Here are my top 10 basic hand-lettering tools I suggest every beginner have on hand. Great news – You may already have some of these items in your home as we speak!
*Some of the links below are affiliate links. This means, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a slight commission if you click through and make a purchase. I will only recommend items/tools which I have used and LOVE. By purchasing through one of my recommended links, you’ll be supporting a small business (me) and getting awesome items! win/win!
I can’t wait to tell you about my favorite tools for hand-lettering. But if you’re just starting out, make sure to also grab my free mini hand-lettering 101 workbook to help you along the way.
Remember, we were all beginners too
Starting out, you may feel like you need ALL the latest and cutest decor and materials to be great at lettering. That’s totally normal to feel that way.
You are probably following artists and lettering pros who show their fancy squares on Instagram and no matter how confident you are comparison-itus IS a real thing. However, they all started somewhere and I’m here to let you in on a secret (their now looks nothing like their beginning OR yours)… at least for me. My desk is a MESS, I work wherever I can get a free moment and 99% of the time I have kids running around like a circus or asking for their 100th snack.
Action, not perfection
It’s hard to find time for YOU sometimes. I get it. Having all the most put together and polished tools sounds wonderful – but it is NOT necessary at all. In fact, having too much when you are starting out could possibly hold you back.
Remember, in order to become better at something you need to focus on action, not perfection.
Below I will go over how simple it really is to get started and the top 10 tools every beginner should have when beginning their lettering journey.
The top 10 must-have tools for 2021
Do you have (uhem… a pencil + paper)?? If you have these two basic items you’re well on your way!
With over 6 years of lettering practice, I am going to share with you my absolute FAVORITE tools I’ve used (and which ones I prefer to use most often). I hope this will help you to skip thru the years of research and trial / error I did and put you further on your path of creating beautiful letters.
What do you need for lettering?
1. Best Paper
Which type is best for your project? That depends on many factors, like the pen you are using and the purpose. For this beginner list, I am going to recommend my favorite paper for you to use for practice. Some papers can be too rough on your pen and will cause the pen to wear down faster or will cause ink to smear easily. However, the paper I am recommending will not; it is smooth but not shiny or coated. Perfect for beginners, practice and for printing your hand-lettered workbook. The paper I use and recommend is: HP Printer Paper, Premium32, 8.5x11, Letter, 32lb Paper.
2. Best Pen
The Best Pen for practicing goes to the Pentel Sign Pen (FIBER TIP, not the brush. Very important NOT the brush tip). Why this pen? It writes so smooth and beautifully but it is easy to control. Other pens, like the Tombow brush pen or Micron (while also a favorite) are just not the best for beginners. Those pens are for later on, once you've mastered some muscle memory + practice. More on that later.
3. Best Pen for projects
This is one of my favorites! The good ol' Sharpie Fine Tip (not the extra fine tip... just your typical fine tip sharpie). I've found amazon usually has great deals on larger packs like this 12 pack. Plus, they last for a long time so you can stock up now and have them on hand as you need them! They work great for almost any project. The only downside is that they CAN bleed through to the back of some papers if it is too thin. So, just do a quick test on the paper or use a clipboard to make sure you're not drawing on your table. Ha!
I would call this one your most needed items overall. You really don't need a lot to begin hand-lettering. A good pencil is a must! It doesn't really matter a whole lot if you choose a different brand but trust me, there is a difference in quality. Since they really don't cost much more, I just prefer these.
Again, any eraser may do the job but from my experience (and especially if you are drafting something in pencil for a PROJECT, not just practice - you will need a GOOD eraser. What makes an eraser good? It doesn't leave behind that pink residue and it won't smudge your hard work! So, if that is important to you as well, I suggest you have one of these erasers on hand.
6. Tracing Paper
For getting the most out of your lettering workbooks and practice! It is super important to trace lettering styles you love. This is one of my favorite tips to help you build that muscle memory. Your hands need the repetition and they need the movements to learn how to make those beautiful letters flow. Tracing paper can help and here is the one I've used.
7. Graph or Grid Paper
if you're trying to get straight lines or line up your lettering composition - using graph or grid paper under your tracing paper sheet can be a very effective way to do so. This saves you time, so you won't have to use a ruler and draw out + erase lines as you go. Click here for a great grid paper (you can use under tracing paper or alone).
8. A hand-lettering 101 workbook
Hand-Lettering practice sheets are a great way to begin and to develop your skills. To get started right away, I have a FREE mini workbook to get you lettering NOW. You'll get a peak inside my process and have some great practice sheets to get you started. Enjoy!
9. A clipboard
Clipboards are great and allow you to take your lettering everywhere! This is how I started. Lettering while my kids played in the backyard, while at the beach or a park...don't confine your practice of this art to a desk or a table. The beauty of this fun hobby is that you can take it with you anywhere. Creativity flows best when you take yourself out of your 'usual' environment and think outside the box! Have fun, take it with you and letter when you want. The clipboard I use is here. You could grab a fun colorful one too but there's nothing wrong with basic and cheap for this item.
Do you use pinterest? Here is a Pinterest board, Lettering for Beginners, I created just for YOU (I'll keep adding to it as I add more inspiration + practice tips). I tend to use Pinterest like a google search. I like to search for inspiration this way. For instance, If I am trying to figure out how to letter a capital R, I might do a quick search for "capital R lettering styles" or "cursive R" and a bunch of ideas will pop up. This doesn't mean you copy others' work, but by seeing all the styles out there, you can use the letter forms as a guide to help you find your style. Plus, when practicing (i do recommend tracing / copying letters). There is nothing wrong with this as long as you do not then try to sell or post someone else's work as your own. Always give credit - a shout out to a small businesses or artist is always appreciated.
How many of these items did you have on hand? I hope this list was helpful in giving you a starting point on what you need to get started with lettering. If you need help finding the items listed (links are included and most items are easily available on amazon or your local print/craft shop).
Now it’s time to practice!
Don’t forget to grab your free copy of my mini hand-lettering 101 workbook here. If you have any questions or want to let me know how your lettering journey is going so far, I would love if you would comment below or reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Then, tag me in your work @mianicoledesignco on social so I can see your progress! I’m rooting you on!! Keep practicing and remember to enjoy the process. Afterall, that’s what it’s all about, right!?