My Top 10 Lettering Secret Weapons
Thanks to my procrastination skills this blog is about 2 years overdue. I promised on instagram I'd share my top 10 tools and after literally months of putting it off, I finally had some time to sit and put it all in one place. Many of these items I've talked about individually a time or two. If you've taken any of my workshops you'll have heard me talk about almost all of these and if you've watched me go live or post clips from on-site jobs you'll likely have seen the rest. I could have continued and listed at least a dozen more tools I adore, but here are my favourite, most useful, Top 10!
1. Scotch Brand Ruled Masking Tape
I actually came across this tool by accident. I was looking for something entirely different and when this popped up on my Amazon feed I knew it was something I needed to have. It's a bit more expensive than the average masking tape but the time it saves you in the end is well worth the extra few bucks. The tape doubles as a painters tape which makes large projects easy, and the clear (and accurate) measurements make projects like seating charts a breeze.
Get 6 rolls for under $30 here
2. Stanley Laser Level
One of my most used tools! Back when Slider Writers were all the rage (they've since been discontinued) I scooped up one of these on the cheap from my local home improvement store as an alternative. I use it for everything from place cards and small paper projects, to seating charts and large murals. It makes straight lines a no brainer and works great for dark based projects that are difficult to pair with other tools. Use it flat or with the built in magnet on the back for vertical projects. You can find these at most home improvement stores, but you can also buy online here.
3. Microfiber Cloths
When I first started mirror and glass work I was burning through paper towel at a rapid (and costly) rate. Not only is paper towel terrible for the environment, but it doesn't work half as well as these guys do. Microfibers are fantastic for removing smudges, fingerprints, dust (chalk included) and chalk marker without the need for water or chemical cleaners. The best part - when they get grungy AF you can pop them in the laundry and they are ready to roll again. You can find these at your local dollar store or anywhere automotive supplies are sold.
4. Coconut Oil
I don't use this on the daily for lettering projects, but man has it saved my ass a time or two. Working with oil markers can be messy and making mistakes can be brain bending - especially on materials like acrylic and glass. When straight up acetone and flat razors aren't an option, coconut oil is the safest, most effective natural remover for oil based paint pens. I keep a small spray bottle of it in my kit for emergencies and use it as my main tool for on-site projects and whenever I work with oil on acrylic. Buy it local from your favourite grocery chain or health food store.
5. Light Table
Another tool I use on the daily which has changed the way I streamline my work. Basically a giant iPad with no images, this ultra-thin, portable, light producing screen comes in handy for all types of lettering projects. It allows you to work off sketches or ruled projects without having to transfer those sketches or mark up your good copy. By projecting light through your paper it allows you to clearly see whatever is underneath. It also cuts down time for projects that require repetitive accuracy (envelopes and place cards). Huion is the brand I use - find it here.
6. Tri-pod Grip
I got really tired of trying to mcgiver ways to balance my phone to film projects. I never got the hang of working with one hand and knew I needed to find a cost effect alternative to breaking out a video camera or setting my phone in a wine glass. After looking around online at a bajillion professional phone mounts and camera tripods out there, I actually picked up the cheapest, most handy phone tripod from my local dollar store. There are countless brands out there and if you are someone who wants to document tutorials or spend a lot of time filming - I might suggest investing in a more professional version, but my $3 stand does the trick no matter what, or where I am trying to film. It's got bendable legs that make it ideal for hard to film areas (outside, or high up) and a 360 swivel head which makes it easy to get those strange angles when you are trying to film around your hands.
7. Flat Razor
Ahhhh this bad boy is my savior. I work on mirrors and glass daily. I have an inventory of vintage mirrors which get flipped weekly during wedding season. Removing huge amounts of oil based ink at a time without damaging the vintage framework became a chore with chemical cleaners. Katrina (@calligkatrina) introduced me to this method back in 2017 and I've never gone back. It's fast, effective, and doesn't use acetone which is bad for not only the environment but can also damage your frames!
8. Envelope Drying Rack I first saw one of these years ago but shipping wasn't available in Canada. I ended up making my own (okay, maybe my other half made it for me) and it has been a life saver. If you are someone who works on place cards, envelopes, or small paper projects, you know how big of a hassle it is to lay cards out to dry - especially if you are working in a small area. This rack allows you to place your pieces upright to dry and keeps them in order while you work. We used a piece of 1x4 pine and cut 45' slots 3/4 inch apart. These have become more readily available over the last few years and you can now find versions like this one here on Etsy if you don't have the ability to make your own.
9. Stabilo Aquarellable Pencil Thanking Doris from Love Lettering (@lovelettering_doriswai) for this incredible hack. Easily one of my most effective tools for almost any project. These pencils are not only great for pre-sketching designs on acrylic, glass, plastic and metal, but they are an incredible stand-in as faux chalk when working on chalkboards. They buff away easily from smooth surfaces with a light wipe and rinse clean from chalkboards with warm water. They are durable enough that you can work over them with oil or water based paint markers, but soft enough they'll remove without a trace when you want them to. Available from most art supply stores, or you can buy them direct from Doris here.
10. Apple iPad with Procreate Obviously this tool is by far the most expensive on the list, but if you are looking for a sign that it's time to commit, let this be it. I have the 12.9 inch Pro version, but any iPad that's Procreate/Pencil compatible will change your life. The pressure sensitive pencil makes digital calligraphy instant. Compatible with Cricut and Silhouette you can easily transfer your hand lettering into design space or illustrator making it a must have tool for letters. Great for planning large projects (I can send designs straight to my projector), sketching designs and concepts for clients (take a photo in real time to create accurate mock-ups), and fun to play around with, Procreate single handedly changed the game for me. With a huge library of available brushes, guides and templates from some of your favourite artists, as well as an incredible amount of free online tutorials, this is the best way to practice, create and expand your offerings. Available online here.
That's the list! Feel free to leave a comment below if you have questions about anything you see here or if you feel like sharing a tool you've got in your arsenal you think I should add to the next list!