Put Your Hand-Lettering Starter Kit Together

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Put Your Hand-Lettering Starter Kit Together

Check out the comments of any lettering artist's popular posts on Instagram, there's a great chance you'll find someone asking what pen they used.

"What's this pen? And that eraser? Where did you find it? Can you start with a plain wooden pencil? Should you?"

When you get into lettering, it is natural to wonder what tools you should use. You want to do things right. You want the odds to be in your favor. You're stepping into uncharted territories, without a clue of where to start. Putting a solid tool set together is a good security blanket after all, and a fine way to help you feel legit enough to get started.

The essentials

Wether you're just getting started or you're already a confirmed artist, there's a handful of tools you just cannot do without. If you're a beginner I highly recommend you start with those, especially if you're on a budget. Buy them one by one, progressively, and focus on mastering them instead of just piling them up without ever pushing any of them to their maximum.

The pencil

This is the absolute must of any letterer. If you have to get one thing, buy a pencil. You have a choice between three candidates: traditional pencils, mechanical pencils and lead holders.

A lead holder
A lead holder

My personal favorite is the lead holder because it's precise and easy to use. I switch between an unbranded 2B and a HB Faber-Castell. If you don't have anything yet I suggest you opt for an HB lead, as it's the perfect balance between soft and hard leads.

An eraser & a sharpener

A good eraser and sharpener (if you're not using a mechanical pencil) are a must as well.

Don't rely on the little piece of eraser at the end of your pencil: it's usually of terrible quality, it doesn't erase well and it leaves smears. Instead, buy a real fat one. It doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg: I get mine at the supermarket, in the office supplies department.

A lead sharpener
A lead sharpener

A good sharpener is crucial as well if you don't use a mechanical pencil, because a good drawing requires a sharp lead. Now there's more choice for pencils than for lead holders, but anything you can't get at your local department store, you'll find on Amazon. If you have a choice, pick one you can close so you can bring it in your pencil case without spilling carbon dust. I've been there :)

A notebook

I like to work at home, on regular A4 paper. Yet I'm often outside, I spend a lot of time on public transportation and there's nothing worse than having an idea and nothing to draw on. This is why having a pocket-sized sketchbook is a must for any artist who wants to keep all their sketches within reach.

A Moleskine sketchbook
A Moleskine sketchbook

Since I started lettering, I exclusively buy Moleskine sketchbooks. They're elegant and the paper is of amazing quality. And if you're in the US and you have the soul of a hipster, I've heard only good things about Field Notes.

A pencil case

A good a sturdy pencil case is handy to keep all your tools together and bring them everywhere with you. I suggest you take the longest you can find, because brush pens usually are longer than other pens. When you buy your first one, you'll be happy to have extra space to fit it in.

The luxuries

Once you have a solid toolkit, you can indulge yourself with some advanced tools.

Inking pens

If you're a traditional artist like I am, chances are you'll want to ink your drawings. Having a set of inking pens with different tip sizes is a great asset to ink your drawings with precision and create textured drawings with different line weights. It's a must for stippling, cross-hatching, and other texturing techniques.

Micron and Uni Pin fineliners
Micron and Uni Pin fineliners

I've been using Microns for a while now, and they're pretty popular among letterers, but keep in mind they're not the only option out there.

A precision eraser

A Tombow Mono Zero precision eraser
A Tombow Mono Zero precision eraser

Just as its name suggests, a precision eraser allows you to erase with ultimate precision without ruining your drawing. I've been using a Tombow Mono Zero for years now and I just can't go a day without this little guy.

A light table

If you've been reading me for a while, you know I'm a big advocate for light tables. It has become indispensable for me and I can't encourage you enough to get on for yourself.

A light table allows you to create inked drawings without ruining the pencil version, and replicating parts without wasting tons of tracing paper. Not only is it a time savior, but it's also a safety tool which allows you to mess up without consequences and start again.

If you have a choice, take a USB powered one. Not only is it easier to pack, but you can plug it either on your computer or on a regular socket with your smartphone's adaptor.

Want to know more? Check out Lettering Tools: A Look Inside My Pencil Case

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