Substitute Alternate Letters - Why and How

Imagine that you just got hired by an advertising agency to create a boat load of lettering pieces. Lets say they want just over twenty pieces of lettering, and they'll need the project completed in the next two weeks. They send over a timeline and you realize in order to complete the project on time, you will need to create multiple final pieces of lettering each day. This scenario is what I experienced for the first time just a couple weeks ago now. While there was a part of me that questioned my ability to complete such a large project in that time frame, I'm glad I took on the opportunity and challenge because it wound up teaching me something that I would like to share with you. When the clock was ticking and I needed to send over a piece of lettering asap, I started to write the lettering with calligraphy fairly quick to get the basic shape of the word, and then made edits by drawing alternate letters and substituting them into the lettering digitally.

Why Substitute letters?
Substituting letters can be a quick and effective way to edit your lettering. For instance: If you started a piece of lettering with calligraphy and executed every letter the way you intended except for one letter that you drew poorly, instead of scrapping the entire piece of lettering, you can scrap just the poorly drawn letter and replace it digitally with a better drawn letter. You will end up saving time because you won't be redrawing letters that already are executed sufficiently. 

Method #1 - Create Multiple Iterations, And Take From The Best
One way to go about a piece of lettering, is by using calligraphy to write out multiple iterations of your word, trying different connections between letters as you move from iteration to iteration. Once you have a solid collection of attempts, you can scan them in to the computer, and make edits within photoshop. For example, if you prefer the letter "s" from your first attempt, and the letter "o" from your second attempt, you can cut out those two letters and collage them into their own new digital iteration. 

Method #2 - Substitute Swash Endings / Flourishes
Once you have the basic shapes for your word, you can substitute in swash endings or flourishes to add flare to the letters. To do this, take a sheet of tracing paper or thin illustration paper, place it on top of your lettering, and try out possible opportunities for embellishments. This way, you can try multiple iterations without ruining your initial lettering. Once you have found the best solution in terms of the addition of visual interest and balancing out the composition, scan the flourishes and add them to your lettering digitally. 

You Don't Need To Be A Master Penman To Utilize Calligraphy - Start Practicing, have patience, and Learn As You Move Forward
I think there might be a bit of a stigma around calligraphy, where its relevancy in todays modern society is overlooked. People might only associate calligraphy with penman transcribing books before the advent of the printing press, but the truth is, there are many new avenues to utilize calligraphy in our modern age. And you don't have to be a master penman to offer calligraphic services. For example, In the project that I described above, I was hired by an advertising agency to create lettering for the custom headlines of their advertisements. Honestly, I had been practicing script lettering for a while, but before the project I wasn't overly confident in the level of my understanding. I guess sometimes it helps to have the pressure of others expectations to push us to perform at our best. I learned a lot during the project because I had to! 

Once your calligraphy is scanned into the computer, you can use photoshop to adjust letter spacing, and you can swap out alternate letters, effectively changing your hand written calligraphy into a collaged piece of lettering composed of your deliberately chosen letters.