10 Lettering Tools I Am Obsessed With

There's just a plethora of materials and gadgets (hello, Ipad Pencil and Wacom) you can use when it comes to created hand-lettered projects. Different pencil types, pen types, brushes, inks - the list is endless. 

When I was just starting out, I used your standard No.2 pencil and Mitsubishi Uni Pin Sign Pen in 0.5. My work was mostly confined to small sections of my sketchpad in art class, so I didn't really see the need for purchasing too many branded or "legit-looking" tools. Two years later, and I just can't get enough of them. If you're curious, here are 10 of my favorite lettering materials.


Pens & Brushes

1. Mitsubishi Uni Pin Sign Pens

Before I started lettering, I'd use these pens for note-taking during college. I've always been attracted to sign pens for anything involving writing. I love their all-black design and the variety of points they give. For linework, I swear by these pens. 

2. Tombow Fudenosuke Brush Pens

After being gifted by a probable stalker-fan (who I still don't know the identity of), I fell in love after the first few strokes. I've been using it a lot in my journaling and other small projects that don't require super thick lines. They come in hard and soft versions.

3. Zig Brush Writers

For larger projects that demand a little bit of edge, this is what I use. The first Zig Brush I owned was also from a stalker-fan and I realized quickly that it could fit a more raw type of lettering style for me. As someone who likes clean, slick lines, this is like a break of routine.

4. Zig Cocoiro Letter Pens 

I bought my first one because of how the body looked (superficial, but once you see the available body designs, you'll be feeling the same way), but when I started using it, I found more reason to love it. You can get it in brush tip, fine tip, and ball tip, with plenty of colors to choose from.

5. Kuretake Fudebiyori Sets

These Fudebiyoris are so easy to use, and they're really rich in color too. You can buy them in sets of 6's, 12's, 18's, and 24's if I remember correctly. My first pieces were from a destash on a Planner/Journaling group on Facebook. That pretty much started my little fling with brush pens of all kinds. 

6. Waterbrushes

If there's one thing on this list that will always make me squeal with delight (and kilig), it would be waterbrushes. Gone are the days when you have to bring a bottle or a small jar of water so you could paint while traveling. These little babies have been such darlings whenever I'm on a road trip and in need of some traditional "handmade" exercises. You can get them in large, medium, small, and petite sizes, depending on brand.

7. Faber Castell Watercolor Pencils

For use in place of regular graphite pencils. When I'm working with watercolors for a lettering piece, I like to use watercolor pencils to make light outlines or guides. It's pretty sweet, and since they're watercolor, you won't see the outlines when you start filling them in!

8. Uni-ball Signo Pens

Ah, yes, another favorite on the list. The first one I used was in broad, and it might have been that specific pen only, but the experience (at first) wasn't great. Not much ink was coming out of the tip and I just threw it away. Fast forward a few months later and I decided to buy another set (gold, white, silver). This time, the application was amazing. I usually use them for adding sparkle or additional details to my work.


Other materials

9. Sakura Koi Travel Set

For my spontaneous lettering whims, I rely on my watercolor travel set, and I love Sakura Koi. Really nice colors and a lid that doubles as a small palette for mixing. It's really compact, no matter which one you get, whether the 12's 18's or 24's. Sets also come with a free mini waterbrush. 

10. Watercolor Pads (200 lbs. & above)

I'm a "watery" girl, a term which here means I tend to use a lot of water when using watercolors on anything, whether portraits or lettering. It gives me the freedom to keep adding colors and a chance to create nice textures. Honestly, 200 lb. paper isn't enough. Aim for at least 300 lbs.


Well, there you have it! These are what I reach out for once I'm in "the zone" and seated in front of my work station at home. How about you? What other tools do you regularly use for lettering? I'd love to know!

3 Ways to Improve Your Lettering

In our craft, there's never a down time. There's always room for progress and new things to learn. If you're one of those people who feel like they need to step up their lettering game, keep reading. For improvement!


1. Practice the Technical Aspects

While it's so tempting to just go ahead and "do it", put it on Instagram and wait for all the "likes" to pour in, there's wisdom in strengthening your foundations first, before attempting to skip to the structure itself. Study the basics of design, lettering, layouting, and others, and get comfortable with them. Experts understand that respecting the basics, the stepping stones of an outcome, will help you improve faster.


2. Do More Drills

If you've researched about improving your lettering skills before, you might already have an idea about drills. Drills are materials used to enable you to keep practicing your letters or flourishes. If you're not using pre-made sheets (there are plenty available online like here, and here), you may simply choose to get yourself a sketchpad and delegate one page for a single letter. The more you practice, the easier it gets.


3. Join challenges

There are heaps of challenges available on Instagram right now (try Lettering Challenges), and it's always anchored on a community that's very warm and helpful to budding letterers! If you feel like you're not ready for such a commitment, join communities like the Lettering League (which I'm also a member of) on Facebook and see how they do the challenges or work they way around challenging letters. You might find yourself itching to get started on some yourself! 


While we all want to instantly become lettering masters a.s.a.p., the process should be just as fun as what you can do when you get there. Who doesn't love learning? Who doesn't want to improve? No one around here, that's for sure. ;) Just have fun with the process!


Hand Lettering: Getting Started

So, you're here because you need some tips on getting started with hand lettering - good for you! A lot of people want to do something but very few take action. You're already past the first step (hooray)! I remember when I was also just starting, after seeing a college friend dip her fingers into the art, and I had scoured the internet for resources on how to get started and what tools I needed.

Lettering may seem very hard, but once you get the basics and explore on your own, you'll be wanting to write on your walls because you need more space to letter. I've compiled a few things related to my experience and I hope you get a thing or two out of this as well!


Lettering vs Calligraphy

Quite a few people get lettering confused with calligraphy, and you really can't blame them. It's just hand work, right? Well, sort of. Calligraphy is perfecting the motions of your pen to create all those wonderful swirls and old script-like writing (typically with a nib and some ink). Lettering is the art of drawing letters, or draftsmanship, depending on how technical and specific you want to be. 

There are so many tools to choose from, and you'll need to work on your skills to use some of them well. From standard pens and pencils to the fancy tools you see all those amazing IG artists use, you'll get to use all of them as you grow in your craft. 



I'm not a fan of constraints. I love being able to plot my letters as I go and make the necessary adjustments as I see them. Others like to use a ruler, and that's perfectly fine. If you're just starting out, a ruler will be particularly handy in helping you align your strokes and lines properly. 


Choosing the type of paper you'll be drawing on also matters, and it depends on whether it's for drafts or the framable output. I tend to use normal notebook paper or plain bond paper for drafts (for complicated designs). If you plan on framing your work, I suggest you use something sturdier and one that doesn't yellow over time, like some good old bristol board.

For bristol boards, you can choose between vellum (better for pencilling) or plate (has a smooth and shiny surface and is said to be better for inking).

Grid paper is also recommended if you want extreme precision for your lettering. They're cheaper too, so you can keep lettering and practicing on them as much as you want.

Pens & Pencils

Next come the writing tools. While having the best ones you can afford might be what's on your mind, it's not the type of pen you have that'll make you a letterer (though in terms of quality, it does speak volumes to a point). For those who are just starting, your standard #2's and ballpoint pens are perfectly fine. 

If you want to use pens right away, Sakura Microns and Prismacolor Premiers are the way to go. They're less skill-needy than dip pens but give you more professional results than ballpoints. This is really all about preference. My favorite pens are the Mitsubishi Uni Pin Sign Pens, then switch to G-Tech pens when going into the detailed areas. 

For bigger lettering projects, I move on to large, chisel-tipped pens or brush-tipped ones. Either that or I just whip out a large paint brush, haha.

If you really want to go the extra step, you can try dip pens. They're high-maintenance and need to be cleaned regularly, though the output they give is well worth the effort. You'll need to be able to control the amount of pressure you put on your pen. Too much will bend the tip, and too little will just give you very thin lines, if you manage to even touch the paper. Too much ink will make it blot or spatter all over, while very little will make it run coarsely through your paper.



I'm all about freedom, but sometimes, structure is necessary to make a good thing better. 

  1. Look up different fonts on the web and choose which styles you'd like for your project. You may also sketch your own set of letters (which is waaay more fun)
  2. Start sketching the form of your design - the way they're spaced, their placement, etc. 
  3. Once you're happy with the result, you may hand-ink your design or run it through a scanner and finish blocking it out in a vector program. 

Before you go ahead and do those three steps however, it's important to plan the look and feel. How do you want it to look on paper? This is the fun part, where you can just be loose and play around with the form, size, and flourishes. 

If you feel that your pencil pressure could use a little more adjusting, there's a process called "graphite transfer" where you're guaranteed light strokes. You take a pencil or graphite stick, rub it against the back of the paper you're transferring from, lay it down, then draw over it. This transfers a light image.

It's basically just cleanup from that point. You start solidifying the letters you sketched, and then inking them to finalize everything. I suggest you try looking up lettering images and see how they arrange their words. 


There you go, a simple, really basic guide on getting started with hand lettering. People start out differently, and in my case, I literally just took out a pen and started jotting down random quotes. Do what works for you, what you're comfortable with. Best of luck!