PRACTICE is what matters when it comes to hand lettering. One of the biggest barriers to practice (besides carving out time) is not knowing which MATERIALS will work best. I love hand lettering because it’s a uniquely portable creative hobby. You don’t need any special machinery or equipment, you don’t need a specific location, and you can use whatever is already in your home. Once you have some basic instruction and resources to draw from, you can use simple and affordable tools that don’t break the bank.
I often hear people in my classes say that they purchased fancy supplies online — a $30 pack of 4 brush markers, a $20 calligraphy pen—and without the know-how, these items sit stashed in a drawer, unused. When fancy supplies run out, people are less likely to hop online and pay large sums + shipping to replenish them.
Don’t get me wrong—as a professional letterer, I LOVE well-made, specialty supplies. However, if you’re a beginner, you can simply use items that you can find on your weekly Target run or your next trip to your local art store. You can also stock up on some items on Amazon, but be careful—prices may be inflated there unless you’re buying in bulk. Please note: I’ve added affiliate links to some of my favorite supplies in bulk on Amazon if you know that Prime is your best option! ;)
Here’s a list of my favorite supplies!
LASER COPY PAPER
Next time you’re at the office supply store, pick up a ream of laser copy paper. Laser copy paper has a slightly smooth texture to it and makes it easier for your pen to glide along the surface of the page and will allow your markers to last quite a bit longer. If you’re in store, don’t be afraid to open a teeny bit of the package to feel a piece of the paper. Ask for help if this makes you nervous!
Where to get it: office stores, Amazon. (Note: My Target does not carry smooth laser copy paper in the office supply section.)
SIMPLE TRACING PAPER
When it comes to lettering, tracing is everything. It’s how we build muscle memory and learn how letters fit together in a particular space. In my workshops, we use a super thick tracing paper, Canson Marker Paper and everyone always oohs and ahhhs over it. This paper is available at Michael’s and Dick Blick online, and you can often use a coupon to offset the $15 price tag. If you are looking for a cheaper option, buy a basic tracing paper pack. It will be crinkly and less smooth, but it will get the job done! Use a Sharpie or Crayola marker with tracing paper.
Where to get it: Target, Walmart, Michael’s, Hobby Lobby, office supply stores. (Amazon tracing paper packs usually run about $6; tracing paper at the other places listed is more like $2-4.)
RULER AND SHARP PENCILS
You may already have a ruler or straightedge on hand. If you don’t have kids, you may be less likely to have sharp number 2 pencils at your disposal. When you buy pencils, make sure to purchase them pre-sharpened, and purchase a simple sharpener ($1 or less) to have on hand. If your pencils stay unsharpened, you won’t use them!
Where to get them: Target, Walmart, Michael’s, Hobby Lobby, office supply stores. Shop on Amazon if you are buying either in bulk!
Crayola markers are so wonderful for hand lettering! They are easy to grip, easy to maneuver, and allow you to make thick and think strokes. Classic Crayola markers are thicker and easy in your hand, but the thinner Crayola Supertips offer a wider array of colors, including muted colors.
Where to get them: Target or Walmart, Amazon has great options starting at sets of 50.
When I started my business, Sharpies were my absolute favorite lettering tool, and they remain as such to this day. You can use them for virtually anything, and the permanent ink means your lettering is safe in the mail throughout the winter months with no risk of smudging or wearing off. Gold metallic sharpies are also fun, but be aware that their ink wears out rather quickly.
Where to get them: Amazon offers bulk packs of 12+ and this is the best deal! Do not buy them at Michael’s or Hobby Lobby; they will be significantly more expensive there. Dick Blick online also offers great deals on Sharpies.
These days, fewer and fewer people seem to have a home printer. Some skip printing entirely and others use printers at work or school. However, I love the convenience of a home printer, and you can get an awesome one for under $50 and print resources to your heart’s content. My favorite printer is the Canon Pixma. As a stationer, I used the ix6820 model, but I’ve added an under $50 model below. The ink lasts for a long time (especially if you use the draft print setting) and the quality is great. If you don’t use a home printer, you can send items to a local print shop or office supply store to print and copy, or you could also use a public library. My upcoming course will feature handouts that can be printed at home or purchased already printed.
Where to get it: Amazon, and many office supply stores carry this model as well.
SIMPLE WHITE PLASTIC ERASER
If you’re working in pencil, you need a good eraser. Grab a plastic art eraser and do not use pink erasers or the erasers attached to your pencils. Sketching a design in pencil is an important part of the lettering creative process, and it’s totally possible to erase pencil marks under dry ink—whether that be Crayola ink, brush marker ink, etc. However, this is only possible with a good plastic eraser. These should run under $1 each and can be found many places.
Where to get them: Target, Michael’s, office stores, Amazon in bulk.
A NOTE ABOUT BRUSH MARKERS
Note that pointed pen calligraphy supplies and brush markers are not on this list because I do not consider them to be the simplest lettering tools out there. I will share more about brush marker supplies in a future blog, but please note that I love Tombow dual-tip brush markers and Zig Brushables, both of which I purchase at Dick Blick online.
For more information about my upcoming online course, Everyday Hand Lettering, click here. I’d love for you to be among the first to know about it!