The Artist's Tools You Need to Beautify Your Hand Lettering
Described as the art of drawing words with flourish, hand lettering is an easy hobby to pick up since you only need a few tools to get started. "Hand-lettering is a wonderful art form and skill to have because there are just so many applications and endless opportunities to use it! You can create hand-lettered signs for all occasions and use them to decorate your home with your favorite quotes," says Valerie McKeehan, author, hand lettering artist, and owner of Lily & Val. "A touch of hand lettering personalization will also spruce up your cards, letters, and gifts and take them to a whole new level."
Practice with precision and you can create your own lettering effects. Calligraphy, on the other hand, focuses on the beauty of penmanship or the writing of words. But both art forms are great for beginners. "It can seem intimidating when you compare [yourself] to the professionals, just like it was intimidating to learn cursive in elementary school!" says Emily Sizelove, hand lettering artist and owner of Sizelove Letter Co. "But with continued practice, you learn your hand and your own personal style. Hand lettering is truly for everyone!"
According to Brittany Luiz, artist, marketing manager for office product company Tombow, and author of Lettering with Purpose ($21.95, barnesandnoble.com), regular practice is one of the best ways to become good at hand-lettering. "It may look effortless when you watch your favorite hand lettering artist whip up a beautiful piece of lettering on Instagram, but I can guarantee you that they've spent countless hours practicing in order to make it look so easy," she says. "Don't get down on yourself if you're not perfect after a one-hour introductory class. Keep practicing and you'll improve."
The tools that you use also make a huge difference. Here, we asked these three hand lettering artists to share their favorite tools for hand lettering and calligraphy so you can master this skill, too.
Start with the foundation: The choice in paper can affect your lettering work and your other tools. Luiz suggests using smooth paper, like Strathmore 400 Series Marker Paper ($4.19, dickblick.com) or tracing paper ($18.99, michaels.com). Why? "Regular copy paper is going to fray your precious brush tips," she says. Smoother paper will help to keep your brush tips in good condition.
While you can use any writing tool that you have for practicing the basic strokes of hand lettering, you will want to invest in high-quality brush pens. For this, all three of our artists recommend Tombow's Brush Pens. Luiz recommends the Tombow Fudenosuke Brush Pens ($5.96 for two, amazon.com) for hand-lettering and calligraphy, as well as the Tombow Dual Brush Pens ($22.18 for ten, amazon.com). "A lot of beginners find the Fudenosuke easier to learn with because of its smaller barrel and tip size, but the Dual Brush Pen is so fun because it comes in 108 colors and you can blend with it," she adds.
Before you add color, you may want to sketch out the letters ahead of time. Erasers will ensure that you can erase a mistake and start again. "A good pencil and eraser are also useful for sketching out compositions or guidelines," says Luiz. "Hands-down, my favorite eraser is Tombow's MONO Dust Catch Eraser ($1.59, tombowusa.com)—it catches the eraser dust as you erase, so there's virtually no mess to clean up, even when you're erasing large areas."
"My favorite way to letter is with watercolor! My favorite brush is a Pentel Aquash Waterbrush ($14.68, amazon.com). This is a watercolor brush that holds water inside the handle," says Sizelove. "The bristles are fine, but not too fine to require a super steady hand. It really is a great tool for beginners to familiarize themselves with watercolor lettering." If you're inclined to learn this particular technique, Sizelove offers a digital download book called "Learn to Letter" ($15, etsy.com) that provides workbook pages for practicing.
Nibs and Ink
For more traditional calligraphy, Sizelize recommends the Nikko G-Pointed Pen Nib ($5.40 for three, amazon.com) as well as inks from Yasutomo Sumi ($10.77, amazon.com) and Windsor & Newton ($22.49, amazon.com). The pen nib "is sturdy enough for a beginner, but has great flexibility to create your thick lines," she says, adding that these choices for ink work well because of how well it flows from the nib while you work on your letters.