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! 🙂

How to Make Watercolors Using Brush Pen Ink

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Make Your Own Watercolors!

I have a very small collection of watercolor paint. However, with this trick, I can create a full set of watercolors, simply by using brush pens.

What you’ll need

  • A paintbrush
  • A container with water
  • Brush pens
  • Ziplock bag or other plastic surface.

Turn Ink into Watercolor

1. Color with your brush pen onto the ziplock bag.
2. Dunk your paintbrush in the water, and mix the wet brush onto the ink on the ziplock bag.
3. You now have watercolor paint, made from the brush pen ink!

Brush Pen Watercolor Effect

1. Dunk a paintbrush in the water. Paint the water onto your ziplock bag.
2. Take your brush pen and color on top of the water on the ziplock.
3. Your brush pen tip now contains water. If you write, it will look like watercolor.

I’ve tried these tricks on Sakura Koi pens and Tombow ABT Dual Brush pens, and both worked great.

Have fun making, and don’t forget to share with me your creations on Instagram and Twitter!

 

Brush Lettering Process Tutorial

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Here’s a quick look at an easy way to create a hand lettered piece with marker.

First of all, I suggest you take a look at the “Get Better at Brush Pen Lettering” post if you haven’t yet and learn how to use a brush pen. Once you know that, you’re ready to go!

What you’ll need:

  • At least one colored marker or brush pen
  • One black marker or brush pen
  • Two sheets of printer paper
  • A pencil

1. Create an outline with your pencil.

A lot of hand lettering artists seem like they’re doing everything freehanded, and that’s fine, but I believe that an initial sketch is important. It gives you the opportunity to think of an interesting layout. In these photos, I am using a lead holder by Staedler.

2. Complete the rough draft by tracing with your black marker.

 

Don’t worry about erasing your pencil lines, this is not the final version. Here I used a black Tombow Dual Brush Pen.

3. Place the second sheet of Paper on top of your rough draft.

You should be able to see the faint outline of your text.

4. Trace over the faint outline with your colored markers.

This is the final piece, and it’s completely free of any erasing of Pencil marks. You can add flourishes, illustrations, or more text if you like. If you mess up tracing over your rough draft, you can simply grab another piece of paper and try again (which is exactly what I did: the final one is shown below).

Here I used Sakura Koi Coloring Brushes — pink blended with orange.

Shown here are two more pieces I made using this process.

Have fun trying this out, and don’t forget to share with me what you make on social media!

Get Better at Brush Pen Lettering!

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Brush lettering is an increasingly popular approach to creating beautiful words.
Last week I compared two markers for this purpose, and promised to put together a little tutorial to get you going with brush lettering. Here it is!

First of all, there are two types of brush lettering: one uses brush pens, and the other involves writing with a real brush and watercolors. The kind I will be talking about today is the first kind.
A brush pen would be the Tombow ABT Dual Brush Pen I wrote about last week, or the brush nib on a Copic marker. Although called pens, brush pens are really just markers with a long, pointed nib that resembles a paintbrush. You can create a similar look with regular, cheaper markers, however that is not considered true brush lettering.
Using a brush pen correctly takes a little work. You have to learn how to apply pressure in order to create thin and thick strokes, and how to alternate between them. There are many elaborate e-courses available for purchase online, but I taught myself by messing around for a little while with a Tombow. I believe that with a few simple guidelines on how to practice, you can learn brush pen lettering quickly.

Brush Lettering InfographicAll Markers are Not Created Equal.

Learning how to write with a brush pen is different than with a Crayola. The good thing is that you can learn with both. Go to the art store, try different markers, and pick the one that you like the best to practice with.
4/5 of the markers I demonstrated above can work. The one that cannot is the fine tip on the Tombow, because you are unable to create thin and thick strokes.

 

Familiarize Yourself with Faux Calligraphy.

Understanding how calligraphy works is an important step. You can create faux calligraphy with any kind of pen or marker (you could even use a pencil). Write a word in cursive, and then go back and find the downstrokes (the places where you moved your pen down toward you to create the letter). Thicken the downstrokes. This is the idea of calligraphy — creating thin upstrokes and thicker downstrokes. However, in calligraphy, you do it all in one swift motion.

Know Your Nib

Work on creating the thinnest and thickest possible stroke with your marker. Your grip, the angle you hold the pen, and the pressure you apply all factor in to creating your strokes.

Get Drilling

Drills are a simple way to learn how to alternate between a thin and thick stroke with your marker. I showed a variety of drills, but they all have to do with the same idea: thin upstroke, thick downstroke. Whatever drill you decide to try, the key is repetition. Keep going until the motion begins to feel natural to you.

Practice Your Letters

Creating letters involves using the thin up, thick down technique. The shape of the letter depends on your preference — you can create cursive, sans, or even serif. Repetition is always a good idea — if you don’t feel good writing a particular letter, pull out a piece of scratch paper and write it over and over again.

Create!

Once you start playing with a brush pen, you’ll just be itching to create something. Don’t be afraid to try, even if you haven’t fully mastered all the letters yet. There’s so much inspiration out there.

Hope you all found this article helpful and inspiring! If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment or visit the contact page. Happy lettering!

Lettering Marker Review: Crayola or Tombow?

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Tombow-or-Crayola-

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

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.

Copic Markers Review

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Copic-Markers

Copic Markers are popular for their ability to blend. I used Chartpak AD markers before I used Copics, and I quickly switched over because they are low odor, non-toxic, and refillable. The Copic sketch edition are the most popular and come in 358 colors. These are oval shaped (so they don’t roll around), and dual tipped (one brush tip and one chisel tip). The brush tip is great. I find the chisel tip sort of useless and difficult. The markers work on almost any paper, but they can bleed onto the other side.

Copic Markers come in three other forms — original Copics, Copic Ciao, and Copic wide. The wide marker is just one giant chisel tip. The “original” ones have a square barrel and two tips — one is chisel, but the other is a different, smaller brush tip. They hold the most ink. Copic Ciao has the same tips as Copic sketch, but the barrel is round and smaller so they are slightly cheaper.

The biggest drawback for me with these markers is the price. They are worth it if you use them a lot, but start out by only getting the colors you really need. I have a pretty small collection, so I use Chartpak markers alongside the Copics.

Before you buy any, make sure you know how to tell which colors blend (all the markers have a code that tells you the hue, saturation, and shade). Learn how to use the markers before you try them! I was so glad I did this. There are tons of tutorials and introductory videos to get you started. Copics quickly became my favorite way to color, so give them a try! They work on pretty much every kind of paper, and if you use them right, your art is guaranteed to look good.