Dot Grid Method

Do Not Neglect The Basics
Honestly, I say this all the time, but I can't reiterate enough how important it is to just practice the basics. Even when you think you have a pretty solid understanding, it's always good to step away from what you think you already know, and to take time to closely analyze what you are trying to learn. Before preparing for my workshop, I thought I had a solid understanding of brush script, but I realized that I had much to learn. And I am now proud to say that I have a much thorough understanding, but I am not too proud to admit that there is still much to learn. If you join me in a live workshop, I would love for us to learn together and to share my learning process.


Dot Grid / Graph Paper Method
This is a method for helping determine consistent spacing and color in your lettering. The first thing you do is decide how tall and wide you want your letters. Then use the grid units to draw consistently spaced skeleton letters. (Dot grid hard to detect on this GIF because of image compression. But the arcs are over to the right two units and up 5 units)

Next, use a brush pen to quickly add weight to the letters. Keep the upstrokes thin, and the downstrokes thick.

Next, use a brush pen to quickly add weight to the letters. Keep the upstrokes thin, and the downstrokes thick.

And finally, we draw over the second step to refine the letters even further.    

And finally, we draw over the second step to refine the letters even further. 

So, This was only three step process, and you can already see how we can start to refine the letterforms using this method. This method helps us create a solid foundation to build off of. To move forward with this piece past this third step, we could increase the over all weight of the downstrokes, consider the contrast between the thicks and thins, and we could also break some of the connections between letters. 


Tips For Creating Spontaneous Lettering

Happy Friday! This week I want to share with you some tips for creating lettering that evokes the quickness of handwriting. It’ll be short and sweet, but I’ll be covering some important ideas. And I want to start off with this quote from the great lettering artist Doyald Young. In his book entitled Logotypes & Letterforms, he writes the following:

“In order for the script to appear spontaneous, the letters must change size, and there must be subtle variations in the spacing, or it will look monotonous and mechanical.”

Ideas To Keep In Mind While Sketching
Before I explain and demonstrate a couple methods that we can use to create spontaneous looking lettering, I want to share some ideas to keep in mind, so you know what design decisions can help steer your lettering in the spontaneous direction.

Lettering Credit for "Cascade" : Doyald Young

Lettering Credit for "Cascade" : Doyald Young

If we study this lettering example above, we will notice a few design decisions that help create the look of this being written quickly. First of all, the size of the letters vary greatly. Look at the difference between the first letter "a" and the letter "c". The "c" is drawn much larger than the "a", and this design decision lends itself to the imperfectness of handwriting.

Secondly, (not in order of significance) the letters bounce up an down on both the top and bottom. This creates a casual and less mechanically constructed look. Another consideration is that loops can be used to indicate the flowing motion of not picking up the pen. This is seen in the ascender of the "d" and also in the connecting stroke between the "d" and "e".

Finally, the first and last letters can include elongated terminals, and the angles of letters can be slightly askew.  Thank you Doyald Young, for this beautiful example!

Method 1: Sketch Quick and Small, Then Enlarge To Refine
 We can start by writing out the word quickly at a very small scale (around an inch depending on the length of the word or phrase). This method is all about rapid iterations and relies heavily on your handwriting to uncover your natural tendencies while writing quickly. It helps to write out the word a bunch of different times to see if you can have a “happy accident” where you create a natural ligature from the act of writing the word quickly. 


Above, I have circled the write out of the word "Inktover" I chose to refine, and below is a comparison of the original sketch and the refinements I made within photoshop. A couple things we can do to improve out little sketch, is adding weight to the downstrokes, and removing weight for the connecting upstrokes. This helps to create a more distinct separation between the letters; especially at the junction where the end of a connecting stroke and the downstroke of the next letter meet.

Method 2: Draw Skeleton, Add Weight w/ Marker, Add Movement Digitally
For this method, I started out by drawing a the skeleton of my letters at a small scale with pencil, and then redrew the skeleton sketch at a larger scale so I could easily make design decisions for refinement. After refining the skeleton sketch with pencil and paper, I added weight to the letters using a brush pen (Sketch #3), and then drew over the weighted sketch with pencil for next level refinement (Sketch # 4). 

Before adding a couple of digital techniques, I wrote over Sketch #4 a final time with a Crayola marker to create a refined ink sketch (Sketch #5)

The two final steps I took in refining were done in photoshop using Kyles Brushes. His Mega Pack is only $15 and has so many incredible digital brushes! I highly recommend investing in them if you haven't already. They'll change your digital game!

Since I didn't actually use quickly written calligraphy to create this piece of lettering, I didn't achieve any texture within the letters. So, using a mask in photoshop and Kyle's brushes, I brushed away parts of the letters to create some faux movement. To do this, I followed the path for the stroke of each letter; adding and subtracting texture as needed.  


The last detail I added was a loose gestural drawing around the lettering. I chose a thin brush, and drew lines extending from the terminals, and swooping around the curves of the letters. I thought that this added some visual interest and exaggerated the movement. 


Tips For Understanding Flourishing

This week I'll be sharing my thoughts on adding Flourishing to lettering. There's something about the graceful curves of flourishes that confidently represent opulence, beauty, and quality. The thing is, they are finicky and require attention to detail. 

"Flourishes if not used tastefully obscure rather than enhance the simple form of the letter or design" - Tommy Thompson (Script Lettering for Artists)

There is definitely a fine balance that needs to be achieved in order to create effective flourishes, and it's something that I am still working on and learning every time I practice. Before we move on, I have to admit that I still have a lot to learn, but I hope that this article can at least spark some thought around the ideas and help you guys out. Cheers!

First Things First - Learn By Drawing Past Examples
There are some specific rules we can follow to help us design beautiful flourishing, and I'll touch on a few of those later on. But before attempting to design flourishing of your own, I think you'll find it beneficial to draw examples of flourished lettering from artists you admire. The act of observational drawing (drawing what we see) will help us better understand what is possible in terms of flourishing, by teaching us what has already worked in the past. Once we have drawn a few examples, incorporating flourishes into our own work will be less intimidating because we'll go into our design process with a few ideas of what has already worked for other artists. Below are a couple of my favorite examples of flourishing. I'll demonstrate how I practice using observational drawing, by replicating the "Loreto" logo originally drawn by Doyald Young, and then I'll offer some tips for drawing flourishes. 

To deliberately practice, I sit down with the intent on recreating a chosen piece of lettering, and spend how ever long it takes to recreate that piece by hand. Sometimes it takes around fifteen minutes and other times around an hour. It just depends on how complicated the piece is and how refined you want to make your drawing. In the grand scheme of things, fifteen to sixty minutes is a very manageable amount of time to commit, and trust me, you will be surprised with how much you can learn in that amount of time if you are completely focused.

When drawing from observation, it might help to think about the process as similar to putting together a puzzle. You'll be constantly referring back to the drawing you are trying to replicate (or the picture of the puzzle on the front of the box) to figure out where the next piece goes and how it relates to the rest of the puzzle. The only difference is that you have to draw each puzzle piece! 

What's the first thing you do when you put together a puzzle? The answer is, you establish the border. In both the puzzle and the drawing, the border is a constraint that will give us a place to begin our puzzle or drawing. So, that is how I like to start an observational drawing piece for practice. 

Tips and Tricks for Drawing Flourishes
Below are some examples of flourishes from Tommy Thompson's book entitled, Script Lettering For Artists. The first image are the basic building blocks, and the second image is a compilation of a few examples of how they can be combined, mixed, and matched to create unique flourishes. Check out examples of lettering with flourishing and see if you can spot these basic shapes put into practice.

(Flourish Drawing Credit - Tommy Thompson -  Script Lettering For Artists )

(Flourish Drawing Credit - Tommy Thompson - Script Lettering For Artists)

(Flourish Drawing Credit - Tommy Thompson -  Script Lettering For Artists )

(Flourish Drawing Credit - Tommy Thompson - Script Lettering For Artists)

  • Avoid flattening out sections of a curve. To get the curve right, it might help to think about each curve having a positive and negative shape. For instance, when drawing a spiral, the inner shape should be a gradual taper from thin to thick as it moves out from the center point. It often takes a bit of drawing, erasing, and redrawing to unearth a nice curve.

•Practice Dividing Spaces
A good way to think about flourishes is that they are basically lines that divide a space; and there are multiple ways to divide any space. If you'd like to practice dividing spaces with my little 4x4 square template, you can download and print out a copy from here.

• Lightly Define Flourishes Until You Have Divided The Space The way You See Best Fit - Then Commit and Darken Line
Deciding which types of flourishes, where, and how large they should be is an iterative process that takes some experimenting. I have found it helps to first draw very lightly while you are figuring out what might work. 


8 Books: My favorite and Most Useful Books

Happy Friday Everyone! This week I am excited to share with you 8 of my favorite and most useful lettering and design books. I will be cluing you in on how each book differs, and I'll also show you a quick flip through their interior pages. Each title is a link to where you can purchase the book online. Over the years I have bought a lot of design and lettering books, and naturally, not all of them turned out to be as good of an investment as I may have hoped for. So, I have put together this link to save you some money and time searching for good resources. In my opinion, the following are a few exceptionally useful lettering and design books. (They are in no particular order)

1. Los Logos No.7 - Gestalten - 

It’s true that you can find great inspiration online by perusing logo and lettering portfolios, but there is something about having a nice big book filled with exactly what you are looking for. Everything is in one place. The pages are filled with almost every style of logo you can imagine, so if you are working on a logo project, this is the book to inspire you to think differently. 

"A lavishly illustrated compilation of the works of a variety of international designers provides a definitive overview of contemporary logo design from around the world..." - Google Books

I just recently purchased this book and I haven’t been able to spend too much time with it yet, but just from reading and practicing techniques from a couple of its pages, I have already learned a lot. The authors demonstrate a wide variety of lettering styles. The cool part about brush lettering is that there are many styles of brushes and each creates a unique mark, which allows us to achieve an array of styles. This book will teach you very specific techniques for each of the styles it demonstrates.

This book is an incredible resource for vintage three-dimensional lettering inspiration. There are six major sections which include lettering from America, Italy, France, Germany, Britain, and a section for miscellaneous works. Its pages are filled with beautiful color images that bleed off the edges. This book is less of an instruction manual, and more of a pot of gold plated inspiration. Some full alphabets are featured, while other styles are showcased in their original vintage advertisements, posters, and packaging design. 

This book is basically a look into the mind of the lettering artist, typographer, and logotype designer Doyald Young. He writes of his knowledge in the realm of typographic classification, and demonstrates characteristics of serif, sans-serif, and script letters. In addition to his overview of these three styles, he provides case studies of his past work and writes about why and how each design solution was appropriate for its corresponding project brief. This book is very powerful because Doyald teaches us the vocabulary of typographic design and letter construction, and shows us real examples of the types of design decisions made during his creative process. 

If you haven’t heard of Doyald Young until now, I recommend you check out this short documentary . After watching the documentary, I was sold on his skill and expertise so much that I went ahead and invested in three of his books. The books are a bit pricey, but well worth the investment, because the are just that. The books are an investment in your knowledge, resources, and ultimately your future! I might go as far as to say that every lettering artist should have these books, or at least one of them. A couple of his other books are Logotypes & Letterforms: Handlettered Logotypes and Typographic Considerations , and Dangerous Curves: Mastering Logotype Design.

Just as the title suggests, Ivan demonstrates his knowledge of lettering styles in an “Easy As ABC/123” step by step manner. The first bit of the book gives us a historical breakdown of the evolution of lettering by teaching us some fundamental calligraphic styles. This book is fun because at the end of each section, Ivan prompts the reader to take action by practicing each section’s content with a provided project brief. If you have been practicing a certain style of lettering for a while and you’re looking to diversify your portfolio, this book offers a lot of different avenues to consider!

I stand by practicing calligraphy as one of the best ways to better understand letter construction. This book is unique because in addition to its historical overview of the evolution of the western Latin alphabet, it offers stroke by stroke letter constructions for each of the calligraphic hands it demonstrates.

“For 2,000 years, the western Latin alphabet has developed and been modified by a vast range of social and technological changes, providing a rich and varied resource for the modern calligrapher to quarry.” -David Harris

The Universal Penman is a compilation of the works of many master scribes from the 18th Century, and it was used to teach people English Roundhand. The examples included in the book are the epitome of elegance. 

“In the 18th century, writing masters taught handwriting to educated men and women, especially to men who would be expected to use it on a daily basis in commerce. The craft of legible and elegant handwriting was a useful business skill.”  -John D. Berry of The Typekit Blog

Although having beautiful hand writing is not a relevant skill to successfully participate in business now days, I think we can all appreciate the beauty of English Roundhand. By reproducing a few examples from this book with observational drawing skills, we can learn a lot about the nature of flourishes. 

Tommy Thompson does a great job with breaking down the components of script letters. He teaches us how and why script letters are drawn the way they are formed, and includes many stylistic examples at the end of the book. It’s short and sweet, and you can pick up a copy for real cheap. 


How To: Latin Letters


A while back, I picked up Ivan Castro’s book entitled, “The ABC of Custom Lettering: A Guide To Drawing Letters” where he shares his wealth of knowledge on the subject. I highly recommend picking up a copy! At the end of each section he prompts the reader to practice the style and offers an idea for a project. For this week’s newsletter, I’ll take you behind the scenes of what I lettered for the section project of his book on Latin Letterforms. The section project was to letter the title for a Latin Music Record Sleeve, and I chose "The Latin World Of Tito Puente".

Latin Letters - An Overview
I have always had an affinity for this style of lettering because it possesses such a strong personality. At the end of the day, Latin Letterforms are just serif letters, but the way in which the serifs are drawn separates the style from any other. 

“The main characteristic of Latin is the use of triangular, wedge-shaped serifs.” -Ivan Castro

Like Ivan said, the serifs are drawn triangular and sharp, and the serifless terminals are also drawn with a sharp point. Below is an example drawn by Ivan pulled from the Latin section of his book, and I have called out the main characteristics of the style for you to see clearly. Also, Notice that the letters have a nice bouncing look to them. 

Above: Latin Lettering drawn by Ivan Castro.

Above: Latin Lettering drawn by Ivan Castro.

The Project - Custom Letter the Title for a Latin Music Record Sleeve
I started off with a bit of research and familiarized myself with "The King of Latin Music", Tito Puente. If his name isn’t familiar, his tune “Ran Kan Kan” will almost certainly be, as it is an iconic mambo song. To choose the title, I searched Spotify and found his album entitled “The Latin World of Tito Puente”, and decided it would be a nice challenge to develop a composition using these six words. 

1. Figure out Hierarchy for the Importance of the Words

When I was picking out the album title to recreate, I looked for a title long enough to have some words that seemed more important than others. In the title "The Latin World of Tito Puente", the words can be categorized into three tiers of importance. The words “The” and "Of" are the least important, so I decided to draw them the smallest. I then decided that the words "Latin World" could be the middle ground of the hierarchy, and that the artist's name "Tito Puente" could be the largest in scale and at the top of the visual hierarchy.

2. Start Sketching Small- Loosely Figure Out Letter Relationships
To begin, I started to loosely sketch how the letters could interact. At this point, the sketch is drawn quickly, and serifs are roughly drawn to help realize where letters can bounce on the baseline and interact.

Since the serifs are pointed and stick out far from the basic structure of each letter, special care needs to be taken to solve for the letter spacing and positioning. By raising or lowering the letters in relation to the baseline, we can create room for the serifs to fit above or below its neighboring letters. 

3. Refine Sketch - Redraw Composition at Larger Scale
Taking our small and loose sketch and re-drawing it at a larger scale allows us to essentially “zoom in” to the lettering to create more consistency. We can start to pay closer attention to how our serifs are drawn. Since I discovered a lot of the letter relationships in my initial loose sketch, this time around I am able to draw the letters more confidently.

4. Analyze Sketch - Define What Is Working, and What Could Improve
From analyzing my sketch, I came up with a list of changes that I wanted to address in my next revision. It pays off to stand back and take a good hard look at our lettering. Once we decide what to change, we can start to work through the details implementing the changes.

Here is a list of things to be refined:
* Align letters to consistent arcs and balance out composition
* Visual Hierarchy can be improved with scale. The word “The” in the composition can be a bit smaller, and the word “OF” could maybe get a bit larger, so the two words can meet in the middle at the smallest scale in the visual hierarchy. 
* Refine the weight distribution - making sure each level of the hierarchy has it’s own obvious weight. The words “The” and “Of” should be the smallest, the words “Latin World” can be in the middle, and “Tito Puente” can be the largest and most bold.
* The composition can be better balanced and centered. 
* Bouncing above and below the baseline can be less dramatic
* Does it work to use both a lowercase “i” and an uppercase “I”, or should they be consistent? 

* Make "Tito Puente" bolder
* Reposition the word "Of"

5. Digitally Refine Sketch Within Photoshop - Align Sketch to Digital Grid
After scanning my sketch into Photoshop, I isolated the lettering from its white background, and created guidelines to help with positioning the letters onto the guideline arcs. 

During this stage, you can start to manipulate the lettering in a few ways. Letters can be rotated and positioned onto the grid by making a selection with the lasso tool (L). 

6. Recreate Sketch Digitally
To create consistency, I based all of the letters and serifs off of a single compound shape. I am showcasing the creation of this "W" to show you that we can create consistency in our letterforms, by copying and pasting exact shapes and then manipulating their positioning. The size of the serifs will then help dictate how we draw the letters.