Okay, first things first… If you don’t have an extra $30 to spend on lettering supplies, close this window. You can absolutely do brush lettering with a $2 pen (Pentel Fude anyone?) and any scrap paper you have lying around!
But if — and only if — you had an extra $30 to spend on lettering supplies… Well, here are my top picks for investing in. (Hint: they are not all brush pens!)
(Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means if you click through and purchase something, I make a small commission — but you still pay the same amount! I only put affiliate links on items I use and love.)
1. Good paper
I understand the allure of new brush pens – I succumb to them often! – but if you only had $30 to spend, I’d say buy good paper instead a new set of Tombows.
The reason is simple: good paper is smoother, which means it eats less ink! If you’re using felt-tip brush pens, good paper is a great way to keep your brush pens from fraying.
I adore the Rhodia pads — I have both Dotted and Blank pads in my arsenal at all times — but they can get expensive fast! An alternative is laser-jet paper. Most calligraphers recommend 120gsm (or 32#). I use 100gsm myself since I can’t seem to find the 32#!
2. Pigmented paints
If you’re using brushes, a decent set of paints is something worth investing in. I’m not talking about things like the Kuretake Gansai Tambi – that’s a bit (read: a lot!) too expensive for my budget. My current 24-pan Jovi palette cost around $10 (similar here).
There are two things I look for in a watercolour palette: large pan size and good pigmentation.
When using watercolors to letter, the paint needs to be inky, so you need to put plenty of water and stir it around a bit. With small pans like my Sakura Koi Field Set, I run out of ‘ink’ real quick, which can get frustrating! Large pans allow you to put down more water and create a larger well of ‘ink’ to work from.
As for pigmentation… Well, I first started lettering with a set of paints that were truly horribly unpigmented. If you’ve ever seen my #45daystobrush videos, you’d have seen how light that paint actually is. Running out of color mid-stroke was a constant issue!
3. Water brush
Since we’re talking paints, of course we’ll talk about brushes. Yes, any round paintbrush would do, but my heart belongs to water brushes. Specifically, the Pentel Aquash in Fine.
Water brushes are much less finicky compared to paint brushes, which I still struggle with sometimes. Bonus point? They can’t fray since they’re brushes! It doesn’t hurt that they are very travel-friendly as well.
4. Tombow Lettering Set
If you just wanted to buy ONE set of brush pens, didn’t want to go pen hunting, and are willing to invest, I’d recommend the Tombow Lettering Set. Since it has both the Dual Brush Pen and Fudenosuke, you can letter in both large and small scale. The Tombows are popular for a reason, after all! I’ve used both and enjoy using them still.
5. Lettering worksheets
Lastly, worksheets. Confession time: I’ve never actually invested in a set of these. When I first started out, I didn’t have the budget to buy any, so I taught myself with free resources. It is entirely possible.
But they are great for learning a specific style. And once you’ve mastered the style, you can modify and tweak to something that’s more ‘you’ later. If you’re in the market for some, there are tons out there.
Both Lindsey over at The Postman’s Knock and Sarah (@theinkyhand) have an amazing variety of styles, though Lindsey’s are more for pointed pen calligraphy! Olivia’s Brush Letter Practice Challenge is also super comprehensive and great for absolute beginners too.
So… If you have $30 to spare, what lettering supplies would you buy?
Let me know in the comments!