If you’ve seen my Instagram, you know that I’m totally obsessed with hand lettering. I think it’s in my DNA because my grandfather used to be an amazing letterer and painted tons of signs in Pueblo, Colorado. He was even a cartoonist during WWII. While I didn’t get all those awesome artistic skills, I’ve always liked lettering. I used to do it with basic pens and markers and even did lettering with brush pens a few times. Last fall, I started lettering with iPad Pro and Apple Pencil and that changed everything! The ability to undo, resize, export and vectorize has been a dream come true. I’m now fully obsessed with lettering on the iPad using the Procreate app—my favorite iOS app of all time. I’ve even created a bunch of Procreate brushes, some of which are free to download.
I thought this would be a good place to share some of the stuff I use when I’m creating my lettering, and since I’m very budget conscious, these are great alternatives to some of the pricey products you might find online.
First up is obviously the iPad Pro. I managed to snag a sweet Groupon deal for my 12.9″ gold one, but you can usually find them priced competitively on Amazon or the Apple refurbished store too. The 9.7″ is more affordable than the larger one and still works perfectly with Apple Pencil, so if you’re looking for a budget option, a 32GB 9.7″ is the way to go. Similarly, the Apple Pencil can fluctuate in price by about $10 or so depending on where you buy it, but you can usually find it for cheaper on Amazon than you can at Best Buy or an Apple store.
Of course, if you have an awesome piece of tech like the iPad Pro, you’re going to want to protect it, and that’s where a case/cover comes in. I use this one and I love it! It was inexpensive, it protects the front and the back of the iPad, and it includes magnets for the sleep/wake function. It also makes it easier to hold onto it, since that smooth aluminum can be kind of slippery if you’re trying to letter with your iPad on your lap. Best of all, it folds so you can write at the perfect angle without having to lean over the screen. You can also stand it up and watch videos, which is awsome with the monster 12.9″ display.
Next up is a screen protector. You don’t really need one if you have a case that covers the front of your iPad, but a lot of iPad letterers feel like the glass is too smooth and doesn’t give them the same feel as regular paper. This is where a matte screen protector can make a world of difference. When I first started out, I didn’t use a screen protector and I did find that it was just a little bit harder to control my lines. With the protector on, it really does feel like writing with a pen on paper. It also helps prevent scratches, since you wouldn’t want anything to damage that beautiful screen. The screen protector I use came in a two pack, which is good in case you screw up putting on the first one. Thankfully, it wasn’t very hard to put it on, so now I have a spare for whenever I want to switch it out.
The Apple Pencil doesn’t attach to the iPad, at least for now, so it’s good to have something to attach it when you’re not using it. I use a strap that I got open-box at Best Buy, but this one is even cheaper. It’s is great because I never misplace my pricey Apple Pencil, and it also helps to keep the case closed securely if I’m tossing the iPad in a bag. It’s still kind of baffling that Apple didn’t include a way to attach the Pencil to the iPad in the first place, but these simple little elastic straps seem to solve the problem really well. I know there are also cases that include an area to store the Apple Pencil, and I’ve seen a lot of letterers on Instagram say great things about those, too.
And speaking of Apple Pencil, you might want something to keep those tiny cap pieces from vanishing when you’re charging your iPad. I used to carry the box the Pencil came in around with me, but the easier solution is one of these little rubber caps. I had previously used Cozy’s cases for my MagSafe2 to MagSafe adapter, and I can’t even tell you how helpful it is to have something to attach these things instead of constantly searching for them. With the Apple Pencil, it’s even more important because the lightning adapter is a super tiny piece of plastic that is very easy to lose. I usually keep mine attached to my lightning charging cable and that way I can just pop the Pencil adapter off if I want to charge my phone. Still, charging directly from your iPad’s lightning port is the fastest way to charge the Pencil, especially if you’re on the go, so you’ll probably take the rounded cap off at some point to do it. Again, you’ve got to hold on to a tiny, easily-losable piece of plastic while you’re charging, and the Cozy case will make life easier because it will just stay attached to the pencil. I got the glow-in-the-dark one, but I’ve seen them in various colors as well.
Lastly, if you get into iPad lettering, you’re probably going to want to start sharing videos. The Procreate app recently got an update that adds the ability to do screen recordings in addition to the automatic time-lapse videos it could generate before, so that’s a great option for most people. If, however, you want to record a video from a superb app like Amaziograph, it can be difficult to hold onto your iPad and your phone at the same time, so you’ll want a tripod or arm to hook your phone into to get a good recording. I was worried that these would cost a fortune, but I recently found one on Amazon for super cheap that is both strong and flexible, and it clips onto my desk to make recording super easy. It’s what I’ve used to make all my most recent Instagram videos.
There are a zillion variations of these products available, and it all kind of depends on what you like. These are just some of the best (and least expensive) ones I’ve found so far. As always, I love to see everyone’s lettering, so tag me on Instagam @AlexisGentry if you found this list helpful or if you use my free Procreate brushes because I’d love to check out your work.