The TWO things you need to start lettering!

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When you first start lettering it can seem overwhelming to see all the different kinds of brush pens & supplies that are circulating out there.
What do I actually need to get started?

When I first started lettering I didn’t have a lot of money to spend on supplies, but I wanted to try different pens. The brush pens that I was able to find were not very cheap and I had a really hard time using them. A lot of the pens available at local stores were very difficult to manage and I thought that I would not be able to do brush lettering at all.

Now that I have been lettering for over a year, I feel like I’m able to give beginners a pretty good idea of the supplies that they will need to get started with!

ONE. A brush pen or two.
I think the temptation is to purchase multiple brush pens of all different kinds because you are excited about getting started. I can’t blame you for that because I definitely did the same thing. The downside to this is that you are more likely to ruin your brush pens because you haven’t quite learned how to hold them or use them yet. I recommend buying one or two brush pens to get started with and/or even beginning with a Crayola marker!
Click on the photo below to find what I think are the three best pens for beginners:

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TWO. Soft paper!
Once you have some brush pens, it is important to take great care of them! The Tombow Dual Brush Pens* are often some of the most popular pens around, but they are easily frayed and can be ruined just by writing on one wrong sheet of paper. The best paper that I can recommend to you are the Rhodia Notepads*. The paper is quite possibly the smoothest you’ll ever feel and comes in many different sizes. These are available in blank, dot grid, and grid styles!

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Once you have started to learn how to hold the pen, practice basic strokes, and begin to feel comfortable when building your letters THEN you should move toward buying some more brush pens. There are a lot of things out there on the market that it may feel like you NEED, but if you are looking to try a new hobby and spend the smallest amount of cash possible- I recommend buying a brush pen and a dot pad to get yourself ready!

Beyond those items, you may want to purchase an online class or a lettering guide to help you learn the basics. You can also look for calligraphy workshops within your local area!

*This post includes affiliate links.

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Start Lettering with Crayola Markers.

Did you miss the first step? Click here to start with step one!

So, you’ve got your Crayola markers* now. And I know what you were thinking…I had no idea that you could letter with Crayola markers when I first started! I thought that you had to have fancy brush pens to even remotely start brush lettering!

SO. Go grab those Crayola markers again. This time you’re going to create a few different kinds of strokes. These are the strokes that are a tiny little piece of the Brush Calligraphy Guide. You’re going to start with those first thin & thick strokes that I mentioned and then move to some new strokes!

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Now, I thought that perhaps you’re wondering HOW to create those thin and thick lines with a Crayola marker. I was right there with you, too! BUT hopefully this will help you.

When you are creating a THICK line you want to angle the pen (like shown in the photo below) so that a greater area of the pen will be touching the paper! You don’t want to use the tip and push the tip down for a thicker line- this won’t work as you will probably just bleed through the paper! If you tip the pen to the side, you’ll naturally be able to create a thicker line because there is a greater area to work with!

TIP: Focus on using the side of the tip of the pen so that more of the pen is touching the paper. It’s not about pushing down harder, but using a larger area of the pen.

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When you are creating a THIN line you can use the tip of the Crayola marker!
The trick for creating a thin line is to lighten up your pressure – pull up on your pen. While you use the side of the tip for thicker lines, focus on lightening up your pressure and moving toward using the tip of the pen for thin lines.

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So, here’s another important tip about lettering…

You do NOT need to be writing fast. The pace of lettering is much slower than writing in cursive. You can take your time transitioning between those thin and thick strokes. Take your time creating each letter (we will talk about building letters soon, but not quite yet!). Don’t feel like you need to write fast when you are lettering because it is actually a much slower process than you might think!

AND most important of all, be nice to yourself! You are learning something new and you won’t become a professional overnight! Have some grace with yourself and enjoy the process of learning a new skill. Have some of your friends join you in learning this new skill & encourage each other as you finally start to like the lines (or letters!) you create!

What’s next?!
Use the Basic Strokes to Build Letters
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Let’s Compare Brush Pens!

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When I first started hand lettering, I was eager to try any kind of brush pen that I could get my hands on. I knew nothing about them and had absolutely no idea what I was looking for. I didn’t even know how to use them once I had them, but I was excited to try them out! Because of this lack of knowledge & skill on my part, I ended up ruining a lot of my pens. Yikes! Brush pens tend to be quite easy to mess up, especially when you have no idea what you are doing. I feel as though I’ve messed up enough brush pens that I can now help others avoid that step in their own lettering journey! I’ve decided to give you a little comparison between 7 of these brush pens that I own:

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Pens (top to bottom): Zig Clean Color Real Brush Pen, Pentel Fude Touch, Pigma Brush, Koi Water Brush Fine Tip, Pentel Color Brush, Tombow Fudenosuke Soft Tip, Tombow Dual Brush Pen.

I’ve decided to look at the same elements for each pen, plus a little bit of my own personal thoughts about them. I will be looking at:
Difficulty: Beginner, Intermediate, or Advanced. This should help you determine if you’re ‘ready’ for this pen. If you’re really adventurous, then you can surely ignore this recommendation!
Tip: Bristles, Fairly Flexible, Mildly Flexible, or Extremely Flexible. This will let you know the kind of tip the pen has. Is it like an actual paint brush or a more firm, pointed brush tip. Different kinds of pens will create very unique lettering styles and you want to be sure the pens you buy have the look you’re hoping for!
Colors: Are these pens available in various colors or only black? If you’re looking for bright colors, then some of these pens will not be the ones for you!

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  1. Zig Clean Color Real Brush Pen
    Difficulty: Beginner/Intermediate
    Tip: Bristles, Very Flexible
    Colors: A LOT OF COLORS!
    Recommendation: These pens are wonderful! They were a hit with some of my beginner friends because they are like a real paint brush, but the tip is short so it’s easier to manage. The ink runs smoothly & you can get some beautiful thin/thick lines. I would recommend these, especially because they come in so many fun colors!
  2. Pentel Fude Touch
    Purchased from: Jet Pens, Amazon
    Difficulty: Beginner
    Tip: Short, Mildly Flexible
    Colors: A LOT OF COLORS!
    Recommendation: I LOVE this pen. I wish that I had known about it when I started lettering! It is small, easy to manage, and creates gorgeous lettering! It’s very similar to the Tombow Fudenosuke (#6 on this list!), but for some reason I tend to lean toward this pen more! I love that it comes in various colors, as well!
  3. Pigma Brush
    Purchased from: Hobby Lobby
    Difficulty: Intermediate
    Tip: Long, Fairly Flexible
    Colors: Comes in a few colors.
    Recommendation: This pen is definitely not one of my favorites. The tip is very long, which can be difficult to manage. The fiber of the tip frays easily – definitely a pen that must be used only on smooth paper (like Rhodia). As you can see from the lettering above, this pen creates beautifully thick lines! As long as you maintain the tip, you should be able to create some gorgeous letters.
  4. Koi Water Brush – Small
    Purchased from: Hobby Lobby
    Difficulty: Advanced
    Tip: Bristles, Extremely Flexible
    Color: Doesn’t have a color. This pen is meant to be filled with water, I filled it with black Sumi Ink instead.
    Recommendation: I’m not a huge fan of this pen. The tip of this pen is very long and very pointy. This makes it difficult to manage and to create thick/thin contrasts. The thin tip makes it difficult to get a consistent thick line and smooth transitions between thick/thin lines. I definitely prefer the Pentel Water Brush instead.
  5. Pentel Color Brush
    Purchased from: Paper Ink Arts, Amazon
    Difficulty: Intermediate
    Tip: Bristles, Very Flexible
    Color: LOTS OF COLORS! Most often seen in black.
    Recommendation: Another favorite pen of mine! I have to say, Pentel makes wonderful brush pens. I love this pen. It’s unique because the ink must be squeezed through the barrel of the pen up into the bristles. You have to be mindful of your ink usage and remember to squeeze the pen so you don’t run out of ink in the middle of a word! I highly recommend this pen! You can also purchase replacement inks without having to buy a fully new pen.
  6. Tombow Fudenosuke Soft Tip
    Purchased from: Jet Pens, Amazon
    Difficulty: Beginner
    Tip: Short, Mildly Flexible
    Color: Black
    Recommendation: I recommend this pen for beginners! It is a portable, small pen and creates gorgeous thin/thick lines! You will be writing a lot smaller than you might with some of these other brush pens, so it’s good for details or pieces with a lot of words! This pen is very similar to the Pentel Fude Touch & I recommend trying them both to see which one you like more!
  7. Tombow Dual Brush Pen
    Purchased from: JetPens, Amazon
    Difficulty: Intermediate/Advanced
    Tip: Long, Very Flexible
    Color: SO. MANY. COLORS!
    Recommendation: If you’ve been researching hand lettering, then you have likely seen a LOT of this pen. It creates some gorgeous lettering & is well-loved by many seasoned letterers. These pens are very difficult to use, especially for beginners! I wouldn’t recommend it as your first pen. It has a very flexible tip that is easy to fray! These pens are also not very cheap, that’s why it may be better to begin with an easier pen & work your way up to this one! I will say this though, I love the Tombow Dual Brush very much. It is easily one of my favorite pens & I love the (what seems) infinite color options. I absolutely recommend this pen, but I would say proceed with caution & use soft paper (I’ll talk more about this later, but basically look for a Rhodia notepad)

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Hopefully you’ve found this information helpful as you’re on the beginning of your lettering journey. I would love to hear about YOUR favorite brush pens! Comment below with your favorite pen.

 

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