As an intro to my new series on brush calligraphy, I decided to share with you the best brush pens for lettering! I’ve also included the best paint brush for lettering with watercolors (check out some watercolor techniques for beginners first) or ink as well as some other cool stuff to get your started with hand lettering using brush strokes! Disclosure: this post contains commissioned links. As a Plaid ambassador, some of the products featured in this post were sent to me free of charge in the hopes I’d share it if I use it. All opinions here are my own.
I started brush lettering as a way to get things out of my system.
I needed a hobby that was touch and go – easy to pick up and put back down. While I DID get carried away with the calligraphy, using dip pens and ink wells, I also developed a new cool skill:
- I started a lettering diary which I will share about later in this series
- I started having fun creating menus and shopping lists
- I suddenly rediscovered doodling, covering any and every surface in fun brush lettering.
I wanted to finally share the skill. I’ve been posting some videos on my Instagram feed but some of you have been asking for more. So I decided to share it with you.
In this brush lettering tutorial series, I’m going to go about it step by step. I’ll be sharing the following (the order may change):
- The best pens for lettering
- Brush lettering books to really get you learning
- Basic brush lettering tutorials – some strokes you need
- Free Printable Brush Lettering practice pages
- Brush lettering fonts to practice with
- and more cool tips!
If there’s something that you don’t see here that you’d like to learn, just let me know!
The best brush pens for lettering:
I’ve tried a number of pens and brushes. I’m a serial craft supplies buyer – it’s a separate hobby, you know! Starting a new hobby means I buy EVERYTHING related to it. Some worked better than others and I figured I’d share my experiences here.
This list is in order: the best brush pens for lettering are first, followed by the second best, and so on. If you get only one, get the first, and so on.
The lettering brush pens that every beginner should try first:
The Pentel Fude Touch Sign pens are an absolute must for beginners. I didn’t start with these but I went right to them once I started because I saw that these were absolutely the best brush pens for lettering beginners.
- They are so easy to control. When you’re learning brush calligraphy, you’ll find that controlling how your brush moves is the first step towards nailing it. The Pentel Sign pens have a firmer tip than others, but it still moves, giving you those thin up strokes and thick down strokes.
- They come in an assortment of sizes. I started with the fine point.
- You can also get them in many different colors – either individually or in multicolor packs.
- They are great for when you’re doing longer runs of text too.
They are available on Amazon but the individual ones are cheaper here.
The best brush pens for lettering in fun colors and wide strokes:
I tried a number of my “adult coloring” brush markers that I had used for creating pretty textures, but I actually found those hard to use. The ones that translated over to brush lettering and gave me a smooth, controllable stroke were the tombow dual brush markers.
Since these are also art markers, you can get them in 96 different colors!! They also work as watercolor markers – you can blend them using a brush and water. This is how people create those cool ombre designs.
See it in action! The sepia pen below is the Pentel Fude and the blue is the Tombow Dual Brush:
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More of the best brush pens for lettering:
Once you’re past the “beginner” stage, you’ll find that your preferences might change. The best brush pens for lettering listed above are focused on what’s easy to control. If you don’t need easy anymore, here are a few favorites:
- For permanent ink: Sharpie Brush. I don’t recommend using these on paper – they get dry quickly – but they are perfect for when you want to decorate non-porous surfaces (such as glass) with brush lettering
- For a drier stroke: Prismacolor Premier Illustration. Brush markers come in dryer and wetter tips. If you prefer something dryer (and neater!) these are the perfect choice. If you like that dry, textured brush lettering look, go for the Prismacolor Premier Illustration Brush Tip markers – not to be confused with the dual tip art markers. The Illustration markers come in a brush tip too, and are less “wet” than others, so you get that grunge look (and, of course, they’re great for regular lettering too!)
- The best watercolor markers: Winsor & Newton Watercolor Markers. If you like a watercolor look but need to keep it neat, these have a stunning watercolor effect and don’t make a mess. They are easy to manipulate and fun to use!
- For an ombre effect: Sharpie Stained. While these are actually sub-par fabric pens, they make AMAZING brush lettering pens because of the firm brush tip that has enough give to create wide strokes with pressure. They also have a translucent quality to them which means that you’ll get
The best paint brush for lettering:
Alright, are you ambitious enough to do some lettering with… an actual paintbrush? You can use the brush with ink or watercolors and it’s actually easier than you might think – although it’s not as neat. I actually started off with a paint brush!
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A little reminder to get you through your day… I had a deadline that was really pressuring me and driving me insane. I rechecked it and apparently… it was due two weeks later than I thought it was! What a sweet little gift 😊 What's something that surprised you recently? 👉🏼Done with cheapo watercolors in my @moleskine_world (almost) daily word art diary #brushlettering #handlettering #calligraphy#calligrapher #lettering #letteringart #letteringdaily#letteringvideo #typetopia #madebyhand #50words#brushtype #typeyeah #designspiration#Thedailytype #Goodtype #handmadefont#typespire #showusyourtype #calligratype#goodletters #moleskine #watercolorartist #watercolorlettering #brushlettered #brushletteringpractice #brushscript #watercolorart #watercoloring #creativelife
Here are some pointers for getting started!
The best paint brushes for lettering: You’re looking for round, pointed brushes to do your lettering (unless you’re looking to mimic the look of flat calligraphy rather than brush pen calligraphy – then go for a flat brush). A longer and larger brush (size 4) will be harder to control but will offer you more variety in your stroke. Longer brushes are also great for larger-scale lettering such as signs.
A shorter, smaller brush (size 0-1) will be easier for you to control when just starting out. I found that even a very small brush gave me good variation while practicing and didn’t require too much effort.
I’m not going to tell you you need anything fancy or cool, because I really just started with what I had in my collection.
I used these brushes and found that the different sizes worked for different needs. It’s cheap and a great starter set to see what you love!
Use a simple pallet such as this one to give you that beautiful artsy feel that watercolors lend. You can see my friend Stefanie’s feature of the best watercolor paints or just go with this great beginner set.
I love brushing with India Ink as a an alternative to watercolors. Use India Ink on paper and for smaller projects.
For larger scale projects (such as wood signs, etc) where you want more of a paint that’s permanent and high quality, the new FolkArt brush lettering paint is the perfect choice. It comes in cool brown, black, and white, as well as metallics.
More brush lettering tools and equipment you might want:
Marker or watercolor paper (depending on what you’re using) OR mixed media paper for a budget-friendly alternative. These papers won’t bleed like card stock sometimes does, but you can give regular card stock a try to begin with.
Black paper – if you want to try light on dark!
Dot paper – if you like subtle guides for your lettering, get a dot pad for practice
Vellum – great for when you want guides but don’t want to draw it on your paper, or for when you want to practice your strokes over other lettering
I made some free printable brush lettering practice sheets for you as well!
Other pens and brushes:
Dip pens – these are so much fun, and while they won’t qualify as brush lettering, they are great for other lettering uses
White pen – I use a high quality white gel pen to add accents
Water Brushes – many brush calligraphers will swear by these pens with built-in water tanks
Drawing pens for outlines and accents (the linked set comes with the white accent pen too!)
Fineliner pens for fake brush stroke – if you prefer to have one hundred percent control of your wide strokes and narrow strokes, you can use fineliners to create your own “brush” effect.
Other drawing accessories:
Ruler and compass – for drawing straight and circular guides
Pencils, good eraser – for drawing and erasing your guides.
What are the best brush pens for lettering according to you? Have you tried any lettering brushes yet? Comment below!