One of the questions I’m often asked is what tools are needed to get started lettering, so today I want to save you tons of time on Google and give you all of my go-to tools and resources for hand lettering.
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When I first became interested in handlettering about two years ago, I didn’t really know where to begin. I was seeing beautiful script pieces popping up everywhere, drooling over work by Jessica Hische and Sean Wes, but not knowing how I could do that myself. I’ve always been creatively inclined, but never really considered myself an artist so I wasn’t sure if this was something I could actually do. Let me stop here for a second and tell all of you non-artists out there, lettering is for anyone! You just have to practice.
If you’re interested in getting started lettering, look no further because I’ve rounded up all of my favorite lettering tools below. These are all tools/resources/products that I have personally used and can vouch for. Are there tons of others out there? Yes. But this is a great list to get you started. Trust me, I’ve spent way too much time with my good friend Google over the past two years compiling this list!
I’ve gone into a bunch of detail on my favorite papers in this post, so if you want the explanation for each, make sure you read that! Here, I’ll keep it short and sweet:
- Canson XL Series Marker Pad
- Canson XL Mix Media Pad
- Strathmore 300 Series Mixed Media
- Canson XL Watercolor Pad
- Canson XL Series Bristol Vellum Pad
- Canson Vidalon Vellum Pad
- Strathmore Tracing Pad
- Rhodia Notepad
Pencils + Erasers
Using good, quality products means you don’t have to replace them all the time. These are some of the best on the market and are absolutely fantastic.
- Tombow MONO Drawing Pencils (I like to use HB, B and 4H the best)
- Tombow MONO Dust Catch Eraser (it literally catches the eraser bits as you erase!)
- Tombow Sand Eraser (will erase ink smudges! It’s like magic.)
I highly recommend using Tombow brush pens for so many reasons. Yes, I work for Tombow, but no they aren’t paying me to say this! I’ve been using Tombow brush pens for lettering since before I was lucky enough to land on their payroll, so don’t write off this endorsement as something an employee has to say. I still have the first Tombow pens I purchased two years ago and they’re still going strong. As Tombow’s Social Media & Content Manager, I’ve seen countless people comment on our social accounts that they’ve had the same set of Dual Brush Pens for 10, 20, even 30 years. These things are made to last, y’all.
For beginners, I recommend starting with the Fudenosuke Brush Pens. These are smaller than the Dual Brush Pens and are easier for beginners to use. Why, you ask? Well, in my opinion it’s because not only are the barrels smaller and a little closer to a normal pen/pencil width, but the nib/tips are smaller and firmer as well. Don’t get me wrong, they’re flexible and you can achieve thick and thin strokes with pressure variation, but they don’t have quite as much give as the Dual Brush Pen nibs, so you can really practice your pressure variation. I personally prefer the hard tip version, but that’s really a personal decision. Make sure you try the Twin Tip too, because it’s super fun to have both grey and black ink in one pen!
Once you’ve practiced a bit with the Fudenosukes, it’s time to move on to the Dual Brush Pens! I absolutely love these. They come in 95 colors plus 1 blender pen (the clear/white one) and since they’re water-based, they blend beautifully and almost effortlessly. There are so many fun things these pens can do! They have a resilient nylon brush tip on one end that acts like a paintbrush (a super smooth, non-streaky paintbrush!), and a bullet/fine tip on the other end that gives really consistent lines. When using these pens it’s really important that you only use them on super smooth paper, or else you’ll tear up the tips. Make sure you read my top paper picks to ensure you’re getting the right paper for your brush pens! You’ll also want to hold your pen at a roughly 45 degree angle while writing with these to further preserve the tips.
- Tombow Fudenosuke Hard Tip Brush Pen
- Tombow Fudenosuke Soft Tip Brush Pen
- Tombow Fudenosuke Twin Tip Brush Pen
- Tombow Dual Brush Pens
- Tombow Blending Palette (use this to easily blend the Dual Brush Pen colors together!)
Brush Pen Storage
Once you have more than about 20 of the Dual Brush Pens, you should go ahead and get the desk stand from Tombow. It’s really useful for keeping the markers organized! (Tip: You don’t have to store these pens vertically – they can also be stored horizontally. So don’t worry if you have them in a pencil pouch, in some other form of storage in your craft room, or strewn on your kitchen table like I almost always do.)
If you’re not ready to dive in to brush lettering but you want that modern calligraphy look, monoline pens are going to be your best friend! These type of pens are great for faux calligraphy, outlining, shadowing, and creating block letters or monoline letters. Of course, my favorites are Tombow’s new MONO Drawing Pens! Find out more about these pens by reading this post.
I’ve taken several online classes for lettering, and they’ve all been fantastic! My first class was Tosha Seeholzer’s (@hellotosha) basic script lettering class on Atly. If you want to be introduced to the world of handlettering, this is a great place to start. You’ll receive a fantastic list of tools to get started (little known fact, Tosha is actually the person who introduced me to Tombow products!), an explanation of letterforms, and examples of different types of lettering.
I’ve also taken several of Amanda Arneill‘s lettering courses. If you want to go from 0 to 60 in your lettering in a short amount of time, I recommend taking Amanda’s course and binge-watching (and binge-practicing, while you’re at it!). It’s fantastic. Amanda is so sweet and has the cutest teaching style. It wasn’t until she explained each letter, step by step, that I really started to see my lettering dramatically improve.
And then there are my friends over at Brit+Co! They have tons of lettering courses available (some taught by me!), and you can learn very specific aspects of lettering in each one. I’ve included a list below of my favorites:
- Brush Lettering Workshop
- Vintage Sign Lettering
- Calligraphy 101
- Intro to Chalk Lettering
- Water Brush Lettering
Or if you want to take 3 of Brit+Co’s most popular lettering classes, check out their Lettering Lover Bundle, which is a 30% savings! Whoop!
There are so many worksheets out there, you guys! When it comes to worksheets, my recommendation is to look around and see what you feel will work best for you. Are you interested in drills, learning how to put letterforms together, or adding a bunch of different styles to your repertoire? You should look for sheets that match your needs and don’t waste your time or money on the ones that don’t. With that being said, if you have needs that aren’t being met by any sheets out there, LET ME KNOW! I would love to create something that fills a gap for you. Email me and let’s chat about what you need.
Here’s my shameless self promotion: Grab my 20 Ways to Draw Capital Letters – Full Alphabet downloadable e-workbook if you’re interested in 520 unique capital letters to add to your arsenal. The full workbook (a downloadable pdf that you print on your own) includes 2 worksheets per letter, a worksheet with drills/basic strokes, and a blank worksheet that you can print as many times as you’d like. I haven’t seen anything else like it out there, and I think it’s something that you will find useful in your lettering journey.
I’ve also purchased several worksheets from The Postman’s Knock. I love how affordable her Learn Calligraphy for a Latte worksheets are and how they show you how to achieve a specific style. Most art created with pointed pen in mind for the tool to be used, but you can pretty easily use them for brush pens as well!
- 20 Ways to Draw Capital Letters – Full Alphabet by Brittany Luiz
- Learn Calligraphy for a Latte by The Postman’s Knock
Especially when I was first getting started, I really relied on blogs to learn tips and tricks that I didn’t know about. These are the ones I used when I first began lettering, and some I’ve recently learned about that are absolutely top notch:
A note about looking to others for inspiration: it’s totally okay to do this, but do not copy anyone else’s work! It’s just not cool to copy, so make sure you’re casting a wide net and looking at many different artists for inspiration, or else your work is going to start to look like the people you’re inspired by instead of looking like it’s unique to you. One of the greatest compliments and most cringe-worthy moments I recently had was when someone said they thought my work looked like one of my lettering idols’. I was so excited on the one hand – yes, that means what I’m doing is fantastic! – but on the other hand, I had to stop and take a look at what was influencing me and make sure I wasn’t copying anyone else with the stylistic choices I make. It’s so important to let your voice shine through, even when you’re being influenced/inspired by others.
So, with that, here are the people/accounts I look to for inspiration (this is not all-inclusive, but these are the people whose work almost always resonates with me in some way):
Are there any resources I’ve forgotten about? Are there specific worksheets you’d like to see created? Are you interested in a collab? I’d love to chat with you! Send me an email and we’ll talk!