Turn your commonplace book into a work of art.


A commonplace book can be approached in many ways from illegible quotes scribbled across notecards to intricate designs in family heirlooms and everything in between.  Some of the most notable commonplaces preserved by history are difficult to decipher by anyone other than the writer himself and yet they were incredibly influential and remain valuable to this day.  It is the process of writing itself that seems to be the magic ingredient rather than the appearance of the work produced.

The words being written and the internal process of the one writing them is certainly more important than the appearance.

As one who knows all about the paralysis of perfection, a gentle reminder to myself and to you is this:

It doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful.

– Myquillyn Smith, The Nesting Place

That being said, writing slowly certainly lends itself well to learning to to letter better.  If it can be lovely, why not try?

That is how my hand lettering began.

It has been such a fun outlet for creativity and has opened up a whole new world of art that has been incredibly life-giving.


Some of you have asked about learning to letter too and I can’t encourage it enough.  I thought this would be a great place to share all of my recommendations for hand lettering supplies all in one place.

I curated a list of my favorite supplies just for you!

Whatever approach you choose to use, I hope you will begin it and enjoy the process.



Alison’s Curated List of Hand Lettering Supplies:

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Pens:  Tombow Fude Brush PensTombow Dual Brush PensPigma Micron Ink Pens

By far, my favorite brush pens are the Tombow Fude Brush Pens.

tombow-fude-brush-pen-fudenosuke-soft They write beautifully, allowing for those gorgeous thin upstrokes and thick downstrokes that can sometimes be elusive for the brush lettering beginner.  These are very forgiving: perfect for getting started and a beloved go-to for even the most seasoned artists.  They are effective for even the tiniest print and are used almost exclusively in my commonplace book and Liturgical journal. The Tombow Fude Brush Pens are available in both hard and soft styles.  I love both equally and would suggest trying both to see which you gravitate to more often.  Either way, you can’t go wrong.

If you are only going to invest in one pen to start lettering, the Tombow Fude Brush Pen is my top recommendation.


Tombow Dual Brush Pens also make the top list of every hand lettering artist I know.

tombow-dual-brush-pen-art-marker-blackThey are the pen in most brush lettering arsenals and it doesn’t take long to see why.  With a lush thick brush tip, it can be used for much larger letters and thicker downstrokes than the Fude pen and I find myself reaching for the bullet tip way more than I would have anticipated.  That being said, these pens definitely take some getting used to and require some skill to use well.  Once you get the hang of them, they are fantastic but don’t be frustrated if it takes awhile.  It’s not just you.  The learning curve is steep.

tombow-dual-brush-pen-grayscale   tombow-dual-brush-pens-bright

Pigma Micron Ink Pens are the first pens I reach for when it comes to hand lettering styles that do not require a brush pen.  They are made with archival ink that won’t bleed or fade and are also wonderful for drawing, lining watercolor art, or just writing in a planner, journal, or to address christmas cards.



Pencils: Prismacolor Scholar Drawing Set.

The beautiful thing about an art pencil with soft lead is that it is able to create thin upstrokes and thick downstrokes characteristic of brush lettering with nothing more than a pencil.  You have to believe it to see it.  I have been amazed by how beautiful lettering sketches can look with this Prismacolor Scholar Drawing Set.


Erasers: White EraserMONO Eraser

It’s easy to overlook erasers when considering art supplies.  Trust me when I tell you, you will be happy to have one.  A good quality white eraser is essential for completely removing pencil lines used to sketch out a design before committing it to ink.  The MONO eraser is gritty like sand paper and will actually remove ink in moderation.  I wouldn’t recommend it for large areas but it has saved my work more than once by removing a smudge that would otherwise have ruined a finished piece.

paper-mate-white-pearl-premium-eraser    tombow-mono-sand-eraser

Paper: Marker PaperTracing Paper

When it comes to brush lettering, paper matters!  Let me spare you from the rookie mistake I made and say that again:

Paper matters!

I seriously ruined so many pens when I was first learning because I simply had no clue.  Now you don’t have to.

The tips of brush pens are delicate and rough paper chews them up.  Abusing pens with bad paper ends up destroying the possibility of the super-thin upstrokes you are after and results in feathering on the edges of downstrokes.  It will also soak up your ink, making them dry up more quickly.  Paper is cheaper than ink.  Save the investment you are making on your pens by using marker paper.  I have used several brands and all have worked well.  As long as it says marker paper, it should be super smooth, giving your pens the longest life and resulting in the most fluid letters possible.  Tracing paper is another great lettering hack, very gentle on pens.  It is excellent for practicing and going over worksheets again and again.

canson-xl-series-marker-pad  bee-paper-bleedproof-marker-pad  strathmore-tracing-paper


That should be more than enough to get started!

If you are anything like me, art supplies are capable of leading down a rabbit hole to all kinds of wonderfulness.  There are so many great tools out there.  I will continue to update this page with new favorites as I discover them.

If you decide to jump in, I would love to hear what you are using to and how your lettering journey is going.

Use the hashtag #commonplacelettering to share your letters and to see what the Keeping Commonplace community is creating on Instagram.

Happy Lettering friend,