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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!