Favorite Hand Lettering Tools & Books

I am a picky shopper. I don’t like spending money on anything unless it’s totally worth it. So I’ve scoured the Internet and my local stores and read all the advice from professionals I could get my hands on. And I have laid my own money on the line to test it all. This is all to say that I feel pretty confident when I tell you: These are the cream of the crop.

PS For a clear and detailed approach for how to use these tools, check out my resource on how to hand letter.

Contains affiliate links, about which I feel mixed. Amazon sure does make it easy to get whatever you need very fast. Still, if you have a local art store, I think it’s a great idea to get these tools there. That way you can try before you buy, enjoy the sensory experience of art supplies, and support your local economy.

Pencils

If you’re going to be a good lettering artist, you are going to need a good pencil. Pencils are essential for testing out ideas and laying down your final design before you ink it. You want the pencil to be precise and easy to see, but also easy to completely erase and that won’t leave dents in your paper. These Papermate Sharpwriter #2 are the best of the best and a great bang for your buck.

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Erasers

The eraser native to those pencils is fine, but when I’m working on my final piece, I like the effectiveness and control of the hi-polymer white erasers from Pentel.

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Black Pens

Black pens are my favorite tool for creating my final lettering pieces. The legibility of black ink on white paper just can’t be beat. And, if you’re planning to digitize your images, you need something that is easy to scan. My favorites are Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Pens. I use the 1.5 size the most (nice fat line, but still decent detail), but I like having the variety pack so I can get the details just how I want them.

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For detail work, I love the precision of Sakura Micron pens — and the price just can’t be beat.

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Colorful Pens

When I want to add some color to my lettering, I grab my Tombow Dual Brush pens. I mostly use the precision point, but I like that it has both a brush and marker tip. And the colors are great. These are water-based ink, so one cool trick is that you can use them like watercolors! Just draw a little on a ceramic or plastic dish, dip your paintbrush in water, and then dip it in the ink like it’s paint!

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If you’re looking for something that’s even more playful, I highly recommend the Pentel Sparkle Pop. I have tried a lot of metalic and sparkly pens and these are the best out there right now. So shiny!

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Rulers

I am not the best at measuring things precisely, but making an effort is an important part of designing and balancing a lettering piece. You’ll want a smaller ruler you can be nimble with and one with a cork back so it doesn’t slip. My favorite ruler is the 6″ Wescott, which also gets bonus points for being shiny (hint: It’s great to have something shiny in your flatlay photos for visual interest).

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Notebooks

To draft your lettering, you are going to want to use a grid of some kind. You could hand draw one on computer paper every time, but that’s…painful. Skip the pain and move right to the fun by using graph paper or (my personal favorite) a dot grid notebook. I keep a Fabriano pocket sized notebook in every bag and coat pocket so I’m always ready to draw.

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For doodling in my at-home studio space, I like the larger-sized Rhodia notebooks. This letter-sized one is great for composing the your penultimate draft before you trace it on computer paper.

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Photo Editing Apps

We all know “picture or it didn’t happen” is the reality with sharing our art, but getting a good picture can be hard. Editing a picture can be even harder. My hands down favorite photo editing app for editing photos of my hand lettering is Adobe Lightroom. The best part? The iPhone version is free. Yay! I find it’s the best one out there for white balancing and its automatic level feature is the most precise (no more crooked pictures!). SnapSeed is my second favorite — and it’s also free!

Books

Last, but definitely not at all least, is books! Books are a fabulous lettering resource for two reasons. First, they can be like a virtual apprenticeship with some amazing professional lettering artists. Second, they can be a constant source of inspiration and reference for your art. The two books I pull out over and over again are In Progress by Jessica Hiche and the Golden Secrets of Lettering by Martina Flor.

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