When you’re new to lettering, one of the first things you must figure out is what materials you need to begin your new hobby. And that can be pretty damn overwhelming. Before I started lettering, pens were just pens. Some were ballpoint, some were felt tip, and some were gel — but they were just kinda pens, ya know? But once I opened the door to hand lettering, I was suddenly confronted with what felt like an ocean of different pen types, brands, styles, sizes, and colors. It was enough to make my head spin!
I’ve been seriously hand lettering for over three years and dabbling for over a decade, and the sheer number of pens still stuns me sometimes. But over time, there have been some standouts that are worth coming back to again and again. That’s why today I want to share with you some of my top hand lettering pens for beginners! I’ll help you figure out what supplies you really need to get started in your newfound hobby without spending a buttload of your hard-earned money.
Don’t Go Overboard
The first thing I want to tell any new lettering enthusiast is this: don’t go out and buy a ton of new pens!
You don’t need five new sets of fancy lettering pens in order to make gorgeous lettering. Hand lettering lies in the skill of the hand, not the quality of the pen. Is it nice to have fancy pants pens? Hell yes! I love playing with new toys and tools in my studio. But you don’t need them in order to learn. So if you’re stressing that you’ll have to go out and spend $50 on new pens, then you may now take a deep breath. You’re good! You can begin learning the principles of lettering right now with whatever pens or pencils you have lying around.
However, I will say that it was nice to have a new set of pens when I began lettering. I am easily motivated by shiny new toys, so my new pens encouraged me to letter more often when I first started. If you have some money to spare on new pens and you’re interested in something new to add to your lettering toolkit, then read on. I’m about to drop some of my favorite lettering supplies that are perfectly suited for a newbie.
What is a Brush Pen?
Before I jump into my favorite hand lettering pens, I want to answer this question really quick. If you’re unfamiliar with brush pens, you might be confused with what makes them different from typical pens and why they are so popular with lettering. So what makes a brush pen special?
The kind of pen you typically use for writing is usually a ballpoint, felt nib, or bullet tip pen. All of these create a line that is pretty much uniform in thickness. So no matter how much pressure you apply to the pen, you can’t get much of a variety of line thicknesses in your strokes. A brush pen, on the other hand, is designed with line variation in mind. The tips of these pens are usually flexible nylon or synthetic bristles like a paintbrush. With this brush tip, you can get a huge range of line thicknesses depending on how much pressure you apply.
These pens are desirable for lettering because several techniques rely on line variation (namely brush lettering). You don’t need a brush pen to get line variation, though. Lots of people use a faux calligraphy technique with a normal pen to achieve the same basic strokes. I recommend several brands of brush pens below, so it’s worth knowing the difference before you buy any of these tools.
Hand Lettering Pens for Beginners
While my list of pens for beginners contains more than a handful of suggestions, I don’t want you to think that I am recommending you buy the whole list. I just want to provide a few options so you can select from my favorites. Feel free to grab one set from this post, a few, none, or all. It’s totally up to you!
Tombow Dual Brush Pens
This set of brush pens is my number one suggestion for any beginner brush letterer. These pens are the bomb! Dual Brush Pens are large, easy to hold, and incredibly easy to use. They come in many different colors, and there is certainly a set with a color scheme you’ll like. Each set comes with a clear blender pen, which means you can try some blending techniques without getting a separate tool. Each pen comes with nylon fiber brush tip on one end, and a bullet tip on the other end of the pen, hence the dual pen status. These pens make for a fun first step into the world of lettering and I would highly recommend any newbie consider picking up a set.
- Water-based pens ideal for coloring, fine art, illustrations, doodling, journaling, hand lettering and more.
- Set of 10 Tombow Dual Brush Pens
- Flexible brush tip and fine tip in one marker.
- Brush tip works like a paintbrush to create fine, medium or bold strokes, fine tip gives consistent lines.
Tombow Fudenosuke Brush Pens
Another great option for newbies is the Fudenosuke Brush Pen. This pen comes in a few flavors — hard tip, soft tip, dual tip with grey and black, and the color set. All of the brush pen tips are made with nylon fibers, allowing flexibility and durability in your brush lettering. I use my Fudenosuke pens all the time for lettering in my bullet journal. I love that they are small and precise, which makes them very versatile for notes, lists, and journals. Since Fudenosukes are the size of small brush pens, they are easy to transport and use more discreetly than their Dual Brush Pen counterparts. That means you can practice lettering while you’re at work or in class without drawing a lot of attention to yourself.
- Contains both the soft and hard tip Fudenosuke Brush Pens
- Features a flexible brush tip for different lettering and drawing techniques
- Create extra fine, fine or medium strokes by a change in brush pressure
- Great for calligraphy and art drawings
Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Pens
There are lots of pens in the Pitt Artist Pen line from Faber-Castell, but I’m specifically focusing on the 8 pen wallet set. This set of pens offers a variety of different brush calligraphy pens and drawing pens, so you can really get some bang for your buck. You can really get a taste for what kind of brush pen suits your fancy by exploring the different characteristics within this sampler set. The bullet tip pen and the drawing pens included are also great for hand lettering and adding all kinds of embellishments.
- PITT artist pens contain pigmented India ink that is both archival and acid free
- Perfect for drawing on the go!
- Convenient wallet keeps all your drawing tools together
- Pigmented India ink that is both acid free and pH Neutral
Sakura Pigma Micron Drawing Pens
If you’re looking for a dependable set of drawing pens, you can’t go wrong with Micron. I’ve relied on this brand for drawing pens since I was in high school, and I continue to buy more as I need them. These pens are smooth, easy to use, and incredibly long-lasting, holding their original shape no matter how much you use them. The size of the pen nib is conveniently located on the tip of the cap. The black pigmentation creates bold lines that pop off of any page. I used my first set of Microns for nearly 6 years before I finally replaced them. While there are no brush pens in this set, you can definitely use these pens in your hand lettering.
- The Go-To Tool for Art, Work & Play: Black pens create precise marks that stand the test of time
- Assorted Point Sizes: Contains 1 of each Micron pen: 005, 01, 02, 03, 05, 08
- Archival Quality: Sakura Micron Pen ink is waterproof, fade resistant, bleed free, quick drying, and pH neutral
- Create Freely: Pigma Micron pens use color from single pigments for color consistency, every time
Papermate Felt Tip Pens
Want a huge range of color for bright lettering without spending a ton of money? Grab some Papermate Felt Tip Pens! Felt tip pens have such an enjoyable texture when you write, and they come in big packs with lots of exciting colors. I’m personally a big fan of the Candy Pop collection. You can’t do a lot of big lettering with these relatively small pens, but the good control these markers allow you can help you embellish the heck out of your notes or planner.
- Add a blast of fun to all your writing with bright colors
- Medium Point felt tip (0.7mm) produces clear, expressive lines to match your personality
- Smear- and fade-resistant, so smudges are officially history
- Water-based ink won’t bleed through paper so your writing stays put
Believe it or not, Crayola markers are pretty good alternatives for brush pens. They’re cheap, easy to find nearly anywhere, and they come in a wide range of colors. With a bit of practice, you can achieve thin upstrokes, medium lines, and thick downstrokes using these markers. The only thing you should know is that when you apply the pressure needed to mimic a brush pen, you will degrade the marker nib’s firm elasticity much faster. So these aren’t great long-term replacements for brush pens. I’ve also found that Crayola markers have a heavy ink flow, and tend to show through journal pages where a Tombow Dual Brush Pen would not. But if you’re just getting into the lettering hobby and you want to dip your toes, grab some Crayolas. This choice is also great for kids!
- CRAYOLA BROAD LINE MARKERS: Features 40 Crayola Ultra Clean Washable Markers in assorted colors that offer practicality, versatility, and creativity all in one package.
- WASHABLE MARKERS: These less mess markers give parents piece of mind as they wash easily from clothes, carpets, or furniture!
- COLORING MARKERS FOR KIDS: With 40 unique colors to choose from, these coloring markers will ignite your child's imagination with fine tips that are perfect for coloring and drawing.
- BACK TO SCHOOL MUST-HAVE: Get your child ready for the school year with these washable markers. They're great for note-taking, highlighting, and all sorts of school projects.
Crayola Super Tip Markers
Take everything I said about the chunky Crayola markers and apply it here, too. Crayola Super Tip markers have thinner barrels with thin nylon tips, which makes it easier to letter smaller text or in more tight spaces. Otherwise, they perform just about the same as their bigger counterparts.
- Crayola Super tips washable marker set having durable
- Age.Mfg Minimum: 36
It’s Not All About Tools
There you have it, my top hand lettering pens for beginners! While all of these tools are fun and exciting, I just want to emphasize that spending money on fancy supplies isn’t going to improve your skills. There is a lot that goes into hand lettering, so don’t sleep on the skill side and practice those drills! You can head to my Ultimate Hand Lettering Guide to read up and learn all about this fascinating hobby. Lettering is super fun and easy to jump into, so don’t be shy about experimenting and enjoying yourself. Now go out there and get lettering!