My New Favorite Brush pens for beginners! and Jetpens giveaway

Tutorials

I have some new favorite brush pens! I can’t believe I haven’t tried these before. Jetpens.com sent me some brush pens and offered to give away some pens to my followers! So I’ll be holding that giveaway over on my Instagram you can enter if you are reading this before 4/12/18. If you want to see my first favorite brush pens for beginners, read my other post here

favorite brush pens for beginners

Jetpens review

First of all, I want to talk about Jetpens a little bit. You may know that I am very frugal and always try to find the best price for things. Amazon is normally my best source for pens. However, there are some pens that Amazon doesn’t have or they’re a little more expensive than what I’ve found on Jetpens. What I love most about Jetpens is that they sell individual brushes if you just need one color instead of a set. They also have several brush pen samplers to choose from which is amazing! You can buy a sampler to try several different types and brands so you know which ones you like best. You could also get a sampler of gold pens, pink pens, erasers, etc. It’s pretty cool. They also have lots of office and stationary supplies, not specific to brush pens.

favorite brush pens jet pens

I made a video so you can see each of these pens in action. I will also link to them below.

Kuretake Zig Fudebiyori

These are my new favorite brush pens for beginners! I always used to recommend Artline Stix, but honestly, I think these might be better. The nib is a medium nib so it’s easier to control, but it’s about as flexible as a Tombow Dual Brush pen. So it’s a great flexible nib that’s easier to control than the Tombow. You can find these individually or in sets on Jetpens.com. And here it is in a pack on Amazon (affiliate link).

kuretake zig fudebiyori

Kuretake Zig Cocoiro Letter Pen

This was another new one for me and I’m very pleased with it! It reminded me of the Tombow Fude hard nib but a lot smaller which I really liked. I love small lettering so this definitely fits with my style. The pen body comes separately from the Letter Pen refill. I thought that was weird at first but then I saw all the cute colors the pen body comes in and it made me happy to be able to have a fun case for even black pens. The refill ink comes in lots of different colors. I just have the black but I will probably end up getting more colors because I like it a lot. Cocoiro also has a ballpoint pen and an actual brush style pen. The one I have is called Extra Fine. These pens are a lot more expensive on Amazon then on Jetpens so here is the link

kuretake zig fudebiyori

Caran d’Ache waterbrush- fiber tip

I have been wanting to try this waterbrush for a long time! I love monoline pens but I wanted to be able to do monoline with watercolor. If you also love monoline and watercolor, you definitely need to check out this waterbrush. It’s a felt tip instead of an actual brush. It’s more expensive on Amazon which is why it took me so long to get. I love that Jetpens has it individually since it normally comes in a pack with two other regular waterbrushes and I just wanted it by itself. You can find it here

caran d'ache waterbrush

That was a lot of random pens! I hoped you liked seeing these new pens! Have you already tried them? What do you think about them?

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Watercolor Lettering: Waterbrush or regular brush?

Tutorials

What brush is best to learn watercolor lettering? What’s the difference between a waterbrush or a regular brush? I used to wonder the same thing so I compared the different brushes!

My favorite brush to letter with is the Pentel Aquash Waterbrush size fine (affiliate link). I could not figure out what made it different or why I didn’t want to use any other brushes. But I finally figured it out and I share it with you in this video.

In the video I also use the Pentel aquash waterbrush size large, the Kassa waterbrushes from this watercolor starter set(affiliate links), and The Fine Touch brushes from Hobby Lobby (I show you the package in my video). I just found a pack of round brushes because they are the best for lettering. 

I would recommend trying different types of brushes for yourself because you may find that your style works better with a brush that you wouldn’t have tried.

What’s your favorite brush for watercolor lettering?

Lettering Videos: How to film and edit videos on your phone

Tutorials

Are you obsessed with lettering videos and art videos? They’re all the rage, right? If you’ve seen my Instagram feed, you know that 95% of my posts are all videos. I have wanted to make lettering videos from the very beginning of my lettering journey. Because I have always loved watching them, and still do. I love watching other artist’s videos, I love watching my own videos… They are just so satisfying.

Some of the most commonly asked questions I get are about my videos. How do you film your videos? How do you get such good lighting? How do you place your phone the right way? What tripod do you use? How do you edit? What apps do you use? I have great news. I have just released a Skillshare class all about it! I share with you all the behind-the-scenes secrets.

What you’ll need

The only real requirement is that you have a phone. I will be using my iPhone, but I will be sharing some tricks for Android users as well.

You don’t need a tripod because I will share with you how you can film without one, but if you want one, I use this gooseneck tripod for my phone or this standing tripod for my iPad. I filmed and edited my whole Skillshare class either on my phone or iPad! 

As for lighting, I have these large lights because I make a lot of videos. But I will show you in the class how you can use natural light which is free! I haven’t used these desk lights, but I’ve heard good things about them and they are a great alternative to my floor lights. I also have one of these desk lights that I used before I got my big lights. The key is that you want “daylight” bulbs.

What apps do you use?

I use A Color Story to edit the lighting and it’s an app for iPhone or Android users so anyone can use it.

To edit the actual clips, I use iMovie. It’s an incredible video editing app for free, right on your phone. I think everyone should have at least one Apple product just for this app. If you only have Android, I’ve heard great things about Filmorago or Videoshop.

Check out my Skillshare class here for all the details!

Note: This post contains affiliate links which just helps me create more things for you with no cost to you!

I am a huge believer in using what you have! So here is a picture of my old lettering/filming area. I wrote a blog post about it in October 2016! I took down the post because it desperately needed to be updated, as you can see here.  🙂

DIY USA map collage on a faux chalkboard

Tutorials

Have you seen a USA map collage? Like everywhere? Every time we see one my husband wants one. The ones I’ve seen are really expensive because they are normally on wood and they are huge. For Valentine’s Day, my husband and I decided we weren’t going to spend any money on each other, but I wanted to get him a USA map collage. So I had to figure out how to do it with things I already had. I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out, and the best part is that my husband loves it!

 

Before we get into the tutorial, if you don’t want to DIY I have several versions of the USA collage map in my Etsy shop. A white on black one, a colored one, and one you can color in yourself. Along with the 8×10 version, it includes the HUGE files in case you want to get them printed as a 24×36 engineering print (less than $5 at office stores).

You will need:

-A poster (you could also use wood or an actual chalkboard)

-Chalk marker or paint pen (I used Kassa)

-Giant traceable USA sheets (download below)

-a pencil (not mechanical)

How to DIY a USA collage on a faux chalkboard

First, prepare your poster. I used a white poster and painted over it with a black paint pen. I wanted that brush stroke, textured look. You may just want to start with a black poster board or any color really. You can also use a wood board or chalkboard.

Next, you will need to download and print out the traceable USA map outline. In this PDF you will receive 6 pages that you will need to piece together. I have given you the option of a small Alaska or a large one. My husband is from Alaska and we lived there so I had to make it as big as I could (although it’s even bigger!).

*I used this free SVG file map and made it the size of a poster in Inkscape.*

Once you have that ready, you will use a non-mechanical pencil to color in the back of the map. Scribble anywhere that there is a printed line. Now you will lay out your map on your poster. You may want to tape them together so it doesn’t move as you trace. Trace over all the lines of the map so the pencil on the back side will be transferred to your poster.

Next, you will remove the map you just traced and use your chalk marker or paint pen to trace all of the lines. I love my Kassa chalk marker (this is not a sponsored post, I just really like them) because it gives it the chalkboard look.

Now comes the fun part! Filling in the states! It took me a while to sketch out each state so I could fit the whole word in the shape, I definitely had to get creative. The way I did it is definitely not the only way to do it. See what you can come up with! I’d love to see what you do! If you post to Instagram, make sure to tag me (@ensigninsights).

See how to DIY a USA map collage in action

What can you do with a USA map collage?

I printed a blank USA map to color in the states that have received my book Fearless Lettering. You can do this with your Etsy/business orders. It was amazing to see how few states I have left!

You could print out a big one and put heart stickers anywhere that you have lived or visited.

You could print out pictures from your visit to each state and glue them in the right state.

Do you have other ideas of things you could do with this? I’d love to hear!

How to Print on Fabric

Tutorials

Almost a year ago I really wanted to print my lettering on fabric so I searched the internet to find out how. I found out that there are a lot of tricky ways to do it. But this tutorial was the best one I found and I’ve been using this technique ever since with all of my lettering.

I made a video on my YouTube channel to show you how I did it. It’s a lot easier than you think!

You just need freezer paper, fabric, your design, an inkjet printer, and an iron. That’s it!

Watch here or read below for a summary.

I explain more in the video but here is a quick summary. Make your design in Illustrator, Inkscape, the Ipad Pro, whatever you have, and make sure it’s ready to print at 8.5×11. Then you will cut your fabric and a piece of freezer paper to 8.5×11. Iron you freezer paper to your fabric. Make sure the wax side of the freezer paper is touching the fabric. This is how it will stick (and easily peel off at the end). You can reuse this freezer paper several times with new fabric as long as the wax will still stick when ironed. Next you will load the fabric/freezer paper into your printer and print your design. Peel off your freezer paper and it’s that easy!

One little tip, make sure you don’t have any loose threads on your fabric before printing. If there is a tiny thread, the ink will be printed on it instead of the design. It’s so frustrating to have an almost perfect design, but one little spot doesn’t have ink because of those pesky little threads!

One more thing. When washing your printed fabric, different fabrics have different responses to water. Some of mine have washed just fine, some get faded a little, and on some the ink bleeds. To waterproof your design, soak it in vinegar before washing. This will set the ink.

Enjoy! I’d love to see what you make! Comment below or tag me on Instagram @ensigninsights.

 

How to Find Your Lettering Style

Insights, Tutorials

So you want to find your own “lettering style”? You’re in the right place! In this post I will share with you an exercise to hone in on your style as well as show you where to find free practice sheets to help you get started.

You already have a style that is unique to you because of your likes and dislikes, your personality, and your life experiences. At first it can be hard to pinpoint those things and figure out how they all work together to make your style. It takes months and years of practice, but I have just the thing for you to get started.

The best way to start creating your style is to immerse yourself in as many different styles as you can. Try out different things. Experiment. Learn as much as you can. You will discover what feels most natural to you. As you keep practicing and getting better, your style will be changing and getting better with you. You will not only “find” your style, you will “create” it.

You may look at other letters for inspiration at first to get ideas. But once you’ve gotten ideas, if you really want YOUR style, you’ll have to keep your eyes on your own paper and come up with it. No one will be able to tell you what your style is. It has to come from you.

Today I encourage you to be fearless with your lettering. Try something new. Letter something that is beautiful to you even if it’s a little different. You are amazing and have so much to offer that no one else has. And that is what #fearlessfridayletters is all about. Finding and creating your lettering style. This is how it works:

Choose any letter. Write that letter in as many different styles as you can think of. Make it tall and chunky, make it short and skinny, play around with the entrance and exit strokes. Make it loopy or rigid. After having 10-20 different styles, look through them and choose your favorite. What makes it your favorite? Would you be able to replicate those qualities in other letters of the alphabet? Try it!

You can find my 26 Ways to Letter sheets individually in my shop or you can find them in my new book Fearless Lettering. I have a couple of free sheets in the Insider Library to get you started!

When you use these practice sheets, don’t forget to post on Instagram and tag me @ensigninsights and use the hashtag #fearlessfridayletters. 🙂

Happy Lettering!

Never leave home without these 5 lettering tools

Insights, Tutorials

One problem I hear a lot when learning to hand letter is that there isn’t enough time! I can’t give you more time, but by never leaving the house without these 5 lettering tools you will be surprised how much easier it will be to find the time.

never leave home without these 5 lettering tools

Grab a pencil pouch (find my brand new pencil pouches here) and fill it with the following items. Then keep it with you wherever you go. These are the most basic essentials. If you would like my complete list of brush pens to start with, go here.

  1. A pencil. Absolutely essential. If you like mechanical pencils make sure you have plenty of led. If you like regular pencils, make sure you also have a mini sharpener.
  2. An eraser. I always use up the erasers on the end of my pencils so quickly so I just always carry an extra. I like these erasers because they erase with less pressure, they don’t shred the paper, and they don’t leave as many eraser shavings.
  3. Paper. I always have some kind of paper with me, even if it’s just a hotel pad or some scraps of copy paper. I got a small notebook at Walmart that I fill with quotes and ideas. It is my space to start sketching right when an idea comes. It’s nice to have a small notebook that can fit in your pencil pouch. (My pencil pouches are large enough to fit medium sized notebooks.)
  4.  A fine point pen. This is great for tracing over your design or doing some fauxligraphy. My favorite used to be a Pilot G2 pen. Some of my other favorites are Micron, Stabilo, or even the end of a Tombow Dual Brush pen.
  5. A small brush pen. I always have my Tombow Fudenosuke hard or soft nib (normally both). These are nice because since they are small, you can letter designs that fit in a small notebook. Practicing with a brush pen is different than with pencil and you never know when someone will need you to brush letter something for them.

never leave home without these 5 things

Take this pencil pouch with you wherever you go. Including while you’re at home. You may have a few spare minutes while dinner is cooking. You can grab your pencil pouch and letter on the kitchen counter instead of pulling out all of your lettering tools at your desk.

never leave home without these 5 lettering tools

Letter in your car while waiting in traffic or waiting to pick someone up. Letter while you’re waiting for dinner in the oven. Letter while you’re waiting for an appointment. You don’t have to have time blocked out to letter. Just make a habit of doing it in the small moments. You can even letter on everything. As I make lists sometimes I find a fabulous “G” that I love.

When do you find time to letter? Would you add any other tools to this list? Let me know in the comments!

never leave home without these 5 lettering tools

editing instagram photos on your phone

The Secret to Editing Instagram Photos on your phone

Tutorials

I’m so glad you’re here! As you know, getting noticed on Instagram is not easy. It’s so important to have beautiful photos. This means they need to be well lit. But how do you get well lit photos without all the professional equipment? I’ve got you covered.

I lived in an apartment where the windows did not provide good lighting. They were either too high or the balcony above us blocked the sun. So when everyone said to use lots of natural light, I didn’t even have that option. Plus it was in western Washington so it was cloudy and gray most of the time. I used 3 lamps and the editing tricks in my free guide. Now that I’m in Alaska, I have a beautiful window that gives me great natural light. I just have to make sure to photograph in the morning or later in the evening. You don’t want to take a photo in direct sunlight because the lighting will be too harsh. Overcast days actually give great lighting.

Go to the Insider Library to download your free guide.

I am giving you a free guide below showing you how I use the app called After Light. It is my favorite photo editing app! It is 99 cents but I literally use it every day. So worth it. I also like A Color Story and they have some free features, but After Light is the only app I’ve found that lets you brighten the whites without brightening the parts you want to keep dark. Pretty good for only a dollar!

Here are some examples:

5 things I wish I knew when I started hand-lettering

Insights, Tutorials

 

Hand-lettering has done so much for my life! I seriously love it and want everyone to learn! I know there are so many resources out there to learn, so why would I add to it? Because it makes my heart happy knowing that I get to share something that I love so much! Read to the very end for the freebie! Here we go, 5 things I wish I knew when I started hand-lettering:

1) What pens I should start with! There are so many brush pens out there. It’s good to try a lot to see what you like, but it can be overwhelming if you don’t even know where to start. See my full post for a complete review.

2) What paper I should use! If I had known these tricks, I would have saved a lot of my pens from fraying… See my full post.

3) How to “fake” calligraphy. Fauxligraphy is a real thing, not cheating! I thought I was cheating and had to keep it a secret. But it’s actually real, and if you want to do chalk lettering or sign lettering, you’ll do this all the time! See my full tutorial.

4) How to hold my pen! Everyone holds the pen differently and that’s okay as long as you are comfortable. But there is a trick to the angle of the pen that will make your letters much more consistent. See my full post.

5) Practice different fonts! There isn’t just one way to write a letter. It’s good to look at all types of fonts. Find things you like and don’t like about each font. As you practice different fonts, you will start to find your own style. This is why I have created brush lettering workbooks to help you learn! This is what you will get in each workbook:

::Brush Lettering Guide and 30 days of Lettering with Insights for SMALL and LARGE brush pens COMPLETE BUNDLE – A list of small and large brush pens and paper to start with, 3 pages of basic strokes, 55 pages of guide sheets for each letter of the alphabet in TWO fonts, uppercase and lowercase, 2 pages of blank practice sheets, a list of insightful words to letter each day to practice every letter of the alphabet, 35 pages of guide sheets for each word and an activity for each day, the guide sheets have the words in both font styles for style practice, and access to personalized tips and encouragement from me.

practicesheetscompletebundle

Not sure if you are ready? Grab some sample pages for FREE in my Insider Library! You will get the basic strokes for small and large brush pens- totally free. Plus, you will get a promo code to get a discount on any of my workbooks! (I don’t want to undersell the heart and time I have put into these, but I want to make them accessible).

If you are already an Email Insider, you will be able to enter right away. If not, you can still get these freebies immediately after you become an Email Insider!

Happy lettering!

Beautiful hand lettering in 3 easy steps

Tutorials

These 3 lettering tricks are so simple but can instantly make your lettering stand out. Once you know these basics, you can break them for a stylistic approach in your own style.

1 Your letters should all be the same general size. In my 2016 “Sarah” you can see that my “a” is much larger than my “h” making it look weird. Practice sheets or lined paper helps with this.

2 Your letters should all be spaced uniformly. In my 2016 “Sarah” my “ar” is so much closer than my “ra” which makes it look off. Once again, practice sheets or lined paper helps.

3 The angle of your down strokes should all be the same. If you want a slant, they should all be at the same slant. You can see in my 2016 version, my down strokes are at all different angles. My 2017 version isn’t perfect, but it’s much more precise and intentional. You can fix this by angling your pen perpendicular to your down strokes. Watch the video below to see how it works.

If you feel you need help practicing, find my practice sheets here. 🙂

comparison

Here is my video to show you how it works!

 

The secret to “fake” calligraphy

Tutorials

When I learned this secret to fake calligraphy, it made all the difference. You may have also heard the word fauxligraphy. I was a hand lettering beginner and I finally understood how to do thin upstrokes and thick downstrokes! I’m not a beginner anymore, but I still love fauxligraphy!

*This post was updated on 4-20-18*

 

Watch this video to see how it’s done with a galaxy lettering demo:

Before I even had a brush pen, I made everything with my Pilot G-2 pen. People started noticing me on Instagram. They would ask what brush pen I was using… I felt like I needed to keep it a secret because I wasn’t actually that talented, I didn’t know how to use a brush pen! Then I realized that fauxligraphy is a real thing that everyone uses, not just beginners.

If you ever want to use a paint pen or chalk pen, you are going to need to know this skill since they don’t come in brushes. Also, it’s really fun and you don’t have to worry about transitioning from thick to thin strokes!

  1. Write a word in cursive with a pen or pencil.
  2. Thicken each downstroke by drawing a line and filling it in.

That’s it! It couldn’t be more simple! In my video above, I share how to do galaxy lettering with this technique.

This is such a great way to start learning your style because you can play around with the letters and words without worrying about how to use a brush pen.

I created a hand lettering workbook for fauxligraphy practice to help you get the hang of it. It’s a fun, cute script style and it includes the lowercase alphabet, uppercase alphabet, days of the week, months of the year, and numbers. So it’s really practical since anyone will need to write those words at some point! This will be especially helpful for a bullet journal or planner. The best part is that you can print it out on any paper and use any pen. You don’t have to invest in brush pens to start!

Here’s a really old video I made about it! I’m leaving it here so you can see how far I’ve come, just don’t judge me on the quality! 🙂

 

The best paper for brush lettering

Tutorials

Do you wonder what paper you should be using to not fray your brush pens? But you also don’t want to spend a fortune? You’re in the right place. In this post I’m going to share the best paper for brush lettering while staying frugal.

*This post was updated on 4-19-18*

Paper is important because if you use the wrong paper, your brush pens will fray a lot sooner. But I want to show you that it doesn’t have to be expensive. If you would like to know which pens to use first, see my brush pen review to learn hand-lettering.

Check out this video to see how each paper looks with lettered on:

The Best Paper for Brush Lettering

Regular Copy Paper

This is just regular printer paper. It’s super inexpensive. This is all I used to use and I shredded several of my brush pens. But it does have benefits.

Awesome because: So inexpensive!

Not awesome because: It shreds your brush pens!

Uses: Sketching with pencil, practice with Crayola markers because you don’t have to worry about them fraying.

HP Premium Choice LaserJet Paper

This is extra smooth printer paper. It is more expensive than regular copy paper but a lot less expensive than brand name paper pads. Also, if you get it on Amazon, it’s a lot less expensive than buying it in a store.

Awesome because: It’s so smooth! You don’t have to worry about fraying your brush pens.

Not awesome because: A little more expensive.

Uses: Everything!

Tracing paper

This is my favorite! It’s incredibly smooth and gives such a juicy look. I don’t use regular tracing paper. I’m frugal. I use a roll of pattern paper or medical examination paper. I am also a seamstress and I had to get it for my pattern making class in college. Our university health clinic would sell them to students for $2. Next time you are at the doctor, ask if they sell any. They may even give it to you for free. Or get it on Amazon here. It’s about $10 and will last a whole lifetime. Seriously. I’ve had mine for at least 5 years and I’ve used half of it. And I use it for sewing patterns which is a lot more paper than just a small piece for lettering.

Awesome because: It won’t fray your brush pens! Trace your designs. So inexpensive! Makes your colors more juicy. Gives the ombre look easier.

Not awesome because: It bleeds through. You have to cut each piece. You can’t use it for a final piece.

Uses: Practicing, tracing.

You can also get a pad of tracing paper so you don’t have to cut each sheet here: Strathmore Tracing paper.

Rhodia notepads

Another great option is Rhodia notepads. They come in all different sizes. You can got a grid, dots, lined, or blank. The paper is incredibly smooth and the notepad is easy to letter in. It’s a little more expensive than the other options, but it’s definitely affordable.

Other paper

You can also get Strathmore Bristol paper and Canson Marker paper (possibly other brands). They are more expensive, but you can find them at Hobby Lobby or Michaels and use a coupon. I don’t use these, but I feel that they are important to mention.

Do you agree with my list? What paper do you prefer?

This is the really old video I made about paper. The only reason I’m leaving it here is so you can see how far I’ve come. Hopefully it motivates you to just start where you are with what you have! I have learned a lot about lettering and video editing! I mean, there’s no reason why you need a 10 minute video about paper… my 3 minute video above is much better. 🙂