You’re toying with the idea of learning lettering but not sure the best tools to begin with. You don’t want to spend a lot of money to start and what if you aren’t any good at it? Relax my friend… here’s 5 simple must haves to put you on the right track. And you can be great at it! Let’s letter!
Before you run out and purchase the best set of lettering supplies, you need to be comfortable with the concept of lettering and have an idea of the style you will use. The things I’m going to list here are items you already have!
Pen and Pencil
Ask anyone that letters what the best pen or pencil of the trade is, and you make get several different answers. That’s because we all have a favorite pen based on what our style of writing is. So naturally, we need to figure out what your style is. The best way to do this is with any good ol’ ink pen you like to write with and a pencil. I do recommend a mechanical pencil for sharper lines, but that little nubby pencil the dog was chewing on will work to start too! (Just sharpen it up really well!)
Why use a pencil? When you are learning (whether you’re new to lettering or not) a pencil is great to practice with. You can erase those out of place lines and letters you don’t like, plus you’re not using up precious ink.
By the way, I do like to have a good eraser for lettering. Not all erasers are equal. If you want something that will erase without smearing pencil and ink all over the page, this is my go-to.
I have several pens that I like to use, depending on the project, but my top 3 favorites for lettering on paper are:
When you get serious about lettering, then paper absolutely matters! But for now, you can use printer paper. Just remember that before you start lettering with good pens, you need to research different types of paper that work best for lettering. Plain paper makes good pens go bad fast! I like these Rhodia Pads for lettering, lots of options!
Shortly after I started out, I realized that lettering was quickly becoming a habit for me. I totally got hooked! I picked up this great little sketch book of smooth paper, and I carry it with me almost everywhere. Waiting at the doctor office, sitting in meetings, taking the kids to the park – my sketchbook is great for all of these and perfect for taking notes when inspiration comes.
Let’s think back to elementary school when we first learned to write. Remember those sheets of paper with the dotted lines on them? In a sense, we are learning to write again when it comes to lettering and calligraphy. I recommend this graph pad if you want good quality paper.
When you’re ready to take it up a notch and use the good pens, then it’s time to go for the good paper. The Rhodia Pad is my favorite for when you want quality paper that won’t ruin your pens.
So you have pen, paper, and guide sheets; now how do you put all this to work? You’re going to need some tutorials and they are everywhere! Search YouTube for lettering videos and you will find plenty to get you started. You can also check out the list of tutorials below as a great starting point.
The abcs of Brush Pen Lettering – learn the miniscule (lowercase) alphabet in 20 minutes!
Creative Lettering and Beyond: Inspiring tips, techniques, and ideas for hand lettering your way to beautiful works of art
Hand-Lettering Ledger: A Practical Guide to Creating Serif, Script, Illustrated, Ornate, and Other Totally Original Hand-Drawn Styles
The Ultimate Brush Lettering Guide: A Complete Step-by-Step Creative Workbook to Jump Start Modern Calligraphy Skills
So how do you know what to write? Well, you could just start with the alphabet but some of the best parts of lettering are learning to write things that have meaning to you. You can find inspiration just about anywhere.
A great place to start is Instagram. You can search for hashtags on #lettering, #calligraphy, or #brushlettering and find more inspiration than you can imagine.
Once you start lettering, you’ll begin to notice signs and words everywhere. Quotes and silly sayings sometimes pop in my head with whatever is going on that day. Whether you travel or just go for a walk, getting outside and taking notice to your surroundings can offer some amazing inspiration. Take the time to clear your mind, and let creativity in.
What’s that? Do they even still make that stuff any more? Lettering takes a bit of focus. It’s a matter of learning the motions and developing muscle memory. If you really want to work at it and see improvement, you need a quiet, comfortable work area. I like to turn on soft music and sit at my desk with good lighting (or sit on the couch in my jammies!). Lettering is relaxation for me so this is just as important as the tools you use.
Practice, practice, and then practice some more! Lettering is a lot of upstrokes and down-strokes, and once you are comfortable with that then you are ready to push onward. I find that most days I still need to warm up and practice before I start a project. Otherwise, my lines are off, my hands are shaky, and I struggle with my grip. It’s easy to get frustrated in the beginning, but keep practicing and I promise you will see improvement. I still have the very first piece I lettered and posted on Instagram. I can already see a huge improvement in just months of practice.
- You will not nail this on the first day, maybe not even the first week. Do not give up.
- You need to practice at least 3-4 times a week minimum if you want to see faster improvement. Five minutes is better than none. I try to dedicate at least 20 minutes a day or every other day. Sometimes you will get lost in it and an hour later you’ll feel like you just started.
- You will fray your first few pen tips so order more than one. This is totally normal when starting out and trying to learn techniques. I am serious when I say I frayed the tips on the first 8 pens I bought. Be prepared and don’t give up.
- Overload on inspiration. This will help give you ideas, spark your creativity, and get rid of “writer’s block” when it’s time to practice.
- Don’t think you have to go for the fancy markers right away. I still use Sharpies and Crayola Markers every week!
That’s all you need to get started in lettering. Just pick up a pen and start at the very least. There are a gazillion styles to lettering and just as many projects that you can use it for. You’ll find some more of my favorite tools for lettering right here. If you want more, be sure to sign up for our emails.
If you have questions about lettering or just like to chat, leave a comment or drop me an email. I read every single one and love hearing from you! What would help you letter better?