My Favorite Art (Lettering + Illustration) Tools

My love of lettering has translated into a growing love of illustration and watercolor, where I can add in my lettering as a fun detail!
These are my latest and greatest favorites for lettering, watercolor, and illustrating! Have fun checking out this list, and let me know what your favorites are in the comments below!

Tombow Dual Brush Pens:
These seem to be the Holy Grail pen in brush calligraphy circles....and for good reason! They are a quality product at an affordable rate (affordable, BTW, is relative to other art supplies) and they come in a wonderful variety of colors. 

 

Winsor & Newton Travel set - Watercolor
This is an amazing product for any artist who uses watercolor paints, on the go or at home in your creative space! They are a bit pricier for the 'size' in comparison to other watercolor sets, but the quality is incredible, and the teeny-tiny dainty brush that comes with it is a super high quality brush that I can't seem to put down!

Tombow TwinTone Dual-Tip Markers
These are my new obsession! They look like CANDY, but they're also so much fun to play with. I just did a fun tutorial on a lettering technique using these markers. Check it out here!

These Ah-Mazing MONO Drawing Pens

As I dive deeper into my 'illustration' exploration journey, I'm finding that I love the look of watercolor + ink. These pens are comparable to Microns, but I like them even better! You can see a full review of them here.

Leave a comment and let me know which one of these tools you're using and loving, or which ones you can't wait to run out and purchase!

 

Want to know how I photographed my work for this blog post? My new online course just launched where I explain it ALL! Check out the course here.

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Colorful Lettering With Cricut Bright Pad and Tombow TwinTone Markers

I'm so excited to bring y'all this extra colorful lettering tutorial today! Today's blog post is made possible by Cricut and Tombow. As you all know, I am a brand ambassador for Tombow USA, and I received the TwinTone Markers and the brand new Cricut Bright Pad as part of my ambassadorship! HUGE shoutout to these two amazing companies for being so generous with their products. 
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As you all know, I love brush lettering. It is my go-to form of lettering and what I find easiest. However, that doesn't mean I don't dabble in other styles. To be honest, I don't show much of that here because my perfectionist nature gets in the way!

But today, I'm embracing my messy side, and pushing perfection far, far away. In this tutorial, you are encouraged to scribble, encouraged to make crooked lines, and invited to say YES to the MESS. Here we go!

Here's what I used:

-Cricut Bright Pad
-TwinTone Marker Sets in Both Bright and Pastel
-Mono Drawing Pen in 03
-A Pencil
-Two Sheets of Paper
-Any brush pen of your choice

I have always loved the lettering style of Caroline Kelso Zook of Made Vibrant. Today's lettering tutorial is heavily influenced by her colorful, vibrant, messy aesthetic.
However, I found it difficult to simply start from scratch and create something in this particular aesthetic. My lettering is pretty clean and simple, so I needed somewhere to start. I began by choosing a lettering piece I'd created for Instagram, and decided I could 'dress it down' with this technique.

I placed my lettered piece on the BrightPad, and placed another sheet of paper on top. Both papers are a heavy-weight cardstock. I tried using regular copy paper with this tutorial and found it wasn't quite sturdy enough to handle the 'scribbling process.' You'll see what I mean later!

You could begin by using a pencil to trace the outline of each letter like so...

Or you could take your markers straight to the paper and not have to do any erasing! This is what I did for the remainder of the tracing.

Theoretically, I could complete this tutorial with any colored brush pen or even a permanent marker! However, I'm opting to use the new Tombow USA TwinTone Markers because the colors are absolutely like CANDY.

The markers are dual-ended, with one large nib, and one extremely dainty nib.

Here's where the scribbling comes in. I love the look of leaving little white spaces everywhere to give the lettering more character and quirk. Scribbling color onto each letter is the perfect way to achieve this look. Don't worry about getting outside the lines, because it just adds more character!

Next, I pulled out one of my MONO Drawing Pens in 03 nib size. I did a review of these pens here!

I used this pen to outline the letters. This part is also really fun because it doesn't have to be perfect. In fact, I think it should be far from perfect!

And you can tell 'farm from perfect' is what I got here, because I didn't even outline one of my 'g's for some strange reason!!! What was I thinking?

That's it, y'all! That is my tutorial for extra messy, imperfect, BOLD lettering that pops. This little piece is ready for a frame or a corkboard right where I can see it in my office!

Have you tried any of these products yet? If so, let me know which one(s) in the comments below! I would LOVE to talk shop with you!

Talk soon, y'all!

 

The One Question I Get the Most | FREE Flat Lay Ebook

Free Ebook on Intro to Flay Lay Photography with iPhone by Kiley in Kentucky

Hey y'all! Today on the blog, we're getting down to biz-niss.

I get asked a LOT of questions, which is totally fine by me. Most of the time, I'm asking you to ask me questions. So it's all good. 

The reason I do this is so I can give you the best, most informative content I possibly can. It's incredibly helpful to me when y'all ask me questions because it helps me know:

  • What's on your mind
  • What problems you're facing with your lettering
  • What I can do to help you

For at least a year now, there's one question I've been getting consistently.

What is your process for taking photos? (Of your lettering, for your blog, etc)

I love this question because I also had the same question about 2 years ago when I began lettering. I was struggling to take a decent photo of my work to save my life!! They were AWFUL... here's proof.

TO BE FAIR: my lettering style hadn't yet blossomed, and I had not yet heard of the brush pen. But, still, these photos are pretty sub-par. 

Even when I discovered the brush pen a few months later, and my lettering suddenly improved by 109328% (seriously, I was made for the brush pen), my photos weren't great.

I mean, what is that blush-colored tracing paper?! And that chartreuse tape? It's actually butter yellow in real life, and blush tracing paper doesn't exist (though I totally wish it did). My photo skills were way off, y'all. And that's fine.

Well, it wasn't totally fine. When I was working to get my lettering business off the ground, it truly didn't matter how good my content was, how amazing my logo was, or how fancy my lettering was. If my pictures didn't reflect the high-quality information and/or product I was capable of giving them, I was doomed. My audience wasn't growing, my blog views were few and far between, and my Etsy views were stagnant, y'all. #twasnotgood

Honestly, I wish I could say there was a magical quick fix. I wish I could say "then I discovered this course" or "this blog post that changed everything!" 

But I can't! There was no course or blog post. There was only months of trial and error and experimenting with how to take photos that represent my voice, my brand, my products, and my knowledge. It was a struggle, but there is good news. Such good news.

It happened!

I did it all with my iPhone and a few iPhone editing apps. 

Now my social media, my website, and my Etsy Shop (when it was still open!) were full of photos that reflected the TRUE look, feel, and personality of my work! And I did it all without a fancy DSLR camera. 

You might be thinking "I don't have an iPhone."

That's fine! I am using the word iPhone because that is what I have, and have always had. I do not know about other smartphones. However, if you have a newer model of a smartphone, with a decent camera, and have in-phone editing apps available to download in your phone's store, you are good to go. The ebook is mostly about setting up the photo and using natural light...not about how to actually use an iPhone camera.

I've also honed in on my flat lay iPhone photography skills and been able to take almost all of the flat lay photos for the podcast I co-host with my business bestie, Misses Ambitious.

If you think that photo looks like it came from a device other than my iPhone 6, you're wrong! 

So, what did I learn after months and months of trial and error and testing different editing apps, figuring out the secrets of the iPhone, and mastering the hunt for the perfect natural light?

Well, I'll tell you! Soon.
Because I want to be 100% open with y'all, I want you to know that I'm working on the BEST, most info-packed course on iPhone photography right now. But until that's ready to go, I wanted to give you a FREE guide on flat lay photography. 

This 7 page e-book is full of tips and tricks I use for taking better photos, and examples that highlight how you can up your photo game as well! 

What's even better about this e-book (AND what will be amazing about this course) is that I am working with a professional photographer to guarantee the information I am giving you is correct. I'm not making up any fancy terms here---I've learned them from a pro. And this pro approves of this e-book!

To get access to the e-book, simply click this box and sign up for my mailing list, where you'll get even more iPhone photography tips and updates on my upcoming course! Once you're signed up, you'll get full access to this free guide, and I know you're going to love it.

I am so excited to share this awesome news with y'all, if for no other reason than to talk about something I'm oddly passionate about: iPhone photography. 

It's just one of those things that makes sense for us online business owners who are already doing it all. We don't necessarily have the time to learn REAL photography, not do we have the finances. Most of us have a smart phone, though. And that is why this course will be so freakin' amazing. 

If you have any questions about the upcoming course or the e-book, please leave them in the comments or contact me directly here. I can't wait to connect with y'all, and show you what I've been working on!

Online Learning with Skillshare: iPad Lettering, Watercolor, and An Awesome Offer For You!

SKILLSHARE Learning Watercolor Ipad Lettering with Kiley in Kentucky

I’m so excited to partner with Skillshare on bringing you this really special post! Please stick around until the end when I have a really great offer for y’all, thanks to Skillshare!

At the time I was first introduced to Skillshare back in early 2015, I was learning about and teaching myself graphic design. Skillshare was an excellent online resource for helping me along in my quest to conquer Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop. I will never forget how valuable those classes were to me in the beginning of my creative career! Not to mention, they totally sparked my interest in teaching online courses.

If you haven't heard of this amazing learning platform, it is what I would consider the BEST and largest database of online classes out there. For as little as $15 a month, you have COMPLETE access to over 16,000 classes that cover creative, business, technology, and lifestyle topics. Everything from illustration and lettering, to film production and accounting. 

Skillshare was actually one of the first online resources that introduced me to the world of brush lettering! Before I even purchased my first brush pen, I had watched ALL the brush lettering classes possible on Skillshare. 

That's why I'm so excited to give you a review of 3 classes I took on Skillshare this month, and to offer you the craziest deal ever: two FREE months of Skillshare Premium, so you can see what the fuss is about for yourself!

1. Sketchbook Practice - Bring Watercolor to Life with Simple Line Drawing by Ohn Mar Win

This class jumped out at me because I have really been loving my watercolors lately, and also because I just received the new Tombow Mono Drawing Pens, and have been searching for new ideas on how those two can work together. This class was the PERFECT inspiration for creating fruits, vegetables, and florals that I could see myself turning into a pattern, a print for the kitchen, or even a tech wallpaper. This class is not for the beginning watercolor artist (although there are PLENTY of beginner watercolor classes on Skillshare). This class is simply to show you how you can use black ink to dress up your watercolor illustrations. Ohn Mar Win has the most relaxing voice, and was an excellent instructor, and I learned so much in this short class. 

Here is what I created after Win's 35 minute Skillshare class:

In this class, Win instructs how to paint each object, and how to use an ink pen, step-by-step, to draw the inky details. I am so proud of how my project turned out! Also, my husband, an artist, himself, noticed this page in my sketchbook and was truly impressed. Score!

2. Intro to iPad Lettering by Teela Cunningham

I’ve been subscribed to Teela’s youtube channel where I've followed her Adobe Illustrator tutorials religiously for at least 1.5 years. I already know she's an amazing teacher, so when I saw that she offers classes on Skillshare, I was like “HECK YES!” Before this class, I didn’t consider myself a beginner at iPad Lettering...but after---I realized I totally am. Teela introduced me to many aspects of Procreate and iPad Lettering that I didn’t previously know, which I consider a huge success.

This class was much longer than the first one, totaling an hour and twenty minutes. Though that seems like a long time, Teela really makes it fly by (especially if you speed it up 1.25x--an option Skillshare offers), and she packs so much good information in that time span.

Teela’s class includes ‘class projects,’ which is an awesome feature on Skillshare. In her class, she uses three lettering guides that students are encouraged to download (very easy process) to use as they follow along in the class. Not only are the lettering guides great for her class, but you have them forever! Pretty cool, if I do say so!

Here's what I created after taking Teela's class:

Teela taught me how to use a glitter texture (also a free download in the class) to create this glitter lettering! Totally easy and very impressive!

3. Expressive Little Faces: Proportions, Painting, Personality by Amarilys Henderson

If you didn't know already, in addition to watercolors, I've been working on my illustration skills. It is my MISSION to conquer character illustration. I jumped at the opportunity to take this class by the extremely talented Amarilys Henderson. 

In this class, she goes through the basics of creating a face: the hardest part of illustrating people! She walks you through how to capture the nuances and emotions and defining characteristics of various facial types and ethnicities. I was truly impressed at how easy she makes it all look, and shocked to find I wasn't as horrible at it as I had anticipated.

Here are some photos of my facial feature practice:

I absolutely adore Henderson's loose, cartoon-y illustration style, but if realism is more your thing, don't worry...there's a class for that, too!

Still not convinced?

There are over 300 classes on lettering, alone, on Skillshare.
There are almost 400 classes on watercolor.
Over 1700 classes on illustration. 
900 classes that cover Adobe Illustrator. 

Are you kidding?! Where else can you get all those classes for less than I probably spend on coffee in one week. (Yes, I'm a little ashamed to admit that, but whatever!)

If you want to branch out of your comfort zone and learn new mediums and new methods of art, you NEED to get over to Skillshare right now. And if you're just getting started in your creative business, and you want to hone in on your skills or learn important business lessons from established biz owners, you need to get over to Skillshare right now!

Skillshare is helping me offer you two FREE months of Skillshare so you can try it out for yourself and get totally hooked. 

First Impressions: The New Mono Drawing Pens by Tombow USA

Tombow Mono Drawing Pen Review by Kiley in Kentucky

I always love getting packages from Tombow USA! As a brand ambassador, I am so LUCKY and #thankful to get the chance to try their newest products, and review them here on my blog, and this package was no different!

This past week, they rolled out their newest product, The Mono Drawing Pens. To say I was PUMPED would be an understatement. I've been exploring other mediums besides ink lately (you can see a taste of that here), and I knew these pens would be a fabulous addition to that medium. But more on that in a future blog post...here's my first impression on the Mono Drawing Pens!

Tombow USA Mono Drawing Pen Review by Kiley in Kentucky

The pens come in a pack of 3, with various nib variations that can all serve a unique purpose. The nib sizes are 01, 03, and 05. 01 is a teeny-tiny little bib and 05 is the largest of the three. 

This pack of pens is comparable to Microns in both feel and price-point (depending where you buy them), but after a week of playing with the Tombow Mono Drawing pens, I'm definitely a fan!

Here's why!

Tombow USA Mono Drawing Pen Review by Kiley in Kentucky

The 01 Nib is my hands-down favorite! I've reached for this one the most to add details to the watercolor drawings and Dual Brush Pen doodles I like to do for fun.

Here's an example of a watercolor doodle that absolutely 'popped' after I added outlines with the 01 Mono Drawing Pen.

All in all, I say the 01 is my personal favorite pen because, as I get more into watercolor and illustration, I find that I love the delicate black lines I get from the 01 nib!

Tombow USA Mono Drawing Pen Review by Kiley in Kentucky

The 03 nib is the medium size, and I think it's most useful in lettering! The lines are a bit thicker than the 01, but not quite as bulky as the 05. This nib would be PERFECT for faux calligraphy, which I'm going to show you in a future blog post. I will link it here when it's posted!

Tombow USA Mono Drawing Pen Review by Kiley in Kentucky

Finally, the 05 nib is absolutely the best for drawing! I'm not much of a black ink artist, but I can totally see myself getting into it with this thick nib! This nib will be excellent in filling in areas of faux calligraphy, and for adding shading, cross-hatching, or other heavy, dramatic details to any doodles or traditional hand-lettering. 

I absolutely can't wait to show you more, and teach you all how to amp up your brush-lettering with these pens! For now, I hope you'll order some ASAP before they're gone. Word is spreadin' like wild fire ;)

 

Brush Lettering 101 with Level Up Louisville

All photos are by January June Photography

Hey y'all! Today's post is a fun one!!! 

This week I taught an in-person brush lettering class in Lexington, Kentucky, my old college town! I was really excited to be asked to teach by the awesome startup company, Level Up Louisville! 

Level Up Louisville hosts pop-up workshops in Louisville, Kentucky, with 30 classes a month! They are steadily expanding to Lexington, so if you are located in Kentucky, I highly suggest taking a look at their extensive class list, and planning a girls night. The list of workshops they offer is INSANE, and there is truly something there for everyone! (Even a Daddy/Daughter Braiding Class...how cute is that?!)

Let this post serve as a little 'preview' of what you can expect from a future class with Level Up! I will continue teaching with them in the Lexington, KY area! Stay tuned to hear some more details about how the class is structured, where to sign up, and details on how to become a teacher yourself!

Class was held at Ethereal Brewing Co. in an ultra hip part of Lexington. We had our choice of areas to host the class, but we decided the weather was too perfect not to sit outside and enjoy a gorgeous summer evening. 

We had this section of the patio to ourselves, and the buzz from the crowd helped with the fun ambience. With 14 students in attendance, I rotated from table to table, going through the crash course with each table for a more in-depth, one-on-one experience. 

I chose to teach this intro to brush lettering using my favorite brush pens from Tombow, the Dual Brush Pen and the Fudenosuke Soft Tip. 

For the two-hour class, I created an introductory handbook that doubled as a practice guide! I included tracing paper and high-quality cardstock in each packet so students could begin tracing and doing drills before diving into the lettering portion. 

Of the 14 students, only 2 had every used a brush pen before! It was really exciting to see everyone go from 'complete beginner' to 'confident and ready to practice' with their new tools. Those that had lettered before were excellent help at filling in and answering questions when I was with other students. 

Everyone was deep in concentration, focusing on drills and tracing a fancy alphabet. 

I loved answering questions and doing demonstrations with each group of women!

All in all, everyone's favorite pen was the Fudenosuke Soft Tip. I bet I'll be seeing a lot of social media posts using that pen in the coming weeks!

I was totally amazed at this woman's lettering! She was experienced with a brush pen and it showed BIG time. Her work was awesome, and I stopped to admire it every time I passed by!

Lastly, I was so excited to meet Diana of Bright Life Apparel, who has previously commissioned me to design for her line of t-shirts (one of which she is wearing). I'm really excited to see the designs SHE letters now that she has all the tools she needs to begin! Such an exciting night!

If you're interested in signing up for a future Brush Lettering 101 class, I highly recommend you get on their newsletter (signup is on their homepage). Once I schedule more classes with them, I will announce those on my Instagram and weekly newsletter (signup for that is below!). Classes are super affordable and the class sizes are small at about 20 people or less. 

If you're located in Kentucky and have a skill you just know would be a hit with Level Up, reach out to them here. They are incredible to work with, and they make the teaching process so simple and pain-free! 

Want to know more about my Level Up experience, or about teaching a lettering class in general? Drop your question in the comments or e-mail me! I would love to talk with you!

Watercolor Lettering: Getting Started Tutorial

I've been itching to devote legitimate time and practice to watercolor since high school, but only recently have I started scratching it. I've experimented with this medium off and on since then, but because I wasn't immediately good at it (yeah, I know how awful that sounds), I just figured it wasn't meant to be. 

Well, I had my 'epiphany' moment with watercolor a few months back, and all of a sudden, everything about my watercolor practice changed. 

'Watercolor is a marathon, not a sprint.
Realizing this has totally changed my outlook on this medium, increased my patience with it, and keeping this mantra in mind has positively effected the RESULTS of my watercolor pieces. 

I want to share this inspiration with you, and help you get started with watercolor lettering, if that is something you are interested in learning, or if you are like me, and you-- for some reason--believe you can't ever master this medium!

This blog post is a simple post about getting started in the very basics of watercolor, and a few simple exercises you can do to dive in. This post is best suited for a medium-to-advanced lettering artist! If you are brand new to lettering of any sort, you may find some of the tips I'm giving in this post to be a bit confusing! 

Let's get started!

Here's what you'll need:
Watercolors of Choice (You can also use Tombow Dual Brush Pens - Check out this post)
Brush of Choice
Paint Palette
Water
Paper Towel
Watercolor Paper
Pencil

Before putting paint to paper, I sketched out some drills on a piece of watercolor paper I cut down to 5x7 size. You can barely see my sketches because I made sure to sketch lightly enough that my pencil marks would not be as visible through the paint. 

I'm using the Winsor Newton watercolor palette. (It was MUCH more at Hobby Lobby, even with the 40% coupon, so I highly suggest ordering it online) It's a small little palette that comes with a really high-quality travel brush, and the inside of the lid serves as a mixing palette. This is actually meant for watercolor on the go, but as much as I've been using this pan set in recent weeks, I think it's going to last forever!

Choosing a brush is an important first step in practicing watercolor. No matter the size, it's important that your brush be tapered, and come to a point at the end, like the photo above. Think of it like the nib of an actual brush pen. In order to create a wide range of stroke sizes, you have to have this kind of brush. I'm using the brush that came in the palette because, though it is small, it is mighty!

If you're using dry watercolors, like above, you need to add water to them. You can do that by either:
1. Dipping your brush in water, and then swishing your brush around on the pigment (what I'm doing)
2. Using a water dropper (or some other method) to drip water onto the pigment

After adding water, you can take the color on your brush to a clean palette. You could work straight from the pan, but feel like that could be wasteful. You can always add more water or pigment when needed.

These little watercolor blocks in this set are VERY pigmented, so I don't have to do much to get a lot of color on the palette.

Experiment with pigmentation and see how much color or water you need to add before you get your desired opacity. When you're ready, load some color on your brush (but be careful not to over do it), and start with some practice strokes. 

I dove right into a squiggly pattern that works really well for brush lettering. The wavy up-and-down-ness of it helps me with practicing my up and downstrokes in a fluid way. 

If you're wary of starting with this drill, I suggest looking through the rest of the drills I have featured here, and picking which one suits you best for practicing first. 

As I continue with this drill, you can see the pigment on my brush is beginning to run out. I think experimenting with how long you can get your color to last until you need to add either A) water or B) color is an important part of mastering this medium. You truly have to experiment until you learn the medium and the brush you're working with. This medium is so finnicky, and it requires a lot of patience. If you're not naturally gifted...and I am not! LOL

You can see the bend in my brush as I'm on my downstroke. You can also see a lot of my uneven edges, because I'm not naturally gifted :)

The next drill is a loop-de-loop type of pattern. It's also really conducive to brush lettering, so I really love this exercise!

Remember to go S-L-O-W, take your time, breathe, and don't get frustrated with yourself if it's not perfect. 

AKA don't be the old Kiley trying to watercolor!

Practicing downstrokes with these simple lines is a common brush-lettering warm-up and would be an excellent drill for watercolor lettering. Like I said before, the same principle goes for both this brush and a brush pen. The bristles are flexible, and will bend with the slightest bit of pressure. The more pressure you place on the brush as you move downward, the thicker your line will be. 

The opposite is true for upstrokes. You should use the very tip of your pen, with barely any pressure at all, to get a thin line.

Next, I wanted to practice a few simple letters. These are plain letters, with little to no personality, simply so I can practice my up and downstrokes in letter form.

When you feel comfortable with that, you can try a word! 

Let's try some fancier lettering!

When you've practiced the simpler drills enough to feel comfortable and ready to move on, it could be time for you to dive into some fancy stuff! And fancy stuff calls for a fancy watercolor!

This little bottle of magic is Dr. Ph.Martin's Concentrated Watercolor and it is MAG.I.CAL. Like, honestly, pure magic. It's pretty pricy for a tiny bottle, but in my opinion, it's worth every penny! 

If you've ever heard that old ad slogan 'A Dab'll Do Ya?' Well, it couldn't be more true when applied to this product right here. If you're using a concentrated watercolor like this one, you literally need ONE dropper-full to cover a large surface area in incredibly vibrant color. You have to see it to believe it. 

Just add water! I added some water to my brush, and swirled the pigment around on the palette, creating a larger puddle of pure beauty. 

Before putting paint to paper, I sketched out a few words in my lettering style of a scripty, uneven cursive. This is my signature style, and I don't want to change it. So, my intention with every practice session is to bring a new medium to my old style.

The important thing is to go slow. I can't say that enough!

One thing I want to work on, that I know will improve with persistent practice, is creating consistent stroke thickness in each of my strokes. They aren't super consistent right now, but that is something I want to work on!

Finally, I wrote a little reminder to myselff: practice makes progress. If I can remind myself of this each time I work with watercolors, I know I will thank myself later on!

That's all for today!

Do you want to see more watercolor lettering tutorials? Let me know in the comments below!

Tombow Techniques: Using Dual Brush Pens as Watercolors (Basics)

Tombow Dual Brush Pens as Watercolors

Hey y'all! If you've been here for a while, you know Tombow is my absolute favorite brand of lettering tool out there. You may also know that I love using my colorful Dual Brush Pens as watercolors!! 

Recently, I've been getting back into watercolor, and taking it more seriously. I've never been 'naturally gifted' with a brush and paints (of any kind), but that doesn't mean I don't love playing around with them!

In the coming weeks, I'll be showing you tutorials on watercolor lettering. Today, let's get started with the absolute basics of using Dual Brush Pens as watercolors, so you can start playing around with this cool technique! 

Are you ready?!

*I received this package from Tombow, as my monthly Ambassador shipment*

*I received this package from Tombow, as my monthly Ambassador shipment*

Here's what you'll need:

A quick note about brushes: I intended to use these waterbrushes I recently purchased from Hobby Lobby. However, these brushes were absolutely terrible (I linked much better brushes in my list of tools above), so I opted to use this teeny-tiny brush I got in a brand new Winsor-Newton Watercolor set. It's small but mighty!

Pink: 815, Blue: 528, Green: 195, Yellow: 991

Pink: 815, Blue: 528, Green: 195, Yellow: 991

Ok, now that I've got my perfect brush and all supplies ready, let's do this.

To start, you need to scribble down some color onto your blending palette. You can do this in any form or fashion you want, but for now, it's best not to let the colors touch one another.

These colors are all inspired by Pantone's Colors of the Year! Tombow gathered up their closest match to each color, and sent them out to their ambassadors to play around with. I am so excited at the watercolor possibilities with each of these fantastic colors!

Next, drop a little clean water onto each color on the blending palette. I used my (horrible) water brushes, because that's all they're good for (LOL), but you could use a clean paintbrush, dipped in water, and hold it over your palette, a water dropper, or any other method you want!

I started with a little water, because I want my paints to be opaque. The more water you use, the less opaque they will be. Keep that in mind while you're playing around with this technique.

Take your brush and start moving the water around on the palette. The water will activate the ink on the palette, and create watercolor paints! As you can see, I only mixed half the ink with the one large drop of water. This goes back to that opacity thing I mentioned above! I want my paints to be REALLY pigmented, and if they still aren't pigmented enough for my liking, I can add in the extra ink on the palette. However, if the paints are too pigmented, you can add more water to your colorful puddle, until they are the opacity you want them to be.

After you've gotten the perfect opacity of paint mixed up, I like to simply play around and experiment with how the paint moves on the paper. My ultimate intention is not only to paint with these, but to do brush lettering when them. So, I'm doing a few brush lettering exercises to get a feel for how the paintbrush works as a lettering brush!

As you can see, the pink is by far the most pigmented of them all! It is naturally more pigmented than the others, still going strong after several strokes, and the yellow is basically invisible after only a few strokes! This is why the experimentation process is so important. You want to get to know how the colors you've chosen will appear on the paper, and how much of each you'll need to use, etc. 

After you've done a little playing around, let's jump into a fun watercolor technique that is very simple, but makes a huge impact!

Blending!

I want to make a teal/aquamarine color using my blue and green. Luckily, blending on the palette is SUPER simple! Begin by scribbling down the two colors you want to blend on the palette.

Now, add your clean water droplets. Using your paintbrush, begin mixing the two colors together!

Mix until it's all blended and you have a new color! To experiment with this new color, I began creating a little 'blob.' There was no rhyme or reason in creating the blob, except to see how the color looks on paper, and how it builds. I'm simply moving my paintbrush around and spreading the color in a blob on the paper.

I love the texture I'm creating with this blob experiment. I can see how sheer the color is with a thin layer of paint, and in some areas, you can see how it builds up to be a much more vibrant color.

In the picture below, see the texture it created while drying! So beautiful!

Next, I want to make a coral color with my pink and yellow. Thanks to our experimentation, I know how pigmented the pink is, and how sheer the yellow is. Therefore, I want to use a conservative amount of pink, and significantly more yellow.

Perform the same process as blending the blue and green. Add water, then mix!

Now, begin with your blob!

So, I actually wasn't happy with how pink my blob was so far. To fix that, I simply scribbled some more yellow down on my palette!

I didn't add any water this time, I simply mixed the extra yellow into my already-mixed puddle.

You can see how much more orangey-yellow my paint is now that I've added a little yellow. It's all a balancing act!

The Clean Up!

The best part of using Tombow Dual Brush Pens as watercolor is the clean up. A damp paper towel or cloth will make your blending palette good as new again! And it makes for the most magical looking paper towels ever!

I'll be back next with week the basics of watercolor lettering! I can't wait! Will I see you there?

*this post contains affiliate links*

The Best Hobby Ever: How Podcasting Changed My Business

The day I discovered the world of podcasts hosted by creative entrepreneurs....

OMG, my world was cracked wide open.

I felt like I had finally found my little tribe of people that just got me. They understood me. They were talking about all the things my friends and family didn't understand. I was soaking up all the information I could, and discovering more and more of the same podcasts that kept my desire to run my own business invigorated and my creativity fueled. 

As time went on, and I got into the thick of running my business, I discovered that I was only listening to podcasts run by 'experts' or very successful entrepreneurs. There weren't many shows out there hosted by beginners, talking from the perspective of beginners, and I felt like I could fill that gap perfectly. I knew I had a lot to say, because I was always talking back at podcasts anyway (LOL, I'm that person), but I didn't want to go it alone. So I enlisted my business BFF and accountability partner, and together, we launched The Misses Ambitious Podcast in mid-March of 2017.

I hope you'll take a chance to listen to an episode of Misses Ambitious, because I'm not here to tell you about the podcast. I'm here to tell you how it has changed my business completely. 

Hosting this show is truly a passion project. My co-host, Blaine, and I do not make any money from it *yet* and we spend hours every week recording, editing, and marketing the show. We get excited about it. We love it. And it has become the thing I look most forward to every week. I never thought that this 'hobby' would affect my business the way it has, but I couldn't be more excited at the changes I've seen, and I want to share them with you. I'm in NO WAY saying you need to start a podcast. Quite the opposite. I'm saying, maybe you should go out and do the thing you're wanting to do; that thing that brings you a whole bunch of joy...because taking that leap and starting something completely from scratch could be just the thing you need to see growth within yourself that will positively impact your business. 

How podcasting changed my business:

  • I have more confidence. Podcasting is not for the faint of heart. If you don't like to talk (or hear yourself talk, LOL), you will probably not like hosting a podcast. I used to think I could never do something like this, but since taking this on, I have more confidence than ever when it comes to putting myself out there, meeting new people, striking up conversations, and making meaningful connections with others in my industry. 
  • I have given my business more exposure. In collaborating with my co-host, we have given new exposure to our business by bringing on our individual audiences. In addition to that, we've gained a completely new set of people listening to us thanks to Instagram and word-of-mouth. Since starting the podcast, I've seen more opportunities open up in my business, and have gained a lot of momentum in just the past 2 months.
  • My Productivity Has Skyrocketed! Now, I don't know if it's because I have a person to be accountable to, or an entire audience, but I'm just so much more motivated, productive, efficient with my time, and getting more things done every single day. 
  • I'm more motivated to launch those other projects I've been dreaming about. Podcasting used to be a dream of mine, and now that it's a reality, I want to explore the others dreams I have on my list of 'someday.' Now that I've seen what amazing effects this podcast has had on me, and my business, I'm so much more excited to launch more projects with confidence. 

How does any of this relate to you?

It's not everyone's secret dream to host a podcast, but that doesn't matter. Everyone has that secret dream. And whether you're holding back because of fear, financial status, or whatever, I encourage you to find a way to make it work. Even if you have to slowly introduce the idea into your current lifestyle, or slowly bring the idea to life over the course of months or years, I truly believe the benefits of chasing that secret dream outweigh the fear and anxiety. 

The things I have gained from my podcast adventure: confidence, momentum, productivity, motivation...those are invaluable. Even though I have not yet profited off this new endeavor, I can, in no way, put a price on the those things, and how they've impacted my business. 

Do you have a favorite podcast? Do you host a podcast? Let me know in the comments below. I want to hear your suggestions!

Newsletter Mailing List: Why I Have One and Why You Might Want One Too!

I can't tell you how many times I have heard that every business should have a mailing list. Do I agree that every single business should have one? No! I know plenty of very successful small business owners that don't have one, and I don't think it's suited for certain industries. However, in my specific industry of teaching (in person, through free blog posts, and through courses), I think it's beneficial to have a newsletter. 

What's a mailing list, anyway? 
I go back and forth between calling it a mailing list, a newsletter, and a weekly e-mail, because a newsletter implies that I have news (LOL), and most weeks, I don't. But, basically, it's this: a collection of e-mails you have gathered (with express permission of the e-mail owner), that you can use to send mass newsletters, promotions, or e-mails. Usually, these are hosted on platforms designed for this specific thing. I use Mailchimp, but there are many other wonderful platforms. Lately, I've been considering switching over to Convert Kit. 

Why I Started A Newsletter:

  • I want to continually give added value to my subscribers, because they are my 'community.' If you sign up to receive my weekly e-mail, you're signing up to hang out with me an extra time every week, and for that, I am grateful. I get joy from giving extra details I wouldn't normally share in my blog to my little community. I create free downloads, share trade secrets, and talk about life and business updates. And of course, my subscribers are the first to hear about any new courses or opportunities I have to offer!
  • I want to build relationships with my readers, and turn readers into friends. This is something I L-O-V-E about having a weekly e-mail. When I write each week's e-mail, I include a call-to-action at the end, asking the reader to hit reply and answer a question, share a story, or simply say hello. I can't believe the amount of responses I receive each week, and because I make a point to answer back, I have formed quite the relationship with active members in my community. That's an added bonus for me, and for them, and will serve both of us better in the long run.
  • I want to build the 'know, like, and trust' factor. Gurus will tell you the three things you need to have repeat customers, and build a loyal audience is to have them 'know, like, and trust' you. And with a weekly e-mail, I can be myself and show more of who I am in a way I simply can't on Instagram or Facebook. It's really important to me to be transparent and honest with my subscribers--about the good, the bad, and the ugly--which is why I enjoy #gettingreal in my newsletter. My subscribers know they can count on me to be honest with them, and I truly believe that honesty factor has had a huge hand in the success of my first ever online course. 

All in all, I really lean on my subscribers each week. I hold their thoughts, opinions, and suggestions very highly in my business, and I really care about what they have to say. The only thing I would do differently with my newsletter is to have started it earlier!

Most importantly, I believe it's so important to have a mailing list because you really benefit form having a group of people who are 'extra excited' about you and your business. I use myself as a personal example: the only newsletters I'm subscribed to are sent out by individuals and business owners I truly care about, and stay interested in. The larger your list > the more interested, excited people you have in your community > the more sales of your product or service. 

Are you toying around with starting a mailing list? Would you like to hear more about what platform I use to host my newsletter? Leave a comment below and let me know what part of this topic you would like to read more about. I have so many thoughts a-swirlin' in my brain! 

And now, because I've basically told you everything you can expect in my weekly e-mail, here's a chance for you to sign up! I hope to see you around :)

My Favorite Brush Pen + Best Brush Pen for Beginners

If you have been following me on Instagram since the beginning of my lettering career (about two years now), you'll know that I started out using exclusively Dual Brush Pens by Tombow. I had heard wonderful things about the DBPs and they were available at the art store closest to my work at the time! It was FATE! A few months into using my collection of Dual Brush Pens, I decided to venture further into Tombow's amazing inventory, and ordered the Fudenosuke Brush Pens. 

And then everything changed!

From the first moment I used the Fudenosuke Pens, I could visibly see the change in my lettering style. All of a sudden, it was like I actually HAD a style---something I had been working on since the beginning. Two years into my lettering adventure, I can say I've honed in on my style (I even have an online class about how I did it, too!), and the Fudenosuke pens have played a HUGE role in my style discovery. Now, I'm not saying magic will happen for every single person that uses the Fude pens, but I can't recommend them enough to beginners. I wish I had known about these pens from the get-go!

1. The pens, themselves, are a normal size

The regular size is great for the hands of a beginner! A lot of other brush pens are longer, taller, thicker...just 'different' in general. When you’re first starting out, it's nice to have a familiar-feeling tool in your hand. Once you master your first brush pen, you're ready to explore more advanced and fancy brush pens!

2. The Fude Pens come in two distinct variations: Hard Nib and Soft Nib

They may not look that much different, but the way they FEEL on paper could not be more different. Basically, the hard nib is not nearly as flexible as the soft nib. Depending on how heavy or light-handed you are, you may see a big difference in the way these pens perform, or you may see little to no difference at all. 

Here's an example: 

You can visibly see there is little difference between these two for me, but I still much prefer the soft nib because it feels so much better on the paper than the hard nib. The three strokes on the left side display the thickness of the strokes at different levels of pressure (maximum pressure, medium pressure, no pressure). For a beginner, playing around with these two nibs and they way they react to pressure would be SUCH amazing practice. 

3. These pens make your calligraphy look LEGIT

And when I say legit, I really mean that your calligraphy could easily look like 'pointed pen' if you want it to! I love using the Fude Hard Nib to create the look of a pointed pen in my daily practice. The soft nib won't give you that "thin, fragile, delicate" stroke, but it is worlds different from a Dual Brush Pen in thickness and has it's own unique stroke! I favor the soft nib in daily practice, but they are both amazing!

4. They digitize BEAUTIFULLY!

I digitize 85% of the pieces I do. And there is a reason I use the Fude Pens...they write so beautifully, and the digitize even better! I barely have to do any editing!

All in all, I cannot recommend these pens enough. Beginners and experienced letterers, alike, you NEED to get your hands on one of these (literally)! I am obsessed, and I know you will be too!

 

 

Charging Your Worth and How to Do It with Confidence

In Episode #11 of my podcast, Misses Ambitious, my co-host, Blaine, and I discussed how we struggled (heck, still struggle) with charging what we are worth in the beginning stages of our businesses.

Because, let's be real here, at the beginning, we are all "thirsty." Thirsty for clients or customers, thirsty for commissioned work we can show off on social media or in an online portfolio, thirsty for opportunity...and thirsty for money! Yes, I said it. We are pretty much all thirsty for money, because money is what pays those bills, and money is how you will be able to take your creative dream full-time. And this is totally me admitting that I was oh-so thirsty for money in the beginning. And I still am, because of those aforementioned bills.

It's no secret that we need to make an income to support ourselves and our dream. Now, let's ask the hard question: why is it so dang hard to charge what we're worth?! It should be EASY, right? We know how much money we 'need' to survive, and I think it's safe to say most of us have an idea of that dream number we'd like to make. So, charging a solid price for our products and services should be a piece of cake with those numbers in mind...why are we always undercharging ourselves?

Lack of confidence in our skills?
Lack of faith in ourselves to meet the customer or clients needs?
Lack of customers or clients with the proper budget to spend on your products or services?


All of these things play into that paralyzing fear we have of deciding on a number to charge that is A) fair to ourselves B) works for us financially and C) shows our true value to the customer or client. I don't have the magic answers for everyone, but I can share with you the magic answer for ME, in hopes that it will work for you too. 

In my specific business, there are three different things I need to charge for:
1. Products and/or services listed on my website (logo design, prints, etc)
-these are either pre-made products or pre-priced services
2. Online Courses
-I'm new to this world, but a course requires SO much more time and energy and nurturing than a product, and also comes with an entirely new set of challenges and obstacles, different value to the customer, etc.
3. Collaborations, sponsored blog or social media posts, or any other potential opportunity that is not listed on my website, and pops up randomly from time to time.
These are case-by-case basis, and should be priced according to the specific situation.

You may have experience with none or all three of those. But, no matter what your situation is, there is one thing that has worked for me in all three of these situations:

Asking myself: "what do I need to charge to ENJOY this process, and keep resentment at bay?"

I'll dissect that question, just in case you're like "heck no, I love what I do! I enjoy this, and I would never be resentful." 

What do I need to charge to ENJOY this process?
This is different than what I need to charge to live. This is not charging to pay the bills...this is charging to pay the bills and then some. It's charging to pay myself for this time spent creating, and to fully enjoy the creative process and feel fulfilled in creating for a living, because the income I'll receive from the commission (project, collaboration, etc) is really contributing to my livelihood. 

What do I need to charge to keep resentment at bay?
I don't know about you, but I've had some difficult clients. Sometimes it was partly my fault, and sometimes it wasn't (and that's when you have to refund, and say a very cordial goodbye), but this was all back in the beginning when I didn't have firm processes in place to make my life easier, and for the client to understand the ins and outs of working with me. So, when you have those difficult clients, OR those difficult projects (you know, the ones where you're all like 'why the heck did I do this to myself'), you'll rest assured knowing you are being paid a legitimate wage for the work, which keeps you from resenting the client and/or resenting yourself for taking the job. It's not a very fun, glamorous thing to talk about, but truly--if you've ever been in this situation, the whole 'seething with resentment' thing is just not fun. 

For creating courses, or pricing products, there are some other things to take into account before asking yourself the magic question. Only you know how much money you've put into your product or service as far as materials and hours of labor go. After that, you need to make a profit, and that's when 'the question' comes into play. Lately, I've been using this method most with collaborations or other random requests I get. If it's something I'm interested in pursuing, I'll ask myself 'the question' and, because I've been burned before and have learned my lesson (eek!), I know a ballpark number. 

Now, presenting that number with confidence is something entirely different. 

Even to this day, after being in business full-time for an entire year, I am worried and scared every single time I throw my number out there. But, as time goes on, it gets easier to remind myself of my worth. 

In the small business world, we have to remember that our clients and customers are coming to us because they want to work with us. Either they like our style, they identify with our story, they are attracted to our brand...no matter what it is, they're coming to us because something in them has been drawn to our work. If they don't already know what kind of investment it's going to be, it can be scary to present a number. But, before I explain some tips for presenting your number, please remember this: if it's too much for them, do not take it personally. Either they aren't your ideal client and it works out for the best, or they will come back to you when they can.

Tips for Presenting Your Number With Confidence:
1. Be professional!
Well duh! But I mean, if it compliments your product or service, create a branded pricing or investment guide that breaks down the cost of the product/service and explains the value in a clear, concise manner. Use example photos, use bullet points, use helpful graphics to show the client/customer what they're getting when they invest with you. If you've done this before, maybe include a review or a testimonial at the bottom of the guide to show your client/customer what others have said about working with you in the past.
2. Be open and inviting to questions, and use positive language
Y'all, don't apologize for your number. Don't ever say "I know it's a lot," or "Don't get sticker shock," or anything of that nature prior to presenting the number. If you're speaking in person, don't hesitate to say it, and don't look scared or nervous when you say it. In e-mail, always use open and positive language, and leave the door open for questions or clarifications on the process or the value of the product. 
3. Confidence builds over time
The more opportunities you have, the more products you sell, the more services or courses you provide, the easier it will be to price yourself fairly, and the easier it will be to let go of those opportunities that didn't come your way because of your number.
4. If they see your worth, they'll stick around.
I'm going to use myself as an example. There are so many business courses I want to take online, but I can't always afford them. However, that doesn't turn me off forever. Instead, it gives me something to work for, and I love following along with some of my favorite gurus on social media, and getting even more excited about the day when I can join their community. It doesn't hurt me or upset me that it's not in the cards right now...I see the value in their services enough, that I know they're worth the wait. And it doesn't help that THEY know they're worth the wait as well. 

I hope this blog post has given you some insight into what my processes are, and how I like to run my business! The numbers are important, but we have to think about ourselves--the human running the show--and what we deserve as individuals. Use your gut, run the numbers, and be confident in yourself. I promise, those three things combined will make a world of difference!

3 Things I Wish I'd Known When I Started My Blog

For this week's business-oriented post, I want to dive into some behind-the-scenes about the blogging aspect of my business. Blogging is one of those things all of the 'experts' say entrepreneurs and business owners need to be doing, and I tend to agree!

But blogging is kind of hard! 

I began blogging back in 2013 when I had a lifestyle blog. That's how Kiley in Kentucky first began...a lifestyle blog...can you believe it? I started Kiley in Kentucky mostly because I like to write, take photos, and well...I had this sneaking suspicion there was something to this whole 'online business' thing I'd heard so much about on Pinterest, and blogging was going to be the first step. I thought decent writing and some good images are all you really need for a successful blog with thousands of viewers a day.

Wrong! 

And that's just one of the things I was wrong about when I began blogging in 2013. Four years later, I can say I've consistently blogged ever since, but my blog transitioned from lifestyle and travel to brush lettering and business (duh!), and I've learned so much along the way. I want to share with you the three major things I've realized in this time--things I WISH I had known back in 2013, because I know so many of you have the same sneaking suspicion I did that blogging could be just the thing you need to get your dream career off the ground. 

1. "Blog about it and they will come."

Like I just said...wow, was I ever wrong. I honestly believed I could write one blog post a week, and I would magically have all the readers and all the sponsors knocking down my door. Well, while this theory may make sense if you have bomb-diggity SEO (I didn't even know what SEO was back then...heck, I barely do now, let's be real), if you aren't marketing your blog, promoting your content, and getting engagement from your audience (if you're so lucky to have an audience), your beautiful blog posts and all the time you spent on them will be all for naught! 

The only way I ever garnered any readers was by linking my latest posts on my personal Facebook. When I wised up and got a Facebook page, I wasn't yet seasoned enough to realize how I should be utilizing Facebook---or any social media for that matter. So basically, I was marketing my lifestyle blog to a bunch of people I'd known since kindergarten who didn't really care about places to visit in my hometown because...they grew up there. Wrong market. Wrong niche. Wrong place. Wrong everything.

The key take-away here is: there is SO much more that goes into a successful blog besides a steady flow of content ideas and a regular posting schedule. A LOT more. If you're not seeing readers on your blog, maybe you should think about how you're putting your content out into the world? And if you're thinking of blogging, you should definitely begin the thought process of planning to market your content once you begin.

2. I need to be everything to everyone...I'll blog about a little of this, a little of that, and it'll make total sense! #bloggingiseasy

#IWASSOWRONG This is another blogging lesson that took me too long to learn. A lifestyle blog is pretty forgiving of this mistake, but I'm trying to make it in the small business world now, and niching down is everything. 

I'll admit that I'm still finding my niche. I know brush-lettering is a huge piece of that, but my desire to share more behind-the-scenes business information is slowly leaking into this blog, and I'm going with it---but with a niche in mind: the total beginner; who I was back in late mid 2015 when I decided to transition my blog into a tool for my business. 

The key take away is this: I'm sticking to two main categories! 
1. Brush-Lettering Tips, Tricks, and Tutorials
2. Behind-the-scenes info on my business as a brush-lettering artist

You won't find recipes, outfit ideas, decorating tips, or any of the like because that doesn't make sense for my blog. Maybe one day I will split up the two sides of information I want to give, but for now, this is what I'm doing! Take it or leave it!

3. Every blog post has to be the most unique idea ever, or no one will read it.

This is just funny to me now, because I have found the opposite to be true. In my four years of blogging, I have seen that pretty much NO ONE wants to read my off-the-wall, unique blog post in comparison to how interested they are in my personal perspective on a popular topic. This goes for lifestyle blogging AND the blogging I do now. 

These days, I've found success by loosely sticking with current trends I see in my 'field,' and giving my unique take on those trends, as opposed to coming up with completely unheard of topics to discuss. This brings me more engaged readers that are likely to return, and also makes my life a whole heck of a lot easier when I'm not scrambling to generate blog content each week. 

So, don't be intimidated by the idea of generating content for your blog. No matter the subject, you can look at what other bloggers are talking about, and evaluate if you have a new point of view to offer. There are also a lot of 'generic' ideas out there that make wonderful blog content, even if they have been done before, because...again, everyone has a unique POV! (I mean, read the title of this blog post!)

Feel better yet?

If you're thinking of starting a blog, please don't let that feeling of overwhelm keep you from starting. And if you've just started a blog, congratulate yourself for even trying! 

Which of these 3 things applies to you in your blog journey, no matter where you are? Tell me in the comments! I can't wait to hear from you!

 

My Must-Have Beginner Lettering Supplies

*this post contains affiliate links*

My Must Have Beginner Lettering Supplies

Fair Warning: This post won't contain a single lettering tool (aside from the pencil, of course). Chances are, if you are like me when I was first starting out, I had run out and purchased more than enough writing utensils to open my own store. But for all the brush pens, Microns, Neon Sharpies, Gelly Rolls, and expensive colored pencils I bought, I had neglected some of the most important lettering supplies. 

That's what I'm going to cover in this post: the supplies we somehow forget about in all the new excitement!

As you well know if you've attempted hand-lettering for even half an hour...there's a lot more that goes into it than having a brush pen and paper. There's style, composition, getting lines straight, knowing just when and where to add this or that flourish...the list goes on and on. 

Let's explore some items that might help you if you're a beginner and you want to do this thing right!

My number one...without a doubt:

1. A Good Pencil.

Pencils are my most important lettering supply--why they're listed first! In the beginning stages of your lettering, sketching out different compositions is a huge part of your practice, and it's a process that will probably take you multiple tries to get 'right' before you're ready to put ink to paper. I have been at this for almost two years, and I still need at least 3 sketches before I'm ready. So, you can see why a pencil is so important! The best part is: Any pencil will work for you! As long as you enjoy using it, that is all that matters.

My all-time favorite is the Tombow Mono Pencil in 4B (or higher) because the softness of the lead feels like butter to me on paper.  I highly recommend this one if you like to do lots of flourishes and fancy scripts...it just lets me fly across the page! 

However, don't feel like you have to spend money on high-end drawing pencils. I have as much fun with a good ol' mechanical pencil as anything else. Another thing to take into account is whether or not you'll be traveling with your lettering supplies. A mechanical pencil is so convenient for traveling, where a fancy pencil might not be, considering you would also have to carry a sharpener, a separate eraser, etc.
 

2. An Even Better Eraser.

So...you have your amazing, perfectly perfect, fits just right pencil, you've sketched your design, and you're ready to trace over it with a super gorgeous Periwinkle Dual Brush Pen....but wait...you can see those pencil lines through that gorgeous periwinkle? But you NEED your sketch to go by! What ever will you do? 

(I'm a little dramatic)

Don't worry---if you have a good eraser, you've got it covered. A good eraser can seem like a miracle. You won't have to erase your sketch prior to inking or use a light pad for tracing....you can save paper, save electricity, and save your sanity with a good eraser. Am I still being dramatic? Well, whatever!

Here's my all-time favorite eraser.

(not the one pictured above...I actually need to buy a new one of the one I linked)

3. Tracing Paper (this is an excellent brand)

I've been preaching the good news of tracing paper for as long as I've been lettering. Tracing paper is a game-changer. I highly, highly recommend using it for muscle memory exercises, which is a HUGE part of what I teach in my online lettering class. 

The brand pictured is actually from Wal-Mart, and extremely affordable and convenient (if you live in the rural midwest like me!).

4. A Ruler

You probably already have one of these, and that is AWESOME! When I began lettering, I realized how awful I was with symmetry and straight lines. That hasn't changed. I will never have an eye for symmetry or straight lines, which is why I keep a ruler close to my desk at all times. The best part is, this one is cute, and I don't mind having it displayed ;)

However, as my lettering has progressed, I purposefully make my composition all kinds of curvy and flowy because I don't like the pressure of doing things 'perfectly.' When I want to change things up, I grab my ruler and attempt any sort of traditional calligraphy. It is so nice for a change of pace!

5. Fancy Paper

I used to purchase a ton of sketch books for my lettering. But, as time went on, I saw how worn the tips of my brush pens were from the rough texture of the paper I was buying, and not to mention, how expensive really adorable sketch books are simply because creative people, like me, are willing to pay for something 'on brand' (#guilty).

But, cute sketchbooks aside, it is no secret that a super-smooth paper can do wonders for the lifespan of your delicate brush pens....but, what paper should you use when gifting someone a piece of your beautiful lettering? Or, let's raise the stakes a little higher: what paper should you use when SELLING a piece of your beautiful lettering. 

I use a super-smooth, heavy-weight card stock that comes in a huge ream of 150 sheets. The smooth texture of the paper will work wonderfully with your brush pens AND the hefty weight of the card stock makes it a really high-quality paper to gift or sell. This paper, in particular, is a very clean, bright white, which also photographs beautifully. 

But wait...the best part? IT'S $5. This is the brand I use, and I find it at Wal-Mart. It's truly a lettering miracle!

5. A Guillotine Cutter or Other Paper Trimmer

Because I post pretty much everything I letter on Instagram, I want to make sure I get the most out of each piece of paper I use! A lot of times, you'll find me cutting my 8.5x11 sheets in half to get double-duty out of them. Also, if I'm giving or selling a piece, I want to give/sell it in a standard framing size. Having a paper trimmer with a ruler and guidelines makes it super simple to cut my paper down to a standard 8x10 size or a 5x7. I highly recommend picking one up if you like creating pieces of all sizes, don't have an eye for symmetry and straight lines, and don't trust yourself with a pair of scissors! (Me.)

6. Bonus: A 'Fancy' Pencil Pouch

This is totally a bonus because, obvi, it's not a necessity! Especially the 'fancy' part. I'm lucky because my brother works at Fossil, and he knows just what to get me with his discounts! (Aka: a pencil pouch) I throw my most-used tools inside (the aforementioned eraser and pencils, a few Microns, and my favorite Fudenosuke Brush Pens), and throw it in a backpack or tote bag, along with notebook or a folder with some lettering paper inside before going on a trip, and I am always so grateful to myself for the ease and convenience of lettering on the go!

7. A Lettering Reference or Resource Tool

Pinterest is great and all, but there's something about physically turning the pages of a book that really inspires my creativity. My husband got me this book for Christmas last year, and I love it. I use it two or three times a week when I want to get a look at something unique. 

 Any kind of book filled with any type of art that draws you in (I also have a few adult coloring books that inspire me) is perfect for giving your inspiration the boost it needs! 

k, folks! That's all she wrote! (Of the good stuff anyway).

I hope you found an item in here you can't believe you've been lettering without! What are some of your favorite lettering supplies and must-haves for any skill level? Tell me in the comments below...there might be something I've been missing all my life!

 

3 WAYS TO START TREATING YOUR BUSINESS LIKE A BUSINESS: MAKE A SPLASH INTO YOUR SMALL BUSINESS

3 Ways to Start treating your business like a business: make a splash into your small business

Hey guys! Let's talk business. 
Since starting The Misses Ambitious Podcast, I've discovered just how valuable it is to share what I've learned from the various struggles I've experienced in starting a small business. Yes, I'm a lettering artist, but I spend most of my time wearing the 'business owner' hat, and trying my darndest to keep this ship running smoothly. However, you've got to hop on board the ship before you can ever leave the pier, and sometimes (most of the time) that's the hardest part!

In Episode #3: Making A Splash, my co-host, Blaine, and I discussed the first steps we took in getting our businesses from lovely, exciting thoughts in our head, to full-fledged-oh-this-is-real-status. In talking with our listeners and some friends of mine in a Facebook Group, I've noticed the hardest step in any hobbyist-turned-business-owner's journey is this: the step where you start taking yourself and your work seriously, and begin to treat it like a business. And something else we discovered? It all boils down to mindset!

Further discussion led us to share what we each had to do to overcome that initial struggle, and take the first step (or, make the splash) into our business, in order to put our best foot forward. For some, it's a financial investment or a sacrifice of time; sometime's it's as simple as ordering business cards. No matter what, if you're having trouble figuring out what your first move should be, or how you're going to finally muster the courage to dip your toe in the small biz pool, here are some (fairly) simple first steps you can take to get your head and heart in the right place, and cause that mindset shift that can put your business on an upward trajectory. 

Taking yourself seriously is the best, most important first step.

It might seem crazy to say this, because I bet you think you are taking yourself seriously. At least I thought I was. But, I didn't have a separate business bank account for the longest time. I knew I needed one, but for some reason, I just couldn't pull the trigger!
It wasn't until a chat with my CPA, when she urged me to run out that very afternoon and start a new account, that I knew there was no more putting it off. It had to be done!
Don't worry--you don't have to have an actual 'business' checking account. You can start a second personal account and only use it for business transactions. As long as you are separating your personal spending from your business spending, you're loving on yourself (and your business) by creating a mindset of healthy business practices, and keeping it VERY professional--especially when your first tax season comes a-knocking...and it will. It took me entirely way too long to make this move. If only I had done it sooner! If you want to get off on your best foot, I highly suggest opening an account for the sole purpose of keeping track of your business expenses. Also, when you begin getting paid, you'll have a clear look at how much you are bring in vs. spending per hour/day/week/month, and can more easily plan for how to increase your income or decrease your cost of business, if needed. 

Sometimes, all it takes is ordering business cards.

In Episode #3, Blaine talked about how ordering business cards affected how she thought of herself in her mind...there's that mindset shift again! The second she had to put her business name and offerings on a business card, she was officially, officially making that decision to be seen as the sole representative of her business, and to offer the services listed on her card. Once the cards arrived at her doorstep, and she was able to hold them in her hands, she felt such a sense of pride and excitement and motivation for her new endeavor. She couldn't wait to network and connect with others in her industry, hand those cards out, and get to work. Maybe a gesture like this one is what you need in order for your business to become more 'real' to you! Don't worry--business cards can be re-made if you change your offerings, but it's the act of ordering them (or any other business materials) that may put you in that headspace.

Maybe it's a time commitment or a financial sacrifice

Blaine and I both experienced financial sacrifices in order to get our businesses off the ground smoothly. Though neither of us went into debt, seeing a large chunk of savings go toward something we put all our hopes into was a scary, but defining moment for each of us. For Blaine, it was a training for a certification she needs to train her clients to the best of her abilities. For me, it was an educational course that cost more than the nicest thing I'd ever purchased for myself. If you're like either of us, the financial sacrifice (or commitment, however you choose to view it) is like an invisible accountability partner. I am happy to report that I made my money back within a short time (I believe it was about a month) of being in business, because my mindset was focused on getting a return on my investment, and working really hard to justify that humongous purchase. I'm not saying that you have to justify every single purchase you make, but for me, that is a key part of how I run my business debt-free, and how I stay financially stable (and safe) in a fairly unpredictable climate. 

On the other hand, a time commitment or a sacrifice of your time could be the thing that gets you wheels turning, and that fire lit under your booty! As a beginner in the small business world, coming off a 9-5 job I hated, I was more than happy to work 60+ hours a week on setting up shop. However, when I evaluated how much I wanted to earn per month, then figured out how much I would make per hour if I continued to work 60+ hours a week....oh, heck no! I quickly realized that the time I had already put into my business was incredibly value, and that sacrifice would be the cost of doing business. However, moving forward, I created a daily schedule for myself, very similar to a 9-5 (but filled with the thing I love doing: my business), and try my hardest each month to make an hourly wage that meets my monthly income goal. I don't meet it every month, but I respect myself and my business enough to realize how valuable my time (spent both on my business, and out of it; with friends and family) truly is. 

Or, if you're a shop owner...

Have you ordered your shipping supplies just yet? Mailers, tape, shipping labels, a printer, a shipping scale, and brand materials like thank you notes, stickers, and inserts? For a fellow letterer and Etsy seller, making these purchases (which could also be filed under the financial commitment category) and getting them organized in her creative space as her official 'shipping station,' really helped her to visualize doing business in an efficient and organized manner. As soon as her shipping station was ready, she felt ready to receive lots of orders and get them fulfilled like a boss. 

Maybe none of these suggestions will work for you, and that's okay! These are all examples of 'moves' you could make as a strategic first step to getting your business set up in a healthy, professional way from the beginning. The important thing is that you begin to take yourself and your business seriously as early on as you can. Have respect for your new endeavor, and treat it accordingly. If you plan to take your business full-time or to create a life-long career from it, starting off with a healthy mindset will take you far.

If you have any suggestions or 'splash moments' that have worked for you, drop them in the comments below, and of course, don't forget to subscribe to my podcast if you want to hear more about this topic!

Using Trello In My Business: My Thoughts So Far!

Using Trello in My Business

*this is not a sponsored post*

I have had a Trello account for years! I heard it was a great tool for online organization, and I wanted to get in on that noise! But, no matter how hard I tried, and no matter how many YouTube tutorials I watched, I just couldn't seem to figure it out. It was incredibly overwhelming to me, and therefore, my account was there for years, but inactive for all that time. 

Until!!! Until I got into creative, small business podcasts last year. When I launched my own business, I used listening to podcasts throughout my days as a way to get to know other business owners in my industry who have years of experience under their belt. As I listened to a wider variety of these podcasts, I heard a common theme: I use Trello for my business, and I absolutely love it. 

My intrigue for Trello was reignited, and I tried giving it another look, but once again----maybe it's just me, but DANG! It looks so complicated. 

You can only imagine my surprise, and the sigh of relief I breathed when I discovered an online course called Trello for Business by the gals over at Think Creative Collective. This course is an absolute must for anyone hoping to learn Trello in order to maximize productivity in their business (and life in general). I am so glad I invested that $29 in learning a tool that has helped me so much in my business already. 

But this blog post is not about the course. It is about my first impressions and initial thoughts on utilizing Trello for the past two months. I've been steadily using it each work day, Monday through Friday, and I feel like I'm acquainted enough with it that I can give you some valuable insight on why you might want to look into using Trello as well.

My Thoughts on Trello So Far!

1. It reminds me of Pinterest! Which is great for me, a visual person.

Once I learned the basic ins and outs of the system, it started to remind me more and more of Pinterest, a website/tool I absolutely love. But who doesn't love Pinterest?! The format of Trello involves arranging your to-do lists, ideas, and business processes and information in one spot on various boards, in a way that is easy for you to comprehend and use effectively. 

2. I don't have to make a new to-do list with the same ongoing tasks every day! Time-saver!

I was using a paper planner for my business before I implemented Trello. In a paper planner, every single morning I had to write down those same ongoing tasks that I do every single day, which is a time-suck because there are a lot of those tasks, and it also takes up a lot of space on the finite page size of a paper planner. 
A few generic Examples are:
Business Instagram Post
Podcast Instagram Post
Facebook Group Prompt
Inbox 0

Some people could do all of these ongoing, daily tasks from memory, but I cannot, and l will forget to do something if it is not written down somewhere. 

How Trello helps in this department is that you can create a layout of your week. This layout is not dated (unless you want it to be), and represents the current week, and only the current week. You create what is called a 'card' for each item on your to-do list, and place it under the day of the week you need it to be done. For daily tasks, you create the card for each task once, place it under the Monday tab, then drag and drop it into the next day's tab once you've completed it. Here is an example.

*This board was originally designed by Think Creative Collective, and as part of the course, I was able to copy and paste the template, and use it for my own weekly list.*

*This board was originally designed by Think Creative Collective, and as part of the course, I was able to copy and paste the template, and use it for my own weekly list.*

I am writing this post on a Tuesday, so you can see that my Tuesday list is the fullest! I have not yet completed the tasks still on that list. Once I complete the daily tasks, I will drag them over to the Wednesday list. For example, 'Facebook Group Post' is a daily task that I've already completed today, and has been dragged into the Wednesday list. Once I complete the tasks that are one-time tasks, I will delete the card. Any task listed above the 'ongoing' card on every day of the week is a task I ONLY do on that day of the week. For instance: Wednesday is always podcast recording day, so I leave that card there. Anything below the 'ongoing' card is a daily task or a one-time task that is time-sensitive.

3. The options for how you can use it are absolutely endless!

You are seeing only a small sample of one of the NINE boards I have on Trello. I know it sounds overwhelming, but each board has a purpose. An example of my favorite board is one called 'Business Blueprint' (once again, a template I got by taking the Trello For Business Course), and it holds ALL MY USERNAMES AND PASSWORDS. Like, all of them. For every account I have, business AND personal. I can't tell you how many times I have referenced this board in the past two months. Not only does this board hold my passwords, but it's also a spot where I can drop and organize any and all links I need to refer to in my business. Examples are: affiliate links, course links, links to resources or articles I look at often, etc. Once again, that's not all, it's just a small taste! 

4. You don't have to just use it for business.

When I say that my husband creates the world's most difficult passwords, I am not lying. And then, he forgets them because he doesn't want to write them down. Well. When I told him about storing our passwords in one spot...a safe spot...he was all about it. So, I created a personal board for our household, and shared it with him, so now we both have access to any and all passwords and usernames we need to access, as well as important links, grocery lists, and other things we want to keep track of. Trello is not just for business! It can be a great household, wedding planning, etc tool that you could really utilize to make the most of your time!

Even though I've been using Trello for going on two months, I am just scratching the surface of using it to its fullest potential. As I continue to dive deeper into it, and become a Trello master, I will update this blog post or do a follow-up with new tips or things I have learned. 

If you want to purchase Trello for Business, click here! Once again, this post is not sponsored. I truly believe in it that much!

National Scrapbooking Day: 2 Mother's Day Cards

Hey y'all! I'm back again this week with another National Scrapbooking Day post! Last week, I celebrated a birthday AND the Kentucky Derby with a versatile card. This week, I'm celebrating Mother's Day with two floral, feminine, and fun handmade cards. Don't quite understand how 'Congrats' fits in with Mother's Day? You'll just have to wait until the end!

Another HUGE thank you to Tombow USA for including me on their National Scrapbooking Day celebrations this year, and providing me with the tools I needed to create these two sweet cards. Don't forget to take a look at the card I made last week!

Let's Dive In!

Mothers Day Card Ideas

First, I cut down a sheet of 8.5x11 cardstock, and scored it, creating two 4.25x5.5in cards.

Mothers Day Card Ideas

Because I want a feminine, pretty design, I chose the floral paper to use as a cardfront on both my cards. The laser cut piece by Amy Tangerine is just rocking my world right now, so I had to include it in at least one!

I thought the laser cut paper looked gorgeous layered on top of the floral pattern. I found a good spot to cut the paper down, to include a little bit of the laser cut design, and save the rest for later. 

But before I can put that gorgeous laser cut paper to use, I had to trim down my floral paper to fit flush on top of my cards. I adhered the paper using the Tombow Mono Dots Adhesive, and I positioned the pattern to look "correct" (does that make sense?) for using one card as a side-folding card, and one as a top-folding. Variety is the spice of life!

Once the floral paper was adhered, I decided to use the laser cut paper with my side-folding card. I laid the card beneath the paper, and positioned it where I wanted the laser cut pattern to be. I was mainly concerned with getting the "love" and the bird/branch onto the card front. I used a pencil to roughly sketch where I should cut, knowing I would trim it down further once it was detached from the rest of the sheet. I used my scissors to carefully trim away the remaining pieces I didn't want to use, and was really happy with the section I ended up with!

I used the Tombow Mono Multi Liquid to secure the laser cut piece onto my card front. I began by placing a little glue on one portion of the card (the L in 'love') to serve as an anchor for getting the delicate die cut secured. Once that was in place, I gently applied glue to other key places in the die cut, and pressed them down, until the whole thing was secured. I used my sharper scissors to trim away any excess paper hanging over the edge of the card.

Consider this one done! I chose to leave the inside blank. I created this card with Mother's Day in mind, but it could serve so many purposes....thinking of you, birthday, just because, thank you...just to name a few!

Let's move on to the next card! For this one, I'll be using the top-folding card.

You know I had to add a little sparkle, so I used the Tombow Mono Multi Liquid to add foil embellishments. To see a more detailed tutorial on how to do this, take a look at this blog post!

A sweet little cat distracted me from taking photos of the next few steps, but luckily they are very simple! I wanted to add a sentiment to the front of this card, so I cut down a strip of blue pattern paper, and trimmed the end with my scissors to be a banner shape. I adhered the banner paper to the front of the card using the Tombow Mono Adhesive.

Next, I sketched out my sentiment, then traced it using my all-time favorite pen, the Tombow Fudenosuke Soft Tip! After tracing, I erased the excess pencil marks.

And on the inside....... ;-)

Here's a closer peek at how this card turned out.

All in all, I'm so happy with the final result, and I think my momma and mother-in-law will love them! What do you think? Are you hand-making your Mother's Day cards this year? 

Let me know in the comments below!
 

National Scrapbooking Day: Versatile Derby Day Birthday Card

Hey y'all! I am SO excited to be celebrating National Scrapbooking Day, which is coming up in a little over a week! In celebration, Tombow sent me a crazy-amazing package full of scrapbooking goodies...I about fell over when I opened the package. Now, even though I love every single item they sent over, I am simply not gifted with the scrapbooker gene, and I decided to go in a unique direction. Instead of a scrapbook page, I'm going to make a versatile Derby Day inspired birthday card. Stick around and read this tutorial if you want to see just what I mean by versatile ;-)

 

This birthday card is unlike any I have ever seen (or created) before. My sister in law, a Louisville-lover and fellow Kentuckian, celebrates her birthday incredibly close to Derby Day. In honor of her, and the famous Kentucky Derby beverage, the Mint Julep, I hand-made this birthday card that also doubles as a recipe card. This card can be displayed on a bar cart, on the refrigerator, or wherever you want to keep it for when you want to make yourself this bluegrass beverage. I had SO much fun creating this, and I already have some more ideas for a birthday card for my husband, who's favorite drink is a Moscow Mule.

The supplies I used:
2 sheets of patterned paper by Samantha Rose 
As many sheets as necessary of ultra smooth, heavyweight cardstock
1 Aquash Brush
Tombow Dual Brush Pens (colors listed below)
Tombow Fudenosuke Soft Tip
Tombow Mono Drawing Pencil (or any drawing pencil)
Eraser
Scissors (or other paper trimmer)
Tombow Foam Tabs
Tombow Mono Dots Adhesive
Washi Tape
Tombow Blending Palette
Gold Corner Stickers

I decided to begin with my sketch. I wasn't sure what I wanted the message on the front or inside of the card to be, so I jotted down a few things. I also roughly sketched the mint julep drink onto the paper, very lightly, so I can erase it later. Next, I'm going to use the Tombow Dual Brush Pens as watercolor.

I'm using my grays (N60 and N75) to watercolor the mint julep cup. If you want to see a much more detailed demonstration of how to use Tombow Dual Brush Pens as watercolors, take a look at this tutorial.

I chose to use an Aquash pen for this illustration, but you can just as easily use any watercolor or paint brush!

I decided, spur of the moment, to add a shadow to the cup, but I kind of wish I hadn't!!! I hope you're a better illustrator than I am ;-)

Above, I simply repeated the process with my greens.
245, 158, and 312

Next, I pulled out my trusty Fudenosuke Soft Tip to letter some of the sentiments I sketched.

Once I had lettered over my sketches, I erased the pencil marks away, and set this paper aside.

As my cardfront, I chose this grayish-purple wood pattern paper from this DCWV Samantha Rose paper pad. Every single piece of paper in here is absolutely incredible. I've already used it for a background to an Instagram post, and I can't wait to show you some other uses for it in a future blog post!

I folded an 8.5x11 sheet of cardstock in half (hot dog style! ha), and cut the piece of pattern paper down to fit flush on top. I used the Tombow Mono Dots Adhesive to adhere it to the front of the card.

Next, I cut out my mint julep illustration, and set it aside!

Next, I cut down a piece of cardstock to be this smaller strip, and I sketched out the recipe for the mint julep. I lettered over it with my Fudenosuke Soft Tip, and used the adhesive to attach it to the front!

After adhering the recipe, I used these fun gold triangle stickers to add a little something extra to the corners.

I wanted to elevate my illustration to barely stand above the rest of the card, and these large foam tabs were perfect!

I thought the front of the card needed just a little something extra, so I cut out another piece of pattern paper to be this banner shape, and wrapped the top of it around to the inside of the card. I adhered it with the same adhesive I used on the rest of the card, and it works like a charm! I finished the whole thing off by lettering the title of the drink on the banner.

And on the inside, I went with a completely different sentiment that I had intended, but I like it!! 

And that's IT! I am no expert cardmaker, that's for sure, but I got to fulfill a dream today by making this card. I watch so many card makers on YouTube, because the art of card making is just so lovely and fun to watch. I want to give a huge shoutout to Tombow for including me in National Scrapbooking Day so I can live out this little artsy-fartsy dream of mine! I have two other cards in the works, for future blog posts, so get ready!!! I can't wait to show you more in the next few weeks!

What did you think of this card? Have you ever had a Mint Julep? Where would you put this recipe card?