Sermon Notes Lettering Tips and Tricks

So, this is definitely one of the things I get asked most about when I share my lettering.  I love taking Sermon Notes in church every week.  It really got started because I was super envious of some other’s that I have seen and I thought to myself, “that can’t be hard.”  True to my personal form, this was my famous last words!  While it is definitely not hard, per say, it does take a little bit of practice and a small plan in place to become enjoyable.


But, let me back up before we get into the nitty gritty details.  First of all, I will be the first to tell you that I have an incredibly active imagination and my mind LOVES to wander.  As soon as I get a quiet moment, my brain is off, planning vacations, grocery lists, things to letter, afternoon to do lists, reminiscing on memories when Anderson was little, or I was a kid.  It just happens and I feel like I don’t have a lot of control over it.  Perhaps, I do, but for the meantime, I enjoy a hot second of quiet and mental vacation.  Anyways, I found that church was one of the places my mind wandered most.  Father Charlie would be talking about the fruits of the Holy Spirit and then all of a sudden, I would think GRAPES!  We need grapes from the grocery store!  And then, I was thinking about meal planning and then I missed the whole homily.  And this was happening every. single. week.  I knew I needed to figure out a way to really pay attention, but, I wasn’t sure how to make myself pay attention.  In school, I was a diligent notetaker to stay on task.  And, then I stumbled across sermon notes on Instagram.  I think the first ones I saw were Amanda Arneill’s, who are totally swoon-worthy and lettering goals!   It wasn’t long after this that she had a quick live webinar about how to do them.  I watched for an hour and was super convinced that I had this in the bag (again, overconfidence in spades), grabbed a notebook, and headed to church.

I loved journaling because for the first time, I was really engaged in the words of the Scripture and the homily.  I was retaining them past the end of the service and throughout the week, which was huge for me!  It was ugly and imperfect and not like other people’s who had been practicing for years.  (WHAT!  Why was I the only one surprised about this!?!)  But, most importantly, they were serving their purpose.

But, in my first week, was well, not as fabulous as I thought (as seen in the picture above). In the first few attempts, I learned a few things about myself.

  • Drawing is not my specialty. Kudos if it is yours, but not my skill set.  So, I try not to draw anything – letters or bust!
  • Spacial awareness and planning is not my specialty. Especially when I don’t know what is going to be said.
  • Mix it up. Have a few go to styles when you get started and rotate between them.
  • Just write it. It won’t be perfect and that is kind of the point.

So, as I continued to practice, they got better and better.  I want to share a few tips and tricks with you all.  I am just now beginning my third notebook full of church journaling.  I typically do a full spread of lettering every Sunday, as well as anytime we have a speaker at my local MOPS group.  Basically, it averages out to about once a week and my improvement over the course of the year has been exponential.

I wanted to share six pieces of advice with you all to help you get started on your lettering journey!  These are some tried and true tips I have developed over time.

  • Get tools that help you! Find a pen that you are comfortable with and the right notebook.  I always use the Tombow Fudenosuke hard nib pen, because I like that I can use it for brush lettering and stand it up and have a thin tip too.  If you aren’t familiar with brush pens, grab a regular felt tip and faux-lligraphy it!  I also prefer a lined notebook, so that I am not writing uphill all the time.  But, if you don’t need lines (or dots), grab what works for you!
  • My first piece of advice… Ignore the mess ups. You will have them!  There will be pen splats and misspelled words and places that you ran out of space, but guess what, by the time the page is full, you really won’t notice it.  I almost always mess up on the first line – true story – but, then the pressure is off for the rest of the page.
  • Work left to right and up and down or another consistent pattern. This is for my people who struggle with spatial planning.  Spatial planning is not easy for me, especially when I don’t know what is about to be said.  Hopping all over the page turned into a giant disaster for me and I couldn’t figure out how to use my space effectively.
  • Balance your lights and darks. When all of your fonts are heavy and dark, it makes your page look super heavy.  Plus, then you get a ton of bleeding and ghosting on the backside of your page.  I try to do two lighter fonts for every heavy font.
  • Leave space for you! One of my favorite things, as I get more comfortable, is adding my own thoughts, reflections, and notes.  If you are feeling particularly called to reflect on something, do it!  Add your thoughts!  And, what an excellent place to go back and look at them again!  This is also one of my favorite “fillers” if I have a weird amount of space left over.
  • Have a cheat sheet! I keep a little sticky note in the back of my notebook with 5 or 6 simple font suggestions.  If I have a total brain meltdown, I can peek in the back, grab a suggestion and keep going without missing a beat.

I would love to see what you create!  Remember, we are all at different places in our lettering and whether you are brand new to Sermon Notes or have been doing it forever, your lettering is awesome and contributing to personal growth!  I will also say that this definitely doesn’t have to be done only in church.  If you are a big podcast listener or love a good TEDtalk, this is a great place to practice lettering.  I do recommend with starting with a shorter podcast (think less than 30 minutes), so you don’t overwhelm yourself.  The other nice trick about podcasts and TEDtalks is that you can pause it if you need a second to catch up.  Check out Oprah’s Super Soulful Conversations podcast.  There are tons of interviews with different types of people, packed with thoughtful advice, and they are all about 30 minutes.

I know I have seen a few people who take academic notes like this.  (On a side note, this would have made chemistry so much better for me in high school and college.)

I do offer a full class on Sermon Notes and will be offering it in the Chattanooga area in the next few months or so!  Be sure to check the classes link to stay on top of what is coming!

This is a video walk through of my journal notes.  You can see the good, the bad, the improvements, and the places where I have definitely struggled!

Now, go get your letter on!

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