Brush Lettering for Beginners
Lettering with brush pens is a fun way to flex your calligraphy muscles without having to reach for messy dip pen nibs and inks. These portable pens provide greater line variation and the ability to create larger letters compared to traditional calligraphy nibs. Although more casual than most forms of calligraphy, it does take some patience and practice to learn how to use a brush pen. In this article, we’ll be teaching you how to create beautiful script using brush pens and throwing in some tips and tricks along the way.
Brush Pen Recommendations
Here is a quick rundown of our favorite brush pens for lettering. For a more in-depth guide on how to select the perfect brush pen for your application, see our Guide to Choosing a Brush Pen for Calligraphy.
Best All-Rounder: Tombow Fudenosuke Brush Pen – Hard
Tombow Fudenosuke Brush Pen – Hard
The Tombow Fudenosuke Brush Pen is a good starter pen as the hard fiber tip is easy to control and maneuver. Although quite firm, it responds well to pressure to allow for calligraphic line variation.
Also Consider: Zebra Disposable Brush Pens
Most Flexible: Pentel Pocket Brush Pen for Calligraphy
Pentel Pocket Brush Pen for Calligraphy
The flexible synthetic bristles of the Pentel Pocket brush provides dramatic lines depending on the amount of pressure used. It’s not as easy to control as hard felt brush pens, but advanced users will appreciate the various looks they’re able to achieve with this brush pen.
Also Consider: Pentel Kirari Portable Brush Pens
Most Colors: Tombow Dual Brush Pens
Tombow Dual Brush Pens
Color lovers rejoice! The Tombow Dual Brush Pen comes in more than 50 beautiful colors and a colorless blender for seamless blending. It is double-sided with a soft brush on one side and a hard felt tip on the other, great for experimenting with different calligraphy styles.
Also Consider: Sakura Koi Coloring Brush Pens
Watercolor Picks: Pentel Aquash Medium Water Brush and Kuretake Gansai Tambi Watercolors
Pentel Aquash Medium Water Brush and Kuretake Gansai Tambi Watercolors
Use a water brush with a watercolor palette to create beautiful pieces of calligraphy. We love the Kuretake Gansai palette for its intense color payoff and the Kuretake Medium Water Brush is the perfect size for thin to thick line variation.
Also Consider: Sakura Koi Watercolor Field Sets
Through Thick and Thin: Practicing Brush Strokes
Like most skills, brush lettering and calligraphy doesn’t just happen overnight. Doing drills and practicing different strokes will help you master it much faster. With the right tools and drills, you’ll be on your way to creating beautiful lettering in no time at all. Check out the video below to see lettering demos and our brush pens in action!
Down strokes and up strokes
There are two basic strokes in calligraphic lettering: the down stroke and the up stroke. Down strokes should be made with heavier pressure which in turn produces thicker lines. Up strokes require a lighter touch, yielding thinner lines. We suggest starting with calligraphy practice paper to get the hang of producing consistent angled lines.
Vary the stroke width, baseline, slant, and spacing of the letters
Now that you’ve mastered the basic strokes, add your own personality to the letters by varying these characteristics:
- Stroke width: Achieve dramatic stroke width variation by using thicker brush pens that can create heavy lines.
- Baseline shift: The baseline is where the bottom of a letter rests. By staggering this placement, you can create a whimsical look.
- Slant: Angle your letters for a greater sense of movement or keep them straight and regular.
- Spacing: Add space between individual letters to create a light, airy feel or condense them to make words fit in small areas.
Experiment until you get the desired look. Keep reading to see a variety of different styles in the “Just My Type” section.
Tips and Tricks
Use practice sheets to do drills
Here are some pointers to keep in mind as you practice the down and up strokes:
- Write out the letters first with a pencil and trace over it slowly with the brush pen. When finished, erase the pencil marks.
- Use printable practicing paper to get used to the strokes. There are a variety of practice papers available including plain sheets, sheets with angled lines, and alphabet sheets. You can download our practice sheets here: basic strokes, capital alphabet, and lowercase alphabet.
- When holding the brush pen, keep the angle of the pen tip consistent (usually 45° angle). Don’t hold the pen upright as it’s more difficult to get uniform line variation that way.
- Move your arm rather than your wrist while writing. Again, this will help keep the line variation more regular.
- Be patient and write slowly. Pause at the beginning and end of heavy strokes for added drama and crispness.
- If you’re not getting the look you want, try different brush pens! As we mentioned earlier, different types of brush pens create different effects.
Just My Type
The beauty of brush pen lettering is the incredible range of styles you can create–it’s not limited to just one type of calligraphy. We’ve gathered a variety of popular styles below and used them in some applications for your viewing pleasure. Did your favorite style make the cut?
Practicing brush calligraphy
Start with this elegant, romantic type to get your calligraphy juices flowing. It has just the right amount of line variation to elevate plain handwriting into pieces of art. Use a hard, felt tip like the Fude-Makase brush pens that is easy to control but still able to flex with pressure. We also enjoy playing with the different colors available.
Pen Used: Pilot Fude-Makase Color Brush Pens
Brush calligraphy on wedding invites
The Fine Art style provides glitz and glam that’s perfect for invitations and name cards. Key features include the extended flourishes and extra slant. We used the Cocoiro pen in extra fine to create the invite in the picture. The hard felt tip maintains its shape well and doesn’t flex until pressure is applied.
Pen Used: Kuretake Zig Letter Pen CocoIro LP Refill – Super Fine Brush – Black
Using a brush pen to address envelopes
This sassy script may have less line variation but it certainly doesn’t lack personality. Skinny scripts are ideal for small spaces such as the addressing on envelopes. A hard, felt tip brush is the best tool to achieve this. We went with our trusty Tombow Fudenosuke as it’s incredibly firm and easy to control.
Pen Used: Tombow Fudenosuke Brush Pen – Hard
Have Some Bubbly
Create custom greeting cards with brush lettering
For a cuter, rounder type, change the angle of the strokes to be straighter and go heavy on the down strokes. Extra curlicues at the end of words add a touch of whimsy and charm. We used the softer, medium side of the Pilot Futayaku brush pen to get the thick down strokes and the harder, fine side to create the floral adornments.
Pen Used: Pilot Futayaku Double-Sided Brush Pen
Stroke of Genius
Art journaling is fun with brush pens
Bristle brush pens provide the same artistic strokes as paint brushes, allowing you to achieve a wet or dry brush look. We especially like the rustic, casual feel of dry brush lettering. The Kirari bristle brush is versatile as it provides nice solid lines when writing slowly in addition to the dry brush look when writing quickly.
Pen Used: Pentel Kirari Portable Brush Pen and Kuretake Zig Letter Pen CocoIro LP Refills
Bold and Beautiful
Using a brush pen to do logo design
Make a statement using a thick, juicy brush pen to create lettering that packs a punch. This calligraphy style is all about making an impact with heavy lines, ideal for logos, signs, and more. To create the logo to the left, we used the Kuretake Zig Cartoonist Brush Pen which features a thick bristle brush that delivers smooth inky lines every time.
Pen Used: Kuretake Zig Cartoonist Brush Pen No. 22
Paint your letters with water brushes and watercolors
We love using watercolors to do our lettering or to embellish a lettering piece. Watercolors give a soft, dreamy quality to lettering that’s suitable for displaying. You can frame finished pieces and hang them around the office or home. For recommendations on watercolor supplies, please visit our Guide to Watercolor Tools.
Products Used: Pentel Aquash Water Brush and Akashiya Japanese Gansai Watercolor Palette Box
The lettering possibilities are endless with brush pens. Are you a fan of brush lettering? Let us know your favorite brush pen and lettering style in the comments below!
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JetPens Brush Lettering Pen Sampler
Still not sure what to try? Check out our JetPens Brush Lettering Pen Sampler for some of our favorite and most popular brush pens for lettering. Experiment with a variety of brush types, from firm felt tips that are as easy to use as a normal marker to soft bristle tips that let your letters swell and flow spectacularly. This sampler is great for beginners and anyone else who wants to try a variety of different brush pens for lettering.