When I started lettering, I was picking out random tools that I found on my Instagram feed. Then, when that strategy proved expensive, I tried lettering on a budget. Now that I’ve developed as an artist, I’ve got a better grasp of quality tools that for me, and that stay within my budget. To help out those of you who are like me–lettering lovers who have to work with a tight budget–here are my top ten lettering tools under $10, and where to find them!
Full disclosure: I use Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase anything after following one of the Amazon links provided, I get a tiny commission. Other than that, though, I’m not sponsored by any company. These are just tools that I like. And I love Michael’s.
Note: Items marked with an asterisk* are under $10 if you shop smart. Buy these at Michael’s with the 40% off coupon that you can always find on their website.
1. Tombow Fudenosuke
Use for calligraphy & brush pen lettering on paper.
Of all the items I’m listing, this one is the best deal ever. You get two quality brush pens for $5. I got my first set in 2017 and they’re still going strong! Good to know: the pens are different. The navy blue one is a softer tip (my preferred pen) and the black one is harder (good for more precise lines).
2. Manuscript Modern Calligraphy Set*
Use for calligraphy on paper.
This one is available at Michael’s, and you’re going to have to use your 40% off coupon to get it under $10. As a pointed pen beginner, I tried the cheaper calligraphy sets by Speedball. They were OK. However, I am in love with the nibs included in the Manuscript set, particularly the blue one. You can feel the difference in quality, and it gives better lines. Not bad for an $8 set!
3. Pigma Micron*
Use for illustrations, faux calligraphy, and handlettering on paper.
You can find the classic set of six on Amazon for $10.60. To stay true to the under $10 budget, though, you’ve got to go to Michael’s. There, they sell the Micron pens individually, in sets of three, and in the 6-pack that I love. And, you can use that 40% off coupon to save more!
4. Palomino Blackwing Pencil
Use for sketching on paper.
I know, it’s a pencil. But I’m telling you. It’s such a good pencil. It’s kinder to paper as I sketch, and the narrow eraser is good for detail work.
You’ll need to go to an art store to get this under $10. Mine sells individual pencils for around $2. If you don’t have access to an art store (and I don’t mean Michael’s or Hobby Lobby… I mean a legit art supply store like Asel Art), you can buy a box of 12 on Amazon for $22-25.
5. Uniball Signo White Gel Pen
Use for faux calligraphy and illustrations on colored or painted paper.
I love lettering on top of watercolor art. This pen is opaque and runs smoothly (I got either/or with the other white gel pens I’ve tried). I use it to draw stars on galaxy paintings and draw details on my lettering. Get a set of three on Amazon here!
6. Waterbrush pen
Use for watercolor painting, watercolor lettering, or blending water-soluble markers.
This is a staple for those of you who are into watercolor lettering. You can paint with your favorite watercolors and get the control that you would with a pen. I also like using to blend colors in lettering work that I have done with Tombow Brush Pens or Crayola markers. There are quite a few options on Amazon ranging from $8-15. Here’s a link to their most popular set under $10.
7. Dr. PH Martin’s Bleedproof White*
Use for brush lettering and detail work on colored or painted paper.
This stuff is magic. It is a gorgeous opaque white that can be used with a brush or a nib. Be sure to dilute it properly before use, though! It’s expensive to buy online, so you’ve got to do my Michael’s trick. This baby is $12 at the store, plus that 40% off coupon, and BAM! You just saved some money and got some magic potion.
8. Stabilo Aquarellable Pencil
Use for sketching designs on glass or acrylic surfaces.
Wanna know how I create those flawless mirror and acrylic designs? It’s all thanks to this baby. This is a water-soluble pencil that can write on smooth surfaces. I sketch my design out with this, go over it with oil-based paint pen, then wipe off the stray marks with a wet cloth. I love this little pencil so much. You’re going to have to get this at a legitimate art store, as well. It’s under $5.
9. Sharpie Oil-Based Paint Pen
Use for permanent designs on hard surfaces, including glass, acrylic, and chalkboards.
There are so many quality paint pens out there. This is my go-to pen because it pairs nicely with my Aquarellable pencil, and because it’s common enough to find in several sizes online and at Michael’s. For the other fancier paint pens (think Molotow and DecoColor), I have to drive across town to my art store… and sometimes they don’t have what I want in stock. I can always count on my Sharpies.
Here’s a link to a set of three on Amazon! If you prefer Michael’s, keep an eye out for days when they offer a buy one/get one free or buy one/get one half off on these markers. It happens every few weeks.
10. Bistro Chalk Marker
Use for temporary designs on hard surfaces, including glass and chalkboards.
This is a vibrant chalk marker that writes well on any hard surface. The cheaper chalk markers will get clumpy the more you use them; this one stays smooth. I like to keep my chalk designs up for at least a month, and this set stays vibrant the whole time. Here’s a link to the single marker and one for a set of three. Also recommended: Cedar Markers for their vibrant colors, although they come in slightly more expensive sets.
I’ve got a few other lettering staples on my art desk, but they’re over $10. New artists, once you start to get comfortable in your craft, remember to start allotting some money for quality tools! They are so worth it.
If you’re brand new to calligraphy and lettering, be sure to check out my post on Handlettering on a Budget as well as my series on free resources to learn the basics of calligraphy. Happy lettering, friends!