Brush Lettering in Different Media (with Videos!)

Hello! I’m happy to welcome back Jo of Zuer Designs on Surely Simple. This time, she’s illuminating us on brush lettering with different media- watercolour, gouache and sumi ink. 

Take it away, Jo!

Brush Lettering with watercolour, gouache and sumi ink - the basicsBrush lettering can be done with a variety of mediums, so long as you use a brush. That means that you can incorporate paints and various inks, adding colour to your finished products. My favourite of the various methods is brush lettering with watercolour. The ability to vary the opacity of your letters creates a nice gradient style. You can also mix colours together to create an ombre effect.

I also like to use gouache when I want something a little more opaque. I tend to use this to create a darker line but still have areas of opacity. Sumi ink is another medium I love using to create brush lettering that has a solid black line. Sumi ink is created from a vegetable oil soot mixed with a glue to create a nice flowing ink. The soot does cause the ink to have a bit of a grittiness to it.

Now that you have an understanding of what these different mediums are, let’s get on to using them!

Watercolours and gouache

If you’ve followed me on instagram long enough, you’ll know that I love using water brushes with my watercolours. The bristles on water brushes are synthetic and have a terrific spring back, which means that they quickly spring back to its original shape after releasing the pressure on it. A water brush’s handle can be filled with water which you can squeeze and hydrate the bristles of the pen. I however, prefer to use my water brush like a normal paint brush and just dip the tip into a small cup of water. I like to use my Faber-Castell Clic and Go water pot which is foldable, and has groves on the sides to rest your brush on.

Brush Lettering with watercolour, gouache and sumi ink - the basics

There are two ways your watercolours can be presented. In a tube or in a pan. For the tubes, I like to mix a small amount of the paint with a few drops of water to get the consistency of whole milk. You can use a plastic pipette to add water, but I prefer to just dip my brush in water and flick drops onto my paint blob.

For the pans in a palette, simple trick is to use hot water to activate your paints. Using a few drops of hot water on your pans before using then gets the most out of their colour. Swirl and leave the water on the pans of paint for 1-2 minutes before using them. This is great if you have cheap watercolours like I do. Since we’re not painting elaborate art pieces, there’s no need to buy super expensive artist quality paints – unless you really want to.

Brush Lettering with watercolour, gouache and sumi ink - the basics

The trick with using any brush that isn’t loaded with ink in the barrel, is to first, load your bristles with lots of paint and water. That means having to swirl your brush into the paint to make sure all your bristles are coated. Keeping your bristles saturated creates nice smooth lines when you write. Using an empty water colour palette pan can help you with the swirling process.

Now that your paint is all loaded onto your brush, you can write like you would with any brush pen. Re-dip and re-swirl your brush into the paint when your letters become a bit unsaturated.

With gouache, the process is the same with the watercolours. They can also come in pans or tubes. The only thing I do differently is to re-dip my paint brush into the ink more frequently, so the letters are more uniform in saturation.

Sumi ink

With the particular sumi ink I own, I like to mix a little bit of water in it so that it writes smoother. Usually I go for a 3:1 ratio. 3 parts ink to 1 part water.

Once everything is mixed together, I just write as usual. This ink is super wet and saturated, so drying time is a bit longer than the watercolours or gouache. If you don’t like such a wet ink, dab your paint brush onto a bit of paper towel before you begin writing.

And that’s all! Brush lettering can be a lot of fun, and with different mediums, you can add colour and textures to your lettering pieces. Have fun! -Jo


Thanks, Jo, for your brush lettering tips of the trade you know so well!

If you’re into brush lettering or you’re just starting out- then this is gonna be pretty helpful, folks. Be sure to check out Jo’s mini series on brush lettering right here- part 1 , part 2 and part 3.

And of course, you have a chance to win Jo’s amazing brush lettering workbook! It has the fundamentals and lots of exercises- check out the giveaway right here on Surely Simple!

Here’s to happy times spent brush lettering and making the alphabet magical!


JoJo is a bunny loving creative spirit from New Zealand. She’s obsessed with brush lettering and all things handwritten. Find her on Instagram, Etsy and Pinterest : @zuerdesigns.

  • Allison Katelyn

    I love watercolors, but have not thought to try my hand at watercolor lettering – thanks for the instructions!

    ~Allison Katelyn @

    • Aaria Baid

      Hi Allison, I’m glad that this helped- it’s always fun to try something new! Jo wrote a pretty informative guest post 🙂

  • Boxwood Avenue

    What an amazing tutorial!! I am going to bookmark and come back again and again! Thank you!

    • Aaria Baid

      Glad you found it helpful! 🙂

    • Aaria Baid

      Glad it helped!

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