Affordable Digital Tools to Improve Your Hand Lettering on the iPad

Lettering is so much easier with a little help from technology. With the use of tablets like the iPad, Pro artists can use digital brushes that mimic traditional tools, use grids and guides to create better layouts, and even use photo mockups to help make their digital work look more real.

With all of these options, you can create more hand-lettered work in less time so you can work smart not hard. Man did you pick a great time to get into lettering.

I’ve been a lettering artist for the past six years but switched to digital just two years ago back in 2016. It totally changed my life. Now I can accept more client work and bigger projects all while having time to create personal work.

What used to take me a week to complete a new piece now just takes a few hours with the right amount of coffee. But it took me a long time to find the right digital tools for my style and process that had the right look without breaking the bank to buy them.


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Drawing Software

There are a lot of options when it comes to software to help you draw digitally. With the iPad alone there is Procreate, Adobe Illustrator Draw and Photoshop Sketch and so many more. I’ve tried them all and prefer using an app called Astropad that connects full Photoshop from my desktop computer to my iPad so I have the best of both worlds.  

I love being able to use both my tablet and iMac together so I can draw right on screen without delay while still seeing my art on the big screen with the power of Photoshop to help me undo and fix all my mistakes.

Although once Adobe releases full Photoshop to run on the new iPad next year, it may put Astropad out of business and make it completely obsolete.


Digital Brushes

I have tried so many damn Photoshop brushes in my life and have been so disappointed with the result. With all those pretty example photos, it can be hard to find a reliable shop that creates brushes that you know work just like they say they do.

So here are some of my favorite shops and creatives that create some of the best brushes I’ve ever used.

The Hand Lettering Toolkit by RetroSupply Co

This has been my go-to brush set ever since I first started drawing digitally. It includes over 56 kinds of brushes that mimic traditional tools like microns, ink pens, and pencils, so all my work still has that handmade feel to it.

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Realistic Photoshop Chalk Brushes by Creative Tools by Shauna

There are a ton of chalk brushes out there, but I especially love this set by fellow lettering artist Shauna Lynn that includes shaders, detail brushes, a chalk smudger, and eraser so you can make your letters just the right amount of messy.

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GLITTER PRO Styles, Actions, Brushes by Graphic Spirit

Sometimes I like to glam up my lettering with glitter and out of 5 different packs I tried this brush set was by far the best. It not only has tons of color glitter brushes but it also includes Photoshop actions to help make your letters get just the right amount of messy for a more realistic look.


Grids and Guides

In addition to making digital brushes, Stefan created Grid Builders that help you create even letters and more interesting lettering compositions. Lettering grids is a category that my friend Stefan literally created that in my opinion has revolutionized lettering completely making it easier for beginners to avoid all the common mistakes of creating letters by hand.

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COMPOSITION GRIDS - BUNDLE 1 by TYPOxPHOTO

This was the first grid bundle from Stefan that blew people’s minds with how easy it could be to come up with interesting lettering compositions. Since this first product, he has launched 4 more bundles you can find on his shop here.


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Grid Builder - Layout Composer by Ian Barnard

This kit takes Stefan's compositions grids up a notch when it comes to customization by allowing you to create your own layouts using 35 different grid shapes. These shapes work great for Photoshop, Illustrator, or Procreate so you’re not limited by the software you use.

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LetterBuilder - Draw letters easily! by Ian Barnard

Need some extra help with building up your letters to maintain the size, width, thickness, and style throughout a word? Get help with this common lettering problem with consistent letter-forms with 8 different grids for lettering styles like Light, Light Italic, Condensed, Condensed Italic, Regular, Regular Italic, Bold and Bold Italic. Yeah, you are pretty much covered.

Lettering Workbooks

I’m not the only person out there that makes lettering workbooks, but I do have the most styles available out of any artist I’ve met. I’ve made a new workbook every month for the past two years, that a whopping 24 styles to add to your skill set. It’s great to see how each letter is build up shape by shape that way you can commit entire lettering styles to memory instead of having to rely on inspiration to draw.

Below are the 3 most popular downloads in my whole shop, so you know they are good. Some of them even come with lettering tutorials so you can create entire phrases using each style with a fun project prompt.

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Vol 4 70’s Script Lettering Adventures

Seventies script is bold, curvy, and can make an illustration look “totally far out.” This “funkadelic” script looks groovy when used in posters, magazines, and book covers, with its updated look made for the 21st century.

In this 30 page workbook, you’ll learn how to draw both upper and lowercase letters of 70's script. From there, you’ll explore with a Drawing Challenge that teaches you how to create your own greeting card that incorporates custom illustration and lettering to create more interesting compositions.

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Vol 1 Victorian Lettering Adventures

This ebook is all about Victorian Lettering with over 30 pages of letters, styles, and filigree to learn. You also get printable practice sheets so you can jump right in and start practicing this vintage style.

This book includes 31 capital victorian letters, 12 ways to decorate your letters, 38 kinds of filigree & framing, and a drawing challenge teaching you how to create your own Victorian poster.

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Vol 7 Sign Painters Lettering Adventures

Seventies script is bold, curvy, and can make an illustration look “totally far out”. This “funkadelic” script looks groovy when used in posters, magazines, and book covers, with its updated look made for the 21st century.

In this 30 page workbook, you’ll learn how to draw both upper and lowercase letters of 70's script. From there, you’ll explore with a Drawing Challenge that teaches you how to create your own greeting card that incorporates custom illustration and lettering to create more interesting compositions.

Design Mockups

Since you making all your artwork digitally, it can be hard to create good photography for you to post on social media. Yes, you can always post a picture of the final piece on Instagram but what about process shots, flat lays, and product photography?

Photoshop mockups have been around for awhile allowing all creatives to have high-quality photos of their work without having to hire a professional photographer or buy an expensive DSLR camera themselves. But mockups are a dime a dozen nowadays, and there are a lot of duds, especially the free ones that get passed around so much that they have become overused and passe.

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The Holiday Hand Lettering TOOLBOX by TYPOxPHOTO

This kit is so much more than mockups because it also includes composition grids procreate brushes, coloring pages, holiday quotes, and even a guide on coming up with your own unique holiday phrases. My favorite part of this bundle is the 6-holiday mockups made by Lauren Hom that includes her perfectly manicured hands.


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Enamel Pin Mockups by Sidecar

Creating your own custom enamel pins is so fun and fashionable right now, but it can take over 30 days for those suckers to ship. Using these mockups, you can test to see how the final pin will look while offering an image to your followers to start getting pre-orders.

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"Wallderful" - Frames Mockups by Madebyvadim

These poster mockups are fantastic for making your hand lettered phrases come alive. With this set, there are over 500 combinations with over 12 location photos and tons of frame options. It’s hard to find good mockups that don’t too much like a 3D model and these all have that vintage vibe that makes my art look like they belong in your home.


Use these digital tools to improve your practice not replace it

Keep in mind that all the digital tools out there aren’t going to help you become a famous lettering artist overnight. They can help you get better faster but you still need put in the work to find your unique style as an artist.

The farther you get in your career, the less you will rely on some of these tools to get the project done. Think of them as a starting point to help you build up confidence so one day soon you can amazing projects simply using your amazing imagination. No iPad required.

Dina Rodriguez