Tool Talk | Pencils (and one of my favorite pens...)

Tool talk is a blog series that features three of my most favorite lettering tools! I'll explain each tool, share why I love it, and let you know how I use it in my lettering!

1: A Good Graphite Pencil

Despite it’s humble and seemingly unexciting life, the pencil is super important and possibly my favorite tool to letter with! Pencils come in a variety of hardness and softness and are measured by a pair of scales known as the Numerical Scale and the HB Graphite Scale.

The cool kids over at explain these scales in a way that actually makes sense, so I tried to expand on some of their great info! (and they made the handy little chart below!)

The Numerical Scale references the hardness of the core (remember using a #2 pencil in school?) - so a higher number means a harder core which means that the mark left on the paper becomes less as the number goes up. A lower number indicates a softer core, so more of a mark is left behind. Think about the difference between drawing a line with a colored pencil and an oil pastel - the pencil is harder so the line you draw is narrower and more precise, while the oil pastel is super soft and leaves behind a thicker, less precise line under the same pressure as the line drawn with a colored pencil.

The HB Graphite Scale is something you might be less familiar with - seeing as our trusty #2 pencil at school said only that - #2. The letter H after the number on a pencil indicates hardness, so a 9H is a harder pencil than a 2H. The letter B indicates blackness on a pencil, or how much dark lead is left behind as your write, so a 9B will leave behind a darker black mark than a 2B. There are more intricacies to this whole elaborate scale, but for those of you not completely enthralled by pencil anatomy, we’ll leave it at that. The cool kids at have this handy dandy little graphic that helps you see exactly what the eff I am talking about!

So, my personal pencil of choice is usually an HB (both hard and dark) or something in the lower end of the B side (usually no higher than a 3B) - this allows me to make both thick and thin lines with one stroke, the way one would with a calligraphy nib. It’s super fun and you should try it out! I recommend picking up a few different pencils so you can play around to find your ideal mate.

2: Wax "Aquarellable" Pencil

This little baby is a lifesaver and makes writing on glass a breeze! So, obviously, if you are planning on writing on glass, you could always sketch out your design and then lay the glass over top and, duh, see through to your sketch to write over it on glass. BUT! Sometimes I write on double paned glass that distorts the sketch, or sometimes I write on humongous windows and don’t want to sacrifice the rainforest for my art, or sometimes I write on mirrors which, crazy enough, are not see through. Enter the wax pencil. The one I love is by Stabilo and it is heaven. It allows me to sketch out my design right on the glass and then after I go over it in marker, I can just wipe it off with a dry t-shirt and leave my finished design intact. Magic. I know. You’re welcome.

3: Gelly Roll Pens!

I mean, obviously. Anyone who survived middle school knows these pens are the Not only do they come in like a million amazing colors, they are so smooth and bright! The white is one of the most opaque whites I have found in a pen - meaning that if I am writing on black paper, the paper doesn’t show through the ink and the white is super bright! They are the best and I will fight anyone who disagrees. Not actually fight, but more like say no and force you into the Gelly Roll loving side of the universe and then take you out for donuts. Trust me, they rule.

Stay tuned for more tool talk in the future - and feel free to shoot me an email, or message on instagram with any tool questions or special requests!