Best Lettering Tools On a Budget


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


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!


Get Better at Brush Pen Lettering!



We have moved to and have improved this free resource since! Check out the brand new, comprehensive brush lettering guide, complete with tons of new free printables and worksheets. We also have an iPad lettering version!

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.


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!

Recent Artwork


Here’s a quick look at what I’ve been up to lately.

Below is a picture of some fonts I sketched on real paper. It’s how I practice my typography stuff.

   Above is some lettering I did in Paper, imitating a design by Old English Company.

This (above) is also inspired by Old English Company.
This is my remix of “Bombs No More.” You can make yours by remixing this.  

Here I drew some faces in Paper, based on this by Fears on Creative Market.

Here’s a little peek at what’s been going on in Mix. I had Mixers create their own rendition of “Ray of Light,” and I got over 50 submissions! Soon, I will be posting a slideshow featuring work by everyone. Stay tuned!

Follow me on Instagram and Twitter for news and artwork!



There are a lot of pens out there. A lot of them work, but not a lot of them work good. When it comes to illustration, a standard ballpoint pen just isn’t going to cut it (speaking of ballpoint pens, this is the best one I’ve found. I was also impressed by this one and this one).

Here I’ve put together a list of my favorite pens.*

1. Pentel Energel — These pens are good for everything. I use them for both writing and drawing. The name Energel is a little confusing because it might make you think of Gelly Roll pens. These are different and much more versatile. Energels have replaced ballpoint pens for me — they dry fast, the ink is a dark solid color and it comes out effortlessly, and they’re good price. There are quite a few models available — Energel X, Energel RTX, Energel Alloy, the original capped Energel, and Energel NV. All of them are refillable except for NV. The only difference between X, RTX, and Alloy is the material it’s made from — all three are retractable. The other two have a cap. There are lots of different color options, although I only use black. There are 3 options for tips — fine (0.5), medium (0.7), and bold (0.9). My favorite is the fine point.

2. Sakura Pigma Microns — There are a lot of pigment pens out there, and I’ve tried a lot, but none of them beat the Microns. The ink in the Microns is the best quality (waterproof, acid free, fade resistant) and they just work better. They’re a little pricey but they’re worth it if you need pens for illustration. If you like pigment pens for writing, you’re better off with these. There are also other types of pens and markers by Sakura that use the Pigma ink.

3. Sharpie Fine Point Pen — There is a lot of confusion when someone hears the word “Sharpie Pen.” The one people typically think of are the smelly ultra fine tip permanent ones. Those are not the ones I like.

I’m just going to clear this up right now: the fine tip permanent sharpies are just a fine tip version of the regular permanent ones. They are not for drawing on normal surfaces such as paper. A lot of people use them as if they were pigment pens. They are not. They are for writing on surfaces like plastic or metal.

The kind that I use are pigment liners. They are made by Sharpie, but they do not smell and have nothing to do with being permanent. Sharpie is well known for making permanent markers, but they are an office supply company that also makes highlighters, pens, and pencils.

So the pen that I want to talk about is simply called the Sharpie Fine Point Pen, and it is a pigment pen similar to the Microns I talked about earlier. They are more versatile than Microns, however, and you can find them in regular office supply stores when Microns are only available in high end art stores. These Sharpie pens are easy to use and work for both drawing and writing.

Those are my top 3. What are your favorite pens? Tell us in the comments below!

*I’m hoping to add more in the future!