Watercolor Lettering Basics: Brushes, Paper, and Other Important Materials

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Watercolor Lettering Basics Part 2

I'm so excited to present the second part of my new series: Watercolor Lettering Basics. I've created this 5-part series as an introduction to watercolor lettering. By the end of this series I want you to be more comfortable with the idea of using watercolors and a paintbrush in your lettering practice!

In the first part, we covered the 'thing' itself: watercolor (you can read that post and watch the video here). In this second part of the series, we're going to cover the other materials you need to get started in watercolor lettering: brushes, paper, palettes, and more!

My goal with this second part of the series is to finish out the 'materials' section so that you can make the ultimate decision: where to start and what to purchase! Below you will find the video where I demonstrate with the papers and brushes I use as well as some more details and links for where you can pick these items up and begin practicing before we move on to the GOOD STUFF...getting started! 

Press play and dive in!

1. Brushes

The main thing you need to know about brushes is this: for brush lettering, it's best to use a round brush. A round brush is simply a concise way of saying 'tapered bristles that end in a point,' which ends up mimicking the look of an actual brush pen nib. In the video and for the remainder of this series, I'm using these Folkart Brushes (that I found at Wal-Mart for cheaper than the listed price) that are specifically labeled for lettering and detailing. However, choose whatever brand and price range of round brushes you want! I encourage you to pick up a variety of sizes because you never know which brush size will work for you. But---until you're sure you want to take your watercolor lettering to the next step, don't go out and buy a $10 brush! Start simple (and cheap) and work your way up!

There's also the Waterbrush. You'll definitely want to check out what a waterbrush is by watching the video, but THESE are the brand I absolutely recommend if you think a waterbrush is the way to go for you!

2. Papers

There are a couple of papers you can choose from to get your watercolor lettering practice off to a great start. The two types of papers I have used (and had success with) are: Mix Media Paper and Watercolor Paper. In the video above, I demonstrate with these two types of paper, as well as a thick cardstock, which I know a lot of lettering artists already have in their supply. What you're ultimately looking for in a paper (and why cardstock usually won't work), is a toothy, thick, absorbent paper. This is what watercolor paper is made to be, and why it's the best choice for watercolor, in my opinion. Mix Media paper is meant to hold several different mediums (acrylic, marker, pencil, ink, light watercolor), but ultimately, it's not made to hold a ton of liquid/water or the multiple layers of watercolor that it might take to create a dynamic watercolor piece, and in the end, it's probably going to buckle and/or just plain not look that great. If you already have some Mix Media paper in your collection, of course you can use it to play around! However, when you're ready to start creating full pieces, I think you'll find that watercolor paper is the way to go. 

3. Palette

This is a totally optional material to have, but I've found that I love having a separate, reusable palette off to the side in addition to whatever palette might come with a watercolor set. In the video above, I show that I use an extra ceramic plate I had in my kitchen. The awesome thing about watercolors is, no matter which form of watercolor you're using, a damp washcloth or paper towel will wipe the watercolor off of a ceramic, glass, or plastic surface plate, therefore making literally all palettes reusable! I like having a palette for mixing colors, having more room to play in general, and also just for organization. If you're using a lot of colors, it's helpful to have lots of space for mixing. Feel free to go to the craft store and pick up a plastic palette for next to nothing if you're not comfortable with dirtying up a plate!

4. Other materials to have on hand....

  • The last few things you'll need:
  • A cup or bowl full of clean water
  • A paper towel or wash cloth to blot or dry your brush
  • Some washi tape or artist tape to gently tape your watercolor paper to a surface to prevent buckling

Ok guys!! Next week, we'll be getting started with using a brush to create beautiful lettering! I can't wait to see you there...let me know what you think about this series so far!