Best Lettering Tools On a Budget

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There are so many great lettering tools, and I enjoy trying as many as I can! But art supplies can be expensive, and if you’re on a budget, that shouldn’t stop you from learning hand lettering! There are many great workarounds, as shown in this infographic.

Spend or Save? Lettering Infographic from Ray of Light Design

I hope you find these suggestions helpful.

Happy lettering! 🙂

Lettering Marker Review: Crayola or Tombow?

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Markers are so much fun when it comes to hand lettering. Using a few simple techniques, you can achieve a lot of different styles quickly and easily.

There are many options when it comes to which markers to use, but I’m determined to find the best one! So far, I’ve noticed that Tombow ABT Dual Brush Pens are a very popular choice. Crayola’s broad line markers have grown on me in particular.

So, Tombow or Crayola?

Tombow

Pros

  • The dual tips — one side is a brush, and the other side is a sturdy, fine point marker.
  • They BLEND! You can mix colors (see video below) for a gradient effect in your lettering. You can also blend similar colors (not as well as Copics, but it does work) if you are coloring an illustration.
  • Great, expansive color selection — you can buy a few colors individually or load up with a pack.

Cons

  • Pricy. It’s not horrible (compared to Copics), but one marker is about the same price as a full pack of Crayola! ($2)
  • Delicate tip — the brush pen tip can be easily damaged if not taken care of properly. It’s difficult to keep intact.

Crayola

Pros

  • Durable, easy to use tip. Crayola markers are traditionally designed for kids, so the broad line tip does not damage easily.
  • Cheap!
  • Looks just as good as lettering with Tombow pens.
  • Pipsqueak option: Crayola pipsqueaks are a mini version with the same tips as the regular markers.

Cons

  • Color selection is not as expansive as the Tombows, and you have to buy them in sets. The majority of sets include 10 markers, and the only way to get a large array of colors is to buy the 64 pack!
  • Ink quality is not quite as good. The colors are bright, but the markers bleed and ruin the paper if you go over one area too many times. This makes them fine for lettering, but bad for coloring.

You don’t need fancy supplies for great art. A simple pack of Crayola markers can get you great results if you know how to use them.

For inspiration of using these tools, check out @tombowusa and @crayola on Instagram.

On the blog soon: Lettering with Markers Tutorial

The New Paper

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A little while back, I posted a full review of Paper by 53, which has been my favorite drawing app for years.

Recently, 53 released Version 3 of Paper, and the app has undergone drastic changes, so it’s due for an all new review.

First of all, Paper used to be an iPad-only app. The update makes it compatible with both iPhone and iPad, which is great. I prefer to use Paper on iPad because of the bigger screen, obviously, but it’s definitely nice to have it on your iPhone if you ever need to jot something down or sketch something quick.

Fifty Three added some new features. The original tools and Think Kit are all still there, but now the toolbar has three little tabs. The first tab is an all new text feature, which I love. You can make checklists, take notes, add captions to your drawings, and easily talk to other artists. You can swipe to change the style from regular, title, subtitle, checklist bullet, and regular bullet. You can also double-tap a section of text to change the style to italic, bold, underline, or strikethrough.

The second tab is photo upload. Like other users of the app, I have mixed feelings about this feature. There are some benefits:  you can annotate and spotlight parts of an image, add your drawings to photos, etc. The problem with photo upload is that it could potentially add a lot of spam to Mix, and it blurs the line between what people drew in Paper and what they just uploaded. (In case you were wondering, the third tab is the old tools.)

That brings me to Mix. Mix has been around for a little over a year now, and it has always been fun and easy to use. If you don’t know what Mix is, this is the summary I wrote in my previous Paper review:

“In September 2014, 53 added a new service called Mix that works within the Paper app. It has over 1 million creators as of March 2015. You can sign up and share your creations made in Paper, as well as see what other artists are making and follow them. Not only that, but you can “remix” their work. You can draw on it and add to it, color it, change it, whatever you want.”

53 has completely changed how Mix works, including getting rid of the name! What used to be the Mix section is simply “People You Follow.” They removed some of the best features it had (such as the popular replay button) and it is considerably more difficult to navigate. 53 doesn’t seem to be featuring art from the community anymore, which is really unfortunate. That was one of my favorite parts of being on Mix. Despite having over one million creators, Mix really did feel like a community. It doesn’t feel like that anymore. The changes were unnecessary and disappointing. (My profile is still there though! I am now Ray of Light on Paper instead Ray of Light on Mix.)

The notebook interface has been replaced with “spaces.” These spaces are like folders, where, if you click on them, you see all of your ideas laid out. It’s kind of like a collage or a mood board, and if you watch their new intro video you will get the idea.

As far as changes to the drawing mode, they modified the way the rewind and zoom features work, which I am not too happy about. There are a few other kinks too right now, but I’m sure the little bugs will be gone in future updates.

I still love Paper. I used to love everything about it, and now I love almost everything. I’m unhappy about the demise of Mix, but otherwise, I’m okay with the update. It’s going to take some getting used to, but in the long run, I think I’m going to get a lot of use out of the new features.

Coolors

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I got excited when I noticed that the App store was featuring a collection called “For Designers.” It showcased 12 drawing apps, 13 design tools, and 12 apps for inspiration. There were definitely a few that I had never heard of or seen before, and that’s where I discovered Coolors.

I’m fascinated with colors and color palettes (as you may have seen with The Palette Project on Mix). I liked (but didn’t love) Adobe Color CC. The app creates color palettes from photos, so there’s a lot of tedious adjusting and stuff like that. It’s slow process and you can’t create any good color palettes if you don’t have any good photos.

Coolors knocks Adobe Color out of the park. It’s so much easier to use, and it’s fun. The only drawback is that it costs $0.99 (while Color is free).

To create a color palette, simply tap generate.

 
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You can adjust the color values if you want, or you can lock a color and generate palettes to match.

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Once you’re satisfied, you can save and share with the click of a button. Coolors is also available as an extension in Illustrator and Photoshop.

You can try out the generator here for free!

Here are some palettes I created:

Color Palettes August

This marks the beginning of Colors of the Month! Every month I plan to share 5 new color palettes that I created with Coolors.

*Update* 8/29/15: If you want to use these palettes in Paper by 53, I posted them to Mix!

Chartpak AD Markers Review

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In order to find the marker that works for you, you’ll need to experiment. These Charpak AD markers aren’t mainstream. If I look them up on Pinterest, not much shows up. They’ve been around for ages, and I’ve noticed that when I go to the art store, they tend to be hiding in a corner behind the giant case of Copics.

They’re worth a try. The result is a bright, solid, consistent ink that mimics watercolor. They are blend-able, and the chisel tip is really easy to use (there’s also a fine-tip option). One marker last a really long time and they are comfortable to hold. These are permanent, and they are also waterproof. They come in around 130 colors. The price is good too in my opinion — about $3 per marker.

However, I tend to avoid these markers most of the time because of the smell. If you use them too long, you are guaranteed to feel lightheaded or get a headache. The smell also takes a long time to clear out, so I only color with these outside. They are not refillable, and they bleed. They bleed onto the other side of the paper in addition to bleeding outwards from where you drew. If you are using thin paper, then you need to put scratch paper underneath or else they will bleed onto whatever surface you are drawing on. Bristol paper or Rendr paper are the most compatible in my experience.

If you are at the art store, test them first. Smell them. See what you think. They are good quality markers, but I don’t think they’re for everyone.