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GOLD AND METALLIC INKS

I use a variety of metallic inks and paints, but these are my old standbys in gold (try them also in other metallics). The Dr. Martin's is easiest to use because it's already in liquid form (thin with water), but I reach for the Coliro palette or Schmincke pots when I want a specific shade. To use the Coliro, I place drops of water in the color well, and then load my nib with a small brush. I mix the Schmincke with water and a little gum arabic in an inkwell, and then I stir the hell outta' it, and frequently. The Schmincke makes you work for it, but it's pretty gorgeous.

 

COLORED INKS

For those who prefer ink over gouache, these are vibrant, mixable, waterproof, and dry with a little bit of a raised sheen. I usually thin them down with a tiny bit of water. Make sure to clean your nib after use, even with a few drops of ammonia in water, because once dried on your nib, this ink is hard to remove (learn from my mistakes). 

 

WHITE INK

My love for this stuff knows no bounds. It's simply the best white I've used: it's opaque, and I can get good hairlines with it. It comes in a very thick, pudding-like consistency, so you have to thin it waaaaay down in your inkwell, which is where the fancy micro spatula comes in. Contrary to its name, it is not waterproof (yeah...I know).

 

SMALL BRUSH PENS

If you've tried lettering with Tombow Dual Brush Pens, you know how magical they are, but also how sometimes you feel as if you're writing with a broom. My favorite small brush pens are the Tombow Fudenosuke Brush Pens, which come in a soft tip (the black-barreled pen) and a hard tip (the navy-barreled pen), and are now available in a 10-pack of colors in the hard tip. I also really like the Pentel Arts Sign Pen Touch, which comes in a variety of colors.

 

WATERCOLOR BRUSH PEN

Ecoline Brush Pens come in a total of 59 super-saturated colors, which can be dipped in the brand’s Liquid Watercolors to create beautiful ombré lettering:

 

GELLY ROLL PENS

I love Gelly Roll pens, like these in white, glitter, clear glaze (which adds an embossed effect), and metallics, for accenting calligraphed or brush-lettered work. People rave about their Uni-Ball Signo White Gel Pens, but I'll stick with my Gelly Rolls.

 

PAPER

 

Canson XL Marker Pad

The perfect calligraphy practice pad: smooth paper, semi-translucent so you can see your guide through it, and it won't break the bank.


Arches Hot Press Watercolor Paper, 140 lb.

My go-to for formal calligraphed pieces. You can buy large sheets at art supply stores.


Canson XL Bristol
Smooth Pad

Great for brush lettered greeting cards or framed pieces. Unless it's a super formal piece, this will work.

Dick Blick
11x14 Tracing Paper

Great, inexpensive paper for brush lettering practice.

 

SKETCHBOOK

Strathmore 300 Series Visual Journal,
Bristol Smooth, 9"x12"

This Visual Journal is currently my favorite journal for brush lettering and sketching—the paper is nice and thick, with no bleed-through, and you can tear off the paper cover to reveal a rigid brown cover that projects your notebook from being thrown around in a bag. I also really like their mixed media journal, which has a little rougher paper texture.

 

NIBS

 
 
 

Zebra Comic G Nib, pack of 10 (left)
Nikko G Nib, pack of 10 (right)


I give my beginner students a Nikko G nib because it's strong, durable, and doesn't catch on the page and make them want to throw it across the room. Similarly, the Zebra G nib is strong and reliable, but it has a little more flex and can produce thinner hairlines, so it's frequently my go-to nib. To me, choosing a nib is like buying a car or makeup--it's a pretty personal decision, and there's no "best" or "worst," just personal preference, and it's especially dependent on whether you have a light or a heavy hand. I keep a bunch of nibs on hand, but these days I find myself reaching for a Hunt 22b or Brause 66EF (the latter sometimes requires a special holder), both of which have more flex than the Nikko and Zebra nibs. Not sure where to begin? Try a nib sampler and see what feels right to you! (And don't forget to prep them by removing the oil coating with soap and water!)

 
 

INK CONTAINERS

Nakpunar 24 pcs, 1.5 oz Mini Hexagon Glass Jars
with Gold Plastisol Lined Lids

I love these jars for mixing and storing larger amounts of custom ink or gouache. They seal well, they’re a good size for individual jobs, and they’re cute!

Dappen Dish Glass Crystal Cup Glassware

These nail salon dishes are perfect for decanting a small amount of ink from a larger jar, and they're heavy enough that they won't tip over.

Taylor Magnetic Speedstir Stirrer

Do I absolutely need this? Nope. Does it magically stir the shiny particles in my metallic ink at the press of a button, preventing me from stopping every other envelope to stir my rose gold ink yet again? Yep. Yep, it does. A 1" diameter container will fit the indentation, but I use my mini hex jars.

 

ADDRESSING ENVELOPES

Black & Decker Laser Level

I use a tool called a Slider Writer that's not being made anymore, but a lot of calligraphers use this laser level to keep lines straight on their envelopes. Check out how to use it here.

Huion L4S LED Light Box A4 Ultra-thin
USB Powered Adjustable Light Pad for Tracing

I sometimes use this lightweight, inexpensive lightbox for addressing light-colored envelopes with a guide placed inside, or for tracing large-scale projects.

 

BOOKS

Modern Calligraphy
by Molly Suber Thorpe

My favorite book for modern calligraphy students includes great information on different types of inks, papers, and nibs, as well as troubleshooting tips, cool project suggestions, and a great resource guide.

The Ultimate Brush Lettering Guide
by Peggy Dean

I'm buying anything Peggy Dean is selling. Seriously, she's the best, and this brush lettering book is no exception. I've heard complaints about the hand-written text, but don't let that deter you, it's really great.

 

NIB HOLDERS

 

If you're right handed and want to invest in just one workhorse nib holder, this would be my suggestion. You can adjust the flange's pitch (how steep you write) and cant (how far inward the nib turns toward the holder) to your liking *carefully* with pliers.

 
 
 

My students are always smitten with this puppy. Also, it's technically a "carrot," so it reduces hand fatigue. You're welcome.