If you're new to brush lettering, you've probably looked into which pens to use. You may have even gone out and purchased one (or ten!) to try out. Yet, your lettering may look nothing like the handlettered perfection you see on Instagram profiles. If you've gone broke trying out new pens or have wondered what the secret magic sauce is to get Instagram-worthy lettering pieces, I've got the answers for you in this post.
Note: This post and it's photos may contain affiliate links. If you purchase something through the link, I earn a commission at no extra cost to you.
Before I get into the details of which brush pens are the best for beginners, let me start by saying this -- The pen isn’t what makes your lettering look nice...practice is.
For the people in the back I’ll say it louder.
THE PEN ISN’T WHAT MAKES YOUR LETTERING NICE… PRACTICE IS.
Just let that sink in for a minute.
Many people think if they just get the right pen, their lettering will improve. And yes, while some pens are easier for beginners than others in terms of control, they won’t automatically make your lettering look professional. While we may be drooling over someone using a Tombow Dual Brush Pen to create a super duper beautiful hand-lettered quote, I can guarantee that person had a lot of practice before making that piece. So running out and buying that same Tombow Dual Brush Pen, won’t make you a lettering superstar. I know, that really stinks, right? But the good news is you can still be a lettering superstar with any pen or pencil you have around the house.
My first suggestion when people ask about brush lettering pens for beginners is to ‘use whatcha got’. There are several reasons why and I’ll explain them all to you so you won’t have to go through the same mistakes I did when looking for brush pens.
First, I don’t want you to go broke buying fancy or expensive pens. I’ve spent a lot of money on brush pens and other types of calligraphy pens and, honestly, I don’t even use the majority of them with my lettering work because I gravitate towards my iPad. When I do use brush pens, I tend to reach for the same ones each time because I have a favorite for my style of writing. (More on my favorites later.) Which leads me to the second reason.
The pen or marker you use will depend on your style of lettering. Now, if you’re a beginner, you probably don’t have a style of your own yet because you‘re still learning. And you‘re probably learning by copying someone else’s style first. And that’s totally okay. That’s how most of us learn.
But once you DO have a style, it will play a large part in the pen you use. Will your style be large and chunky? Delicate with thin lines? Whimsical and colorful? Or something else? Not all pens will fit all styles. A Fude pen wouldn’t go well with a large and chunky lettering style but maybe a Tombow Dual Brush Pen would.
So what I want you to do instead is this -- Focus on the process of lettering instead of the tools.
Learn the shapes of the letter forms. Learn how to keep your spacing consistent. Learn how to hold your pens. Learn what angles to write on. Learn how to use light and heavy pressure for thin and thick strokes. Learn how to tilt your paper instead of your hand. Learn which paper is best for your pens. Learn how to use composition and design elements to embellish your brush lettering.
Learn to do all of this first - and do it with what you already have on hand.
That could be a pencil, a regular ballpoint pen, a Tombow, a dip pen, whatever! Once you know the basics of lettering, finding the right pen is only a matter of preference or budget.
When you’ve reached that point, finding a good pen is still largely dependent on your style. If you choose to do fancy and classic calligraphy such as Copperplate you may choose a dip pen with an oblique holder. If you want the modern calligraphy look, you may choose a Fude pen (pronounced foo-day). If you like to draw big and colorful, you may prefer the Tombow dual brush pens. There are dozens of options out there.
And you will also find dozens, if not hundreds, of blog posts out there telling you which pens to buy. It can get pretty overwhelming pretty quickly and you can waste hours viewing YouTube videos on comparisons and reviews. I can guarantee that the majority of those blogs and videos are affiliate links, sponsorships, or advertisements for the blogger to make money from. And hey, there’s nothing wrong with that! This blog is doing it too! I’m all for people getting paid for their time and work.
BUT, what I want you to know is to not fall prey to the mentality of ‘if I just get this pen that this artist or blogger recommends then my work will look like his/hers’.
Nope. Double nope. Nuh-uh.
So now that we got that major point out of the way and you know that rockstar lettering doesn’t happen from just a great brush pen, let’s get into the best brush lettering pens for beginners.
These recommendations come from my personal stash of pens and markers that I’ve tried and can vouch for.
My favorite Procreate brush is the Modern AF Calligraphy brush that I created to meet my style and preferences of lettering. You can get it here and try it out for yourself. It’s an instant download and you can import it straight into the Procreate app and use it right away.
Again, having an Apple Pencil, an iPad, or the Procreate app won’t make your lettering spectacular. Practice will. So please don’t run out and purchase one because I recommendeded it. Remember… use whatcha got!
Finally, here are some pens I’ve tried but didn’t have success with in my lettering adventures. It’s not meant to make these pens look bad.. I just didn’t take the time to practice with them because they didn’t fit my style of lettering, the ink ran out too quickly, or I just plain sucked at using them.
If you’d like more lettering tips, tutorials, and techniques, subscribe to my mailing list where you’ll get monthly-ish emails with all the goods.
Cristin April Frey