One of the most common questions I am asked is what tools I use for hand lettering and calligraphy. Well, you're in luck - I'm listing my essentials and favorites right here!
An essential part of being a hand lettering artist and calligrapher is to carry a sketch pad at all times. You never know when inspiration may strike! My favorite sketch pad for hand lettering is Strathmore's 9x12" sketch pad, as well as the smaller versions that I carry with me. The paper itself is awesome - it's nice and smooth, not rough or porous, so it won't dry out your pens! It's also thick enough to use Sharpies on and they won't bleed through! Always a plus :)
For a calligraphy sketch pad, I LOVE the Borden & Riley #234 Paris Paper for Pens. This pad of paper helped me seriously take a step forward in my calligraphy practice - it is so smooth, so my nibs never get caught on the paper, and the ink doesn't bleed at all, which is huge.
Another necessity for hand lettering artists and calligraphers are pencils. When I have an idea for a piece, I like to use pencil to layout a rough sketch first. I will then refine the sketch later in pencil again, which I will then trace with ink. You rarely get a sketch right the first time, so pencils are a MUST so that you can erase and edit as you go. There is something very comforting about using a pencil, knowing that you idea is not permanent and is able to be adjusted as needed. I've purchased more expensive pencils before, but I always go back to just basic mechanical pencils that you can buy pretty much anywhere!
Along with those mechanical pencils, I highly suggest a good eraser to prevent smudges. Sometimes the erases on mechanical pencils aren't very great, so I like to buy a better eraser that is all on its own. My favorite is the Staedtler Mars Plastic Eraser - this eraser is seriously amazing, and has never failed me. I used to grab those pink erasers I used in grade school, but quickly learned that they leave smudges and ugly marks on my work - gross! The Staedtler eraser doesn't do that - it is colorless and super soft, so all of my work ends up being smudge-free!
For practicing hand lettering, I like to use graph paper to make sure all my letters and layouts match up. My favorite graph pad is the Rhodia Classic French Paper Pad. There is a ton of paper in this thing, and I love how smooth it is. My pencils write and erase very well on this!
For practicing calligraphy, I like to use the Calligraphic Practice Paper by Bienfang. It's a great pad of paper that you can get from pretty much any art supply store! The paper is thick enough that your ink won't bleed through, and it's also smooth enough that your nibs won't get caught as you're writing.
HP LASERJET PREMIUM PAPER
For printing my finished hand lettering and calligraphy pieces after they've been digitized, I use the HP Laserjet Premium Paper. It is seriously the best! The colors always come out crisp and bright, and I also love to use it to practice my calligraphy, as the paper is so smooth and the ink doesn't bleed one bit. It's always nice to have loose leaf paper around, and this is by far my favorite.
Tracing paper is another must in my business. My favorite is the Canson Tracing Paper 9x12" pad. I use it for a lot of my pens, as it doesn't dry them out, and it's obviously great for tracing over my pencil sketches.
Pigma Micron Pens are the best pens I've found for inking over my pencil sketches. You can buy them in a bunch of different line weights, as well as different colors. I almost always stick to black, as that is that color I prefer to scan my hand lettering pieces in, but feel free to experiment! These pens are seriously awesome.
CALLIGRAPHY PENS - STRAIGHT & OBLIQUE
When writing with a dip pen, you have two options - a straight nib holder or an oblique nib holder. I used to write with a straight nib holder, but I tried out an oblique nib holder recently and haven't looked back! It's really all about preference, although I feel like I have so much more control with the oblique holder and can get great angles that I can't really achieve with the straight holder. I'll be covering how to use each of these holders in a later lesson, so stay tuned!
There are an endless supply of calligraphy nibs out there, but my favorite out of all the nibs I've tried is definitely the Zebra G nib. It writes super smooth, and is great for beginners as they learn when and where to apply pressure in calligraphy. They are also super long-lasting, have amazing flexibility and write well in all directions. Other nibs I really love are the Nikko G nib and the Blue Pumpkin nib. Make sure to try a bunch of different nibs when you start learning calligraphy!
Using the right ink for calligraphy is absolutely essential. My favorite ink is black Sumi Ink - it is the best I've tried, and I've tried LOTS. This ink doesn't smear, it dries quickly, has a beautiful, glossy finish and an amazing consistency.
OTHER CALLIGRAPHY INKS
I also enjoy using colored inks. Some of my favorites are Dr. Ph. Martin's Bleedproof White Ink and Dr. Ph. Martin's Copperplate Gold Ink. One of the most requested ink colors is gold, as Dr. Ph. Martin's is always my go-to. For white ink, Dr. Ph. Martin's is also the best bet, as it is completely opaque white. The only downsides to these two inks are that you constantly have to stir the gold ink, and the white ink has to be watered down A LOT before it can be used. However, they are seriously the best out there.
For tracing over my sketches and also for writing calligraphy on envelopes, I use a the Artograph LED 9x12" light pad. It's the perfect size for my desk, and is an absolute essential for my work. It's also super light and comes with a nice cover to wrap it in if you have to take it outside your office space.
Brush pens are great for learning a new avenue of hand lettering. My favorite kinds of brush pens are definitely the Tombow Dual Brush Pens. The pens have two different options on each end (hence the "dual" part in the name) - a flexible brush tip on one end, and a fine point on the other end. There are an endless amount of colors you can get these things in, and as long as they are used on the correct paper, they last a really long time.
When I first wanted to start getting serious about learning hand lettering and calligraphy, I started buying as many books on those topics that I could. Here are some of my favorites in both categories:
- "Creative Lettering and Beyond" by Gabri Joy Kirkendall
- "In Progress" by Jessica Hische
- "Drawing Type" by Alex Fowkes
- "The Complete Book of Chalk Lettering" by Valerie McKeehan (once you get the hand lettering basics down :))
- "Modern Calligraphy" by Molly Suber Thorpe
- "Mastering Copperplate Calligraphy" by Eleanor Winters
- "Spencerian Handwriting" by Platts Roger Spencer
I also turned to online tutorials and e-courses from the pros to get better at my hand lettering and calligraphy. Here are a few of my favorites:
- SKILLSHARE (search hand lettering and/or calligraphy; I highly suggest courses from Bryn Chernoff, Molly Jacques, Jessica Hische, Martina Flor, and Mary Kate McDevitt)
- LAURA HOOPER'S CALLIGRAPHY STARTER KIT & VIDEO COURSE
- MELISSA ESPLIN'S CALLIGRAPHY COURSE
Well, there you have it! My favorite supplies for hand lettering and calligraphy, as well as some amazing books and online tutorials and e-courses to get you started.
While you can get the majority of these supplies in any arts and craft store, I really love buying a lot of my products from Amazon! They carry almost everything I need, and often at better prices than an art store. So, I've created my own little Amazon shop that includes all of the above items (minus the online courses and tutorials) where all you have to do is click the link and it will take you directly to Amazon's site to purchase that item. Interested? Sign up here and the access code to the shop will be sent straight to your inbox! :)