Since I always get asked about what it's in my toolbox I decided to put together this compilation, but the one thing I want to emphasize is that even though some tools DO make our life easy, or can speed up some processes, the only way to see improvements fast is with practice, everyday
Start with the minimum and focus on deliberate practice!
Table of content
If you are interested in checking more recommendations, I have an idea-list with a selection of all my favorite tools.
1Tombow Starter kit for beginners: This is perfect for anyone that wants to test if lettering is something they would like to venture in, it has all the basics you will need to start and a handy little guide, it's not a lot of information, but if you are just starting not feeling overwhelmed is a must, so just start with the basics *hint* check my blog for tips and practice sheets.
2Tombow advanced lettering set: I really like the selection of colors and different pens and other tools that Tomow added on this pack, you have pretty much everything you need to further your practice and experiment with color without having to buy the full 12 pack of dual brushes, and since it's a bundle you get a better deal.
3Staedtler Mars Lumograph Wooden Lead Pencil: The Staedtler pencils one is my favorite pencils, I might be a little biased because this was the exact ones I used during my college years, so I've been using them since for.e.ver!! I really like this bundle because you also get the eraser and pencil sharpener (they are great quality) at a discounted price, so definitely a good deal!
4Kassa watercolor starter kit: I really like that in this bundle you get everything you need to get started with watercolor. The brushes, paper and watercolors, it's perfect to start without breaking the bank. This way you can make sure that if you only invest in better quality inks (more listed in the watercolor section) once you are ready for the upgrade so that the more expensive watercolors will not just sit in a drawer.
5Technical drawing kit: This kit is perfect when you are starting and need to make sure that your composition is on point, making line and circle guides are a must to ensure that your letters are the same size in a word and that if you are making mirrored compositions, things are actually the same widths and angles. Later on, you might not need them as much, but while you train your eye and hand, guides are a must!
All my favorites brush pens, with small and big tips, for a complete list check my Amazon list below.
1Tombow Fudenosuke Brush Pen Set: This brush pen set is by far my favorite when it comes to learning, it comes in a soft and hard version. Even though the difference is not huge, you can make a little bit thicker downstrokes with the soft tip. They handle pressure amazingly good and if you use them with the correct paper (read my paper recommendations below) they can last you a long time.
3Tombow Dual Brush Pen: The two previous brush pens are considered “small brushes” this one is considered a “big brush” because the tip and bristles are longer and thicker your letters are also going to be a lot bigger. The Tombow dual-brush is definitely the favorite brush pen of many hand-lettering artists, but they are not very economical, hey big box I'm talking to you! Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love them too, but I like to save them for projects and not just for drills, so that way they last me longer.
4Sharpie Brush Tip Permanent Marker: This one is also a “big brush” and it can be more economical than the Tombow dual-brush, I love how juicy they are and how pigmented the ink is, but because of this they don't tend to last too long. I always recommend to use them with tracing paper so that you waste as least ink as possible, they also have them in a bunch of different colors.
5Crayola Washable Broad Line Markers: I love how budget friendly these markers are, they are perfect for drills and the tips are not too soft (sometimes you might need to reshape them though) but other than that are they are perfect, budget-friendly and they last a long time. If you are just starting and doing a lot of drills get a box of this ones, you can thank me later ;)
6Tombow Fudenosuke 10 color pack: This are a new products from Tombow and a very highly anticipated one. The Classic black Fude pens are the favorites of many lettering artists (me included) And they are the ones I always recommend to beginners because the tips are extremely resistant and they seem to last longer than the dual tips, plus the size is a great one for beginners.
7Pentel Arts Sign Pen Touch, Fude Brush Tip set: This is the box I mentioned above, they are great fude brush pens, juicy and with a great flexible tip, they last a good time and if you use them with good paper (smooth) the tip will not fray easily. The colors are super awesome too, yay!
8Sharpie Brush pen for fabric: After testing these ones while looking to draw on fabric I was pleasantly surprised by how soft, juicy and overall pigmented they are. They grew on me and now they are my to-go brush pens for most projects, definitely, try them if you want to test a different “big” brush pen.
11Gel Pens Set, 140 Colors: As you can tell just by the name, these are not brush pens, but I had to include them because they make the perfect companion to brush pens, I love using them to create shadows and embellishments, they have so many colors and you can never have too many of them!
PAPER & MORE PAPER
1Rhodia 80 Sheet, Dot Pad: This little pad is the most recommended and loved paper-pad among lettering and calligraphy artist because of it's great smoothness. It comes in different sizes so you can use it for drills or just to create small pieces, it's more pricey than other pads, but it treats brush pens very well.
2Fabriano Ecoqua dotted pad: This exact pad was the very first one I purchased when I started my lettering journey, just because I knew the brand from my design years in college back in Chile, and it has not disappointed, I still use them, 8 years after my first purchase (not the same pad, obviously! :P )
3Canson Tracing Paper Pad, 50-Sheet: This is my favorite paper for inking and also for brush calligraphy since it's super smooth and it does not absorb all the ink like some do, but because of this you need to be careful and wait for the ink to dry, or you will have a mess in your hands and your paper!
An economical alternative would be the Darice Tracing Paper, 100-Sheets. Either way, I would definitely recommend you to use trace paper to make your brushes last longer.
4Canson XL Series Marker Pad: This pad is also a great alternative when using brush pens, it's definitely not as smooth as tracer paper, but it gets the job done and it's a lot thicker than regular paper so it will not bleed (or at least not as much) when using super juicy markers or brush pens.
5HP Smooth Choice Laserjet Paper: This is definitely the more economical alternative for paper, I use this exact paper to print all my drill grids. It's a great way to save money while you practice, so you can use your special paper for projects and your brush pens will not get damaged like they do with regular copy paper.
Check out my Amazon list for all thing sketching and inking.
1Staedtler Lead Holder: Pretty much every awesome lettering artist you see loved this lead holder. I was first introduced to it when I was in College, so I was kind of forced to love it because of how easy it was to change different leads without having to have a ton of different pencils. I still have and use mine, but I am not such a fan of the metal feel when holding a pencil, so I prefer to use the one below. If you are looking into changing the leads for different hardness or softness, you should check this one anyway, and the lead sharpener.
4Pentel Stick Type Knock Eraser: This is my absolute favorite eraser, I first purchased this one while still in college back in Chile, it was the older version but the same concept. I love that the shape of the eraser gives you 3 sharp point that you can use to be more precise, it's way better than the round ones in my opinion. Also, it's a great alternative if you don't have an eraser shield.
5Tombow MONO Zero Eraser Pack: I absolutely love the previous eraser, but because this one is so thin, it allows such a precise erase. If you are working on pieces that require this kind of precision, you will absolutely love this eraser. it is small, and for the amount of actual “eraser” you get it's a little expensive, but it does the job it was designed to do so well.
7Home Mart 8 in 1 Protractor Compass: While the rulers and compass I have are from my technical drawing time in college, this set that I found is a great way to start at a very affordable price. it includes a compass, a box of leads, a ruler, a 180 Degree Protractor, a 30/60-degree triangle ruler, and a 45-degree triangle ruler.
8Saunders Plastic Storage Clipboard: while this is technically not a sketching tool, you would definitely need a surface to work. I love this clipboard because you can take it anywhere with you and store your paper and pens inside, plus it's pink! You can always just get a regular clipboard to hold your loose papers.
Check out my Amazon list for all thing sketching and inking.
1Faber-Castell Pitt Pen set: This pack is awesome for lettering because you get a wide variety of thickness and also one brush en, so if you want to start lettering but you are not sure if brush calligraphy is for you, you can just get this and start practicing with the one included here. They are a great deal too! (Instead of buying them in singles)
2Staedtler Lumocolor Fine Point: I love that this pen can be refilled (the refill station is sold separately) but if you are doing a lot of work, something like this comes super handy, I was using SO MANY pens, until I found these line of pens. They are not as cheap at the beginning but worth every peny in the long run.
3COPIC Multiliner Four Pack: I was also introduced to this multi-liners during technical drawing in college, but it took me a while to find them here. I love that these particular ones have a great range of thickness, they are refillable and you can also replace the nib. These features are awesome because I can go through one pen in just a couple of days, so this feature really helps my wallet (and can save you a ton too!)
4Huion LightBox: If you don't want to use tracing paper a light pad is a perfect solution ( and also a great one if you venture into watercolor) This is the one I have now, I tried some of the more expensive ones and this one beats most of them, it's worth its weight in gold (actually way more than it's weight because it's super light!)
Everything you need to get started with chalk lettering, I also added some of my favorite tools to enlarge letters for murals.
3Grip Trio Sharpener: This is my favorite chalk sharpener, it's not really made for chalk, but the bigger opening fits the Crayola chalk like a glove. I leave this one just for chalk and it has been great for the last 4 years. I recently also purchased this electric sharpener that works so great for when I do murals.
My favorite basics to start painting and practicing lettering with watercolors, I am listing a variety of price points so that you can start in a budget friendly way, and build up as you improve!
1Pentel Aquash Water Brush pack: Pretty much every other lettering artist that is doing watercolor would swear by these and there's a reason why. The fact that you can dip one color and have another in the barrel makes blending a breeze, and if you use them just with water, not having to dip the brush as often is really nice, they have a great range of sizes (three different thickness) and they are super comfortable in the grip, overall super awesome!
3Dr. Ph. Martin's Bombay India Ink Bottles: This set is my favorite, I use them for watercolor lettering and they are wonderful. It has great pigmentation and you can even erase on top of it without everything becoming a total mess, like all other watercolors. And you can never have too many Dr. Ph. Martin's inks!
An economical alternative would be this watercolor set, to get you started.
5Strathmore Watercolor Pad, 12 sheets: This is my favorite watercolor paper, it's not the most expensive out there, but it has amazing quality for the use I give it (watercolor lettering) I hope to expand my watercolor work to more natural and botanical subjects, but that is still in the works =] Maybe I'll change papers then!
An economical alternative would be the Canson watercolor pad, 30 sheets
6Martin Universal Airtight Peel-Off Palette: I like that with this little palette I can save my watercolors to keep working on something later or the following day, I have never tried it with longer times, so I can't assure it will work as good, but it's great that my watercolor don't get dry if I need to take a break while working ( because let's be real, when you are working with kids in the house, MANY times you HAVE to take breaks to make sure they are not burning down the house)
An economical alternative would be this paint tray with thumb hole
My favorite tools and accessories for creating lettering and calligraphy using the iPad Pro. Everything listed is the exact set up I have =]
1iPad Pro 12.9″: This is the exact size and capacity I have, and it's the BEST! I always say that this has been the best investment I've ever made in my business, I am able to sketch on the go, and send previous to clients so much faster than before. Don't get me wrong, I still LOVE my pens and paper, but this handy tool would change any creative's life. I guarantee it!
2Apple pencil: This is the second generation of apple pencil, and there is not one thing I don't like about the changes from the previous one. Funny story, my son ate my apple pencil cap, and I was not able to find it (or maybe I refused to lol) so the fact that there are no extra pieces that will go missing is a huge bonus! It charges magnetically and it just feels so futuristic each time I set it on the side of the iPad =]
3iPad pro smart keyboard: I did not ting I was going to like this keyboard as much as I do at the beginning, I mainly bought it so I could write content on the go. And I am obsessed with it now, I really like how now the keyboard covers the back and front of the iPad (unlike the previous version) and to me, it seems a lot more sturdy. I've read mix reviews about it, but my personal experience with it has been amazing, I haven't had any connectivity issues and there is no lag when I type, (I've had it for about 6 months now)
4iPad screen protector: When it comes to protectors pretty much everyone has a different favorite. I was looking for something that was matte, BUT also that was glass and strong, I have 3 little ones, and while I always keep my things away from them, they are sneaky and love technology, so better be safe than sorry! I love this protector and it has lasted me a long time, the pen slides great but it doesn't have the paper texture that other's have.
5Extra long USB C cable: One of the major changes from m old iPad was that now it doesn't charge with the regular lightning cable, the new iPad pro charges with USB C cable. And the one thing I hate about all default cables is how short they are. In my case when I need to charge I don't like to stop working, so having a super long cable is a must for me.
6iPad protector case: Technically this is a laptop case, but I had this same one for my old iPad (different color, old design) and I loved it, so I went with this again, it has a super soft interior, and what I like the most about this one is that it has the handle in the side, and since the opposite side has seams, there is no danger of dropping the iPad if the zipper is not 100% closed correctly, it has a good amount of storage on the outside for cables and all my extra things as well. I love this thing!
8Apple pencil storage: I love to have all my things organized, and while the cover I shared above does a great job with the compartments, I really like having a second pouch for the cables and to keep the apple pencil extra secure, after all that is the most expensive pen I have =]
10Adjustable easel: While this is not technically a digital lettering tool, it has been such a game changer for me (and my back pain) Being able to move the whole surface to accommodate a better posture has been so good for me, especially those days that I work on it for long hours. I painted mine white so it could blend better with my desk and I love it!
11Brother DS-620 Mobile Color Scanner: If you don't have an iPad, the best way to bring your artwork to the computer for digitizing (other than taking pictures with your phone) is using a scanner. I purchased this one after reading a lot of recommendations, while some I do have to set my tracing paper on a “carrier” sheet in order to scan better, this little guy is SO cost effective. Because let's be real when you are starting you need quality but you don't need to break the bank, something like this is more than enough to start digitizing.
LETTERING & CALLIGRAPHY BOOKS
For additional pictures and details about the best Calligraphy and lettering books for beginners, please check out this post.
1The ABC of Custom Lettering: A Practical Guide to Drawing Letters: This book by Ivan Castro is the best for anyone that wants to venture into lettering or calligraphy, is such a great guide for beginners and also pretty much the best book to really understand the difference between Lettering and Calligraphy and why the terms are not interchangeable, and everything is NOT lettering. (I'm looking at you “brush lettering”)
2The Art of Calligraphy: A Practical Guide to the Skills and Techniques by David Harris: I love this book because of how much it covers about the history of calligraphy and different historic styles. It's a great guide if you are interested in more than just the script calligraphy styles and has easy to follow directions. I think it's so important to know the history of this craft and it's origins, especially if you are serious about your craft (just sayin') *hint, hint* Get it!
3The Big Awesome Book of Hand & Chalk Lettering Paperback by Dina Rodriguez: I have seen other books on chalk lettering, but this one is my favorite because it goes over how to construct letters and the materials, hand stretches and all the details you'll need to know if you are embarking in chalk lettering or painting letters in a chalkboard. I would definitely recommend this one over others in the market, Dina's is very straightforward and easy to understand, the book has 15 different alphabet styles and 100 step-by-step illustrations.
4Chalk Art & Lettering 101: An Introduction to Chalkboard Lettering, Illustration, Design, and More by Amanda Arneill & Shannon Roberts: Now I might be a little biased for this book, because both Amanda and Shannon are IG-friends and I love what both of them do in the lettering world, so when they teamed up for this book I knew that I had to include it in my favorite book's list. The book is a step-by-step instruction and very beginner friendly.
5Hand-Lettering Ledger: A Practical Guide to Creating Serif, Script, Illustrated, Ornate, and Other Totally Original Hand-Drawn Styles by Mary Kate McDevitt: I know that a lot of people have complained so much about the number of blank pages in this book, and I get it because I also don't like to draw directly on my books, I like separate tracing paper or notebook for that. But if you forget about that issue the information in this book is great for beginners and Mary Kate is such an amazing artist, her examples are lovely and if you want to learn from her, she also has classes in Skillshare.
6Modern Calligraphy: Everything You Need to Know to Get Started in Script Calligraphy by Molly Suber Thorpe: I love how in depth Molly goes in this book sharing examples and practical tips to learn and improve in modern calligraphy, she also has classes in Skillshare that are awesome. I love her teaching style. In this book, she also shares projects and examples so you can apply and practice what you are learning.
7A History of Lettering: Creative Experiment and Letter Identity by Nicolete Gray: Just like the previous book, the best way to start is by taking a look at what has been done and what the original letterforms looked like, I like that this book covers a great part of the history with great examples and image references.
8The Golden Secrets of Lettering: Letter Design from First Sketch to Final Artwork Hardcover by Martina Flor: I love to look into the workflow of the artist that I admire, and this book is perfect for that, Martina Flor is an amazing Argentinian lettering artist and the examples here are so cool.
9In Progress: See Inside a Lettering Artist's Sketchbook and Process by Jessica Hische: I love this book because it lets you peek into the incredible work of Jessica Hische. She shares the way she approaches client work and what her “process” is, definitely a recommended one =]
10Scripts: Elegant Lettering from Design's Golden Age by Steven Heller & Louise Fili: This book is great for those times you are feeling uninspired, it has such a great compilation of script lettering including different historical pieces and in different styles, it's more of a magazine format in the sense that the images are the main element.
11Typography Sketchbooks by Steven Heller & Lita Talarico: This is also an inspiration type of book. Is a collection of typographic explorations and real designers and typographers sketchbook doodles. It shows how they continually strive to find new and exciting ways of communicating through letters and words.
12Geometry of Type: The Anatomy of 100 Essential Typefaces by Stephen Coles: I love of this book examines some of the most popular fonts (it does not explore hand-lettering, but it does have some samples of script fonts) but is very helpful when you want to understand how type designers think about their letters.
13The Elements of Typographic Style: Version 4.0: 20th Anniversary Edition by Robert Bringhurst: Now this book might not be for everyone because is highly technical, but if you are interested in designing type or a more in-depth book about type analysis, this is the book for you. This book is definitely not a light read, but the content is invaluable!
14Graphic Artist's Guild Handbook of Pricing and Ethical Guidelines by Artists Guild Graphic: While this book is not about lettering it has been a lifesaver when it comes to creative work, I freelance quite a bit, so knowing how to price your work and to set different prices depending on the kind of platforms you are working, is a must! But that information can be really hard to find, that is why this book is the best!
ps. Stop underselling your work!
15The Calligrapher's Business Handbook: Pricing and Policies for Lettering Artists by Molly Suber Thorpe: is a guide to best business practices and pricing strategies for calligraphers and lettering artists. Whether you’re starting out in creative freelancing, transitioning from a different profession, or running a lettering business that just needs a boost, you will welcome the invaluable ideas in this handbook.
FOR VIDEO & PICTURES
My favorite gear and product-hack to take pictures and record lettering and calligraphy for social media and the blog.
1Canon EOS 80D Video Creator Kit: I recently upgraded to this model and I could not recommend it more, it is a big investment, but if you are thinking about getting an AWESOME camera for photos AND video, this is the one! (plus is much cheaper than the high-end cameras) And if you also want to check a class on how to use it, this one in Creative Live is so great!
2Vanguard Alta Pro 263AT Aluminum Tripod: If you are ready to make the investment I would HIGHLY recommend you this tripod, ever since I purchased it changed my life, that is how easy it is to record with it, I don't know why it took me so long to bite the bullet and just get it, I can finally forget about all the complicated pieces I had before, also it's not just wonderful to use but also super durable and beautiful =]
3Cellphone holder: If you are just starting to venture into recording your lettering this is a must! Makes it so much easier than putting your phone propped with books or other things, you can control the height and angles, the only bad this is that once I upgraded to an iPhone 6S, the phone was too heavy for this holder, and now that I've upgraded again, I have a completely different set up, so word of advice, it does not work for full-size phones, the reviews say that it does, but you can't really put it as high as you would a smaller, lighter phone.
4Neewer 18 inches Dimmable Ring Light: This one was my very first external light and I love it so much, the only issue I have now (after 3 years of use) is that I need to “warm it up” for it to get to full brightness, so I have to plug it and wait for about 15 minutes, so I can't use it anymore for super fast stuff.
5iPhone lens – Moments wide angle lens: Amazing lenses for mobile photography! yes, please! I discovered Moments when they launched via Kickstarter, and I've been a fan ever since. This wide lens is probably my all-time favorite. The only thing I'm not super excited about is that every time I use them I have to change my phone case because the lenses require a special phone case (they have cases for all iPhone models, Pixel, Samsung Galaxy and OnePlus Phones) But other than that little extra work, I am so in love!
6Desk light set : As I already mentioned, my right light started to fail me, so I decided to et these ones because they are not too bulky and with two I can get a more even distribution of the light, I really like that these ones are already diffused, so there's no need for extra parts. I also really like the adjustable mini tripods, they are so cute!
7Cree SA21 16050MDFD Led 100W : On my quest for better lighting (I live in the mountains surrounded by trees, and while its beautiful, its horrible for natural light) I found these bulbs that are natural light and after using them in my office and sewing room, I am never going back, my husband thinks that they are too strong, but I love them! They even put me in a better mood, so that's enough for me to stick to them.
Some of my favorite tools, containers and ingenious products to organize lettering and calligraphy supplies, check my full list here.
6High capacity zippered pencil case: Finding a big enough pencil case has always been an issue for me (hello, pen obsession), that was until I ran into this case. I love how it has different sections where you can divide your tools, or just use it to store massive amounts of coloring pencils
7Carry box: I have a couple of this boxes to store things that could get messy, like paints and chalk stuff, I love that they come with a piece that you can take out or use to have additional compartments. I've managed to add store pretty heavy things and the boxes are still holding strong, so I could definitely recommend them.
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