When you spend a lot of time looking at people’s lettering projects and videos, you start to feel like their talent really comes from the tools they are using. Don’t let this stop you from trying to improve your lettering skills. I didn’t even know that brush pens existed when I started playing around with hand lettering, and didn’t even get my first brush pen until this year.
How I Learned Lettering Without Spending Money
I spend a lot of time using pencil (traditional and mechanical — basically whatever I have on hand) and ballpoint pens. To this day, the majority of my practice is not with specialized writing tools.
My Go-To Affordable Lettering Practice Tools:
- A Bic mechanical pencil (they’re always sharp and produce fine lines)
- Printer or scrap paper (literally any space can become a sketch)
- A Pilot NeoGel pen (if I like a sketch, I’ll go over it with one of these)
- An eraser (you’ll go through the one on your pencil way too quickly)
When I was first becoming comfortable lettering, I didn’t follow instructions or compare my work to others’. I just sat down and wrote words of every shape and style I could until I became confident in my hands and my mind working together.
Lettering Skills that Don’t Require Expensive Tools:
- Mastering letter shaping & fonts
- Practicing layouts & spacing
- Playing with flourishes
- Developing your signature style
Practice those skills and become comfortable writing anything and everything you can. Just today I wrote “the flowers can’t grow if the snow doesn’t stop, Wisconsin!” for absolutely no reason.
It just popped into my head as I looked out the window. I lettered it in pencil, and I set it aside. There was no intention of producing a finished product. It was a quick exercise and it was valuable for that reason alone.
Do that about a million times and you’ll be comfortable before you know it.
If you don’t have a lot of patience and want to get started creating useful things right away, check out my other post: 4 Steps to Learn Lettering in Less than a Week.
Why Pencil is a Learning Letterer’s Best Friend
Pencils are underrated. I am often teased for walking around with a pencil for taking notes at work, when everyone else is using a pen. However, the experience of writing and drawing with a pencil is so comforting and relaxing that I can hardly imagine having learned to letter with anything else.
Every impressive lettering project starts with a sketch, and when you’re learning, you’re just producing endless sketches. Pencils give us the freedom to experiment and explore, with the insurance of erasing it when we don’t like what we did.
Slowly but surely, you’ll develop confidence to make bold marks and letter just about anything without feeling like you have to erase. But until then, keep a pencil handy and keep writing everything that pops into your head.
More Lettering Tips & Inspiration
If you’re looking for more inspiration and encouragement to continue lettering, even when the words don’t come easily — check out the other Lettering category posts.
One of my favorite ways to find something to practice lettering is to read something motivational or inspirational. Then I find a phrase or sentence that stuck out to me and I write it out. One: it helps me to remember what I read. Two: it gives me new words to try and master. It might sound a little silly, but give it a try!
If you’re looking for some motivational reading, head over to the Finance or Contentment categories and read up on how we can challenge ourselves to optimize our priorities and life goals. We’re all works in progress!