Beginner Brush Lettering Supplies: How to Get Started with Modern Calligraphy and Hand Lettering
The world of brush lettering can be hard to navigate when you’re just beginning. There are an endless amount of options and so many pretty pens on Instagram. Where do you even start? I’ve compiled a list of my favorite supplies for beginners to help you out.
Tombow Fudenosuke Brush Pens: This is my top pick for beginner pens. If you only get one set of pens, this should be the one. There are two styles: hard tip and soft tip. You can experiment with both to see which one you like. I recommend starting with the hard tip. The hard pen tip is not as flexible as others, which makes it easier to control for beginners. You can also get fantastic thick and thin lines from these pens. Also, they just came out with color versions.
Pentel Arts Sign Pen Brush Tip: If you’re like me, you don’t want to just use black brush pens. You want a little color in your life! These come in a great 12 pack that have a rainbow of colors to use. These brush tips are a bit more flexible than the Tombow Fudenosuke hard tip brush pen mentioned above, but they’re still a sturdy pen that works very well for beginners. These were my favorite pens early on as I was learning. (Note: Be careful to choose the brush tip pens when you’re buying these. They also come in a felt tip version that is not a brush pen, so read the packaging before you buy.)
Artline Stix Brush Marker: These are a hybrid between a brush pen and a marker, which makes them great for beginners. Large brush pens like Tombow Dual Tip pens can be hard for new letterers to master because the brush tips are so flexible. The Artline Stix pens don’t have as much give. Plus, they come in a fun lego-style shape. Some people find that uncomfortable to use, so you’ll have to experiment and see if you like it.
Crayola Broad Tip Markers: You don’t have to spend a lot of money to get started with hand lettering. You can easily begin with the classic Crayola markers. You won’t get the incredibly thin lines that you would get with a Tombow Fudenosuke, but you can make some incredible art. Check out Crayligraphy for inspiration.
When I bought my first brush pen, I pulled out some spare printer paper and happily started practicing. Very quickly, my brush pen started fraying and it was ruined. That’s when I did some research and realized that you can’t use just any paper with brush pens. Your paper has to be very smooth. This great post from Amanda Arneill provides an in-depth explanation if you want to learn more about why paper matters. Here are the supplies that I recommend. (One note: If I want to use a brush pen on a surface that’s not smooth, I buy a second set of pens that I don’t mind ruining and mark them with washi tape to tell them apart.)
HP 32lb Premium Choice Laserjet Paper: Wait, didn’t I just tell you not to use printer paper? Laserjet paper is much smoother than regular inkjet paper. It’s more expensive than normal inkjet paper, but it comes in a huge ream and it will end up being less expensive than a notepad. I use it all the time, and it’s the only printer paper that I’d recommend.
Rhodia Notepads: These are the gold standard for brush lettering. You can get blank, dotted, lined or grid notepads, and they work very well with brush pens.
Tracing Paper: Tracing paper is very smooth, and it’s a great way to practice over worksheets or books. (Note: Tracing paper won’t work with a nib and ink. Try vellum instead.)
I’m focusing on brush pens in this post, but I wanted to share a great resource for nib and ink pens as well. When I was getting started, I followed this post on “The ultimate DIY modern calligraphy starter kit” from The Postman’s Knock and I had a lot of success. Once you’ve mastered the sumi ink mentioned in that post, white ink can be a fun next step. I like Dr. Ph. Martin's Bleedproof White. (Don’t be surprised by how thick the white ink looks when you open it. You mix it with water to get it to the right consistency.)
Nib and Ink
The Next Step
So, you’ve mastered every pen on the list and you’re ready for more. Once you have the basics down, these are some more advanced tools.
Tombow Dual Brush Pen: These pens are incredibly popular, for good reason. They’re great for lettering projects, and they blend really well. They come in a ton of colors. The tip on these pens is pretty flexible, which can make them hard to get the hang of right away. I recommend these as a next step after you’re comfortable with the Tombow Fudenosuke. One exception: If you’re left-handed, you may find that you prefer the flexibility of these pens over the Fudenosuke.
Kelly Creates Dream Pens: These pens from Kelly Klapstein are a lot of fun to write with and have a loyal following. The tips are very flexible. Try them out and see what you think.
Sharpie Brush Pen: These are my personal favorites. They have a medium tip, and I find them smooth and easy to write with. The only drawback is that they dry out quickly.
Once you have your supplies, you’re ready to get started. I’m working on a post of places to start learning, so stay tuned for that!