Art by Heather Lynne

7 Secrets to Using a Brush Pen Correctly to Create Beautiful Lettering with Ease

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After years of lettering and then teaching brush lettering workshops, I’ve identified the major problems many people have with understanding how to really use a brush pen. Once you understand how to use a brush pen correctly you will be light years ahead of where you are now in your lettering journey!

I’m super excited to share the top 7 secrets I discovered on my OWN path to achieving brush lettering success. Let’s start with #1

Secret #1: Use super smooth paper to keep your pens from fraying

When I first started lettering I couldn’t figure out why my brush pens frayed so quickly. Now I know that it was because I was using them on watercolor paper which is super toothy and rough and it tore them up 😱

In order to get the most out of your brush pens you need to find the smoothest paper you can. I recommend a Rhodia pad as a practice pad. You can check it out here.

Buy the smooth paper before you keep practicing!

Secret #2: Hold your brush pen to the side of your letters, not underneath

Your pen should be perpendicular to to your downstrokes. This is important to be able to differentiate upstrokes and downstrokes because it allows for thicker downstrokes. It also means that you won’t be pushing the tip of your pen straight up on the paper as much which will fray your pen quickly.

Check out the pictures on right to see the difference it makes and then try it out for yourself on your smooth paper!

Not this!

Secret #3: Stick your elbow out too

The best way to make sure that your pen stays perpendicular to the paper and your letters is to stick your elbow out to the side a bit too. Don’t put it out so much that you end up writing from the top of your letters. Just make sure it’s out away from your body.

Check out the picture on right to see where I place my arm and then try it out for yourself!

Secret #4: Angle the tip of your pen to be at a 45 degree angle from the paper.

By angling your pen at 45 degrees, you will be able to make sure that the nib (tip) of your pen always points in the same direction. So try to keep your pen angled at around 45 degrees. This will also help to give you nice thick downstrokes when you apply pressure to the pen.

Get your pen and practice holding it using secrets 1-4!

Secret #5: Move your entire arm, not just your wrist

When writing we often use our wrist to do most of the work. BUT when using a brush pen you need to move your whole arm as you letter. This will allow you to keep the form that your worked on with secrets 1-4 and ultimately will give your letters more consistency.

Try writing your name with your brush pen using the hold you learned in the previous secrets and moving your whole arm with each stroke!

Art by Heather Lynne Tombow Photo

Secret #6: Don’t be afraid to put A LOT of pressure on your pen on your downstrokes

The tip (nib) of the brush is flexible because it is meant to be used for adjusting the width of your pen strokes. It’s ok to press down pretty hard while creating your thick downstrokes. In fact, it’s the best way to make sure your downstrokes are visibly thicker than your upstrokes. Also, using full pressure will give you the most consistency in the thickness of your downstrokes.

Grab your pen again and write several straight lines coming down towards you to practice putting full pressure on your pen!

Secret #7: Letter slowly

Make your brush strokes slow and controlled. Add and release pressure gradually. This will prevent square tops and heavy bottoms on the curves of your letters.

It’s time to put secrets 1-7 together! Pick up your pen again and practice what you’ve learned!