) keep it up!

  15. SHANIA
    June 19, 2015 at 5:23 pm

    will your own book be sold internationally? :)

  16. Abbey
    June 22, 2015 at 11:42 pm

    Still working on that! As of now it’s just available in Manila.

  17. barnzsilvs
    June 20, 2015 at 1:29 am

    I really love what you do, I’m looking forward to get a copy of ABCs of hand lettering .
    keep it up!

  18. Abbey
    June 22, 2015 at 11:42 pm

    Thank you!

  19. Patricia David
    June 26, 2015 at 11:47 am

    Hi! I just want to know kung anong title nung book na may font guides? Thank you.

  20. Abbey
    June 26, 2015 at 5:56 pm

    Which title?

  21. Jannah
    July 5, 2015 at 10:40 am

    Hi Ms. Abbey, may i ask? Where did buy your watercolor brush pens? Thank you. Btw, i love your book! I finally got my copy

  22. Abbey
    July 6, 2015 at 9:37 am

    Singapore :)

  23. maffi
    July 16, 2015 at 9:48 am

    Hi Miss Abbey!!! Your book is not available yet in NBS Cagayan de Oro. huhuhu…

  24. Gats Manansala
    September 20, 2015 at 5:37 pm

    San po pwede makabili ng book nyo.. here in pampanga?

  25. Abbey
    September 22, 2015 at 12:50 am

    All National Book Store and Fully Booked and Powerbooks branches

  26. Ynah
    September 25, 2015 at 8:11 pm

    Hi :) can I also buy this book in Japan ?

  27. Abbey
    September 26, 2015 at 6:16 pm

    Hi! Which book?

  28. Ynah
    October 5, 2015 at 10:02 pm

    Oh ,, The abc’s of lettering book :)

    October 20, 2015 at 2:47 am

    Es una lástima que no pueda comprarlo en España, estoy muy interesada.

  30. Studio Tour: Abbey Sy - Googly Gooeys
    November 4, 2015 at 9:26 pm

    […] this year, she shared with us that she was coming out with a book which now a best-seller, The ABCs of Hand Lettering.  I silently witnessed her work on her this during the summer.  Honestly, during that time, my […]

  31. Studio Tour + Workspace Organization Tips | Abbey Sy
    November 12, 2015 at 4:21 pm

    […] can check out some of my recommended reads here and here. :) Also, my book, The ABCs of Hand Lettering, is still available at major bookstores in […]

  32. Angelica
    December 7, 2015 at 11:29 pm

    Hi Ms. Abbey! Is there an ebook of your book? I can’t afford to buy it eh.. :) Thanks and Godbless! And I admire your beautiful work. :)))

  33. Abbey
    January 5, 2016 at 11:57 pm

    Yup, you may check Buqo or Amazon. Sorry for the late response!

  34. Aleja
    December 16, 2015 at 3:41 pm

    hi ! :] I LOVE YOUR BOOK !”The ABCs of Hand Lettering” was marvelous, a perfect masterpiece of yours?? .It motivates me more to pursue as a graphic designer … your mastery about typhography inspires me a lot … i love it . Can’t wait again to buy some of your upcoming books.

  35. Alanis Avenilla
    January 2, 2016 at 10:32 pm

    I’d like to win any of these, but the art materials would be GREAAAT, particularly the notebooks, sketchpads, and pens! <3

  36. Peifen
    January 5, 2016 at 4:06 pm

    hi abbey… may i know what’s the name of the “Font Guide” book you were using in the 2nd last pic holding a yellow pencil? thx a lot for your time :)

  37. Peifen
    January 6, 2016 at 8:49 am

    lol abbey. thx for the reply. but i was asking about the name of the book or ISBN if you know.
    hope it’s not hassle to ask too much. thx a lot ! :D

  38. Abbey
    January 6, 2016 at 10:05 pm

    That’s a workshop guide I made. it’s not available anywhere, sorry!