Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Peek into the Process: A Step-by-Step Lettering Guide

I'm always trying to improve my workshop guides and handouts, and though I've taught numerous classes already, each is always a learning experience. Sometimes, a finished piece of work can be really intimidating for beginners, so I've broken down the lettering steps, to make it as easy as possible to comprehend and follow. I'm sharing it now with anyone and everyone who might need the guide. :)

Before we start, let's define some terms. 'Lettering' is the art of creating letters by hand; 'Typography' originally means printing with pre-formed letters (wood/metal). The term 'typography' is loosely used today to refer to the general love for letters, but even if a word/quote looks exactly like a typographic font, as long as it is done by hand, it falls under the category of Lettering.

For this exercise, you will need: a sheet of scratch paper, a pencil, a ruler, an eraser, and your choice of coloring materials + paper that works best for your coloring materials. I will be using Watercolor ink (Dr. Ph Martin's) + watercolor paper (Canson 270gsm) later on.

Okay, let's begin.


STEP 1
Choose the quote you'd like to design.
I'm doing: "Buy the ticket, take the ride."


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STEP 2
Write the quote on a sheet of scratch paper.
Keep writing it a few more times to understand the quote's meaning & message better.


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STEP 3: 
Highlight the Important Words
Encircle the quote's key words to highlight in your piece.
No need to highlight prepositions, conjunctions, and articles!


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STEP 4:
Thumbnails
Re-write the quote, but this time, arrange the words in a layout that will fit your paper best. Select the orientation that works best for your quote. TIP: If there are long words in your quote, you might want to consider a horizontal orientation.
You can choose holding shapes for certain words. Maybe small words like "the" should be placed inside a circle or in between lines? Experiment and explore possibilities. Assign SHAPES for each word and try to fit them like pieces of a puzzle.


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STEP 5:
Assign fonts for each word. Do you want a serif or a sans serif? Bold or Italicized? It will help if you doodle out the word in your chosen typeface, just to see if they go together. You don't have to finish doodling the entire words.
TIP: Check out dafont.com for your typeface selection! Just make sure you use ONE font per word. Please don't make it look like a ransom note!:P
In my case, my quote has 3 x 2 words (6 total), and I will just be repeating the font of the first 3 words.


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STEP 6:
Draw your grid using pencil.
Remember, see the words as shapes & puzzle pieces, not as individual letters just yet!:)
Tip: Space the lines as close together as possible, It's also okay to overlap, or to make the letters seem like they are overlapping to minimize the white space around the words. You'll want the entire quote to look like one iconic shape, as opposed to words that are far apart.


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STEP 7:
Pencil in the quote. Now is the time to obsess over the details of each letter. When you're done, lightly rub a clean eraser over the entire artwork to minimize pencil lines before you begin painting/coloring. 
This step is optional if you are confident enough with your painting skills. I normally challenge myself not to use pencil at this point--it's my way of getting to know the parts of each letter more! 


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STEP 8:
Fill in the letters with color.
I always begin with my favourite watercolor technique, wet-on-wet. Allow this first layer of paint to dry.
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STEP 9:
Add shadows and details. A little shadow goes a long way--it really helps make the words look a little bit more polished! No need to stylize all the words, because then, nothing will stand out. Again, just highlight the important words.
I also added more elements (like the ticket & stars) using gold foil glue.


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STEP 10:
Allow the piece to fully dry before applying the gold foil, and erasing the other visible pencil marks. Don't rush the drying process, and be patient before touching your finished work!:P

Now, you're done! Take a photo of your finished piece for documentation purposes (you might want to reproduce your artwork later on!), and then proudly display your artwork!:)