Category Archives for Creativity

More Hand Lettering Tools and Apps

Hand Lettering: Are you loving this trend?

More Hand Lettering Tools and Apps

When I first wrote the Hand Lettering Tools and Apps blog post in 2013, I didn't realise that the whole hand lettering practice would become a design trend. Now, you can find hand lettering everywhere on blogs, Pinterest, Instagram, and more. And, I'm thrilled because I've always loved it.

How about you? Do you love hand lettering too?

If you're just as crazy about hand lettering as I am, then this follow-up post on this trend is just the thing for you.

On Hand Lettering Tools

Over the last year or so, I've become more obsessed with modern calligraphy and hand lettering in analogue format. So, I've consumed blogs, tutorials, online courses, and more whenever I got the chance. I also started collecting pen holders, pen nibs, and inks. And, of course, I've been practicing my upstrokes and downstrokes.

Now, here are some useful hand lettering courses I found online:

  • Waterbrush Lettering Essentials - This is an analogue hand lettering class on Skillshare by Teela Cunningham. Its focus is using waterbrushes instead of the traditional pen and nib for hand lettering. I really enjoyed this class. I'm still able to use some of the techniques I've learnt here.
  • Hand Lettering Workshop - While I have yet to improve my hand lettering in the style of what you'll learn from Mary Kate McDevitt's Skillshare classes, I really enjoyed learning from her. I knew I wanted to know more about her process ever since I came across her work. In fact, I love her work so much, I ended up purchasing her book (see below).
  • Learn Calligraphy for a Latte - Lindsey Bugbee's series of worksheets and courses on modern calligraphy are great value and very helpful. I've bought two of her calligraphy lessons and used the worksheets as part of my practice. I've definitely seen improvement in my own hand lettering since I came across this website.

You can also check Skillshare's other Courses on Hand Lettering as well as CreativeBug's Hand Lettering Classes.

And, here are some cool books on hand lettering (affiliate links):

  • The ABCs of Hand Lettering by Abbey Sy. When I first came across Abbey's work on Instagram, I fell in love immediately. Her IG stream is so drool-worthy and envy-inducing. So, when I learnt that she had a book out, I wanted a copy. Unfortunately, the hard copy was only available in the Philippines. Thankfully, I just found out that it is now available on Kindle.

Also, here are some interesting collections of hand lettering tutorials:


One of the hand lettering projects I completed after taking the Waterbrush Lettering Essentials class.

On Hand Lettering Apps

Out of all the apps I've mentioned in my last blog post, the one that I am still quite in love with are Paper by 53 and ArtRage . Unfortunately, Paper by 53 remains to be an iPhone/iPad only app. However, while ArtRage was available only on Windows and Mac before, it is now also available on Android, iPad, and iPhone. Hopefully, it would one day be available on Windows Phones too.

Since then, I have added two new favourite digital hand lettering apps:

  • Procreate - This is an iPad only app. But, it's so robust as an art app on a mobile device, it can't be ignored. It supports layers and various types of 'pens' and 'brushes'. It can even use textures. It's incredible. Definitely a great app for hand lettering, though it may take a while to learn.
  • Adobe Draw - This one is available both on iOS devices and Android. As a both an Adobe Creative Suite user and a Windows user, I definitely hope to see this on Windows phones too. I have hope because their Adobe Photoshop Express (another favourite app, for photography) is available across all mobile devices, including Windows.

If you know of other hand lettering tools and apps that you'd like to share here, please leave a comment below and tell us all about it.

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4 Simple Tips For Successful Journaling

Why You Should Find The Time to Journal - And How To Make The Most Out Of Your Journaling Practice

4 Simple Tips For Successful Journaling

As a journaling practice advocate for many years, one of my long-time dreams came true last year. That's when Paper Boat Publishing came to life and published Today: Life guided journal.

It was exciting to see an idea turn into reality. It was even more exciting when I started seeing it in bookshops - online and in person. And, I was beyond thrilled when people started buying them and using them.

I love it when people see the benefits of journaling. It's great when people use journals to record memories, explore creativity, and brainstorm ideas.

I know I'm not alone in encouraging people to develop and maintain a journaling practice. There are many articles written on the benefits of journaling out there. One I came across recently is this Inc.com article, by Benjamin Hardy. Here, he lists 5 ways the practice of journal writing can improve your life -

  1. Journaling optimizes your creative potential.
  2. Journaling accelerates your ability to manifest your goals.
  3. Journaling generates clarity and congruence.
  4. Journaling clears your emotions.
  5. Journaling ingrains your learning.

There's also this article at Huffington Post that shares 10 benefits of journaling. And, PsychCentral supports journal writing's health benefits - including strengthening immune systems and stress relief.

So, yes, journaling has become more than just a "Dear Diary" practice. Many people journal to remember day-to-day lives or special travel memories. And, there are also those who uses journals as part of therapy, coaching, counselling, training, and education.

If you haven't started journaling yet, the tips below can help to get you going. If you've been keeping a journal for a while, the tips might help give you new ideas to revive or improve your journal writing practice.

Tip 1: Commit to a journaling schedule.

You don't have to write daily if your schedule doesn't allow it. But, if you're able to commit to a simple schedule, then you would see the benefits of journaling a lot more.

In Julia Cameron's classic book on creativity, The Artist's Way, she supports the notion of developing a journaling practice called "Morning Pages". The idea is to write three pages a day, first thing in the morning, to dump everything's that's on your mind. No edits, no re-reads, no stopping - until you get to the third and final page.

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of people who can attest that the "Morning Pages" is an incredible journaling practice. But, you do need at least half an hour to an hour to do this. If you're able to make that time - then it's definitely one worth doing.

If such a schedule is too tight for you - try to come up with something that's more doable. Try doing just one page, for example. Or, commit to writing in your journal at least five minutes a day. You can do this either first thing in the morning or the last thing at night.

Writing daily lists under certain categories in your journal might be an option. There are also people who choose to write one sentence a day.

It doesn't matter what approach you take, as long as you commit to it and practice it. Show up on the page, no matter what.

Tip 2: Come prepared and open.

One of the most common concerns of people trying to journal is: "But I run out of things to write about!" Or, "Nothing interesting ever happens to me that's worth journaling about!"

This is when schedules help. Knowing you need to show up on the page no matter what can help to keep you going.

Being prepared is another approach that can prove helpful. Preparation may include having a list of journaling prompts and ideas. Or, having a collection of themes and helpful hints.

This is where guided journals like Today: Life can be useful. There are also many other guided journals that offer guidance and inspiration. Check your local library or the bookstores for some ideas.

Another way to stay inspired when journaling is by joining journaling communities and challenges. If you're interested, check out ShaiCoggins.com's new Journaling For Success Mini Challenge. It's a five-day journaling challenge that offers daily themes, prompts, and tips. The main theme covered in the daily themes is all about 'success'.  The challenge is free to join and you can complete it at any time.

Tip 3: Use your favourite journaling tools.

Part of the fun of journaling is using journal writing tools. These may be in the form of beautiful pens and notebooks or fancy apps and cool books.

My personal preference is a mix of analogue and digital tools. I use cheap $2 notebooks and beautiful Moleskin journals. I also use OneNote on my Surface Pro 3, my iPad, and my Windows phone. I also have a couple of journaling apps on my iPad, but I don't use them as much anymore.

And, yes, I have a growing collection of guided journals apart from Today: Life.

There was also a time when I actively used a web app called 750 Words.

Regardless of your preference, the important thing to remember is to choose the tools that would help you journal in the best possible way. And yes, there's no one way to do that!

Tip 4: Take the time to reflect.

To make the most out of your journaling practice, try to make time for reflections. Being able to reflect on the things that you've written about in your journal can be enlightening.

If you write daily, take the time to look at what you've written at the weekend. If you only write a few times a week, try to review once a month or once a quarter.

Notice patterns and themes in your journal writing. Do you find that you write more positive things or negative things? Do you focus on gratitude, opportunities, and happy memories? Or, are you more likely to write about difficult situations, problems, and challenging people? What does it make you feel reading back on some of your journal entries?

Reflecting on your journaling practice helps you to see any recurring ideas and observations. It can also help you to notice any progress or changes that occur over time.

On The S Squad Content Library, you'll find the Daily Notes PDF download. In the worksheet, you'll see five days' worth of short journaling on a page. There's also a box where you can summarise (or reflect on) the five days of journal writing.

This interactive PDF was designed with the Journaling For Success Mini Challenge in mind. But, you can use it in any other journaling practice. If you're logged in, you can download the PDF for free.

Journaling Quote

Your Turn

So, how about you? Do you keep a journal? Do you have a schedule? What are your favourite tools? What do you like about journaling?

If you don't keep a journal, would you consider starting one now? If not, what's your biggest obstacle in getting started with a journaling practice?

Share your thoughts, tips, and stories in the comments section.

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What’s In Your Bedside Studio?

Share Your Bedside Art Studio

What's In Your Bedside Studio?

"It's so good that you have an art studio in your bedside table drawer, Mum!"

When my 9-year-old daughter pointed this out to me a few days ago, I thought that it was a cool way to look at my set-up. A bedside art studio!

Mind you, my bedside table drawer hasn't always been filled with art materials. In the past, I've always kept pens and pencils there for writing, sketching, and drawing. But, over the last few months, I've slowly been adding bits and pieces in my drawer. And now, I have a mini art studio that I can use whenever I get the urge to create before bedtime.

Why set up a bedside art studio?

Yes, I know some people would probably be horrified at this idea. Keeping bedrooms strictly for bedroom-related activities is something that many people support.

But, to me, having a mini art studio within reach is akin to having a television or a selection of books in the bedroom. They're never meant to take over the main bedroom activities. They're just a good way to spend a few minutes winding down from a busy day. (Side note: I don't usually watch TV at bedtime! Prefer reading, writing, or art-making.)

Anyway, the main reason I started adding art materials in my bedside drawer is that I have often found myself stuck with my daily art practice. With a full day of work, chores, and family time, I end up needing to take my kids to bed without getting the time to do any art.

Since I'm often too tired to go back to my home office/studio at the end of the day, I just end up working with whatever I've got on hand in my bedroom. And, while anyone can make art just using pens and pencils, I find that working with different materials help to inspire me.  So, I started adding some of my favourite materials.

What's in the bedside art studio?

To give you an idea, here's a photo of my bedside table drawer and its contents (especially cleaned and re-organised for this photo!) -

My Bedside Studio

  • Pencils - Again, another staple. I usually have a couple of mechanical pencils (Size 1.3 and 0.5), as well as an assortment of pencils (HB is standard, but I try to add different types too). I'd add a woodless graphite pencil and a pencil sharpener with a case here too, when I get the chance.
  • Water brush pens - Love, love, love water brush pens! Don't know if I could cope with daily art and on-the-go sketching without them. Most brands I've tried seem to work well enough. But, admittedly, I'm partial to Pentel Aquash Brush Pens. Very easy to refill, maintain, and use.
  • A box of tissues - I always keep one anyway, even before I had this bedside art studio. Now, I'm finding my tissues useful for cleaning water brush pens, dabbing pieces, and more.
  • Crayons - Another one of my favourites! Didn't really think crayons would become an art-making staple for me. But, over the last few months, I've fallen in love with crayons again. For regular waxy crayons, I don't think you can't go wrong with Crayola. But, my absolute favourite crayons are Caran d'Ache Neocolor II Watersoluble Crayons. I bought the basic 10-piece set to start off with because they're a bit pricey. Since then, I've purchased a 30-piece set, which is now in my portable art studio bag.
  • Sketchbooks - I'm not a one-sketchbook-at-a-time artist. I tend to have several in one go. Some are handmade from watercolour papers. Some are the cheap visual art diary types you can get easily from any newsagent, dollar shop, or department store. I love the cheapies because I get fearless with them. I don't mind messing them up. But, there are days I do feel the need to work on some nicer paper. Some favourites include: Strathmore Visual Journal (Watercolour or Mixed Media, 140 lb), Moleskine Watercolour Journal, and Strathmore Gray Tone.

I also keep bulldog clips (for keeping sketchbook pages open or holding pieces of paper together) in my bedside studio. I also have erasers (a regular rubber eraser and a putty eraser). And, while I don't keep them in the drawer, I try to have access to sticky tape and a pair of scissors.

What about you? Do you make art in bed? If you do, what kind of art materials do you keep at your bedside?

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Starting and Maintaining a Daily Practice

When I first attempted daily challenges, I've often come to the same conclusion at the end of it. That is: I sucked at long-term daily-somethings.

Oh, I could do short-term ones like NaNoWriMo (Rebel) and A Week In The Life. But, something I have to do everyday for a full year or more? Well, let's just say I could never come out a winner no matter how hard I tried. And, I've tried plenty! For years.

But then, lately, I have realised that it doesn't seem fair to say that I suck at daily habits altogether. After all, there are many things I can completely ace every day. Granted, some of them, I have developed since I was a kid (yay for daily hygiene practice!). But, there are definitely daily habits that I had to train myself to do a bit later in life (skin care regime didn't kick in until the fear of wrinkles and sun spots came in my 30s).

Then, when I started making personal challenges where I get to make the rules that suit me rather than a bigger audience, I realised I can actually learn to develop daily habits that work for me. Hooray for that!

Starting and Maintaining a Daily Practice

So, if you're trying to work in a daily habit for yourself, here are some tips and ideas that might be worth considering -

1. Use the power of community to develop a habit.

For many people, joining community challenges to develop daily habits can be quite motivating and helpful. That's why things like Project 365, 52 weeks, Documented Life, and more are very popular. The ability to work together towards a common goal can be really inspiring.

While a number of these community projects I shared here are art/craft and/or writing/blogging related, I'm sure there are others in various areas and topics of interest.

2. Create your own challenges.

Play the game that you know you can win. - P Bregman Click To Tweet

If you're like me and you can't do long-term daily challenges, then make up your own. One of my favourite personal development books is 18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done* by Peter Bregman. In the book, Peter wrote**:

"What game are you playing? Is it the right game for your particular skills and talents? Is it a perfect set-up for you or your company to win? If not, then perhaps it’s time to play a different game or invent one of your own; one that you can win." 

I really loved that! It gave me the freedom I needed to develop my own daily habits. Since then, I have learnt to play by my own rules when it comes daily challenges and I am all the better for it. Of course, it's not as much fun playing on my own but hey, at least I am winning.

3. Give yourself firm but flexible guidelines.

When I officially gave myself a daily art challenge this year in 2016, I knew that the only way I'd survive is if I gave myself parameters. You see, the thing about completely free challenges is that the brain can go on overload and shift to overwhelm when faced with no restrictions. So, I learnt that it's always a good idea to give yourself guidelines to increase chances of productivity.

The guidelines, however, should be flexible enough for you without feeling like you're cheating yourself from that daily habit challenge. For example, if you set yourself daily art challenges, you might want to make rules such as: As long as you do any kind of art, no matter how little, it is counted towards your daily practice.

4. Find an accountability coach or partner.

When you find that self-coaching or personal motivation doesn't come easily, engaging an accountability coach or partner could help immensely. An accountability coach can ask the right questions, guide you towards your goals, and cheer you on.

In my work at Vervely, I have served as consultant, trainer, and coach to different individuals - from fellow social media practitioners to C-Suite Level folks dipping their toes into the world of digital media. But, I have often offered training and coaching as part of my work rather than a separate service.

Recently, however, I have started to look into providing accountability coaching services on a limited basis via the Coach.Me platform. And, I am really enjoying working with my current coachees, as we work through goals that we turn into actionable tasks and daily habits. If you think I can help you as an accountability coach, please let me know. At the moment, there's a free three-day trial at Coach.Me. You can use any coach you want with that free trial.

For ShaiCoggins.com readers, I am happy to offer a one week free trial using the code SHAICOGGINSWEEK with me as your coach. I am only taking on a limited number of coachees, however, so as soon as my quota as filled, I will not be accepting new clients until new spots become available. So, by the time you read this, I'm not sure if there will be a spot available or not. To find out my availability, you can subscribe to The S Squad mailing list.

5. Remember that commitment and consistency are key to develop good daily habits.

As my coaching clients would've heard from me, I support the notion that in order to develop any new habit, we must be committed to it and we must be consistent. That's why it's best to articulate our goals as clearly and as specifically as possible. We need to create realistic schedules - choosing peak time and allocating a certain number of minutes of hours for the task or habit we wish to tackle. And yes, it's always best to start small - better to commit to 10-15 minutes of writing/blogging a day than to be overwhelmed and stuck with lofty plans of writing for hours in a day. If you've had a tough time finding that block of writing time before, setting yourself a huge goal at the start would only overwhelm you and possibly, get you stuck.

That's why as part of the reboot of this blog, I told myself that I would attempt to publish at least 1 new blog post a week, around Wednesday or Thursday. Granted, I'm still finding this challenging, but having a specific deadline spurs me into action. At the very least, I work on my blog drafts and plan on publishing something as soon as possible.

Good ideas are not adopted automatically. They must be driven into practice with courageous patience. - H Rickover

Good ideas... must be driven into practice with courageous patience. -H Rickover Click To Tweet

6. Build in a reward system for your daily habits check-ins.

One of the things I learnt about myself is that I can trick (or train?!) my brain to work on my daily habits by creating an ongoing list of things I want to do regularly. And, the more I can keep a streak going, the more likely I am to continue. That's why I enjoy using check-in apps. On Windows Phone, I use the Daily Tasks app. I believe there are iOS and Android equivalents. In fact, Coach.Me has an iOS/Android app that you can use and they have a built-in function for setting goals and checking into those goals. A friend of mine also suggested habitica.com.

Apart from the virtual high-fives and/or badges you might get from using such apps, you might also want to create a personalised plan for your achievements. For example, if you get to your first week of daily tasks, you can treat yourself to something you've been wanting to have (e.g., mine includes personal bribes like a trip to the art shop, spending money for books or workshops, or even just a night off cooking, so takeaway dinners it would be for the family). You might want to reward yourself weekly to start with, then increase to bigger monthly rewards.

7. Make your goals and actionable tasks as small and limited as possible to start with.

As I mentioned earlier regarding commitment and consistency, remember that at the beginning of your goal setting, make sure you limit the tasks you want to do on a daily basis.

There was a time when I wanted to do a daily sketch, a daily painting, and a daily art learning all at the same time. Needless to say, it all became a bit too much and I burnt out.

So, it's best to keep the number of daily habits you're trying to develop at a minimum. It's up to you what your minimum would be. Based on experience and research, 3 to 5 would be ideal. Or even start with just one. Once you have one habit down pat (no need to overthink or struggle anymore when practicing it), you can then add a new habit if you wish.

In my Daily Habits List, I have limited myself to five daily tasks dealing with the following areas: art, writing, exercise, spiritual practice and conscious reading (as opposed to day-to-day reading I do for work or personal enjoyment, reading news, blogs, etc). But, I only managed to keep two tasks going for the first few weeks. When I realised I can maintain those two things with little thought, I added another task. Then, later, I added two more. I'm always tempted to add more but I believe five should be the limit or else things can get pretty stressful. Once those habits are fully ingrained and I believe I don't need to 'check-in' to keep going, I can move one of those tasks out of my list to make way for a new one.

What about you? Do you engage in a daily habit practice? Do you have additional tips to keep you accountable?

If you don't have one, would you like to start one? What habit/s would you like to develop?


  1. *affiliate link
  2. **Also mentioned in Peter Bregman's blog post: Play The Game You Know You Can Win

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Hand Lettering Tools and Apps

Learn about (and practice) hand lettering using these tools and apps.

Wrote a follow-up on this blog post here: More Hand Lettering Tools and Apps

Hand Lettering Tools and Apps

Ever since I started my hand lettering project, I seem to get asked these types of questions:

How do you do your hand lettering? and/or Which apps do you use for your hand lettering project?

So, it's probably time to blog about it. This way, I can just start pointing folks to this blog post.

Now, the quick answer to the first question:

Hand Lettering Tools: Analog and Digital

Since this is primarily a learning experience for me, rather than a showcase, I am still finding my 'voice' in practicing hand lettering. That's why I use a combination of analog and digital tools.

Having said that, I do use digital more, partly because it's quicker and simpler to use. And, I can play around without worrying about ruining good materials.

When I work with analog tools, I find that I love using mixed media. But then, that is my natural mode. Some useful tools to have: papers (plain and coloured), black pens (different sizes), calligraphy pen, watercolours, ephemera, white pens, lead and coloured pencils, sketchbook, coloured markers, etc.

I have also found it very useful to read books and online articles about creative hand lettering. You can find some of my recommended resources at the end of this post.

Once I am done, I take a photo or a scan of my finished work. Sometimes, I adjust using software like Photoshop Elements or Picasa.

Now, on to the rest of the digital tools ---

Digital Apps for Hand Lettering

There are many apps that you can choose from, when it comes to doing digital art. And, I have downloaded, used, and abandoned a number of them. Some of them are still useful as digital art making tools, but don't necessarily fit in to doing hand lettering the way I want it.

Just like in my analog approach, I like doing a bit of mixed media work with my digital hand lettering, so to me, this is important in digital art apps that I use.

1. Paper by 53

Paper by 53 is an iOS app that works well on an iPad. It's a bit pricey, even though you can download the app for free. To get the full benefit of this app, you really do need to purchase the in-app features like additional "brushes" and the mixing tray. The total price goes up to almost AU $10 for the full deal.

If the price doesn't make you balk, then you can get ready for a lot of fun digital hand lettering and sketching using this app. It's very reactive and has a "real" feel to it - especially as you work on layers and combinations. The 'brushes' are: calligraphy pen, drawing pen, pencil, marker, and watercolour brush.

2. Noteshelf

Just like Paper, Noteshelf is a good iOS app for digital hand lettering on the iPad. Again, quite pricey at AU $6.49. It has three main 'brushes': The calligraphy pen, the pencil, and the ballpoint pen, plus the highlighter/pen.

While it doesn't create the same feel as Paper, Noteshelf has a few additional features that Paper doesn't have. For example, you can easily import images in to the pages. So, you can use a digital collage-type approach. Also, you can choose different types of paper, so you can give your hand lettering and sketching projects different backgrounds.

3. Fresh Paint

Fresh Paint is a cool Windows 8 app that comes free. With different brushes, it mimics a real painting environment, such as: oil or acrylic, pastels, and pencils. It's great for when you want to create that opaque, bold look in your hand lettering.

While you can use a mouse to operate this app, it works especially well on a touchscreen device.

4. ArtRage

ArtRage is probably one of my favourite all-round digital art making tool. While it's not fully optimized for digital hand lettering per se, it's still a great tool when you want to achieve a certain look for hand lettering using proper layers. Just like Noteshelf, you can import images in to the program. There are several mark-making tools (brushes) - pens, pencils, spray paint, watercolours, oils... Yes, the whole gamut. Including "stamps" and other mark-makers. ArtRage is available on both Windows and Mac platforms.

Some Useful Hand Lettering Resources

Bottomline: To get better with hand lettering, we just need to practice and keep at it!

If you have other tools that you would like to recommend for hand lettering, please feel free to recommend them in the comments section below. Happy hand lettering!

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