Digitize Your Lettering: 3 Easy Methods | Peggy Dean | Skillshare

Digitize Your Lettering: 3 Easy Methods

Peggy Dean, Top Teacher | The Pigeon Letters

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9 Lessons (27m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. Supplies

    • 3. Preparing Your Lettering

    • 4. Photograph + Basic PS Edits

    • 5. Scanning + Illustrator Basic Edits

    • 6. Adobe Capture + Smoothing Edges

    • 7. Adding Special Effects

    • 8. Exporting Options

    • 9. Project Time!


About This Class

That's right. You've struggled with those poopy brown photos of your lettering for too long. It's time to create stunning, sharp and eye-catching images of your work so you can give it the credit it deserves. 

In this class, I'm giving you the tools to do just that. Don't have a scanner? No prob! Not the best lighting? There's an app for that!

In this How to Digitize Lettering class, you will learn not one, not two, but THREE different ways that you can bring your lettering to life. I recommend spending time learning all three techniques because you'll find they come in handy at different times depending on what you're working on.

This class covers the following digitizing methods:

  • Using a scanner
  • Using a photograph
  • Using an app
  • Editing in Photoshop
  • Editing in Illustrator


Items used in this class (not all of these are needed and are listed for your reference only):

You will need Adobe Photoshop for this class. 

Click the banner to be directed to Adobe's CC plans.



1. Introduction: Hello you guys. My name is Peggy Dean and I am an author an educator an Illustrator and all of the things. This class is pretty straightforward and pretty quick, it's going to be a very easy reference tool, if you will for you to digitize your lettering. This can go for digitizing other types of artwork as well, but I wanted to focus on lettering because I know I get a lot of questions regularly on an easy way to do this especially when not everybody has all of these gadgets like the iPad and procreate and all those things. So really easy way to digitize your lettering that's on paper. The other thing that I really like about digitizing lettering that comes from paper and calligraphy, what have you is that you don't lose that organic elements. You are able to preserve it with the texture and things that digital brushes just can't do. So even if you are using something on a digital platform, it might just be nice to return to the roots of having that ink on paper. You'll be learning to digitize in both Photoshop and in Illustrator. Photoshop is going to be going over some basic edit to make it a nice image file, you'll be able to also save it as a sticker, basically a transparent background, so overlay that you can place anywhere, and then we'll also be talking about how to vectorize your lettering. If you decide that you want the cleaner look, the more digitized look. So we're going to be covering three different methods in this class, it's a pretty quick class, so you should be able to be off at running in no time, and the project for this class we'll be focused on exactly what it sounds like, I just want to see what you guys end up digitizing and how you end up taking these tools, the route that you decided to take, I'd love to see your experiments with both keeping character and then cleaning that up even more and maybe some overlays which are fun. So there are some bonus videos to add some special effects as well. So very excited to jump on into this one with you, so let's get started. 2. Supplies: So you're going to need a few supplies here. As far as what you're putting on paper, that's pretty standard. If you're looking at digitized lettering, then you probably already know what you need for paper, but I'm still going to cover it real fast. For paper, you'll want a marker, safe paper that's not going to destroy your brush pens. This is hand [inaudible] hand lettering paper. It's pretty thick at 80 pounds. You also want some brush pens or a brush pen. I'm just going to use one, but I want to show you some of my favorites. We have the Tombow Fudenosuke. This comes in a hard tip and a soft tip. They are both about the same size, but it's going to give you a little bit more variation and flexibility to use the black since it's the soft tip. Then we have the Koi brush pen. It has a little bit larger tip than the Fudenosuke so you can do a little bit larger lettering by Sakura. Then you've got your Pentel Sign Pen. I've seen this with so many different names. So Pentel Touch, Pentel Sign Pen, Pentel flexible tip. You want to make sure you get the flexible tip if you want to use this one. These are awesome options, similar size to the Fudenosuke. Karin, this is a relatively new brand to me, but they have awesome brush pens, also a larger tip. This is what I'm going be using for this class. I like their liquid ink technology, it's super juicy. Then lastly is our Tombow. This one is the dual tip, so it's got the large brush tip and then the shorter bullet tip on the other side. I'm going to use this guy, those are my favorites. Just a quick run down. I have a link in the description of the class that will put you in the right direction there. We're also going to be using an app called Adobe Capture. So make sure you download that on your phone as well. That's it for tools and materials. Let's jump right on in. 3. Preparing Your Lettering: So just grab a piece of paper and a brush pen. I'm going to get these out of the way and then I am just going to letter the word digitize since that's what we're doing. When we want to digitize, although we can edit, it's best to keep these as smooth as we can so that there is less editing needed. I'm just going to letter this out real quick. You can see there are a couple areas here that have either been skipped or a little bit shaky. That's actually what I like a lot about hand-lettering, those imperfections. However, if you're wanting it to really stand out, it might be a good idea just to hover over and fix that real fast so that it will pick up in your scan. Now, I want to scan this and I'm going to show you a couple of ways to do so, will either be using a scanner, a picture on our phone, or the Adobe Capture app on your phone. You can download that if you have a scanner grid if you have a phone grid, I'm going to show you all three methods of scanning to make sure that this is nice and bright before when we digitize. 4. Photograph + Basic PS Edits: The first option that we can do to digitize our lettering is by just taking a simple photo. I'm opening my camera and I'm just going to make sure that it is in good lighting, I don't have any crazy shadows going on, and this seems okay to me, naturally is always best. If you're in front of a window which I am, then it makes it a lot easier. I'm just going to snap a photo of this, and then I have this file that we're going to put over into our computer. I'm just going to air drop this to myself, if you have an iPhone, you probably know how this goes. I'm just going click Share and then AirDrop right here, and then I will switch over to computer now and show you the next steps. All right. Now that I've digitized my photo and AirDrop it over to myself, I'm going to find it in my downloads here. I can open that up from my downloads, but I'm going to open Photoshop first. We'll get this bigger so that we can have a better Canvas to see. Then I'm just going to drag my download over, if you have a PC, then you might want to open it up in your start, but it still work that way. But anyway, if you just press command O or Control O from your PC, then you can easily access your downloads. I'm just going to sort this by date, and then I see it right here. I'm going to open this up. Here is my file that I want to digitize. The first thing that I like to do with digitizing anything especially when it's black and white is to play with the levels. So you can go to your levels panel, but an easy shortcut you can do to get right to it is to press Command L on your keyboard or Control L on a PC. Right here you're seeing my levels and the arrow on the right, if you drag it to the left, it's going to brighten that up quite a bit. This is basically playing with contrast, but giving you a lot more Control over highlights and shadows, and then the left arrow here if you drag it to the right, it's going to darken up that black. I have this pretty black already, I don't really need to darken that. Sometimes when you scan something in, it might come across a little bit gray or not quite as contrasted as you would like, that's a good time to use this and that might occur when we do our other forums of importing or scanning. We'll probably be a little cover that. I'm just going to say okay, because that got rid of mostly what I wanted it to. Now I want to get rid of all this excess so you can do that in a number of ways. I'm just going to create a new layer underneath. I went to my Lasso Tool, that's L as a shortcut on your keyboard. You're going to circle around here, and then this is what is selected. You could copy and paste this and then get rid of the below layer which is this. That's an easy way to do it, or you can invert it. Command Shift I or a Control Shift I on a PC, and now you see these little marching ants along the entire border. What that's doing is showing me that this empty space here is what is selected instead of what I circled. If I press Delete, then it's going to get rid of everything else. Now I can deselect this by pressing Command D on my keyboard or Control D if you're on a PC, go back to the previous layer that I added and then pressed G, make sure I am on white and just fill that, and now I just have a perfectly clean layer. I can use this now, if you zoom in, if you press Z on your keyboard, click and drag to the right, you're going to see a little bit of debris, you might see some imperfect lines, there are ways to clean this up or if you like that organic look, then you can easily keep it. If you press E on your keyboard, it will take you to Eraser tool. I can just go over and clean up that debris a little bit, and then if you want to quickly size, you can press your right and your left bracket on your keyboard to increase and decrease the size. Quick shortcuts always make your workflow a lot easier. It gives you a little bit more of that raw organic feel to lettering to pen on paper which is something that I think is really fun to preserve. If you don't want to, then you can take the next step further by going into Illustrator, and we'll get into that in the next segment, so I can show you how to scan another way and then we will approach this next step then. But this is an easy way to digitize and just leave it as is, and this will keep that raw organic feel. 5. Scanning + Illustrator Basic Edits: The next thing that I'm going to digitize is by scanning the scene. I'm opening up my scanner, I just have an absent perfection. You want to make sure that you are scanning this in at least 300 DPI. The higher the resolution, the better the case if you don't vectorize, even if you do it this is going to create a better, nice, cleaner piece so that you don't have to worry about losing resolution and the larger it gets. Then you can just press "Scan", and you'll see that you can choose the location of where this is going to end up so I'm going to choose my Downloads it's just so much easier for me just to pull that up quickly. Save it as a JPEG or a PNG, and just press "Okay, " sot's going to scan that in. Mainly you want to remember 300 DPI. Then once that scans, it will open up. It may depending on your computer, but mine we'll open it up right here in the Finder and I can open this real quick, rotate it and then crop it. I like to do this beforehand just because for me it makes things a lot easier so depending on what you have I'm not going to go over that just because I don't want to confuse you if you're not using Finder. I'm going to open this up in Photoshop what I just scanned in. All right, so here is where you can see we're going to play with the levels a little bit more because we're a little more gray than black so I'm going to press "Command L" in my keyboard to access levels just as we did previously. I'm going to drag the left arrow to the right to increase that darkness, and then I'm going to see how this is gray. I'm going to drag the right arrow to the left to clear that up so you can see this is nice and bright now. Quickly, I'm going to go to my Eraser Tool and clean some of that. To [inaudible] real quick. This is bound to happen, it's either on your paper or on your scanner bed. With me it's usually on my scanner bed, which is not ideal. Just make sure your scanner bed is clean guys, that seems fine. Now, what I'm going to do is I'm going to carry this over to Illustrator so I'm going to open Illustrator and I'm going to paste it over in Illustrator, I'm just going to create a new art board that's 10 by 10, and then Command V to paste and then I'm going to say Image Trace. You might find Image Trace on the top you might find it in your Tool Panel on the right and if you don't, you can go to Window, go to Image Trace, and then it'll pop up right here for you. It has presets, it'll have default. You can just press "Image Trace" and it's going to do its default. You'll see here that you have some rough edges, but overall it's pretty clean, they have other settings and you can play with those. To do that you can just press this arrow here, and then choose which one you want, you can do line art, you can do black and white logo. Shades of gray, high fidelity is really going to pull out a lot of that imperfection, but you can play with that and see what you like the best. So then when I feel okay about that, I'm going to press "Expand". So now, I want to ungroup this, I can do this by pressing "Shift Command G" on my keyboard or I can also right-click and this will say Ungroup but I have just taken it off. I'm going to my direct selection tool and click out of it, click back in. Since I'm in this white space, I can delete that and now it's not there anymore when I click, and now these areas are the only ones that are because the black is all exactly the same with the image trace that I used, it usually won't separate depending on where I click in and it will be the entire image. If you've already used a high-fidelity photo image trace then you would see that there's so many individual pixels inside of that, it'll capture all those colors. When I'm going to just remove the white from inside of each of these letters. If you see any areas like this that are giving you some grief, then you can just go to your Eraser tool which is here or you can press "Shift E" on your keyboard and then you can just line that up to erase it and it will still stay in mathematical equations versus pixels so you can see that you can go all the way in and it's not going to leave any of those weird area. That's all going to be smooth depending on how you want to do that so that's an easy way to do that. You can also use a Smooth tool which is right underneath your pencil, right-click and "Smooth tool" and you can play with that with pads and whatnot. So that is another way to digitize and then lastly I'm going to show you from Adobe Capture. 6. Adobe Capture + Smoothing Edges: The final way I'm going to show you to digitize is by using an app called Adobe Capture. You can find this in the App Store. I'm going to open that up, and then I'm going to go to my camera, and then I am going to go to "Shapes". Then I'm going to make sure shapes are selected right here. I can drag this up and down depending on how much I want to capture in here. You can see that's only capturing the outlines. If I slide even further, it's going to capture more and more and more. Get that exactly where you want to. It doesn't really matter about those outlines on the top and bottom because we can clean that up. You are going to capture it by pressing your camera button, and then you can see that it is in here. Now once you're in here, there's a little eraser tool where you can erase from the shape. You can change the size of that, and then erase the bottom, top, anything that shouldn't be in the image. That looks good to me. I'm going to say "Save", it vectorizes it. Let me get out of here here, and creates an immediate vector which is awesome. Then it saves it in my Adobe Cloud. Now, I can just go to my computer, it's already there. I'll meet you back over to the computer. Once that is over on your computer and you have that open, you might see that there are a couple of little pieces of debris. You can get rid of that just by using your direct selection tool, by pressing "V" on the keyboard. You click on the area and just delete it. You can use your eraser tool also, but because these are already grouped, it super easy to just click on it and get rid of it. Once you have this open, you might not be super fond of the rigid areas because it is a smooth vector already. Like I was mentioning, you can go to the Smooth tool, it's right underneath your Pencil tool when you right-click, then you'll see it comes up with all of these anchor points. You can just hover over those and then see how that just smooth that out. Now you have this perfectly smooth area. I can do that again, Smooth tool and then see this area. I'm just going to hover over here. It smooths all of that out. You can do this on your whole lettering piece and get that nice and smooth. Then from there you can just export, which I will show you how to do really simply in the next video. 7. Adding Special Effects: Once you have the basics of your digitizing done, you also have the option to enhance it with some additional fun effects. So the first thing that I have done is separated some layers here. I have a layer underneath. This is just a transparent layer and then the layer with the white on it. This is the original Photoshop version where all I've done is just adjusted the levels. Now I have my Magic Eraser tool, all that I need to do to access that is to go to the Eraser on the left or you can press "E" on your keyboard as a shortcut. If it's just on a regular eraser, if you say "Shift E", it will navigate through those, just make sure you're on the magic word. From there, you can just select the background layer which is white. It's going to get rid of that and expose the underneath layer, which is actually also transparent that doesn't even really need to be there but I have it there. Then I'm going to go through and get rid of all the white space that is inside of the letters that the initial click did not take care of. Now all I have on this layer is the actual word, there's nothing else there. Now I can go through and create some effects by adding different color overlay and it will only apply to what is on that layer, which is the digitized word. Let's say I'm just going to apply some color, I'm going to go to my brush tool and I'm going to access that by pressing "B" on my keyboard. You'll also see it here on the left. Up here you can choose what type of brush I'm using, a soft brush. I'm going to increase the size by pressing the right bracket and then from here it's going to create a soft effect, as you can see. But what we want to do first, if you don't do this first, it'll happen as I just did, but over on the right side, make sure that that layer is selected and then select this little lock iconic looks like a checkerboard grid. When you select that, you'll see this little padlock icon. When you do that, it's only going to affect the pixels that are on that layer. So here you can choose some different colors and drag that in and make something really cool. So that's a quick way to play with that and then you can also do something like, let's say if I keep this all black, it's going to pick up whatever I put over this much better. So I'm going to create a new layer by going down the right bottom and you'll see this little new page, Its going to create a new layer and then I'm going to drag in a glitter overlay and then I'm going to transform that so that it covers. You just want to make sure that it's completely covering the word and there's no black area showing. I'm actually going to do that by right-clicking and just saying create clipping mask, and you can see that that is all it's affected. Once that mask is in place, you can see that the pixels that are on the previous layer are the only ones that are selected. You can do that with any overlay that where you want the effect to only show up on the bottom level. So see how I'm on the glitter level and I can move that around position it exactly where I wanted to go, pretty cool effect. I'm on the layer underneath that and I can insert an image. I'm going to drag that so it's larger, it takes up the frame. This can easily be on a totally different Canvas. I just keep working on this one just to show you how. But this image is actually from unsplash.com, any splash is my favorite photographer on there, just so you guys, if you don't know, unsplash.com is a really great resource for free stock photos that you can use. So I just grabbed this one to show you guys this example obvious you probably don't want to overlay the word digitize on top of those really cool force picture, but for the sake of just explaining it. Now I've gone back up to my digitized layer, I'm going to transform it by pressing "Command T" on a keyboard or "Control T" on a PC and then I'm going to hold "Shift" while I drag it that's going to make sure that it doesn't warp and size. If I wasn't holding shift, this could happen, which is great if you want to go that route, but I don't. Let's just say that says something really whimsical and forestry and fine. Remember you can lock that layer and change the color, I'm changing it to white. Now you have this really cool image with your lettering over a photo. So that's all that you need to do for that it's really easy and it's just by removing the background. So just to find extra added effect to digitize lettering. 8. Exporting Options: When you are ready to export or save your finished piece, you have a couple of ways to do this. You can save it as a JPEG or PNG, you can save it as a TIF file. JPEG would be just as is say, you could go to file and then save as. You can also get to this by pressing "Shift Command S" on your Mac or "Shift Control S" on a PC. Then name it as you wish save it where you want to and then change the format here to JPEG. Lets say you have one, like the glitter that we did or, let's say, you just want to save the word itself, so that you can overlay that somewhere else or save it. Basically, to use like a sticker on anything, any other product, on a website or something where you don't want a box of an image or a box of color. That's when you want to save it as a PNG. You're going to save as and then I will say, digitize and then save it how you want. But PNG is what you really want to pay attention to because that's going to save that transparent background. That's how you want to export. When you open up a PNG, I've got turn around for different things like this one, so it has a gray background. But, if I were to import this into photoshop which I will just do you can see that it also has a transparent background and it doesn't have a white box anywhere. That's how it's going to save it as transparent background, so exporting is pretty easy. Save it as a regular image or as a PNG for a relay. That's about it guys so, this part is going to help you finish your project and upload it to the project gallery because, I can't wait to see what you end up doing with this project. There's, an endless possibility one again. I'm very eager to see that, so go ahead and export away. 9. Project Time!: We have reached the end of a very quick class. As mentioned previously in the introduction of this class, I would love to see your projects. I want to see how you end up preserving some organic texture. How you end up going the route of cleaning that up even more and maybe adding some special effects, really whatever you choose to do but I'd love to see you experiment. I send a plethora of additional resources via email at the pigeonletters.com. Make sure you subscribe there to get even more content and I will see you next time.