Letters by Lydia: Karin Brushmarker Pro

Happy Wednesday everyone! Today we’re taking a look at what are probably my favorite pens of all time: the Karin Brushmarker Pro.

These are notorious in the handlettering community for being some of the best brush pens out there.  Unfortunately, they have the price to match, but we’ll get into that later.

Karin is a Polish company that, as far as I know, literally only makes brushpens.  They have three different types, the decobrush, decobrush metallic, and the brushmarker pro.  The two types of decobrush are opaque and good for dark surfaces, and the brushmarker pro is their version of your standard brush pen, which what I have.  They’re super juicy, pigmented, and high quality.  The tips are made of nylon instead of felt or bristles, which makes them extra bouncy and durable.  They can fray a bit, but it takes them a lot longer than felt tip pens.  For example, when you look below at the swatches I included, you can see that some of the pens can get a finer upstroke than others.

They make 72 colors total, but I only have the small set, which comes with 26 colors (swatches above) and a blender pen.  If you don’t know, a blender pen is a colorless pen that is supposed to be used, as you might’ve guessed, for blending different colors together.  However, I don’t love the blender pen with this set, because Karin markers are already super juicy and actually blend really well together using water and a paintbrush, no blender pen needed.  In my opinion, it also just doesn’t work super well.

The only other major con of this pen set is the price, like I mentioned before.  This set of 27 pens is $60, and the set of all 72 colors runs for $153.  In my opinion, the quality is well worth it, but that doesn’t change the fact that buying a set of these is a pretty big purchase.

Overall, this is more of a fangirl post as opposed to a legitimate recommendation, because I know most college students aren’t gonna be able to shell out $60 for a few pens (I got these for Christmas a few years ago).  But if you ever do get the chance to use them, enjoy!

Letters by Lydia: All About Brush Pens

Welcome back everyone! Hopefully you all enjoyed the holiday break and are settling into the new semester smoothly 🙂

Today we’re gonna take a bit of a deep dive into brush pens. I’ve talked about them a lot before, but I’ve never fully gone into all the different types and variations, so let’s get into it!

First and foremost, there are three major materials brush pens can be made from: hair or bristles, felt, and plastic.


For beginners, felt or plastic is definitely the way to go–these are firmer, less flexible, and generally easier to work with.  Personally, I prefer plastic nibs, because they don’t really fray, they last a long time, and they’re usually a bit juicier.  The one I have pictured above is unusually large and clunky–usually these are small and very easy to work with. Felt tips are probably the most common, but they fray pretty quickly if you don’t use a certain kind of paper, and dry out more easily than plastic. Brush pens with bristles are the most difficult to handle, as they’re the most flexible.  That said, if you’re good at it, you can get incredibly results with these.

From there, size is the other important factor to consider, and it kind of goes hand in hand with elasticity.  Brush pens that are more elastic will be more flexible, which means you can get thicker strokes with them in addition to the thin strokes.  Below you can see some different types of brush pens, from super small and firm–you may recognize the monami plus pen 3000 here, which I reviewed a while ago–to really big and flexible.

In terms of major categories, there’s essentially just super small pens (as in, monami plus size), medium sized (I don’t have a lot of these, but the faber-castell is probably the closest bet), and then large (ecoline, marvy uchida, tombow, and karin are all good examples of this).  Hopefully you found this interesting and learned a bit about brush pens, and have a lovely first week of classes!

Letters by Lydia: Monami Plus Pen 3000

We’re finally bringing back the pen reviews this week, so get excited!

This week we’re taking a look at the Monami Plus Pen 3000:


Before we get into my opinions, let’s introduce these guys.  The Monami Plus Pen 3000 (I know, a bit of a ridiculous name) is a fine tip pen.  It’s also a felt tip, although I would argue it’s closer to a plastic nib (for felt tips, think Papermate flairs–these are a lot sturdier and skinnier).  Even though they have a fine tip, they have enough give to them to act as a pseudo-brushpen if you want them to.  I use these more often to color in small things or write, though.  You can see some different ways to use these in the picture I included.  One thing to note about the ink, though, is that it can be a bit splattery.  It’s not juicy enough where it will leak or splatter enough to stain things, though, it’s just worth noting because sometimes it can be hard to get clean lines.

The pen body isn’t my favorite–these guys are really tall and thin, and feel kind of cheaply made, which makes sense because they’re known for being super affordable.  They’re also known for coming in a huge color selection, including a lot of pastels, fluorescents, and muted colors.  The set of twelve I have is mainly just classic bright colors, but I’m obsessed with the case it comes in–it’s super satisfying to unclasp it for some reason, and it’s super convenient to keep in my bag.

As for purchasing information, I got this set for around $6 on stationery pal (great website for affordable stationery stuff).  If you want some for yourself, the site is currently having a sale that puts this set at $2.60, which is insane, so definitely check that out!

Overall, this set isn’t anything that stands out a lot to me, but they’re still nice pens, and the super cheap price and color range sets them apart enough that I’m definitely glad I added them to my collection.  I would highly recommend these to any beginners or people who don’t want to spend a ton of money on pens, as well.

As always, thanks for reading and have a lovely week!


Letters by Lydia: Upstrokes and Downstrokes

Welcome to another week y’all! Today I thought I’d give you all a little intro on brush lettering 101.

To start, what exactly is brush lettering? Just what it sounds like.  It’s handlettering, but specifically with brush pens.  If you’re new here, a brush pen is basically a marker with a brush tip, which handletterers use when they want to get line variation in their letters.  I would say brush lettering is probably the most common type of lettering, but it definitely has a bit of a learning curve.

The key to it is in learning the different kinds of strokes, or lines.  The basics all come down to upstrokes and downstrokes.  Upstrokes are thin lines that use just the very tip of the brush pen, and they start from the bottom and go in an upwards direction (as the name implies).  Downstrokes, again, what a shocker, start at the top and go in a downward motion.  These are thicker lines because they involve using more pressure on the pen.  I demonstrated this with the pictures below, using my favorite brush pens, Karin brushmarker pros.

 Once you get these basic strokes down, you can start experimenting with more complicated strokes.  I’m not sure who originally came up with this set of strokes to practice, but I know I’ve seen @thehappyevercrafter and @ensigninsights use these on Instagram (highly recommend their accounts, especially for beginners!).  In any case, these are essentially the core kinds of strokes or lines you’ll need to be comfortable making, because they appear in a lot of letters.

They can definitely be a little awkward at first, but once you get the hang of them, lettering with brush pens will be soooo much easier!  In the picture I included here, I drew the strokes in the top line and added in a circle so you know where to start, and then arrows so you know which direction you’re drawing in.  In the second line, I drew the same strokes again just so you can see them a little more clearly.  As you can see, all the upstrokes are thin and all the downstrokes are thicker lines.

So how do these actually show up in lettering?  Let’s look at some letters so you can see 🙂

 Here’s your basic lower-case, cursive “a”.  To make this, you actually have to use two strokes (shown in the picture), meaning you pick up your pen once in between.  For the first stroke, the oval-ish shape, you start where I put the little 1 in a circle.  From there, you start with an upstroke, then transition into a downstroke, and finish off with another upstroke that connects to the first.  Then, you pick up your pen, and begin stroke two!  This one is a lot easier–start at the same height as the top of your oval, and just go straight down, then kind of flick your pen back up for that final upstroke.  I’m not going to guide you through every letter because we’d be here forever, but I did include a little sheet I drew of all the letters and some guiding arrows for each of the strokes involved.  I also color-coded them, so the stroke you start with is in red, followed by a yellow stroke, and on a few letters there’s a third stroke which is in blue.  Of course, there are tons of styles for writing the alphabet, and every lettering artist does it a bit different, but this is how I tend to do it!

I hope you enjoyed learning a bit about brush lettering, and please let me know if you try this and found it helpful, or have any questions! See y’all next week 🙂

Letters by Lydia: A Good Place to Start

Hi everyone!  I hope you’re all having a lovely week 🙂

For this week, we’re gonna look at a good set of markers to start with if you’re new to lettering, and talk about some lettering basics at the same time.

This week’s star: Mondo Llama Classic Washable Markers

As you can probably tell, these are technically supposed to be for children. But who cares? If you’re new to art/lettering or on a budget, kids art supplies is the best place to start.  The quality is usually pretty high for what you’re paying, you pretty much always get a solid set of rainbow colors, and there’s no reason to feel guilty for overusing them or not taking care of them.

When talking about kids markers, Crayola is obviously the most popular, and for good reason.  I plan to do a separate review on Crayola Supertips, because they’re too beloved in the handlettering community to only get a brief mention (so if you don’t know what that means, just stay tuned!).  However, this Mondo Llama set does the trick just fine for your basic, broadtip marker.  In this specific set, you get 10 colors (swatches below!), and I believe I paid about $2.50 for them, which is ridiculously cheap compared to higher end brands.  I actually bought this set at the Target on State Street, too, so it’s super accessible if you’re on campus here.

Getting into the nitty gritty of it, let’s talk about what you can actually do with these.  Broadtip markers have a large, conical tip that differs from a brush pen in that the entire tip is firm as opposed to being bendy and flexible.  These really in only exist in kids markers, as far as I’m aware, because they’re great for coloring in big spaces.  However, you can also use them as a sort of beginner brush pen!  A broad tip is firm, but it’s still flexible enough that you can get quite a bit of line variation. You can also tilt the marker so you’re writing with the side of it, which gives you the thickest line.  This allows you to do tons of different kinds of handlettering with them, which I showed a bit in the picture above.  I know we haven’t talked about lettering styles yet, so that’s more just so show you how versatile these are.  Below is a little doodle I did with these markers, just to show you can make some pretty neat stuff with them!

As you can see, they hold up really well in comparison to more expensive art supplies!  That said, they are cheap and for children, so they aren’t perfect.  I highlighted a few examples of that below.  You can see that it’s really difficult to get precise, clean lines with these.  They also don’t layer very well, so if coloring in a large space, it might look patchy and have some sections end up lighter than others.  These are also water based and pretty juicy, so sometimes they bleed on the page or when interacting with each other as well.

Overall, though, these are a great set of markers that are absolutely worth the small price tag!  I hope you enjoyed reading, and see you next week!


Letters by Lydia: LePen Flex

Welcome back to Letters by Lydia!  After last week’s introductions, we’re finally getting into our first pen review!

This week’s target: Marvy Uchida LePen Flex.

The set I have has 10 pens, each in a bright pastel shade, although you can get other sets with different colors and amounts.  These pens are great for a lot of reasons, but one thing that makes them unique is the convenient little case they come in.  If I’m packing pens in my bag, I often find myself reaching for this set because they’re great pens and they don’t take up a lot of space.

Marvy Uchida has a lot of products out there, but these have got to be my favorites from them.  You may have heard of the original series, just called LePen, which looks the same as these, except they’re fineliners instead of brush pens.

You can see the difference between the two in the photos here (LePen Flex on the left, LePen on the right), but if you need an explanation, a brush pen is exactly what it sounds like (almost).  There are a lot of different types, but the tip is usually shaped like a brush, and they can bend and move in a way that allows you to get a lot of line variation, meaning thin and thick strokes.

Size-wise, these are pretty small nibs (tips).  For my fellow pen lovers out there, I would say they’re comparable to the iconic Pentel Fude Touch.  In terms of the nib itself, I love these. They’re a great size for doing small lettering, but the pens are juicy enough that using them as markers to color in larger areas works too.  Note, though, that they can dry out a little quickly if you use them a lot, so make sure to store them horizontally. The tips are flexible, but also incredibly easy to control, which earns them major points.  As for durability, these are pretty decent.  If you aren’t using paper specifically for handlettering, the tips will fray faster, but that’s true of most pens.  As for the colors, they’re beautiful–very pigmented and rich.  They offer a wide range of colors between all the sets, which you can see even just in the ones I have; there’s the super light pastels all the way to the deep, rich hues.  That said, I wish they offered a higher quantity of different colors.  For example, they have tons of different blue/green shades, but only one red between all of the sets.  The price depends a lot on where you get them and what colors/size you choose, but a set of 6 is about $10-12 and a set of 10 is about $15-20.

I think that about sums up my thoughts on these pens, but I would be more than happy to answer any questions about these! If you’ve tried these, what are your thoughts? Also, let me know if you have any requests for pen reviews or anything else, and thanks for reading!