My Go-to Lettering Tools

My Go-to Lettering Tools
June 17, 2014 Daniel Palacios

When I first started lettering, I used what I had—some plain ‘ole printer paper and a 0.7mm lead pencil. There was nothing special about it. All the fancy pens were nothing more than just something to write with and I definitely didn’t know the different types. What helped me in the beginning was spending time reacquainting myself with writing in cursive, which was like learning to ride a bike all over again. It was pretty rough, but of course with practice, things became easier once my muscle memory kicked in.

Before I even entered any art supply store and went pen-crazy over at JetPens, I made sure this was something I wanted to do. I made it a habit to practice daily and over the course of two years, I’ve put together a script-based style for myself. The tools I now use on a regular basis help me achieve the consistency I look for in highly-contrasted scripts. Brush pens are great for doing this and there are virtually an infinite number of them out there. I just prefer certain ones over others.

So to help you, I’ve put together a list that’ll hopefully get you started. Just like others have inspired me, I want to inspire you to pursue your passion—if that’s lettering. I’m sure you’ll find things on here that’ll work for you and some that won’t, and I’m cool with that. I won’t be offended if you don’t like them all. These are just my personal preferences.

Staedtler Lead Holder

This works much like a regular mechanical pencil except you need a lead sharpener once the point gets dull. It’s great for rough sketches or technical drawings. I prefer this over most pencils because of its ridiculously sharp point and precision. I recommend 2H for rough sketches and HB for filling in final sketches.

staedtler lead holder

Staedtler Lead Pointer

You need this to sharpen the 2mm leads. Alternatively, you can get the Alvin version for a couple cents cheaper.

lead sharpener


Tombow Dual Brush Pen

If I’m looking for broad strokes or casual lettering, then this is the pen I’ll use. One side has a brush tip and the other has a fine tip. The brush tip is great for the first handful of uses, then it becomes dull and loses its sharpness.

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Zebra Disposable Brush Pen – Fine

This is one of my favorite pens, but the Pentel Sign Pen is a close alternative. I use this pen mostly when I’m trying to get a formal script. It has great control and you can get nice contrast with your strokes.

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Pilot Pocket Brush Pen – Hard

The tip on this pen is very flexible and it takes some getting used to. It’s definitely not as firm as the Zebra or Sign Pen, but it’s worth giving a try.

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Pentel Color Brush Pen

If you have a steady hand and patience, then you’ll love this pen. Again, this is great for getting really thick and thin strokes. I’m still trying to master this one.

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Pentel Fude Touch Sign Pen

Another great pen with nice control. I go back and forth between this one and the Zebra.

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Faber-Castell Brush Pen

Depending of the amount of pressure, you can get nice thick strokes with this pen. The tip doesn’t last very long after a few uses, but I enjoy using it for quick expressive lettering or formal scripting.

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Micron Pen Set

These pens are great for outlining and filling in your sketches. The tips are firm and don’t bend easily, but they tend to dry out quickly if the cap isn’t on tight. I recommend a few different sizes.


Other Tools

  • Hammermill Copy Plus Paper – I use this paper for sketching.
  • The C-Thru Ruler – It has a convenient grid right on the ruler, and it’s see-through.
  • Tracing Paper – Any kind.
  • Scanner/Printer – Any inexpensive printer/scanner combo would work for importing sketches.
  • Camera – Virtually every smartphone out there comes with a pretty decent camera. Don’t be afraid to use it to capture your process.
  • GripTight GorillaPod – Tripod for your smartphone.
  • Scotch Removable Magic Tape – Works great for taping down your tracing paper without ruining your original sketch. I save all my old pieces of tape and re-use them for another project.