10 Ways to Outline with Monoline Pens

design team - shannon drawing lettering Jun 07, 2021
How to outline lettering in different ways

Outlines can be so fun and instantly add character to your lettering. There are many different outline types you can choose from depending on what look you're going for, but in today's tutorial I will be showing you my ten favorite ways of creating outlines. They are easy to try and all you need is some monoline pens!

Shannon here from The Pigeon Letters Design Team and I'm excited to dive into this tutorial with you. Let's go!




What is an outline?

Before we get started, I want to talk about outlines and what they can add to your work. An outline is simply a line that surrounds a shape, which in the case of this tutorial is letters. I like to add outlines to my letters because they help to give them some definition and make them pop. Outlines also help emphasize the form of the letters and make them easier to read and understand. As you will see below, outlines don’t always have to be rigid, you can loosen up your lines to match your personality or the personality of the words you’re writing.


What can you use to draw outlines?

You can draw outlines with lots of different pens of any size and color, but for now I’m going to focus on monoline pens. A good monoline pen will ensure that the weight of your outlines remain consistent all around the letter. Different brands will have different sized nibs which generally range from 003 (also 0.03) to 1.2. Here’s a look at the range that I currently have. 


When you’re choosing the nib size of the pen you want to use, think about the size of the letter. Using a small size nib on a large letter will make the outline very light. Using a larger nib size on a small letter will have the outline overpowering the letter.  Don’t be afraid to do a quick comparison, like I did in the photo below, before you add your outline to see which size you want to go with. And now we’re on to the fun part!





Psst...prefer watching me draw the outlines instead? Watch the video!



#1 Continuous/Full Outline

This is the most common outline that you’ve likely been adding to your lettering and it’s the one that you can use if you’re going for a more refined look. With this method, the outline is one continuous line around the letter. Simply start at one area and draw a line following the shape of the letter. Draw your line as smoothly and slowly using long, fluid strokes rather than short choppy ones. 





If you're new to lettering, grab yourself the best-selling Ultimate Brush Lettering Guide. You can also experiment with lettering and follow along with the tutorial if you're a Procreate user, just make sure to get your brush pack (with bonus practice guide!) for optimal results.



#2 Negative Space Outline

This is an outline that is away from the lettering which gives the effect of two outlines, a negative/white one and the one you draw with your pen. To create this effect, simply sketch an outline that is far away from the lettering but is following curves of the letters. You will need to sketch it out first in order to make sure the white space is even all around. After you have gotten the placement where you want it, you can use your pen to ink.




#3 Offset/Off-Center Outline

This outline appears as though it has been pushed away from letter rather than being around the letter itself. This one is super tricky to draw accurately, so you may need to sketch it out in pencil a few times before you outline with ink.





#4 Messy/Sketchy Outline

These outlines are my favorite to add to my lettering because they’re very loose and freeing to draw. There’s very little chance you will make a mistake since you don’t need to be too precise. Simply use short, choppy strokes and short flicks to draw broken lines around your letters. Some of the lines can overlap and they don’t have to be directly on the edge of the letters. 




#5 Scribbled Outline

Scribbling is another loose way to draw an outline. Scribble a line around your letters to loosely gesture its shape. You can use a combination of large swirls, small swirls, loops, zig-zags, coils and have fun with it. If you’re a bit skeptical that this will ruin your artwork, you can always warm up or practice on a piece of scrap paper first to loosen up your hand and get it into motion.



Your outline shouldn’t overpower the letter, so for this particular one, I would suggest using a very fine pen. 


If you want to make the outline bolder, you can always darken it by going over it again and adding more scribbles.




#6 Squiggly Outline

You're going to draw a continuous line around the letter, adding simple curves and dips to create squiggles.




#7 Loopy Outline

Another very fun one! For this, you're going to draw a continuous, loopy line around the letter. 



#8 Stitched/Dashed Outline

Following the shape of the letters, draw dashes to create the outline. Try to keep the lengths of the dashes and the spaces between them as even as possible for a more consistent look.




#9 Stippled Outline

This style takes some time, so you have to be patient. Create a stippled outline by adding lots of dots close together. The closer the dots are together, the darker the value will be, and the further apart they are, the lighter the value will be. 




#10 Connect the Dots Outline 

Following the shape of the letters, add evenly spaced dots using a pen with a large nib size. 



Then draw in lines to connect them together using a pen with a smaller nib size than the one you used to draw the dots.  



And that’s it! Now you have 10 different outlines to add to your lettering, or even your doodles and illustrations!

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial and I’d love to see your creations if you try some of these so feel free to tag me @byshannonlayne on Instagram!

Happy creating!


Shannon is a freelance artist from a small island in the Caribbean called Barbados! She creates fun and unique content, whether it's with markers, watercolors, acrylics or on the iPad to inspire other creatives. Check out more of her tutorials here!


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