My Top 6 Favourite Tools for Lettering

Today I want to share 6 of my favourite, and go-to tools that I use on a regular basis for my lettering. None of the links below are affiliate, nor have I been sponsored by any of these companies or for any of these products. I just truly LOVE them, and therefore am sharing and recommending them to you today!

Sumi Ink

First up is my favourite black ink for lettering. It's smooth and glossy, and works super well with my nibs. Although it's not waterproof, it's really good for any stand alone pieces, or for preparing lettering for digitization. I keep mine in a smaller dinky dip container, because I don't want to leave a whole bottle of the ink open to the air while I'm working. Not that it gets any skin on the top of it or anything, but it does dry pretty quickly. I love using this ink for lettering on Stonehenge paper, or smooth marker paper, but mostly, on Layout Bond paper. The nibs and this ink just glide across the bond paper like ice skates on smooth fresh ice. It's wonderful.

Kuretake Sumi Ink (available online at  Paper Ink Arts )

Kuretake Sumi Ink (available online at Paper Ink Arts)

White Ink

Next up is this amazing white ink. It's so opaque, and can by watered down to work nicely with a pen or small brush, or used as is (slightly thick) for super rich white opaque applications. I used this for a whole bunch of signage at a dear friend's wedding this past fall (more on that wedding to come!). I used black foam core bristol boards, and painted on the lettering with this ink. I think it turned out great. All the lettering was super clean, didn't run, and wasn't see through at all! I will often use this ink like White Out, if necessary, to make little touch ups as needed on other pieces of work. It's also great for making highlights on watercolour paintings.

Dr. Ph. Martin's Bleed Proof White (available at  Curry's  in Canada, or online at  Paper Ink Arts )

Dr. Ph. Martin's Bleed Proof White (available at Curry's in Canada, or online at Paper Ink Arts)

Coloured Acrylic Inks

When I need some colour in my lettering, and I want it to be nice and opaque, I go to these FW Acrylic inks. They are also my favourite paints to fingerpaint with. Yep, you read that right, fingerpaint! I love using the droppers of these inks, with nice jewelled tones and white especially, and fingerpaint backgrounds in my art journal, or on the cover of journals, or for greeting cards! The colours mix together so nicely, and also work pretty well with a nib pen! For specialized custom colours, I will turn from these, and mix up gouache to colour match instead.

FW Acrylic Inks (available at  Curry's  in Canada and online at  Paper Ink Arts )

FW Acrylic Inks (available at Curry's in Canada and online at Paper Ink Arts)

Waterproof Ink

When I'm mixing lettering and watercolour paint for a piece, I'll usually use this Waterproof India Ink for the lettering. When I do custom pieces, I always do the lettering before I start any painting. I don't want to have spent lots of time painting, only to mess it all up and make a spelling mistake in my lettering! So, since the lettering comes first, I always want to ensure that it's going to be waterproof, so that I don't smudge any of the words when I start to paint! The only con I have for this ink (and all waterproof inks, including the acrylics above) is that I have to be very diligent about rinsing and washing out my nib every so often. The inks will start drying onto the nib, and caking, making the nibs not work the way they are supposed to, and therefore messing up the lettering. Keep that in mind when using this, and any other waterproof inks, if you want to keep your nibs in good working order. Also, this ink is nice because it comes in two formulas. There's the Matte finish, as well as a shiny Hi-Carb formula. I tend to use the matte more, because the Hi-Carb is really shiny, and can be distracting against my watercolours.

Dr. Ph. Martin's BLACK STAR Waterproof India Ink (available in Canada in store and online  Curry's  and online at  Amazon )

Dr. Ph. Martin's BLACK STAR Waterproof India Ink (available in Canada in store and online Curry's and online at Amazon)

Pen Holder

If you've written a lot for any length of time, you'll understand about hand cramps. Now, amp that, and think about your hand cramping ten times sooner than normal. Welcome to the hand of a calligrapher. Due to the slow factor of the actual writing, plus (at least in my case) holding my pen very firm, I find that the more cushion I can find in a pen holder, the better. Before finding Paper Ink Arts, I used a Koh-I-Noor cork and wood holder that I picked up at Curry's. I love shopping local, however, for calligraphy supplies, Curry's falls short. When I picked up this Tachikawa holder from Paper Ink Arts, and felt the cushion it has, it quickly rose to the top of the list for my favourite holders. Now, I'm not saying it's memory foam cushion or something (that would be amazing!) but it's the best I've found so far! Plus, it has a nib holder for regular sized nibs, and the teeny ones, which often don't fit in the generic holders.

Tachikawa T40 Holder (available online at  Paper Ink Arts )

Tachikawa T40 Holder (available online at Paper Ink Arts)


I have a pretty decent collection of nibs, but the one I come back to time and time again is the Zebra G. It doesn't catch as often on the upstrokes of my letters, which is a life saver, plus it creates decently wide downstrokes. It's relatively firm, which makes it pretty easy for learning on too. I started calligraphy on a Nikko G nib, as everyone recommends, but when I graduated to this nib, I wondered why anyone would use the Nikko G. I was smitten with the Zebra G. Side note: nibs have funny names. I wish there was a picture of a zebra on this nib. It would be so cute.

Zebra G Nib (available online at  Paper Ink Arts )

Zebra G Nib (available online at Paper Ink Arts)

If you are thinking about jumping into calligraphy, I hope that the notes I've written on my favourite everyday tools is helpful for you! I would definitely recommend taking an in person class if you can find one, or signing up for Molly Jacques Skillshare class, and learning at your own pace online. She teaches the basics is a great way, and you will learn a lot.

If you have already been in the calligraphy/lettering world for a while, share you favourite supplies and tools in the comments below! I'd love to hear what you've been using!

Behind the Scenes - Brush Lettering Sketches

I thought that I would share with you some behind the scenes of my Good Friday and Easter Sunday posts a couple weekends ago. Even though the posts were little, without anything written to accompany the photos and lettering, I knew that I wanted to still share something to mark both of those days.

I did a lot of different lettering, with different supplies, to try to make something to go with the sentiments of both Good Friday and Easter Sunday. I used my Sakura Koi Water Brush which I currently have filled with watered down sumi ink. Some similar options for water brushes are this one, these ones, or this Pentel Pocket Brush pen, which already has ink in it, or the Pentel Colour Brush. Both of the Pentel pens have a nice rich black ink in them, but I preferred a watered down black, so I mixed my own ink.

The thinner lettering was done with a simple black Sharpie Fine Point marker. I don't really love the look that this marker created, which made me want to get one of the newer Sharpie Brush Markers so badly. Being left handed, I really struggle with brush markers, but as I play more and more with them, I'm slowly just figuring out what works best with me, and with my writing style. I have to step away from fluid writing, like your typical script writing, and treat the lettering more in little swipes, similar to using a pointed pen dipped in ink.

I like that I'm able to share these little lettered sketches with you, after you were able to see the final product. I love seeing the sketching process of other artists, so I think that I'm going to continue to share more too. I wish that I had other steps of this lettering process, but I'll be honest, and let you know that there really aren't any! There was no pencil sketching and refining first. I just dove right in and started writing. For other projects I'll start with pencil, and have a few layers of refinement before settling on a final design. But for most of my brush lettering, I just write it, scan it, and create a clean white background for it to lay on in Photoshop. Hopefully for the next Behind the Scenes, I'll have more scenes for you to actually see! 

Hope you have a great weekend! I'll be outside enjoying this sunshine (FINALLY!) and the smells of spring. My flowers have peeked their little green heads through the dirt, and I'm looking forward to planting some buddies for them soon.

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Watercolour Paints - Palette and Swatches

I wanted to share with you my new watercolour palette, and talk a little bit about how I organized my paints, which ones I like to use, and where you can find them if you wanted to pick some up!

Winsor Newton Professional Watercolours

 Many years ago, when I purchased my first couple tubes of watercolour, I went the more economical route, and picked up the Winsor Newton Cotman Series watercolour paints. They have a nice range of colours, but I found that the pigments in these paints weren't as good, and it was hard to build up nice deep colours. The Cotman series were very transluscent, which for some needs is totally fine, but I wanted more depth in my paintings. Once I had saved up a little more money to get new supplies, I decided to go to Curry's for the Professional series. For not too much more money, I could see a great difference between the Pro and Cotman series. These still come in a tube, but the colour is richer, silkier and more vibrant. Below is the colour swatches directly from Winsor Newton's basic Pro line (they have more limited edition colours too!)

Currently in my Palette

Here's the list of colours I currently have in my watercolour palette. Not all my colours are the Professional series (yet!) because I wanted to finish up some old tubes of Cotman, and, well, $10 or so a tube quickly adds up! Right now I have 2 folding palettes, separated into two halves of the rainbow. 

Palette One

Hansa Yellow Medium (QoR brand)
Hansa Yellow Light (QoR brand)
Cadmium Yellow Pale Hue (Cotman)
Winsor Orange (Pro)
Scarlet Lake (Pro)
Cadmium Red Light (Cotman)
Alizarin Crimson (Pro)
Permanent Rose (Pro)
Rose Madder Hue (Cotman)
Permanent Magents (Pro)
Cobalt Violet (Cotman)
Permanent Mauve (Pro)
Winsor Violet Dioxazine (Pro)
Ultramarine (Cotman)
Intense Blue Phthalo Blue (Cotman)
Turquoise (Cotman)

Palette Two

Naples Yellow (Pro)
Yellow Titanate (Pro)
Yellow Ochre (Cotman)
Raw Sienna (Pro)
Brown Ochre (Pro)
Gold Brown (Pro)
Burnt Sienna (Pro)
Burnt Umber (Cotman)
Indian Red (Cotman)
Sepia (Pro)
Payne's Gray (Cotman)
Lamp Black (Cotman)
Chinese White (Cotman)
Permanent Green Light (QoR brand)
Terre Verte (Pro)
Hooker's Green (Cotman)
Permanent Sap Green (Pro)
Olive Green (Pro)
Green Gold (Pro

I also have some Winsor Newton Designer's Gouache on hand for my silver and gold needs, as well as black, when I need it to be totally opaque. You could say I have a little bit of brand loyalty when it comes to Winsor Newton. I tried another silver gouache, and did not like it one bit! I also go to Winsor Newton for most of my acrylic and all of my oil paint needs.

Colour Swatch Card

I decided this time around to make a colour swatch card for my files, matching how I laid out the colours in my palette. I found this to be super helpful, especially since there's some new colours on my palette that I've never used before. This gives me a good idea what they are going to look like when dry on the paper. It's definitely helpful when I have custom orders requesting a specific colour palette for their piece. As you can see in the photo below, I've left room on my palette for new colours. Next on my shopping wish list is to expand my blue collection, and to get a richer black. After that, I'm leaning toward a softer grey, softer pink, and a deep purple and brown. It's tough to not want all 96 of the colours available! If I had that many colours though, I'd have to get a mega palette. Right now, I'm using this folding palette, which has 24 small wells for your colours, plus ample mixing wells. My dream palette, to go along with the 96 colours, would be this giant round palette, which on its own can hold 85 colours! It's the only palette I've found that can hold so many, if you choose, you can purchase your paints in half pans instead of tubes, and they will fit right into this palette!

If you have any questions about watercolour, feel free to ask in the comments! I'll try my best to answer them, or at least lead you in the right direction! If you have any suggestions for any watercolour paints you've loved, please let me know! I'd love to know what other people use, and love.

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New Book, New Challenge, and New Bible

I was so excited when Josh came home from a wardrobe fitting this morning, and he picked up the mail. I had ordered some books (and a mason jar tumbler..weakness!) a couple days ago, and they have finally arrived! 

New Book

I have had one of the books, Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin, sitting in my online shopping cart for over a month now, waiting to find something to add to the cart so I could qualify for free shipping. Haha, yes, I'm one of those people...why pay for something you can get for free! I came across this book after it was featured on Kristin Schmucker's book club, and was immediately interested. I've been wanting to delve into the Word more, but I often feel lost, not knowing where to start. I'm hoping that using this book as a guide will help! There's a forward in the book by Matt Chandler, which I'm looking forward to reading too.  Our small group at church studied along with one of his series, To Live is Christ, To Die is Gain, and I thought that it was great. Seeing that he has supported Jen's book makes me feel even better about reading Women of the Word.

New Challenge

This week I stumbled upon the hashtag #illustratedfaith. I obviously had to click on it. It's a movement, or activity of sorts, started by Shanna Noel, that mixes reading and studying your bible with art journaling. Illustrated Faith goes beyond just taking notes in the margins of your bible. She uses the notes she takes at church, and often focuses in on a key verse from the sermon she listened to that day. From there, she get out her art supplies, and gets creating a beautiful piece of art, directly on the page of her bible where that verse is. I love art journaling, and lately haven't done it as much as I would like to. She uses a special bible for all her pieces, which of course, made me look into getting one for myself.

New Bible

When I saw the affordable price of some of the Journaling Bibles online, I knew that this was going to be the accompanying purchase to my Women of the Word book. The bible that I picked up has a nice faux leather cover, and it sits flat when open. Coming from a hardcover bible, I'm looking forward to this. The pages of the journaling bible have large margins, with a 2 inch journaling space along the outside of each page. The paper is also a little heavier than other bibles I've seen, which I now understand is why it's a great choice for #illustratedfaith. I'm hoping to share some of my pages with you, as I journey along this new project of sorts. I'm excited to get reading and creating!

Have you come across any new ideas that you've incorporated into your reading lately? Any new books that you have dived right into, and help you grow closer and stronger in your relationship with Jesus? I'd love to know what you're reading! Share in the comments, I'd love to check out your suggestions!

10 Things I Need for My Work: Start to Finish

I thought that I'd give you a little insight into the tools that get me through a design process from start to finish. I thought that I always had a pretty basic process when it came to my work. This means that I thought that I never really needed too much to get my work done, and honestly, I don't. But when I started breaking it all down, I realized that there are actually quite a few things that I like to have to complete my design process. Here's the 10 things that I need to do my work, broken down in a start to finish list!

Sketch: red pencil, eraser, bond layout paper or sketchbook, sharpie fine point pen

I always start my sketches in my sketchbook, usually small, just playing around with the design layout and trying to see how the words I’m using are going to work together on the page. I like to use the Prismacolor Col-Erase pencil in Carmine Red for all my sketching, and a Staedtler eraser and holderfor fine erasing, and the larger eraser for getting rid of large mistakes. I’m left handed, so when I use a regular graphite pencil, I tend to smudge A LOT, and get a lovely silver hand. With the red pencil, I’m able to avoid all of this! I like to use Borden & Riley Bond Layout to plan out my pieces full size. It’s so smooth, and slightly transparent too, which helps with working on multiple rough drafts. Once I’ve settled on the design, and I’m happy with it, I go over my lines with a black Sharpie pen. They don’t smell as strongly as the markers, and handle the paper nicely.

Trace: light table

My husband bought me this Artograph Lighpad low profile light table for me for Christmas a couple years back, and it was a life changer! Prior, I was using the window to trace my sketches onto my final paper, which meant that I needed to plan around daylight. Now, I can trace at any time of the day, and flat on my desk, instead of unnaturally vertical on the window. I’ve seen even lower profile ones now, with rulers built in, but I’m super happy with the one I have right now. It’s a nice size too, at 9"x12", as most of my work falls within this range so it’s perfect.

Ink: pen and nib, ink, stonehenge or watercolour paper, watercolour paints

After lightly tracing my design on to my good paper, I get to inking. Depending on the design, I’ll choose different paper. For just lettering, I like to use Stonehenge. It has the slightest amount of tooth (texture) which makes it feel almost velvety. But it’s also smooth enough that my pointed nibs don’t get caught on it easily. If I’m going to be adding watercolour to my piece, I like to go with a 140lb cold press watercolour paper for most of work. I love working with this Canson pad for easy storage, and I can just cut down my piece to the size I need. I try to not get a terribly rough textured paper, again because I need the nibs to write as smoothly as possible, but I also want the paper to hold up to the very wet paint that will be applied. For ink, I like to use Sumi ink for it’s rich black colour. I like Kuretake and Moon Palace Sumi Inks. If I'm lettering and watercolouring on the same piece, I use Dr Martin’s Black Star Ink due to it’s waterproof properties. The sumi will run with water, even after it’s dried, so I only use it for lettering only projects. I’ll touch on more supplies (inks, paints, brushes, and more) that I use in another post coming soon!

Digitize: scanner and iMac

I definitely need my scanner in order to make my original paintings into prints. I try to scan at the highest resolution possible, to retain as much detail as I can. For the last 5 years, I’ve been using a MacBook Pro for all my computer work. Blogging, photo editing, creating prints and more. For the last year and half, it’s been a real struggle. If I wanted to open Photoshop, I had to make sure no other programs were running. I spent many hours looking at the spinning rainbow wheel of death, and wanting to chuck this important piece of my business out the window. I was so frustrated, and started saving up for a new computer. That money was almost all saved up this past summer, but then with my husband’s work being slow, it was allocated to other things, like a little ol’ mortgage or something less important like that. (Ha.) I was bummed, but happy that we had the money saved up when we needed it. Josh’s work was a lot better in the fall, so I got a nice little surprise at Christmas this year when I opened a little box containing a MacIntosh Apple. The actual fruit kind. At first I was confused, but then he said, “You're getting your computer!”. I was pumped, and now I’m the owner of a beautiful new iMac. It’s so fast, so much bigger than my laptop, and I can have multiple programs running at once! Win!

Edit: photoshop

I currently use CS4, a program I got way back when I got my laptop. It still works great for me, and I’m not seeing the need to upgrade yet. I have been considering getting the Adobe Creative Cloud, just the photo package one, so that Josh can benefit for the subscription on his computer too. I’m still learning new things on Photoshop all the time (that program seems like a neverending black hole) and love having it on my team. I’ve thought about getting Illustrator, but frankly it makes me nervous. However, I would like to be able to create vectors too.

Noise: netflix or spotify or podcasts

I like to have background noise when I work. If I’m lettering a custom piece, my go to is Netflix. If I play music while lettering, I often start singing along, and then it’s inevitable that I’m going to mess up my lettering. My Netflix indulgences are Buffy the Vampire Slayer (for years and years…I have them all on dvd too), Grey’s Anatomy, American Horror Story:Coven, Law and Order: SVU, prison documentaries and cooking shows. Spotify gets me my Iggy Azalea guilty pleasure fix, plus others like Duce Wiliams (friend of my sisters… he’s so good!), Bethel Music, Lana Del Ray, A Fine Frenzy, Sleeping Giant, Denison Witmer, Brooke Waggoner, Hillsong United and Brooke Fraser. (I've linked you to all my favourite songs by the listed artists.) Sometimes a good portion of this list goes over to iTunes, so I can control the playlist more. Podcasts I'm currently listening to? Serial, of course...slowly making my way through this case. Plus, Elise Gets Crafty, with Being Boss, The Lively Show and The Pen Addict on my waiting list.

Capture: camera

For taking photos…duh. I use a Canon T4i, and love how light and easy to carry around it is. I just got some new lights that I’m so looking forward to getting set up and using! Winter in Ontario has it’s dreary days, and where my little house is, I’m already hard pressed for good light coming in the windows. Hopefully these new lights are going to do the trick to help keep me a little saner when trying to capture images of my paintings and lettering pieces. I'm also currently saving up for some new lenses, a zoom for capturing Josh when he's out surfing, and a 50mm prime lens for me!

Fuel: chai tea and giant mason jar of water

These are my fuel. (TMI: It also means that I make a lot of trips to the bathroom. My small bladder and a love for tea don’t make the greatest partners.) My go to is chai, Numi Organic Golden Chai in the morning, or the Jasmine Green tea for a refreshing taste, and the Rooibos if it’s after 4pm (that’s my caffeine cut off if I want to sleep.) I go for Steeped Tea's Hot Yoga after heading to the gym, and Steeped Tea’s Feminini-Tea for certain monthly times…hint hint. Actually it's so good I have it all month long. Sometimes I’ll change it up a little have hot water with just a squeeze of lemon with some honey and ginger. Sick or not, it’s so yummy! Using a litre mason jar helps my water intake so much though! And my beautiful bestie Heather got me these awesome tops that fit with the rings for the jar, so I can either sip my drink like a take out coffee, or stick a massive straw in these and suck that water back way faster than regular drinking. The size of the straw is also super nice for smoothie drinking. Plus, they can go in the dishwasher, which makes for a happy girl. I try to consumer lots of fluids, especially water throughout the day.

Schedule: desktop planner

I’ve been using the same Moleskine planner for the last ten years, although just the pocket size for when I was at university. I tried going over to a different planner this January, as I received a really nice one from my parents, but for the way my brain and business work together, I just couldn’t make the new one work. Thankfully, I had also received the Moleskine for Christmas, so now all my work is in order. I love how the week is laid out on the left page, and the right page is just lined, great for notes, quick sketching or planning, or lists. I’ve switched the planner from my parents over to more of a journaling planner, as it has larger sections for each day of the week, with lines, perfect for journaling (and tracking fitness…cause I joined a gym, and love it!)

Atmosphere: candles or essential oil diffuser

I like yummy smelling things, but I don’t like to be overwhelmed by them. I have a lot of Bath and Body Work candles, but I find that I can’t have them lit in our little house for too long anymore without giving me a headache. I’ve switched over to soy based, lighter smelling candles, and that has seemed to help a little more. I love all the scents of the Bella by Illume candles, but Island Moonlight especially. Currently, I'm burning the Pinapple & Bamboo one, and it's so delicate and lovely! I also got a humidifying essential oils diffuser for the office, to help keep my dry winter skin from not all falling off, but also to put essential oils into the air. I love the smell of them, but also the benefits. Four Thieves is a favourite, and is so good for combating any sickness. So far, even though everyone around us has caught it, Josh and I have managed to avoid getting the nasty flu that’s going around. I add eucalyptus if I’m feeling stuffy, or some other blends, depending on my mood, stress level, or any other needs I might be experiencing! 

Note: all comments and opinions are my own. These are not affiliate links, nor am I being paid or support but any of the linked companies, but are justspecific supplies that I just love to work with!

Are there any specific things that you need around you to get you through your work day? Share in the comments!