Analog letter making tools

Wes AdamsWes Adams Posts: 59
edited March 2015 in Technique and Theory
A discussion to share tool recommendations. Pens, brushes, ink etc.


  • Wes AdamsWes Adams Posts: 59
    edited March 2015
    For instance, I have found Kolinsky Sable brushes to vary so much in quality, that I no longer import them, regardless of manufacturer. Instead, I've been using Princeton 4050 brushes.

    The Raphael Kaerell brushes, often limited by poor quality control, are second best. The bristles are as good as the Princeton brushes perhaps even better. Particularly at the smaller sizes, the ferrules are frequently formed with a dent in the center, a defect that all but guarantees a sloppy hairline. As for sizes they run a half-size larger than a like Princeton brush.

    The Windsor Newton 995 is also a decent in my experience. They are more limited with regard to available sizes, and the handle is a uniform acrylic rod which makes handling more difficult.
  • I am beginning to learn the craft of sign painting from a mentor who recommends certain tools. Would anyone like to comment if they have experience with these brushes?  
  • Thanks for such an extensive reply, Laura! I'll have to try out some of those items, especially the Pentel colorbrush. I have played around with Buddha boards – bookshops and museum boutiques sometimes have samples available for customers to try but I hadn't considered that they'd be useful as a tool to a pro. It makes sense to save on paper when warming up.
  • Moon Palace is a nice ink. I've been trying Best Bottle out for the past couple days and its also good. I haven't had a chance to compare the two directly. I've not had great luck using Noodler's with a brush, with a nib it is very nice.
  • John, curious how that Sharff brush is working out and what style of lettering you're using it for
  • Chris LozosChris Lozos Posts: 1,415
    My favorite is hardened block charcoal on watercolor paper.  I love the feel and resistance and the ability to vary speed of movement considerably more than brush or pen.  I don't use it as a final tool, just a way to feel forms.
  • @Wes Adams – Sorry, Wes. I didn’t see your comment/question until just now. I am learning to paint with One Shot poster and enamel paints, first practising Gothic sign lettering (something similar to Frutiger/Gotham), then progressing to casual, then thick-and-thin serifs and scripts. We paint on paper, coroplast, wood, aluminum, etc.

    I like the Scharff bruses (quills, we call ’em) but I found out that if I don’t clean it well after using, then treat it will Neatsfoot oil, the bristles can be easily damaged.
  • Ray LarabieRay Larabie Posts: 1,220
    Mechanical pencil: Zebra Delguard 0.5. Scanned, processed and printed in cyan ink. Traced over again with overlapping strokes, classical animation style, using same pencil. Drawing gets scanned, cyan ink gets filtered out and hard black lines are autotraced. A recent example is my redrawing of Heavy Heap.
  • @John Lyttle if you're on Facebook there is a sign painters group that you might find useful. It's run by John Downer.
  • I really love the synthetic brush pens like the Zebra & Tombow Dual. Sakura also makes a brush pen I've grown fond of called the Pigma MB. (pretty sure I bought them all through 

    I use Staedtler 2mm lead holders for pencil drawings & tracing sketches. Blackwing pencils are great as well, if you're into wood & graphite. 
  • Laura WorthingtonLaura Worthington Posts: 28
    edited December 2015
    Another interesting lettering tool I'd like to mention is the Folded Ruling Pen. There a several different styles available, however, I've only been able to find them on calligraphy retail sites such as and

    Folded Ruling Pens create very unique strokes and effects virtually unachievable by other traditional tools. The width of the strokes may vary depending on the angle of which the tool is held, the shape of the tool itself, and if it's an adjustable ruling pen, how wide the aperture is opened. For a beginner, I'd recommend one with a flat edge; curved edge ruling pens are a bit more difficult to work with.

    Here's a quick link for review of many available options:
  • AbiRasheedAbiRasheed Posts: 235
    edited January 2016
    brushpens: tombow, zebra, kuretake. If you mean ink as in calligraphy ink prolly iron gall, sumi, windsor & newton & dr ph martin's.
  • Silver 1502S is another great broad edge brush. They're somewhat easier to find stocked than the Princeton brushes. Longer hairs than the Raphaels make them easier to handle.
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