Occasionally I get asked what tools I use for lettering, so, even though I'm still learning myself, I thought I'd share what I've discovered so far. As far as tools go, I have found that it is best to just buy and try as you go!...and don't worry, you won't have to give up your coffee habbit to pay for it! If, like me, you live regionally, you can generally find all these products online and have them delivered to your door! In the picture below are just some of the lettering tools I've experimented with along the way.
When I started out, I found it easiest to practice with Crayola Markers – yep! the textas you used as a kid. The best thing is that they're easy to get your hands on and I can usually pick up a pack from big W for a very affordable price. The good thing about starting with these markers is that they're rigid, so they're easy to control and you can try different lettering styles until you find one that is comfortable and works for you.
After a little practice with the Crayola Markers I bought some brush pens – there are a few brands out there to pick from. I tried Tombow, Copic, Sharpie and Artline – for me, I was most comfortable using Artline Stix (yes, another marker aimed at children – a theme is starting to emerge!) and you can purchase a packet of these at some supermarkets and officeworks for an affordable price! After a little more practice with the Artline Stix, I felt more confident using Tombow and Copic brush pens too.
Once I felt a little more confident working with the brush pens I tried my hand at lettering with a paintbrush because I liked the softer look for stationery design and the way the tones went from dark to light. I started with a Round Brush – it felt very different to the brush pens and I didn't feel like I had very good control. So I did a little research and read some blog posts about watercolour lettering and discovered a brush that was much easier to work with.
I purchased a few different sized Spotters from my local art shop (but you can find these online too). The shorter, smaller fibres on these brushes make them much easier to control. I generally use a size 5/0 Spotter but also have a 10/0 and 3/0. The Spotter looks like it has one little fibre coming out of the handle – it's tiny! but produces lovely forms and clean lines.
Now that my watercolour brush lettering has improved since I became more confident using the Spotter, I've been able to go back to using the round brush (size 0) now and then, depending on what I'm lettering.
You can see the different result between the Spotter and the Round Brush. The Round Brush will hold more paint so, generally, produce heavier lines and you won't need to dip your brush into the paint as often. It's really just a matter of preference and what you feel comfortable with!
You'll notice too, that the style I use between the brush pens and the watercolour brush lettering is very different. This is just how my lettering style progressed. I still use the brush pen lettering style further above, usually in logo design, and you could use the brush pens for a more delicate style of lettering as well. Just practice and work with whatever feels comfortable for you!
So there you have it! All that is left is to arm yourself with a few lettering tools and get practicing – you know what they say: "Practice makes progress!". If you're looking for some good paper to use for watercolour calligraphy I use the Draw and Wash Pad (Smooth) by Art Spectrum , which I buy from the local art shop.
In a few weeks I'll post some advice on how to letter, including some videos, but a tip for now – more pressure on the down strokes and lighter on the upstrokes. Most of all – enjoy and be patient! In my experience, it takes time!