The college student’s guide on lettering/calligraphy on the cheap

I say college student, but really, anyone who wants to save a few pesos for this hobby can use these tips.

Calligraphy is thought to be an expensive hobby, and it is, but only if you’re not aware of the things you buy. There are a lot of cheap options you can use that won’t break your budget!

1. Use little jam jars or little plastic containers for ink instead of dinky dips.

I love dinky dips and how easy it is to use with an oblique holder (don’t know what that is? click here!) but they’re not exactly cheap and I don’t have the budget for it, so I use these little jars (P10 each) to hold small amounts of ink. I also bought these plastic containers from Daiso (P88 for 8) which you can put in a mound of modeling clay so they don’t move. I do wish they were screw cap types. I also bought little tiny jam jars from Divisoria for around 5 pesos each (or were they 10? I forget.)

2. Use gouache instead of buying colored ink.

Gouache is basically opaque watercolor, and I use them for practice or on dark paper instead of using colored ink because 1 set of gouache paint (18 colors if I’m correct) is equal to 1 jar of calligraphy ink. Of course, the consistency and properties vary, but they do the trick especially if all I want to do is practice my strokes.

3. Use brush pens for calligraphy practice.

Brush pens (the felt tip kind) are basically markers with a special tip that allows you to do thick and thin strokes. Although you can’t achieve super thin lines like in calligraphy, the hand motions are similar enough to help you improve. They’re also very portable so you can practice everywhere. (Or if you’re like me, you can look like you’re taking notes in class when you’re actually doing some letterforms.)

The ultimate combo:

Water brush + watercolors + paper = WINNER.

4. Use your old readings as scratch paper.

Save money and save the earth! With the right amount of water in your paint, the paper won’t wrinkle as much as you paint, but this still largely depends on the type of paper. Watercolor paper can get expensive, so using scratch paper saves the earth AND it’s great for practice.

If you really want to start doing lettering but your budget is very limited, consider buying just these three things: 1) water brush, 2) watercolors, and 3) watercolor paper. With just these three in your fingertips, there is already a wide range of colors, styles, and projects you can do with them. You can even use them for painting and not just lettering!


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