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! 🙂


Oh Snap! Hand Lettering Process


Sometimes hand lettering is simple and fast. Other times, it takes many steps to reach a finished, final piece.

1. Initial Sketch

This first step is usually best in pencil. The initial sketch is the time to map out your idea as best you can.

Took usedStaedtler Lead Holder


2. Ink

Inking is my personal least favorite step. I am not very good at getting consistent lines and using pen makes me nervous. If I am planning to digitize my design (whether it’s hand lettering or some other illustration), I usually skip this.

Tool usedSakura Pigma Micron


3. Digitize!

I personally like to import a photo of my design into Paper by 53 and trace over it. It’s true that I could have done the whole thing in the app, but I usually feel more comfortable creating an initial sketch with real pencil and paper.

Tool usedPaper and Pencil by 53


4. Vectorize

I imported the design I made in Paper into Adobe Illustrator and converted it into Vector artwork. Now I can easily overlay it on photos, change the color, etc. These examples were made using photos from Creative Market.

Download the Oh Snap Vector Art

You can download the free artwork here and make something with it yourself!

Hope you enjoyed seeing my hand lettering process! You are invited to follow me on social media to see more art. If you ever have any questions, comments, or suggestions, please talk to me via the contact page.

Twitter Pinterest RSS social_media_round_icons_pink_color_set_256x256_0014_dribbble 53-icon


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!


Brush Lettering Process Tutorial


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!



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!

Ray of Light Design Has an All New Shop



If you weren’t already aware, I have a shop on Creative Market, where I sell things like fonts and clip art. But I am excited to announce that I now have a second, completely different shop on RedBubble!

My RedBubble shop is where I am selling physical items (such as t-shirts, stationery, mugs, etc.) designed by me!

Introducing my first product — these cool notebooks!



Hardcover Journal — comes with either ruled, graph, or blank paper

Spiral Bound — either ruled or graph paper

I can’t wait to get one for myself!

Stay tuned — more is coming soon! 



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!