So you’re excited about Learn Lettering, and now you’re interested in the tools! While I do reveal my instruments here, I can’t stress enough that the best pen is the one you’re comfortable with. You don’t need anything you see here to create good work, or to be a great artist. Remember, tools are just that: tools.
Medium and instruments aren't as important as the techniques. Give a true artist some crayons and you still won't be able to limit him.
— Sean McCabe (@seanwes) January 24, 2012
One quick note: I don’t mention paper here because I really don’t use anything special. Of course, by not mentioning any I get a lot of questions about it! I just use regular, 20lb printer paper. It’s convenient, cheap, and works well.
With that said, let’s begin!
Of course, it’s no secret that my writing instruments of choice are Microns. Microns are hands-down my favorite pens. They don’t bleed, they’re affordable, long-lasting (as long as you’re diligent about capping them), and above all: consistent. Virtually no matter how you hold the pen, you’re going to get a consistent line in whatever size tip you’re using. The ink is dark, and in no way translucent. You can’t do any better when it comes to making letters.
I recommend starting with a 6-piece set of black that gives you everything from 005 to 08. If you’re hesitant to purchase a set, I’d start with an 01 to get the feel. Of course, there’s many flavors of Sakura pens to try. Everything from all the colors of each tip variation to brushes. I personally prefer to Pilot or Tombow brush ↓ to the Sakura brush, but don’t be afraid to try different tools.
Staedtler Lead Holder
This lead holder has become my go-to for creating initial sketches. For many years I used normal 2B pencils. I had this thing laying around for the longest time and I never used it. The reason was because all I’d ever tried was sharpening the led with the built in sharper (the little removable “cap” on the end).
This of course did not get the lead near sharp enough for my liking. It wasn’t until I got a lead pointer (shown below) that I actually harnessed the true potential and sharpness of this tool.
Alvin Rotary Lead Pointer
As mentioned above, I really didn’t harness the full power of the holder until I got this lead pointer. You can get a delightfully sharp tip with this guy. Staedtler has a lead pointer as well, but I saved $4 getting going with this Alvin Lead Pointer (shown), and it works perfectly.
Staedtler Mars Technico 2mm Leads
I’m personally most comfortable using these 2B leads. However more recently, I’ve started using the same set in HB to begin with a lighter sketch, and then follow up with the darker 2B on top. I actually use two lead holders, each with 2B and HB lead to switch back and forth quickly.
Boxy Eraser & Alvin Eraser Shield
When you’re working with fine lines, you need equally fine erasing. The Boxy Eraser does the job just fine, though it’s the stainless steel eraser shield that really keeps it in check. The various cutouts give you access to just the parts you want to erase and no more.
Tombow Fudenosuke Brush Pens
I really enjoy using the Tombows for my quick and rough early concepts. I’ve experimented with both the hard and soft bodies, and I’m partial to the hard version of this particular brush pen. I even tried the Twin Tip, which is pretty neat. It certainly doesn’t hurt to experiment with each of them.
Pilot Pocket Brush Pen
The Pilot is actually a fairly recent acquirement for me, but is quickly becoming a favorite. The tip is considerably bigger than the two aforementioned Tombows, so I actually prefer this hard body version of the brush pen (though you could try the soft). It’s very generous with the ink flow and has a nice, smooth and juicy action to it. It’s great for brushy script lettering.
Akashiya Sai Watercolor Brush Pens
Lastly, I’ve recently been getting into experimenting with adding color to my work by using some watercolor brush pens. This 20-color watercolor brush pen set from Akashiya Sai leaves nothing to be desired. They work much like markers on their own, but you can actually dip them in water to get some incredible watercolor blends. It’s the perfect on-the-go solution or simply a very convenient way to get the watercolor look without the hassle.
Interested in Learning Lettering?