Intro to Foundational Sign Painting Strokes: The Gothic Alphabet

Building the Gothic (Block) alphabet with tips on brush technique, materials, and practise strokes.

Repetitive pattern of vertical, horizontal, and diagonal strokes of black paint on white.
Practise make progress: strokes from the Gothic alphabet.

Jenna Homen, aka Jenna Paints / @jenna_paints, is a Los Angeles sign painter and alumni of the Sign Graphics programme at LA Trade Tech. Here, she breaks down the foundational strokes of the Gothic (Block) alphabet, including tips on brush technique, paint consistency, and setting up to practise these fundamentals.

In the world of sign painting, nothing resonates quite like a single-stroke Gothic (Block), or a snappy Casual. Having these lettering skills up your sleeve without the need for a pounce pattern sets you apart from the average painter, but mastering these alphabets—or even becoming halfway decent—requires patience, an eye for detail, and of course, hours upon hours of practise.

Like any trade skill, the best approach to learning is through in-person classes, apprenticeships, or workshops, but that isn’t always possible for everyone. Most self-taught painters tend to start by purchasing a practise worksheet of letterforms and painting over the letters with tracing paper, or on glass. While this route can yield results over time, it can sometimes skip over the important lesson of understanding the basic strokes that compose each letter, and might create a few bad habits.

When you break down the pieces that come together to form a letter and practise them freehand, you unlock a deeper knowledge of how to use your brush, as well as what makes a letter look and feel balanced.

Here is an introduction to the brushstrokes that make up the foundational Gothic alphabet, and how to practise them. Stay tuned for an introduction to the Casual!

If you want more guidance than this piece can provide, I highly recommend picking up a copy of Sign Painting: A Practical Guide to Tools, Materials, and Techniques. It covers the whole gamut of sign painting basics and answers nearly every beginner question possible.

Strokes for the Gothic Alphabet: Stems, Bars, Diagonals, Curves