Materials & How to Hold Your Pen

Welcome to lesson two! Even though the materials for lettering are very simple—you could definitely complete this whole class with just a pencil and piece of paper—I want to share my favorite tools and supplies with you. I love my materials! I can gush about a nice, juicy marker, and don't even get me started about the feel of soft, smooth marker paper! But what is truly essential? And what do you need to get started with hand lettering? Check out the video below to find out! 

As you now know, a mechanical pencil and some paper are all you truly need to learn to letter. But if you want to have some fun with different materials, I suggest you check out some of my favorites. I know there’s a LOT of text in this lesson. Don’t worry—I cover it all in the video. I just wanted to provide an easy reference for you to have on hand while you're choosing your supplies. 


  • Tombow Fudenosuke Brush Pen – This pen is my favorite beginner pen. They come in both a hard tip and a soft tip and are awesome for learning to letter with. If you're going to venture past the trusty mechanical pencil, I would suggest starting here. It's my go-to.  Because the tip isn't a huge brush, you'll have a lot more control, which is great for when you're first starting out.
  • Tombow Dual Brush Pen – These are so fun! They come in a bunch of different colors, and they have a thick, juicy brush on one end and a mono-weight on the other end. If blending is something you're interested in, you'll love these pens. 
  • Sharpie Brush Pens – If you love big, bold letters, look no further! These things are amazing. They do tend to dry up quickly, but they're cheap, so I never feel bad about using them up and then throwing them out. I love the look these give to a project.
  • Micron Pens – I seriously love these little pens. They aren't going to give you thicks and thins, but if you're into mono-weight lettering or faux calligraphy, you should give these pens a try. They come in a variety of different weights, so you'll be sure to find a few that meet your needs. 
  • Tombow TwinTip Marker – This is probably my number one "fun pen" right now. They have two brushes, one on each end, and they’re both mono-weight. I do a lot of mono-weight lettering and these are just a lot of fun.


If you’re going to spend money on the pens mentioned above, you don't want to use them on a regular piece of printer paper. This is going to eat away at your awesome, new pens and they won't last as long. The next time you're in your creative space/office, grab a piece of regular paper. You’ll feel a gritty texture to it. Marker paper, on the other hand, is really smooth. This is really important because it won’t eat away at your brush pens, which means that they’ll last a lot longer.

You can buy pads of marker paper. Or you can check out HP Premium Choice LaserJet paper. If you go with the second option, you can buy reams of it and potentially save some money—which is nice if you find yourself going through a lot of paper. Both options are fantastic. It doesn’t matter what brand, just as long as it says "marker!"


The next few items are the extras. You definitely don't need to run out and purchase them, but I use them, and before we move on, I'll share a little bit more about them. A  light table is certainly not necessary, but it is super handy. I'll be showing you how I use my light table in the upcoming lessons, but its basic function is to project light through your paper so you can trace your lettering. Check out the light table I use here!

And finally, last but not least, is the iPad and Apple Pencil. If you haven't checked out my free class, Lettering & Drawing on the iPad Pro, I suggest you pop over there and check it out. In that class, you'll get my need-to-know hacks for using the iPad Pro, Apple Pencil, and Procreate App. While the iPad is a super fun and handy device (that I LOVE), I strongly recommend you put it away (if you have one) or wait to purchase this fun gadget until you've completed this class. Hear me out...

While learning to letter, the iPad can actually be a hindrance to you. And even if you’re a complete lettering pro, if you rely on it too much, it will hinder your progress. The iPad has so many neat functions, such as smoothing your lines (which is awesome), but if you don't learn these basic skills with a pen or pencil and paper, it will be a disservice to your lettering. You need to learn how to correctly hold your pen and build the correct muscles in your hand to really get good at this skill, and the best way to do that is with a real pencil and a real piece of paper. 

And with that, let's jump right in. In the following video, follow along as I share how to hold your pen and how to start creating upstrokes and downstrokes. 

Tips & Tricks:

  • Instead of holding your pen completely upright, sink your fingers down on top the page and hold your pen at a 45-degree angle.
  • The rule for strokes is to push down and pull up. When you push down, you create nice, thick downstrokes. You want your stroke to be the same width at the top as it is at the bottom. Go slow and stay consistent.
  • Upstrokes are harder, and your hand will have to really work to stay steady. These will come with time, so just keep practicing. Go slow and pull the pen up the page. Just as with the downstrokes, you want the width of your line to be the same at the top and bottom.
  • When you’re learning, a bigger brush pen will be harder to control. Start with a smaller tip and then practice with the larger.

There are so many materials out there that you can use. Just remember that if you watch this class, learn these fundamentals, and put in the time, it doesn’t matter what tools you use. You can use your kids' broken crayons or your fancy iPad—it doesn’t matter. Once you learn these fundamentals and all this information, your tools are helpful, but you can create beautiful work with anything you have on hand!

ASSIGNMENT: Practice the drills from this lesson and then meet me in lesson three as we take it up a notch and start talking about consistency.