Where do I start?

Ok, so you like lettering. You’ve seen thounsand of videos, images, Instagram posts, and decided that you want to draw beautiful letter as well. But there are so many brands, brushpens, brushtips… So where do I start?

First of all, don’t panic. You don’t need all the brushpens tostart lettering. In fact, a simple pencil opens up a whole world ofpossibilities. But let’s talk about:

  • Paper
  • Brushpens
  • Learning Resources


First things first. Even if it doesn’t look like a big deal, using the correct type of paper is really necessary. Normal paper (the one we use normally) does not have a smooth surface, and hence it is not advisable to use it for lettering. There are two main reasons why:

  • Normal copy paper has a rough surface that will damage yourbrushpens. It will fray your felt tips, and you will no longer be able to draw clean, uniform strokes.
  • Also, normal paper has a higher porosity, and the ink will bleed, meaning that the strokes won’t look clean, and also more ink will go into the paper, reducing the pens lifespan..

Rhodia pads are a great choice for brushpens. You can find them in different sizes, with and without dots, and each of them has 80 sheets.

However, if you are looking for something thicker, you can go for Canson blocs. Bristol paper is great for brushpens, if you want to blend them with a waterbrush, and Mix Media is my go-to choice for watercolors.


Nowadays, there are many different brushpens for lettering. Their main feature is a flexible tip, which allows us to draw both thin and thick strokes. It all depends on the amount of pressure we apply. Cool, uh?

Main differences between pens are the size of the tip, and the kind of ink they use. There are other factors, such as the design of a particular brushpen (shape, length, thickness…). Every person would find it easier to letter with a certain kind of pen, it’s just a personal choice. But the size of the tip and the ink depend on what we want to letter, and the technique we want to use.

Size of the tip

The size of the tip determines the size of the letters. Well, yes, theoretically you can draw letters of all sizes with any brushpen, but I strongly advise against doing so. Big letters are difficult to draw with asmall tip, cause the strokes will be too long. And if we try to draw small letters with a big tip, there will be no space in between them, making them difficult to read.

Next images show the kind of stroke/letters that you may draw with well-known brushpens (both small and big tip). However, the best way to find out how a specific kind of brushpen works, is to try it!


Depending on the type of ink that a pen uses, it will be easier (or more difficult) to blend them. Also, if we are going to use a waterbrush, but need the outline of each letter to remain in place, we have to use waterproof ink.

Again, best way to know if a brushpen is waterproof, is to try it out. Take a piece of paper (the same paper you will use for the final piece) and draw some strokes with different pens. Allow the ink to dry, and then go over them with a waterbrush. If the stroke remains in place, it’s waterproof!

As for blending, it’s easier when the ink takes a bit longer to dry. You can use a waterbrush or a blender, or just another brushpen, with a lighter color.

Finally, some pens are just juicier than others. I’m sure you’ve seen the amount of ink that Ecolines and Karin Brushmaker Pro leave on the paper. However, I find them a bit more difficult to master, so I would start with Tombow ABT, Sakura Koi or Stationary Island. I still keep making a mess everytime I open the Karin brushpens box… :p.

Learning resources

Yay! We got this. Paper, brushpens, blenders, Spotify playlist and even the kind of coffee or tea that is in fashion, depending on the season. So, how do I actually write with those things?

You can learn brushlettering online. The Internet is full of resources, whatever your budget is. Instragram itself is a huge source of  #letteringvideos. The virtual lettering community grows bigger every day, and many artist share their techniques (basic and advanced) throuh posts, stories and IGTV.

However, if you have the chance to attend a brushlettering workshop, by all means, do so! Having someone who once started where you are, teaching and correcting mistakes that are difficult to notice online, is priceless. Well, it is not, and it may seem that these courses are a bit expensive, but they often include materials, and even something to eat and drink ;).

If you cannot attend a course in-person, but you are not into digital learning, you can buy a book. I have never bought one, but if I had, these are the ones that I would be interested in. But just look for one that suits you and always read the comments! (I’m not sponsored in any way :p).

And for those of you who ask google about cooking times, use maps to reach your mother’s house, and check the weather forecast app instead of looking out the window (yes, to those or you who are just like me)… the WWW.

Browse on Youtube, join a Facebook group, follow your favorite letteres on Instagram. Download practice sheets and print them of smotth paper. There are so many free resources… and some others are available at really competitve prices (plus, you are helping small businesses :).

And if you are looking for an online lettering course, don’t forget about Skillshare. Many of the offered courses require a premiuim membership, but there are also many artists who offer two months free premium memberships if you follow their links. Two months is a lot of time if you practice everyday!

Final notes

Now we are ready! As many things in this live, the learning process will be different for each person. You’ll need a lot of trial and error. So here you have a list of final tips, to give you that final push.

  • Mind the position of your arm in relation to the table.  If you are too high or too low, it will bemore difficult to maintain a good precision (especially when you are doing upstrokes). Try to adjust the height of the chair, so your elbow is in a 90-degree angle.
  • It’s usually a better deal to buy brushpens in packs, but becareful, and try at least one of them (in a physical store, or buying just one color if possible). Maybe you don’t like them because they don’t suit you, and you may end up leaving the package forgotten in a drawer.
  • Instagram videos are almost always speeded up. Instagram limits video length to 1 minute (regular post) and 15’ (stories), so they are usually 2x, 3x or even 5x! You should go slowly, don’t rush it. Try to look for #realtimelettering, so you get the idea ;).
  • Some pens are more expensive, some are cheaper. Cheap does not necessarily mean bad. If you are buying online, try to compare prices in as many websites as possible, and take into account shipping costs! Be patient and wait for discounts and special offers.
  • You may want to copy something you’ve seen online, just forpractice. Copying is ok, and it may help you get better. But be careful whenyou share that content. Best thing to do is to ask the author. Most of thetimes, they will be ok with you sharing it, if you tag and credit them properly.And obviously, never use a copied design for commercial purpose!
  • And last, but not least, practice, practice, and practice! And don’t forget to keep your first pieces. In a few months, you will be surprised of the amazing progress you’ve made! It’s goog to compare, but just compare to yourself :).

Welcome to the lettering community

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