People often say that the a craftsman is only as good as his tools. Good tools are invaluable, and poor tools can limit your ability to work effectively. However, getting a fancy set of pens, a brand new camera, or cutting edge software doesn't suddenly make you good at your craft.
An important part of learning and developing any craft is knowing how to use the tools you have. Sometimes the cheapest, most common tools can give you amazing, unique results that really stand out. One of the best examples is Colin Tierney's Crayligraphy where he uses Crayola markers (yeah, the ones preschoolers use) to create beautiful lettering that has a unique style all its own.
“The best tools are the ones that are always with you.”
In my work, I use a range of tools, especially when I'm working on ideas and traditional (not digital) pieces. Most of my tools are pretty basic and can be found in most office supply and craft stores. Here's a look at my go-to tools.
- #2 Mechanical Pencils & Retractable Erasers: They're super cheap and easy to find. When you're working on sketches you just need to get the idea out. These also allow you to keep working, without scrounging for a pencil sharpener or a replacement eraser.
- Sakura Pigma Micron Pens: I do most of my inking with Micorn pens (usually 02, 03, and 05 sizes). They make consistent, clean lines that don't bleed on most papers. They also come an array of colors and sizes to match your needs.
- ZIG Memory System Writer Pens: I use ZIG pens for inking frequently, along with Micron pens. Depending on the paper, they don't always draw lines as consistently as Micron pens, but the dual tips come in handy. I also use my ZIG pens to explore ideas directly in ink so I can create thicker, more expressive lines right away.
- Sharpie Markers: Sharpie really knows pens, and their colors are bright and vibrant which adds the perfect dash of color to my pieces, especially my #postitthoughts series.
- Tombow Dual Brush Pens: I'm still very new to Tombow pens and have a lot to learn. However, I'm a big fan of dual tip pens, and I love seeing the way the colors can be blended to create beautiful detailed illustrations and lettering.
- American Crafts Metallic Markers: When I want to add a bit of sparkle to my lettering, I love these metallic pens from American Crafts. The ink runs smoothly and opaque, and they make any lettering look so pretty.
- Adobe Illustrator & Adobe Photoshop: Both of Illustrator and Photoshop have a rich library of tools and capabilities to help prep, clean up, and make my designs shine. They are part of standard design software, but there are also other third-party programs and apps, if you don't need the full set of tools.
I also use a smattering of retractable pens, colored pencils, and other tools depending on the project. The best way to start lettering is to experiment with the tools you have on hand. Each tool has pros & cons, but as you experiment, you might find that your best tools are not what everyone else is using, giving your work a special flare.
What are your favorite tools and techniques to use for lettering, illustrating, and drawing? Let me know in the comments.
“Hand Lettering 101” is an ongoing series that discusses various topics on hand lettering, including the creative process and behind the scenes.