Recap: Brush pen workshop at GDC Alberta South

Brush lettering with Ligatures YYZ in Calgary, Alberta Sunday, July 12th marked our first out-of-province brush lettering workshop. Chris and I headed to Calgary to teach a group of YYC creatives how to draw letters with a brush pen. The event was sponsored by GDC South Alberta, and the venue was generously provided by  Uppercase Magazine. The space is inspiring, stock full of old colourful typewriters, amazing posters, and tidbits from recent issues (including some amazing calligraphy & sign painting!)

Setting Up the workshop at Uppercase Magazine

The brushes for the workshop

Each of the students received our official Ligatures workshop booklet, tracing paper, sketch book, and 5 brush pens. Uppercase kindly donated the newest issue and a small sketch book as well! After some introductions, students began practicing how to control the brush by working through a series of line exercises. Everyone tried out each of the pens as they worked – folks seemed to favour the Faber-Castell and Sharpie Brush Marker.

Working through the line exercise

The students getting -ready for practice.

Oodles of O's

Once everyone started making the basic strokes look easy, we moved onto letterform construction. We've introduced a new addition to the course plan: our overlay workbook. Printed on velum, this booklet shows how each stroke of the uppercase alphabet is overlaid to create each form. As the students worked through the uppercase letters, Chris and I gave demos of any forms that people were finding difficult. It was fun to hear people's favourite pens change as the day progressed. This group was very receptive, and was able to keep their stroke consistent while exploring their own style.

Perfect lettering forms taking shape

S is for Success

J is for Janine

After lunch, we moved onto the lowercase alphabet, expanding on the strokes that were quickly committing to muscle memory. This section focuses more on how to control the pressure and angel of the brush. Once everyone was feeling confident, we played a few rounds of style matching. We gave students examples of old letter forms from the 50’s and 60’s to examine and replicate, getting a feel for the flow of different styles.

Practice the lowercase Alphabet

Filling pages with letters

Stephanie's Stunning Script


After 8 hours of lettering, we could tell people were beginning to feel worn out (don't let anyone telling you making letters all day isn't hardwork!) We gathered everyone around while Chris and I both gave demo's on composition and refining your work. Chris showed everyone how to use tracing paper overlays to work out compositional issues, and I showed how using a pencil guide can speed up refinement. Janine was nice enough to let us use her computer for a quick tutorial on digitizing work.

Apart from the workshop, Chris and I spent a lot of time walking around the city. Since Chris called Calgary home for so long, he was an amazing tour guide. We walked all over downtown, spying amazing new and old signage around the city. We happened to be in town during the Calgary Stampede as well, which meant there was even more to look at. It seemed like every building we passed had western-themed cartoons & lettering painted on the windows – the quality of the work was great!

Books store signage. Really love the way the f touches the o.


We'd like to thank our amazing class for being so eager to learn. Thanks also to Spencer of the GDC Alberta South chapter for all of his help in the weeks leading up to the workshop, as well as set-up on the Sunday morning. Big thanks to Janine for offering her space and copies of her magazine, and the amazing recap & video on the Uppercase blog.

The Calgary Workshop Class

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If you're interested in bringing the Ligatures lettering workshop to your city, please contact us through the site or email:

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