Tools for Beginning Hand Letterers

So, you want to start hand lettering. You’ve been watching talented people showcase their work on Instagram and you want to try to start to make your own designs. It’s so exciting!

Until you realize that you’ll have to buy supplies. What supplies? Do you buy everything your favorite letterer uses? Do you just buy the cheapest option? Where do you begin?

“What do you recommend that I get to start out with hand lettering?” is a common question that I get. Many people don’t realize they’re actually asking about brush lettering specifically, but my answer is usually the same: you need a pencil.

Now, I realize that it’s not all that fun to simply use a pencil to begin to hand letter. I’ve been in your shoes! I also spent a lot of money on supplies that I’m not using anymore or that I ruined too quickly because I didn’t understand them.

So, I’d like to give you a list of the supplies I think are important when you’re starting out. You’re sure to find one that is particularly helpful to you, and you’ll find your own path from there!

Back to my previous statement — you should start with a pencil! It’s SO important to practice just “feeling” the letters and working through one letter at a time. The best way to do this is with a pencil. It’s also important to think through your up and down strokes and the process of adding weight with “faux” calligraphy.

While I will continue to say that it’s important to practice with a pencil, there are some other great tools out there that won’t break your bank and you can learn fairly easily.

If you’re sick of the pencil, you could easily move on to Crayola markers. These are not only a cheap and effective option, but they are great practice in the weight of strokes and pressure you have to apply to get the difference. They require a lot more pressure when lettering than the brush pens do. You can also use the Crayola Super Tips for smaller and finer lettering.

The first common specific-to-lettering tools are the Tombow Fudenosuke Brush Pens. These come in two types: hard and soft tip. You’ll quickly find your preference between the tips of these pens and it’s probably best to buy them in the two-pack they’re usually sold in. They’re best if you’re practicing small words and phrases and can really focus attention to your up and down strokes and maintaining your consistency throughout.

My favorite small brush pen is the Pentel Fude Touch Sign Pen. I’m not sure if this has to do with being a lefty, but I just love these pens. They are firm, yet flexible and give me a perfect separation of thick downstrokes and thin upstrokes every time. I’m able to manage the weight and control my strokes a little bit better than I am with the Tombow brush pens although they are very comparable.

For larger lettering, the Tombow Dual Brush Pens are incredibly popular. They have so many features that make them a fun lettering tool: they help you create large lettering pieces, there’s a huge difference between the amount of weight you can add to strokes, they come in about a million different colors, and they are easily blended with each other. The do require a lot of practice to get the feel of the amount of pressure you need to use, but that is the same with any new tool you’re using. They have a very flexible tip that is great for practicing your control of the pen and stroke.

Another thing I wish I would have known before ruining several brush pens was that paper matters. Now, when I’m using my brush pens, I exclusively use Canson Marker Paper or Tracing Paper. This makes all the difference in maintaining the important brush tip of your markers and getting the most bank for your buck. You’ll also notice that it’s just much easier and smoother when you’re practicing to use paper that’s made specifically for the marker/brush pen.

All in all, don’t spend a fortune on lettering supplies when you’re just starting out. You’ll fray the tips of your pens and regret the wasted money. I do, however, encourage you to find a set of brush lettering practice sheets and pick a tool to try from the beginning.

Now, pick a tool and happy lettering!