Lesson 3 - Materials and Styles



Welcome to Lesson 3 of Lettering Studio! As you know, lessons 1 and 2 were packed full of exercises and drills to get you used to brush lettering. In this lesson, we’re going to do something different, and explore the different tools you can use for brush lettering, as well as what type of lettering art can be created with each. That means there’s no homework from this lesson, an intentional decision, as I want you to continue practising the drills from the last lesson while reading and absorbing today’s info!

We’re going to be looking at the following tools:

  • Brush pens
  • Paint pens
  • Microns
  • Apple Pencil & iPad Pro

What you’ll need for this lesson

  • Perhaps a shopping list handy!

Lesson aim

The aim of this lesson is to broaden your horizons, to expose you to different lettering styles, artists, and tools, and hopefully help you find a style that speaks to you. Once you know what you like and what you want to be creating it’s easy to be excited to learn more and more.

Brush Pens

Brush pens are absolutely fantastic for beginner artists. They’re what I first started with, and they set the perfect groundwork for expanding into other styles and tools.

Brush pens give you that classic ‘hand-lettered’, calligraphy look. They let you control the thickness of your line, create organic, smooth shapes, and can be used in an incredibly large range of styles.  The tapered tip means you can easily move from a thick line to a thin, create a fine outline, and move from a wedding card style right to a streetwear brand style. In case you can’t tell, brush pens are my favourite to work with, and I absolutely love what you can do with them.

Depending on the brand, you can also find them in a wonderful range of colours, as well as colourless blender pens that let you blend colours and create some truly stunning designs. Tip: once they age and slightly dry out, brush pens are also great for that gritty, streaky look!

The shape of the letters created with brush pens also translates to working digitally, as the thick down-stroke and thin up-stroke is a common theme across almost all lettering, and knowing how a brush pen moves will let you create natural looking pieces down the line in Photoshop and Illustrator.

Some awesome examples of brush pen lettering:

Image by @mdemilan

Image by @lettering_studio

Paint Pens

It’s monoline time! Paint pens create a super distinctive look, one that gives the impression of a single, unbroken line (hence the name monoline!). This deceptively simple looking style opens up a huge range of options and variations, especially once you add some illustrative elements into the mix.

Monoline work also lends itself well to digital manipulation; adding shadows and overlapping elements in Photoshop. The thick, paint consistency of the pen means you can draw on more surfaces and mediums than other materials, such as metallic paper, and, like real paint, you can play with drips, thickness, consistency, and mixing colours.

Check out some examples of paint pen work:

Image by @itsaliving

Image by @lettering_studio


Microns are your precision tools. They’re reliable, cheap, last forever (I honestly don’t remember when I bought mine, they’re that old), and are just a fantastic pen to have in your arsenal.

They come in a variety of weights, so make sure to experiment with a few to get a feel for your ideal thickness. The beauty of these is no matter how you hold them you’re almost always going to get a consistent line. The ink is a solid black and never seems to bleed or fade.

I typically use these either to draw and fill in letter shapes or to create thin, san serif style text as supportive elements to other lettering stylistic compositions. They’re incredibly crisp and sharp, and allow you to work with very intricate designs or letter forms made up of multiple weights

You know the drill, peep some examples below!

Image by @seanwes

Image by @stephanelopes

iPad Pro and Apple Pencil

The iPad Pro and Apple Pencil are the new kids on the block. Apple’s brought an incredibly powerful, and portable, tool to the masses with their pressure-sensitive stylus, one that was previously limited to Wacom tablets.

In my opinion, this is a huge deal. Being able to have the power of digital lettering with you wherever you are, combined with world-class apps like Procreate, Astropad, and Autodesk Graphic, opens up so many doors in lettering styles, editing, and sharing.

If you haven’t had a chance to try out the Apple Pencil, get yourself to your nearest Apple Store and give it a go! It’s wonderful to use, with no lag to speak of between drawing and marks appearing on your screen, flawlesspressure sensitivity, and a huge array of digital brushes to play with.

Speaking of brushes, this is where the iPad Pro shines. There are hundreds of lettering-specific Procreate brushes available for download all over the web, each with their own stylistic quirks and real-life counterparts, meaning you can have an entire brush/pen/marker collection with you wherever you go!

Check out some of the amazing work that can be created on an iPad Pro:

Image by @ianbarnard

Image by @hamrick

And that's Lesson 2 done! In tomorrow's lesson we're going to start working with your very first word! See you then.