How to add shadows and depth to your lettering

Hi letterers!

Have you ever seen the effects that you can do to lettering to make it stand out more?

In today’s blog post, I’m going to walk you through 3 methods on how you can add shadows, depth and blending to your lettering to jazz up your notebooks, customized cards and envelopes.

Here are a three ways to up your lettering game to the next level.

1. Adding a thin black shadow

This is my favourite effect by far, to use on titles and names on envelopes. It looks very punchy yet elegant.

To start, you will need:

  • Paper (I use Rhodia dot pad)
  • Tombow dual brush pens (whichever colour you want to letter with)
  • Black Tombow pen (dual brush pen or MONO professional drawing pen)

Depending on how you want the shadowing to look, you could use the 01, 03 or 05 tip sizes of the MONO professional drawing pens. I like how the shading looks with the thin side of the dual brush pen so I used that for this example.

Next, write out your word in your preferred style; I went with my favourite: modern brush calligraphy style:

Next, using your preferred black fine liner, we are going to create depth by outlining certain areas of the word.

For some, it is easy to imagine – if there was a “sun” located at the top left hand corner of the paper and the word is the object, where would the shadow be?

For me, it is easier to mark under the horizontal areas and the right of the vertical areas with black, as illustrated in the video below.

Word of caution… I forgot to add the black under the tail flourish of the k and the small curved part of the a (doh! 😅) You always feel like you’re under pressure when you are recording!

Doesn’t this look nice? It was nice before but now it is very elegant!

2. Adding a grey shadow and a 3D effect with the black

For this effect, you will need similar supplies as above, with the exception that we will also use the light grey brush pen for shadowing (#N75). Keep the black pen of choice, we will use that too!

With the brush pen of your choice, write your word out:

I wrote the ever popular, “Happy birthday” with flourishes using the #346 teal coloured brush pen.

Once you’re happy with what you wrote, go ahead and use the grey to add the faux shadows. You will do this by marking the right sides of any strokes:

You will find that you may run into the ink of the word it self. To avoid that, try your best to use the tip of the grey brush pen for the shading.

You can also see that I’m assessing my shadows when I finish shadowing with “happy” to see where I’ve missed. It can be so easy to miss where the shading should go. This will become easier and more intuitive with practice and time.

Doesn’t it look really cool now with the shading? It really brings life into the lettering!

Hold your seatbelt though, we can add more on top of that! To create another 3D effect, we will add an outline; making it have that geometrical look.

Using your black tombow pen (preferably smaller tip or one of the MONO professional drawing pens), outline the outside of the grey shaded areas:

This effect looks really cool! It gives the word shape and almost looks like the word is written using a piece of two-sided ribbon.

3. Blending the colours

One of the wonderful qualities that make the Tombow dual brush pens so great, is that they are all blendable! You can create this effect with the markers that make it look like marble, ombré and tie-dye:

For this effect, you don’t need much:

  • Tombow dual brush pens (two you want to blend together)
  • Tombow blending palette
  • Paper

If you don’t have the blending palette, you can also use a zip lock bag for a similar effect.

Here are the steps to get blending!

  1. Using one brush pen, create several streaks of ink onto the blending palette
  2. Use the other brush pen and “dip” it into the streaks from the previous step
  3. Using the same brush pen in Step 2, start writing your word onto your paper – whether it be your card, journal or envelope. I would do one or two letters.
  4. Repeat Steps 2-3 until you lettering is complete.
  5. Admire the cool marbling effect that this simple yet effective method has.

Pretty cool right??? Suddenly, you need ALL of the Tombow dual brush pen colours STAT!

These tips and tricks will help break you out of your comfort zone and into experimentation mode with lettering! See how these methods work when you work in different colours, brush sizes and paper! The possibilities are endless.

If you have any tips to share, leave me a comment below.

Don’t forget if you try these methods, tag me in your photos and videos with #byinkandco

I can’t wait to see what everyone does with their brush lettering going forward! ❤

Happy lettering,



  1. I love how versatile Tombow dual brush pens are. They are my favourite brush pen to use for hand lettering. Love the examples you provided that show how to add shadow. Makes such a difference when it comes to lettering.


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