hand lettering

3 Cheap Pens for Hand Lettering You Already Own

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of my links, I’ll earn a small commission (at no cost to you, of course!)

cheap pens for handlettering

There’s no denying that hand-lettering is having a major moment.. it feels like everyone I know is embracing this hobby, and I love it, too!

If your Instagram explore tab is anything like mine, you’ve probably watched letterers showcasing their free-form calligraphy on almost every surface possible (paper, clothing, tile, glass, etc). They use fancy brush pens, paintbrushes, or even traditional nibs dipped in shiny metallic ink. And these tools are awesome, but not the most budget-friendly.

(Speaking of Instagram, here’s 6 inspiring hand lettering accounts to follow on Instagram now).

You may be tempted to think you need all the tools the professionals have in order to get started, but I promise you don’t!

Today I’m sharing 3 ideas for cheap pens that will help you kick-start your hand lettering hobby (or career). And the best part is you probably have these pens at home or in your desk drawer already. 

Cheap Hand Lettering Pen #1: Ballpoint Pen

BIC Ballpoint pen handlettering for cheap

Ah, the ball point pen. The cheapest pen on the list. Accessible to nearly everyone.

Coworkers everywhere love to argue about which ballpoint pen is best and which one the manager should order for the entire office. Some ballpoint pens click open/closed, some of them have a cap. Mostly they possess black, blue, or red ink, but they are available in every color of the rainbow.  If you can’t find one at home or at work, you can order a box of 24 on Amazon for $6.35 — that’s less than 26 cents per pen! But if you can’t find a dime, you can probably get one for free — it’ll even come with the name of your bank screen printed on the barrel — the next time you make a deposit or withdrawal.

I know what you might be thinking — you aren’t able to vary the thickness of your stroke with a ball point pen, which is true. BUT this is the perfect opportunity for creating modern faux calligraphy. To learn this technique, be sure to check out my post on How to Fake Calligraphy.

Cheap Hand Lettering Pen #2: Felt Tip Pen or Marker

Sharpie for handlettering cheap

The second cheapest pen to use when you’re getting started with hand lettering is a regular marker. It can be a permanent felt tip marker like a Sharpie, or a washable Crayola marker.

Single Sharpies can be purchased for less than $2.00 each, and an 8 count pack of Crayola Washable Markers can be purchased for less than $5.00! Markers make quick work of coloring in down strokes for fake calligraphy.

The best part of felt tip markers is the wide variety of ends, called nibs. Markers with tapered ends (like the original Sharpie or Crayola) can be used like a brush pen. The more pressure you apply, the thicker the stroke will be.

For markers that come with a fixed wide, flat nib.. use the corner for thin strokes and the whole nib for thick strokes.

Cheap Hand Lettering Pen #3: Highlighter Marker

Hi-liter marker for hand lettering cheap

Technically a highlighter is also a felt tip pen, but in this case, the ink is neon. It’s also more transparent than a regular marker, so you can use it as a background to make one word stand out from the others in your composition. The fixed nib size is great for drawing thick strokes, but you can also use just the corner to get thin strokes.

I love these highlighters because they have a transparent nib so you can see exactly where you’re highlighting. A clear nib is one of those things I never knew I needed until I used it for the first time, and now I’ll never go back.

My favorite way to use highlighters is for a drop-shadow effect that adds major dimension to your hand lettering. This is the perfect way to start getting fancy and exploring styles you thought were only achievable using digital tools.

Free Lettering Guides

Ok! What are you waiting for? Go ahead, grab your pens and markers and give hand-lettering a try!

If you need a place to begin, I’ve created a lettering guide .PDF for you!  Download  my Free Hand-Lettering Guides now in My Free Resource Library. If you need the password, fill out this form:

learn to hand letter using pens you already have

6 Hand Lettering Artists to Follow on Instagram

Today I am rounding up my favorite hand letterers to follow on Instagram, and all of them happen to be women! #girlpower

These ladies are seriously talented, and most of them are doing this for a living (#goals). So if you’re interested in developing hand lettering skills, or just looking for inspiration, make sure to check out these Instagram accounts.

6 Hand Letterers to Follow On Instagram

hand lettering accounts on instagram

1. Jessica Hische | @jessicahische

The first time I stumbled upon Jessica Hische was while listening to this episode of the Creative Pep Talk Podcast.

I liked what she had to say so much that I immediately followed her on social media only to discover that I recognized so much of her work already. I’d seen it pinned on Pinterest and shared across the web hundreds of times, & usually without proper credit.

Lettering is Jessica Hische’s actual profession (hello, dream job), and she has worked with some major brands/companies. Think Starbucks, Mailchimp, Wes freaking Anderson, and my personal favorite: Jeni’s Ice Cream.

Within moments of following her, I purchased her book, In Progress, which details her lettering process from rough sketch to finished design. I haven’t finished it yet, but I love it already.

2. Lauren Hom | @homsweethom

I love Lauren Hom’s Instagram feed, full of bright colors & big murals & mega inspo. I’d say she’s the most “Instagram famous” person on this list. She’s well on her way to 200K followers, and I’m sure she’ll grow far beyond that because she’s clearly very smart and a hard worker. Lauren has a down-to-earth/open-book vibe that I love.

And spoiler alert: you’ve probably seen her work IRL. Specifically while standing in the checkout line at everyone’s favorite store: Target! Yes, Lauren Hom has designed hand-lettered gift cards for Target. I think I actually squealed when she posted it on her Instagram and I realized I’d admired her Thank You gift card hundreds of times. It just makes my heart happy to know that Target invests in artists like Lauren Hom.

Lauren’s Instagram and website is super helpful, too. She has tutorials, classes, resources, and a great FAQ page with all the answers you’re looking for.

3. Martina Flor | @martinaflor

Martina Flor is based in Berlin, and I recently started following her on Instagram. She is- of course- a super-talented letterer, but she also travels around speaking at all sorts of amazing conferences. The kind of conferences I want to attend. Like Tedx and Adobe Max, & even Apple.

Like others on this list, she has a ton of resources that can help you learn lettering – and as an added edge – she offers classes, books, and other resources in other languages besides just English.

I plan to check out her classes on Skillshare soon.

4. Becca Courtice | @thehappyevercrafter

How about some love for Canada, eh? That’s where you’ll find Becca Courtice, a master of modern calligraphy.

If you’re looking to explore lettering as a hobby, and maybe one day have your friends hire you to hand letter the seating chart at their wedding, then Becca Courtice is your girl. Her blog has tons of practical tips for every lettering scenario you can think of.

Rather than just a collection of works, Becca’s Instagram feed and her website are heavily focused on learning. She can teach you the basics of modern calligraphy, and then she’ll show you how to turn your new skill into a business.

5. Amanda Arneill | @amandaarneill

Amanda Arneill was one of the first ladies I stumbled upon on Instagram who was practicing, perfecting, and pretty soon.. teaching hand lettering.

It was her hand lettered sermon notes that first got me hooked, because I am the biggest sermon note taker. And I wanted my sermon notes to look. like. that. Plus, she shows you how to do all sorts of fancy things with pens and markers like combining colors, shading, flourishes, etc, etc. And she letters funny things her kids say.

Anyway, Amanda has a ton of courses on lettering & more. She’s teamed up with friends to offer classes on watercolor lettering, iPad lettering, illustration, and even social media.

6. Eline | @elinescreativeprojects

I haven’t been following Eline for very long, but during that time she’s already grown from 100ish followers to over 2500! It isn’t hard to see why. She’s only fifteen, creating amazing hand lettered artwork and watercolor illustrations, and making it look easy. Consider her a hand letterer to watch.

PS – after seeing her recent post I’m ready to go buy some sparkly gel pens.


Hand Lettering Accounts to Follow on Instagram

Know someone who you think should be featured on this list? Let me know in the comments!

How To Fake Calligraphy – Easy Tutorial

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of my links, I’ll earn a small commission (at no cost to you, of course!)

How to Fake Calligraphy - easy step-by-step tutorial

(Skip the lengthy explanation & head straight to the Easy Fake Calligraphy Tutorial by Clicking Here.)

Hand lettering is all. the. rage. right now.

Like, when was the last time you saw someone’s blog logo that wasn’t either 1) hand-lettered or 2) typed from a hand-lettered font?

Yeah, not since 2008.

And when I say hand-lettered in this post, what I’m actually referring to is what I like to call modern calligraphy.

It looks kinda like this:

Simple Calligraphy Wedding Invites Dunkirk Designs
https://www.dunkirkdesigns.com/products/simple-calligraphy-wedding-invites-salmon-pink

And today, I’m going to show you how anyone & everyone can write like this without any special tools or skills. Yep, you heard me: ANYONE, even you!

In this tutorial, I’m going to show you how to easily & quickly fake calligraphy.

Tools for Modern Calligraphy

First things first: what tools do you need?

The professionals use a brush pen, or even a paintbrush. To achieve the thick strokes, they apply more pressure with the pen on the down-stroke of the letter. On the up-stroke, they apply less pressure, and they get a thinner line. The finished result looks gorgeous, but the skill takes a lot of time to master. If you want to get technical, mastering calligraphy is down to muscle memory, which requires a lot of practice, and patience, and time, and did I mention practice?

The good news is that for fake calligraphy, there is no brush pen required. And you don’t need to worry about varying pressure or muscle memory, either. You can apply the techniques I’m about to show you to any style of penmanship, print or cursive.

And – you can use any writing utensil you have. Check Out 3 Cheap Pens For Hand Lettering You Already Own

Tools You Need for Fake Calligraphy

Ready to get started?


Learn From These Hand Lettering Books


Calligraphy 101

Before we start forming our fake calligraphy letters, there are three simple characteristics of calligraphy to know.

When forming letters, you move the pen up (up stroke), down (down stroke), and across (cross stroke).

Calligraphy Characteristic #1: Down Stroke = Thick Line

The down stroke is a thick line. Notice the down stroke in the letter A, as illustrated below:

down stroke thick how to fake calligraphy

Calligraphy Characteristic #2: Up Stroke = Thin Line

The up stroke is a thin line. Again, notice the thin up-stroke in the capital letter A, illustrated below:

up stroke calligraphy thin line

Not all up & down strokes are as obvious as in the letter A. Think about the letter C. This one is a little tricky, but just visualize writing a letter C in your head. You’ll start in the upper right corner and move the pen up just a little, then pulling the ink left, you’ll round the top of the letter and stroke down. Finally you’ll round the bottom of the letter towards the right and do a little swoop back up. So, in the letter C, there are two small up-strokes.

letter C how to fake calligraphy up stroke thin and down stroke thick

Calligraphy Characteristic #3: Cross Stroke = Thin Line/Add Style!

And finally, the cross stroke. Cross strokes happen when you’re moving your pen from left to right, or east/west instead of north/south. The cross stroke is usually thin.

Again, I’ll demonstrate with the letter A:

cross stroke how to fake calligraphy

It’s worth noting that a cross stroke is a great place to add style. So if you’re going to draw a fancy A, you might have a cross stroke that is both thick and thin, like the ones below:

stylized cross stroke fake calligraphy

These cross strokes don’t just move east to west, they are up and down and even loopy, so they take on the characteristics of up and down strokes, too.

How To “Fake” Calligraphy

Understanding those 3 characteristics of calligraphy strokes is going to help us understand where to draw in our thick lines and where to leave our line thin as we fake it… because faking calligraphy is all about faking the down-strokes/thick lines!

Ready? Let’s do this.

How to Fake Calligraphy Step 1: Write out the Whole Word

Write out your whole word, whether cursive or print. I’m going to write out the word “hello” in both script and print. See the two examples below:

how to fake calligraphy step 1
how to fake calligraphy print step 1

How to Fake Calligraphy Step 2: Draw in the Down-Strokes

Think about which parts of the letters are “down” strokes, and now you’re going to draw in a line to help thicken that stroke. Below, I’ve drawn the down stroke lines in purple so it’s easy to see:

how to fake calligraphy step 2
how to fake calligraphy print step 2

How to Fake Calligraphy Step 3: Color in the Down-Strokes/Thick Lines

Now that you’ve drawn in the down-strokes, you need to color them in to get the visual effect of a thick line. I’ve colored in the strokes in blue, so it’s easy to see what I’m talking about:

how to fake calligraphy step 3
how to fake calligraphy print step 3

How to Fake Calligraphy: Finished Word

When you’re finished with Steps 1-3, you’ll have a finished result that looks like this:

how to fake calligraphy step 4
how to fake calligraphy print step 4

& Voila! That’s fake calligraphy.

How to Fake Calligraphy: Letter Reference Sheets

Upper-Case Letters

For reference, here’s a list of Capital Letters in both print and cursive/script, so you can see where the down-strokes should be. For some of the letters, I left a secondary down-stroke thin, like with the letter H. This is my personal preference, but it’s up to you how to form the letters and where to put your down stroke.

Remember, your letters don’t have to look exactly like mine.

Lower-case Letters

For reference, here’s a list of all Lower-case letters in both print and cursive/script, so you can see where the down-strokes should be drawn in. Unlike with the upper-case letters, I pretty much added all the down strokes possible to these letters. Again, this is a personal preference, so if you don’t want to add another downstroke on the arch of the little “h,” that’s cool, too.

Fake Calligraphy – Numbers

Guess what? You can apply this hack to numbers, too. You’re bound to need them. Here’s a list of faux-calligraphy style numbers, so you can see where the down-strokes should be.

how to fake calligraphy numbers guide

A Note About Making the Most of Your Handwriting

While this is an easy hack for faking calligraphy, you may not end up with wedding invitation-worthy modern calligraphy just yet. If you don’t like the way your handwriting looks, just keep practicing and let it evolve over time. Find your own style of lettering!


Read The Beginner’s Guide to Hand Lettering


Free Download: Modern Calligraphy Reference Sheets

Download my FREE Hand Lettering Practice sheets, available in my Free Resource Library. You’ll need a password, but you can get it by entering your email below. Look for an email with the password in a few minutes – and if you don’t see it, be sure to check your Spam or Bulk Folder.

The letters you’ll be practicing in my Lettering Guides were made with a brush pen. However, you can also use them to practice fake calligraphy. Just use the hacks we learned in this blog post!

free hand lettering guides printable

So what words or letters are you eager to get started with? If you decide to try this tutorial out, send me a picture of what you come up with!

Happy Lettering!

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