Hand Lettering for Surface Designers: Build a Skill that Will Wow Your Clients | Shannon McNab | Skillshare

Hand Lettering for Surface Designers: Build a Skill that Will Wow Your Clients

Shannon McNab, Surface Designer & Illustrator

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21 Lessons (1h)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. Class Project & Workbook

    • 3. My Hand Lettering Journey

    • 4. Lettering Styles & Terminology

    • 5. Portfolio Possibilities for Lettering

    • 6. The Basics of Hand Lettering

    • 7. Lettering Warmup #1: Handwriting Style

    • 8. Lettering Warmup #2: Font Framework

    • 9. Sans Serif Demo

    • 10. Serif Demo

    • 11. Script Demo

    • 12. Display Demo

    • 13. 3 Principles for Multi Word Designs

    • 14. Simple Lettering Layouts

    • 15. Lettering Details & Embellishments

    • 16. 4 Common Lettering Mistakes to Avoid

    • 17. Finding Lettering Inspiration

    • 18. Project Part 1: Brainstorming & Thumbnails

    • 19. Project Part 2: Refined Sketch

    • 20. Project Part 3: Finishing the Design

    • 21. Thank You!

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About This Class

Hand lettering has exploded in popularity over the past few years and this creates a huge opportunity for surface designers looking for their artwork to stand out from the crowded space of art licensing.

This class is for surface designers, illustrators, or even design hobbyists that want to start incorporating lettering into their work. You don’t need to be an expert at surface design, but basic design skills will help.

I'll start the class by briefly sharing my own hand lettering journey. Then we’ll dive into all the technical details like the process for building letters, how to create dynamic layouts, and even lettering mistakes you should avoid. I’ll also demonstrate how to create four different lettering styles from scratch and we’ll discuss the design possibilities for lettering and how you can leverage it in your work. Finally, we’ll review the class project and you’ll watch me create a hand lettered poster from start to finish. 


Want to keep in touch with me? Find me on:

Instagram: @smcnabstudio
My Facebook Group: The Creativity Clan
or Follow Me on Skillshare


1. Introduction: The trend of hand lettering has exploded in popularity over the past few years and now you can find it on just about any product imaginable. This creates a huge opportunity for surface designers looking for their work to stand out in the crowded space of art licensing. Hi, I'm Shannon McNab and I'm a surface designer from the San Francisco Bay Area. I've seen first hand just how valuable hand lettering can be. My work has made it's way on the greeting cards, wall decor, calendars, scrap-booking kits, and most recently, Pyrex storage containers. Many of these designs wouldn't have existed without my hand lettering abilities, but it's not a skill I learned overnight. It took me years of practice to learn not only how to letter, but also how to apply it to surface design. That's what we're going to learn all about. This class is for service designers, illustrators, or even design hobbyists who want to start incorporating lettering into their work. You don't need to be an expert in surface design to learn hand lettering, but it will be helpful if you have some basic design skills or a background in graphic design or illustration. First, I'll briefly discuss my own lettering journey, and then we'll dive into all the technical aspects of hand lettering. Things like the process for building letters, how to create dynamic layouts, and even lettering mistakes you should avoid. I'll also demonstrate how to create four different lettering styles from scratch. We'll also discuss the design possibilities for lettering and how you can leverage it in your work. Finally, we'll review the class project and you'll watch me create a hand lettered poster from start to finish. By the end of this class, you'll have a beautiful piece of hand lettered art you can add to your portfolio and the beginnings of a new skill in your design arsenal. 2. Class Project & Workbook: For this class project, you'll be taking a meaningful quote or phrase and translating it into a full hand lettered poster. Now, I've chosen the theme of empowerment and motivation for a reason. As creatives, we often have moments of self-doubt, creative blocks, or Impostor syndrome, where we feel like our art is just never good enough. That's usually just our inner critic talking, but it can still sometimes be tough to ignore. By creating a poster with a phrase that lights you up and makes you smile, you'll have a great piece of art you can look to anytime you're having a rough day. Empowerment is also a trend I'm seeing more and more in surface design, with encouragement-based phrases showing up on products ranging from stationery gifts, wall decor, and even apparel. Not only will you create a piece that can be meaningful to you, it can also become a great addition to your portfolio. Now, besides walking you through the basics of lettering and how to complete the main project, this class also features a few lettering exercises, as well as additional resources in the form of a class workbook. To make your hand lettering efforts and class experience as successful as possible, I would suggest you download the workbook now and follow along as you watch the corresponding videos. You'll find the class workbook in the right sidebar of the Projects and Resources tab, which is currently only viewable on your computer or in a browser if you're on a tablet or phone. Just click on the link and the PDF should open automatically. This is also the spot where you can upload your class project when you're ready to share it, by clicking on the Create Project button. Make sure to add not only a cover image, but describe your work and include images in the body of the project, showing your process. If you would like me to give feedback on a certain aspect of your projects, please feel free to ask me direct questions in your post and I'll be sure to address them when looking over your work. Finally, I'll be using Procreate for the majority of demonstrations in this class, as it's what I use most often to create hand lettering. I also wanted to ensure that everything I draw will be dark enough to be visible in the videos. However, if you're a beginner, I highly recommend you start lettering with pencil and paper first. Then, once you have the basics down, you can start creating lettering pieces in Procreate. 3. My Hand Lettering Journey: I thought it would be helpful for you to hear about my own hand lettering journey, and just how much my skills and style has evolved over the years. Not only to show you what's possible with regular practice, but also to be real about my experience as a hand lettering novis. I scoured my archives, both digital and analog, and found the earliest example I could of my foray into lettering. This little beauty was done almost two decades ago, way back in 2001. Back then, I was really into paper scrapbooking. Although I preferred alphabet stickers at the time, had occasionally double in lettering my page titles. Like this splash piece for, yeah, you guessed it, a page about splash mountain. In case you're wondering, yes, that is me in the top-right wearing glasses and pigtail braids as a 16 year old. But the truth is, lettering wasn't my main creative focus at the time, graphic design was, and that's why I don't really consider this the beginning of my hand lettering journey. Let's fast forward to what I see as my time as a lettering newbie, which was roughly from 2010 to 2015. You can see from these early lettering doodles, that while I had a few good ideas during these years, my lettering looks a little rough and most utilize a single word or lettering style. The main reason for that, is I was completely self taught. Which is why in 2015, I signed up for a neat little website I had just heard about called Skillshare. They had some lettering classes from some of my absolute favorite designers, and honestly, taking those first few classes was my main catalyst for falling in love with hand lettering. But I knew just taking classes and learning the basics wouldn't be enough. In 2016, I challenged myself to practice lettering as much as I possibly could. I joined in on a few lettering prompt challenges and took my first run at a 100 day project, which only ended up being 22 days of quotes created over the span of three months. Now, I may have stopped short of finishing the full project, but I don't consider my unfinished a 100 days project a failure. In fact, just the opposite. Because it was the first time I really experimented with longer phrases and played with lettering styles. Around the same time as my 100 day quote project, I was transitioning into surface design full time, and I knew that I wanted hand lettering to become a staple in my work. For the past three years, I've made a conscious effort to continue practicing, sketching, and designing new hand lettering pieces for my portfolio. You can see a vast improvement in the complexity and refinement of my designs over that time period as a result. I hope that shows you what's possible when you're willing to put in time to practice, even if you're an absolute beginner, just like I was. 4. Lettering Styles & Terminology: Although it's not a requirement to know the vocabulary of typography in order to learn hand lettering, I think it's helpful to learn the basics. Not only will it make my demos easier for you to understand, as i use these terms throughout the class, knowing the terminology can also be an asset when discussing your lettering pieces with clients. Let's start off by talking about the four basic styles of lettering. First, there's Sans-serif, which is a style you're likely very familiar with. Letters in their simplest form. The defining trait of Sans-serif lettering, is that it's letters have no serifs. That may sound like sans-serifs are always simple and incredibly boring looking. But the truth is, there's a wide variety of looks you can achieve within this one style. Second is Serif, which again you've probably heard of. The difference between it and Sans-serifs, is that the Serif letters have a small line or detail at the ends of each letter and with the addition of the Serif, the number of lettering possibilities increases. You can see from just these few examples how many different looks you can achieve when using Serifs. Next we have Script lettering, which has seen a huge resurgence thanks to the modern calligraphy movement in recent years. While the script style is historically based on cursive handwriting, it isn't always an easy style to design well as a beginner. However, it can be a lot of fun, especially as you start to experiment with letter flourishes. The range of moods you can achieve with Scripts is huge. Everything from an extremely elegant look all the way to casual and playful. The last lettering style is called Display. And it's used to describe letter forms that don't fit within the other three styles. This style is your license to be as creative as you want. But remember legibility here is key. You always need to make sure that you're still able to read the word or phrase you're creating. Otherwise it becomes more like abstract art than hand lettering. Now that we've discussed the different lettering styles, let's discuss a few lettering terms. Baseline, this is the line the letters sit on top of. X-height line, the line that defines the height of lowercase letters. Cap line, the line that defines the height of uppercase letters. Ascender, the part of a lowercase letter that extends above the x-height line. Descender, the part of a lowercase letter that extends below the baseline. Now there's a lot more lettering vocabulary you can learn than just these five simple terms. If you want to learn more lettering terminology, I've included a link to an in-depth blog post on typographic terms in the class resource's PDF. 5. Portfolio Possibilities for Lettering: Although our class project will focus entirely on a hand lettered poster, that's not the only medium that uses lettering. That's why I thought it would be valuable to share with you three distinct ways you can use lettering in your portfolio, as well as discuss the different market categories that utilize them for their products. Lettering by itself. This is the most obvious usage for the main feature of a design is hand lettering. But that doesn't mean the piece can't have any additional details. A few extra elements can help elevate the piece further. They just shouldn't be the focus. This category of hand lettering works best with longer phrases or quotes. Not surprisingly, littering only designs can easily be found in the stationary while the core and editorial markets. They're also popular in other categories, like home decor, gifts, and tabletop, and the best news about this category is that if you complete the class project, you'll already have one portfolio design ready to go for it. Pairing lettering with illustrations. For those of you who enjoy creating illustrations and spot graphics, this lettering category will appeal to you because you can easily incorporate hand lettering into your work. This could mean anything from adding a small word or phrase to support an existing design, to lettering that shares the space equally with a new illustration. The most important, but perhaps difficult part of creating pieces in this category is matching the mood of the lettering with your illustration style. Just like you wouldn't want to combine a sophisticated ink drawing and a cute colorful character within the same piece, you need to be just as deliberate with the personality of your hand lettering you'd use when pairing it with an illustration. Lettering and illustration pair designs are most easily found in the greeting card, gift bag, Hardy paper, wall decor, and kids apparel markets. You may also see them used in crafting and on unique items in the gift and home decor markets. Lettering in repeat is not as common as the other two categories. Creating repeat patterns with hand lettering is a great way to use this new skill you're about to learn. You can create a pattern using just words or pairing lettering with other icons to add extra detail to a design. The biggest challenge when creating hand lettering only patterns is to disguise the repeat. It may take you a little extra time to do so, but the work could really pay off as lettering centric patterns can be in high demand in certain markets, sleep bolt fabric and gift wrap. You'll also occasionally find them in home decor, gift and crafting. I hope I've demonstrated to you that there isn't just one way you can use lettering in your work, and that there are many companies actively looking for lettering art for their products. 6. The Basics of Hand Lettering: I find it best to take a methodical approach to lettering, especially if you're just starting out. I'm going to walk you through my four-step process for building hand lettering. Step 1, build guides. Always start with guides first, as it's the easiest way to make sure your lettering is properly aligned. Grab a ruler or if you're using Procreate, you can utilize the straight lines snapping feature and lightly draw two horizontal parallel lines. The bottom line will be our baseline and the top will be the cap line. Then draw an x-height line in between the two, a little above the halfway point. Now, if having three solid lines is a bit visually overwhelming for you, you can always take an eraser and transform the x-height into a dashed line. This is the basic guide structure you should use every time you do hand lettering. Even if you're building lettering on an arc, slant, or within a shape, you'll still need to draw the base, cap, and x-height lines. It'll just look slightly different depending on the layout of your lettering design. Beyond these three horizontal guides, I also, sometimes, like to include vertical guides every inch or so to help me keep my letters consistently straight up and down when sketching. This is incredibly valuable when lettering longer words, or if you want the letters to have a slight slant. Step 2, create a letter skeleton. Now it's time to lightly sketch out the basic framework of your letters. If you're a beginner, you may be a little nervous about creating awkward looking lettering. There's a few tips you can keep in mind for this step of the hand lettering process. If you're just creating a short word, like love, for example, just start sketching it from left to right as you would write normally. However, if you're creating a word with five or more letters like valentine, let's say, it may help you to start with sketching the center letters of the word first. In this case, the letter N, and then work your way out from the center. Creating lettering this way, is a simple method for reducing the likelihood that you'll run out of room when you get to the end of a long word. Similar to the last tip, make sure you leave an ample amount of space in between each letter. Most notably, when you plan on adding a lot of thickness or big serifs to them later in the process. It may feel odd to leave so much room in between your letters at first, but doing so will lessen your chances of cramped lettering. The one exception to this rule is script lettering. You can usually get away with a little less spacing when using that style. Step 3, adding thickness and serifs. Now that we have a skeleton, now it's time to get some meat on those bones. Whether you just want a little extra widths to your letters or you want them nice and chunky, don't rush through this part of the process just to get to the last step quickly. Instead, work through the letters, making sure each one has a very similar thickness throughout. If you're using Procreate, you can double-check that everything is even by creating a circle on an empty layer. That's the width of your first letter, and then move it around to see if any thickness of the other letters need to be adjusted. It's just a quick little fix to make sure thickness is consistent throughout. Step 4 , don't forget the details. This final step is definitely the most fun part of the process, but it can also be really easy to go overboard with details and end up overwhelming your lettering. So I'd suggest adding in just one or two extra details, especially if you're just starting out. Then, as you gain confidence in steps 1 through 3 of the hand lettering process, you can begin to experiment a bit more with details. However, if you're stumped right now as to what details you'd like to add to your lettering, I'll be sharing several of my favorites as well as discussing where and how to look for lettering detail inspiration in later videos of this class. 7. Lettering Warmup #1: Handwriting Style: Before we jump right into the demos of each lettering style, I thought it would be a good idea to begin with a couple of quick warm-ups to get you loosened up. If you would like to do my warm-up exercises in procreate, just download the Procreate Exercises ZIP File in the projects and resources tab, and add the corresponding JPEG to an 8.5 by 11 document. However, for this particular warm-up, I find writing on paper brings a better result. This first warm-up is all about how you currently write using both print and cursive handwriting, which means you shouldn't have any fear putting pen to paper. Open your classwork book to page four and write out the sentence provided, three separate times. First, with print lettering followed by cursive. I don't want you to think about drawing the letters perfectly. Instead, write this sentence down as if you were writing a letter to a friend. Now, you might be wondering, what a heck does practicing your own handwriting have to do with hand lettering? Well, this quick drill has two purposes, one, it gets your hand warmed-up while also allowing you to practice every letter in the alphabet. Muscle memory is so important for illustration and hand letter. So the more you write, the more consistent your letters will be and two, you can use this as a tool to identify unique details of your handwriting that you can then incorporate into your hand lettering work, making this exercise an easy way to start owning your personal lettering style. For example, one of my personal quirks with print lettering is that I always draw my lower-case a's and a double story form as opposed to the more common single story form. So whenever I'm lettering a lowercase a in a serif or sans-serif style, most of the time, I'll use the double story form. Likewise with my cursive, memo writing and uppercase bass, I use a swirly version of a printed s instead of the more common cursive s and so when I'm lettering in a script style and have an uppercase s, I always use what comes most naturally to me. So now that I've given you a few examples, I'd love for you to take 5 to 10 minutes and examine both your print in cursive handwriting, and identify at least three letter characteristics you'd like to incorporate into your hand lettering work. 8. Lettering Warmup #2: Font Framework: Now, that your hand is loosened up, let's kick the difficulty level up, just a smigg with our second warm-up. This warm-up utilizes basic royalty free fonts that you'll start lettering from, meaning you won't have to guess the proportions of each letter because the foundation is already done for you. Let me demonstrate with the word shine, typed out using the Verdana font. First, I'll trace the word to get a basic skeleton. Now, since I'm working in Procreate, I'm going to hide the Verdana typeface layer at this point, so I'm not influenced by it while finishing up the word. However, if you're working from pencil and paper, I'd suggest first going back over your skeleton in pen and then use a layer of tracing paper to finish the word. The tracing paper should dull the original typeface just enough that it's barely visible below the inked word skeleton you've created. Now, that I have my basic word skeleton, the next step in the hand lettering process is adding thickness to the letters, and because Verdana is a fairly wide set typeface, I have a lot of room to really beef up my letters and make them nice and chunky. I also think I want to change the shape of a few of the letters just slightly to make it a bit more futuristic looking. Now that that's done, I'll add an extra level of detail. One of my personal favorite details to add, especially with very thick letters, is adding a decorative inline to the inside of each letter form. Now, if I turn the Verdana typeface layer back on, you can see just how different my finished lettering looks, and now it's your turn to try. Open your class workbook to page five and do this exact process for each of the three words provided. Remember if you're doing this warm-up in Procreate, you'll need to add the corresponding JPEG file to your tablet first. The most important thing I want you to keep in mind as you work through this exercise, is that you're only using the typeface as a guide for the first part of the lettering process. Once you've completed the skeleton of your letters, don't continue to reference the font. 9. Sans Serif Demo: Before we move on to the more complicated aspects of lettering, I thought it'd be helpful for you to watch me draw each of the four lettering styles from scratch. I also want to mention that these lettering style demos are sped up quite a bit so that you don't have to sit through me hand lettering in real time. However, if you feel the pace is too quick, you can always slow down the video by hovering over the 1x that's just right of the play button and selecting the 0.5x play speed option. Now let's get started with our first demo, the Sans-serif style, using the word wonder. I'm going to start off playing with style to see what looks good to me. That's feeling a little too flourishy, so I think I'm going to simplify the letters. But I don't want it to be too simple, so I'm going to add in small details to the R and probably the W. I know I want to add a tiny bit of thickness to it, so I'm going to space out the letters a little bit more. Again, if I'd left more room in the beginning, I wouldn't have to do that at this point. Now I'm going back over the wonder skeleton, adding some thickness. One thing I want to mention here is that I'm making sure to sketch the O a tiny bit above and below my guides. That's because if you sketch rounded letters within the guides, they'll actually end up looking smaller than the rest of the letters. This is just a little typographic trick to make sure that O feels like the same height. Now with the skeleton layer turned off, the D is feeling a little skinny. I think I'm going to go back and add a little width to it, and see that's better. This is looking pretty good, so I'm going to start a new layer and draw over this sketch using the studio pen. While sketching with paper and pencil, this is the part of the process where I'd get a sheet of tracing paper and trace over my sketch and pen. One more trick I want to mention for Procreate is that I sometimes find it easier to fill in the O entirely and then go back with an eraser to remove the inside of it, instead of drawing the inside line. I'm liking where it's at, but the W feels a little thin to me, so I'm going to go back and add a tiny bit of thickness to it. Yeah, that looks better. This looks great, but I think I'm going to add a drop line to it before I call it done. There's a neat little hack you can use in Procreate for knowing the perfect placement for drop lines, and that's by duplicating the word layer, moving it to 45 degrees below, and then reducing the opacity so it's grayed out. Now I can easily add in the drop lines, and I'll trace over all the right hand side and bottom edges of each letter. Using this hack ensures your drop placement line is always consistent. Now I'll turn off the guide layers and you can see the finished piece. 10. Serif Demo: For the serif demo, I'll be lettering the word cheers. I've decided I want to make really wide letters in a thick and thin style. I've got my guides and I'll start by sketching out the letters. I'm going to make sure they're all the same width. Now, you can see I've actually run out of room before I finished the word skeleton. I'm going to have to move the word over to make space for the S. This is another instance where procreate comes in handy over paper and pencil, because if I make a spacing mistake, I can just move the layer over instead of having to redraw it entirely. The letters all look pretty consistent. Now, I'll go back in and add my serifs, and a lot of thickness to the main down strokes of each letter. Now, the S presents a unique challenge when adding thickness because I want to retain the shape without adding any additional width. Instead of adding thickness to just one side of it like I did with the other letters, I'm going to first mark where the thickness should be on the insides of both of the curves, and then I'll use that as a guide to fill in the thickness on each side. You see how that works? Now, I've got to go back and make sure each letter has serifs on the ends of each stroke. That looks good. Now, I'm ready to redraw it on a new layer and pen. You might be asking why I'm not using the lines snapping feature to draw my letters. I totally could, but it makes the lettering look too perfect, and I think it loses some of its character. I prefer this small imperfections that come with truly hand-drawn lines. I'm almost done, but I want to add another level of detail with an inline on each letter. I like the diamond. I feel like it gives a nod to the art decor style. Now, I'll turn off the guides and we're done. 11. Script Demo: For this script style, I'll be learning the word "Joyful", I'm really excited to show you this one as the script style is one of my favorites. You'll notice my guides look a little different this time around, since I'll be drawing lowercase letters and I want the script to have a slight slant, have included both the x-height line and vertical guides. Now one of the things I personally always like to do when drawing script words is actually start with drawing the second letter of the word first. But I'll leave lots of room to go back and add in uppercase "J" later. Usually draw script words like this because I almost always add swirls or big loops to the first letter, and so it helps to know where the rest of the letters of the word are going to sit, so I know just how much room I have to add in my swirls. The "J" looks great, but the rest of the word looks a little saddened in comparison now, so I'm going to play with the ascenders and descenders and try and add one or two more flourishes. This is always a bit of a process, but I just keep tweaking the letters and experimenting with them until I find a solution that makes the word feel balanced. I think I like it like this,and one last touch before the ink phase I think I want to add some dots on the end of each flourish. Yeah, I like that, now for the fun part, it's time to ink it. I like this, but I think I want to add some thickness to the down strokes to give the word a bit more interests, I think I've left myself enough room for most of the letters, but I think I'm going to have to move a few of them over a bit, and yeah, this one needs a little bit more room up and so does the "f". That looks good, so I'm going to turn off the guide and skeleton layers, and there's a little bit of awkward spacing happening with the "u", so I'm going to scooch it over to the right, just a smidge, and now it feels too far from the "f". Let me play with the spacing a little bit more. I think that looks much better, and we're done. 12. Display Demo: Now this demo for the display style is going to be a little different. I'll be drawing the word spooky. I'm still going to start out with my base and Kaplan Guides, but I'm also going to sketch vertical guides and create a box for each letter to sit within. This is an easy way to ensure that you'll have equal spacing. Okay, now that's done, I'm going to go straight into sketching thick letters instead of starting with a skeleton. I realize I'm leapfrogging over step two of my hand lettering process. For the other three styles, it's not something I'd normally recommend. But because I want the lettering to be a little bit more unique, I feel like I can successfully skip this step for the display style. That looks pretty good. You can see I've kept the letter thickness consistent throughout, which again will aid in legibility when I transform it, which I'll do right now. Now for the word spooky, I thought it'd be fun to make the letters look like they're shaking to add a creepy vibe to the word. You'll see I make some adjustments along the way, like increasing the height of the piece curve. I'm also not liking this large empty space between the k and y. So I'm going to redraw the y a little bit. Yeah, that looks better. Okay, so let me turn the sketching layer off and see now if you like the spacing between the center letters is too wide, so I'm going to tighten them up a bit. So now I'm ready to ink this [inaudible]. I think I'm going to choose a different brush this time when it has a little bit of a texture to it. Yup, I'm liking the way this is looking. There you have it. A nice spooky looking word. 13. 3 Principles for Multi Word Designs: Up until now, we've only discussed hand lettering in terms of a single word, which is helpful when you're creating designs with a word like thanks or congratulations, but most of the time you'll probably be lettering an entire phrase. That's why it's also a good idea to learn and build multi-word pieces. I'll be sharing four simple lettering layouts with you in the next video to give you some reliable options you can try out, but first, it's important for you to learn the three design principles that make a multi-word layout instantly stronger. Hierarchy. Utilizing hierarchy is perhaps the easiest way to create a very dynamic lettering piece. You simply want to emphasize the most important words of a phrase usually with the use of scale or color, while deemphasizing simple, less important ones. To do this, you need to first write out the phrase you want a letter, then go back and circle the words you want to emphasize. Usually there will be the words that carry the most meaning in the piece. After that, read back through the phrase and underline any unimportant ones. Words like to, and, it, of, a, or the. As you start building your lettering layout, you can use your circled and underlined words as a guide when deciding where each word goes and how big to make them. So when I lettered the phrase, be a light to the world, I emphasized light and world and kept the rest of the phrase really simple. Contrast. Of course, you can achieve contrast with scale, like we discussed with hierarchy, but you can also do it by pairing multiple lettering styles together, incorporating different line weights throughout, or doing both. When sketching out your ideas for your lettering pieces, experiment by adding two different font looks together. Maybe you try a thick and thin script matched with a simple serif, or you may want to use a chunky sans serif with a thin, swirly one. Mood. Whether you're aware of it or not, each design in your portfolio evokes a certain mood, and even if the final design doesn't end up exactly as you originally envisioned it, I'm sure you tried to capture the mood you wanted as best you could. Well, the same holds true when creating hand lettering pieces. You want to make sure that the style, details, and layout you choose matches the feeling you're trying to achieve. For example, say I wanted to letter thank you, but I had two very different concepts in mind for the design. The first concept is a feminine floral, while the other is a colorful geometric one. Well, I wouldn't want to create the exact same lettering for both as the vibe in each piece is so different. Instead, I'd probably stick with a sweet script style for the floral design, and then create some bold San serif lettering for the geometric design. To further illustrate the point of mood, if I swap the lettering of these, you can see just how discordant they feel, and now I'll switch it back and see. That feels better. 14. Simple Lettering Layouts: If the idea of hand lettering longer phrases makes you anxious, I want you to know you're not alone. I was too when I first started out, which is why all the early examples you saw in video three, where mostly single word designs. But in the years since, I've gotten much more adapt at creating dynamic and interesting lettering pieces. But there's also times when I want to go simple, and for those occasions, I built a small library, straight forward lettering layouts that I can utilize over and over. So if you're stumped on how to put your own lettering pieces together, here's my four go-to layouts you can use in your work. Lettering Lockup. By far the most efficient layout. The lettering lockup uses the full width of available space and pictures multiple lines stacked on top of each other. You can utilize this layout with a lettering only design, add it to the top of an illustration, or use the negative space inside a shape. This layout is especially good for when you don't want to draw too much attention away from your illustration. Thus the Lettering Lockup is a fairly static layout. In the Middle. The next simplest layout of the bunch. The In the Middle layout is exactly like it sounds. Your lettering sits in the center of the design and it's surrounded by a large illustration or many small ones. This layout works specially well for greeting card, stationery in a home decor focus pieces, and anytime you want the readers' eye drawn to the center of a piece. Top & Bottom. Exactly the opposite from the last layout. The Top & Bottom layout is where you have the lettering, both above and below, a central illustration. Again, this style is great for greeting cards and stationery, but also kids apparel and wall decor. At an Angle. More playful than the previous layout, At an Angle features all or most of its lettering on an incline. This gives the layout extra energy and is perhaps the easiest layout to start with if you're trying to make your lettering more dynamic. This layout works especially well with long words or when paired with action post characters even though the layouts we just covered are reliable and fairly easy to incorporate, I don't want you to forget about the three principles of lettering in the process. If you're ready to start practicing these lettering layouts right now, I've included each one in the class workbook, or if you're using Procreate, you can download the lettering layout zip file to your tablet, and pick the JPEG of the layout you want to use. 15. Lettering Details & Embellishments: This is by no means an exhaustive list of details. I just wanted to give you a few examples of details you can easily incorporate into your lettering, to give it some extra personality. Let's start with different serif styles. My five go to options are slab serif, triangle serif, dot serif, decorative serif, and extended flourish. Another popular lettering detail is shadow, but there's more than one style. My favorites are drop shadow, drop line, and block shading. The most important thing to remember when adding in a shadow to your lettering is to make sure the shadow angle stays consistent throughout. I personally like to use a 45 degree angle, as I find it's the easiest to keep consistent. Finally, don't forget to play with adding a small touch to the insides of your letters. Here's just four ideas to get you started: dots, full inline, half inline, or historical flourishes. 16. 4 Common Lettering Mistakes to Avoid: I've given you a bunch of advice thus far about things you should be doing while hand lettering. But what about the things you should avoid doing? There are several bad habits that most beginners don't know about, which can immediately make their hand lettering look amateurish, but I don't want that to happen to you. That's why we're going to cover the four most common lettering mistakes so you can avoid them in your work. Mistake number 1, incorrect thickness. Perhaps the most prevalent issue I see is thickness being added to the wrong part of a thick and thin letter. It's most common in letters that have more than just a single vertical stroke, like the letters A, M, N, and W. Usually the incorrect thickness will be added to either the first vertical stroke, as is the case with the letter A, or on the outside strokes for M, N and W. It's something I did myself in my early lettering years. But adding thickness this way ends up with awkward feeling letters. That's because the thickness should instead always be placed on the downward strokes of any letter. Think about how you write the letter A. You draw it from the baseline to the cap line and then back to the baseline. The first stroke is upward and the second one is downward. That's where the thickness needs to be. The same holds true for the other misfit letters. When you're creating thick and thin letters, double-check every time that the thickest part of each letter is on the down stroke. Mistake number 2, obsessed over swirls. When artists first learn how to create script lettering, they can often get so excited about possibilities that they end up adding in too many swirls at once or creating awkward connections between words. Obviously, you don't want to sacrifice on style, but you also don't want the lettering to be overshadowed by too many loops or even worse, that the addition of swirls make the readers see a different word than what you intention ed. If you'd like to try adding loops or swirls into your hand lettering, start by including only one or two into a piece. Then as your lettering improves, you can experiment by adding in an extra flourish here and there. If you're unsure where to start, here are the two easiest places to add loops or swirls to letters. Any lowercase letter with a descender like g, j, p, q and y, or the first uppercase letter of a word, especially when using the script lettering style. Mistake number 3, too many styles. You want each lettering piece to have personality. But if you get overzealous and try to fit in as many styles into a piece as you can, the result can end up looking confusing. That's why I generally advocate for rule of less is more for beginning letterers. Where you include no more than three styles within the same piece. The biggest problem occurs when you try to use multiple lettering styles that clash. The result ends up looking awkward. Instead, you should remember the design principles of mood and contrast when choosing what styles to place together. Of course, it is possible to do well-designed lettering with far more than three styles. It's something you can experiment with over time or in your personal work. But you're more likely to have sellable portfolio pieces if you master the art of pairing two to three styles together first. Mistake number 4, overstretched and distorted. The point of lettering is to be read. But if you stretch or distort your letters too much, you can make an entire hand lettering piece unreadable. Now there's nothing wrong with sketching out super skinny or slightly odd shaped letters. In fact, unusual details can add a lot of character, but once you sketch them out, it's a good idea to take a few steps back and see if you have any trouble reading it or better yet, send your in-progress sketch to a friend and ask them if they can. If you or your friend have any trouble with it, you can go back and make changes, which is much easier to do at the initial sketching phase rather than once a piece is nearly finished. 17. Finding Lettering Inspiration: We've covered a lot of ground so far in class. Before we jump into the class project, I thought it'd be helpful to briefly discuss inspiration and research. My two favorite places to hunt for hand lettering inspiration are Instagram and Pinterest. On Instagram, there are thousands of talented letterers you can follow and get inspired by and many lettering community hashtags you can browse through. The same holds true for Pinterest. I've included a link to my lettering inspiration Pinterest board, as well as some of the Instagram lettering accounts I follow in the class resources PDF. Hunting for inspiration is a great way to identify new styles to try or lettering details that excite you. However, when browsing for lettering inspiration, it's always a good idea to have an end goal in mind. Otherwise, you could waste hours just endlessly scrolling through your feet. Maybe you're looking for lettering reference for 1970's inspiring design. You may want to search on Pinterest and save images that inspire you. Or perhaps, you want to experiment drawing a specific letter form. So you'll browse an Instagram hashtag to collect different iterations of it to give yourself some visual reference to work from. In both of these scenarios, you'll only need about 10-20 images before you have enough to start the brainstorming phase. Gathering inspiration consistently when creating new lettering pieces, has an additional benefit. It can help you discern your lettering style. To do this, periodically pick out 5-10 of your favorite lettering pieces from some past lettering inspiration searches and analyze what you like about them. Take notes or sketch design elements and letter forms you gravitate towards. Then review them and contemplate adding them into your next lettering piece. However, I do want to be clear that you should never copy someone's lettering too closely. Just like you'd never want to replicate and other artist's illustration or pattern, the same holds true with hand lettering. One way to combat this is to focus on vintage ephemera and packaging, as you'll be less likely to run into trouble if you get a little too inspired by a piece. That doesn't mean you should copy vintage pieces outright though. Instead, I suggest you use the vintage inspiration as the foundation of a design and reference it for things like layout and lettering detail. Think of it like what you did in the second lettering warm-up where you started with the original typeface just until you had the lettering skeleton, and then discarded it so you could achieve a truly unique design. 18. Project Part 1: Brainstorming & Thumbnails: You first need to decide on the phrase you're going to hand-letter. I had a bunch I was initially considering, but finally chose the phrase, "Mistakes are proof that you are trying." I thought it was perfect for this class project based on encouragement. Not only that, but I feel like this phrase could work for more than just a motivational poster. It could also work as an everyday encouragement greeting card or on products in the gift or stationery market, where customers are looking for a cheerful design to reassure a friend or loved one. So now that my phrase is chosen, I need to do some quick brainstorming and if you're following along, I'll be using page 13 of the class workbook. At the top of the page, I added my phrase but I also included an option to condense it by combining "You are" into the contraction "You're". I'm not sure I'll use it but it's nice to write it out to remember it as an option. You'll also notice that I've circled the important words of my phrase and underlined the unimportant one. The next step is to take five minutes and build a word list with things the phrase reminds you of. My phrase conjured up this idea of imperfection and optimism. Beyond that, it's also important to think of visual characteristics. You can see on my list, I've included not only the styles I envision, but also the lettering details, colors and accompanying motifs that could work. You'll use this word list as a guide for the next brainstorming step, which is to collect a few images that inspire you. Here's the images I collected from my project and something that immediately struck me seeing them altogether after I downloaded them is how they all have a sort of retro 1950s vibe to them, and that's great because it gives me a bit more visual direction for my piece. The last step of brainstorming is to sketch out a few quick thumbnails of your phrase. These should be really quick and dirty sketches, meaning you don't have to worry about making them precise. The most important part of the thumbnail phase is to experiment with the layout options and the lettering styles of each word in your phrase. You want to make sure each thumbnail is a little bit different to give yourself plenty of options to choose from. Then once you're done, just put a star next to your favorite. You can see here from my sheet of thumbnails that this last one I drew is my favorite. Because I think it has the most interesting layout. I also had the idea of designing the letters in a way where it looks like the eraser has erased bits of the letters but I'm not quite sold on that idea yet. Also looking at all the thumbnails together and thinking about adjusting some of the lettering styles in the next step. I really prefer this script style over the one in my favorite sketch so I'll probably swap that in on the next project phase. 19. Project Part 2: Refined Sketch: Now that you have the basic layout and lettering styles defined in your favorite thumbnail, it's time to take that and turn it into a more refined sketch that you can use as the foundation of your finished piece. Here's my completed sketch. I thought it was important to share an analog version of a refined sketch since so much of what I have demonstrated in class so far has been in Procreate. You can see that I did update the script lettering for mistakes and I'm much happier with the change. I also adjusted the middle of the piece, but still kept in the arrow detail because it helps give that retro node that I want. Also, I do want to remind you that it's important not to skip any of the four steps of hand lettering. Make sure you start by building guides, which you can see very faintly in my sketch. Then add in your letter skeletons before adding thickness and details. One more tip, I'd like to mention that it's a good idea to sketch out your design very lightly in pencil first so it's easier to erase when you need to make changes, which is highly likely. I erased parts of this piece numerous times. Then once you're happy with where your sketches at, you can go back and darken it because it makes it much easier to trace over in the final step. Now that my refined sketch is done, I need to get it ready to recreate in Procreate. I took a picture of it with my iPad, loaded it into an 18 by 24 document in Procreate, and then scaled the sketch to size. Seeing it like this, I actually think I want a little more white space around the edge of the design, so I'm going to make it all a little smaller. I'm also going to adjust the words mistakes and trying, as both of them ended up a little off-center. The last step I always take to prepare my design is to redraw all of my guides. There is sometimes during the sketch phase, a few letters may end up out of alignment. By redrawing them, it makes adjusting the placement of each letter a bit easier. Now I'm ready to finish this project. 20. Project Part 3: Finishing the Design: We're finally at the last stage of the project and it's time to finish this puppy. First, I want to mention that if you've been working with pencil and paper, but you're planning on completing your design and illustrator using Live Trace, I'd strongly suggest that you use tracing paper and a pen to draw over your refined sketch. If you'd like some tips on how to do that, you can review video 10 of my class, Sketching for surface designers and illustrators. Now that we're in the final stage of this class project, it's the perfect time to discuss color. I always prefer to add color at the end of the process, and for a project like this, I like to take color cues from the inspiration imagery I gathered during the brainstorming phase and usually like to stick between three and six colors. I'll draw out a really rough approximation of the design. It doesn't have to be exact because I'm literally only using this to determine my color palette. I spend maybe a minute quickly drawing it out and then I'll experiment with different colors. For me, the color choosing process takes awhile because I can sometimes be really indecisive. Now as far as the placement of what color should go where, you should keep the principles of hierarchy and contrast in mind. You can emphasize a word just by choosing the boldest color in your palate and likewise can de-emphasize one with a softer color. Another good rule of thumb, is to make sure you use each color in your palate in at least two different places in a piece so no color ever feels random or out of place. If you want additional guidance on color, I've included links to a few Skillshare classes I've found helpful. We're finally ready to finish up this piece. I usually start by building my lettering pieces from top to bottom, drawing the outlines of each letter, and then filling them in with color. Then once a word is completed, I'll make adjustments as I see them. There's a few things going on here that I'm not quite happy about. This transition between the A and the K looks a little funny. It's making the K look a little bit more tilted than it should be, so I'll redraw it a bit, there. Now I feel like the M is a little too short, especially because the ascender of the K is quite a bit taller than it is. So extend the height on the M. I also think the word looks a little anemic, so I think I'll add a little thickness to the whole thing. There, that's a lot better. Moving on, I'll trace the rest of the design making minor adjustments as I go. Now that I have the base of the design drawn out, I'm looking at it and I'm not really liking the style of the word trying. It looks a little too formal for the retro, light-hearted mood I'm going for. I'm going to play with a bunch of other styling options for it until I find one I like. Here's the funny part, trying is finally the place where I like it. But if we compare it to the original, there's not that much that's been changed even after all of my experimentation. Main difference here is uniform thickness to the letters, which gives it a more laid back vibe than thick and thin letters. Now that I've gotten the basic structure of my phrase done, I can start the fun part and go back and add details to it. I'm going to add drop shadows on both proof and trying. I definitely want some inline details on those words too. I think just a basic inline for proof will work, but I want something a little fancier for trying. I like that. Because I want the dot detail to be placed at the same point of each letter, I'm going to turn my guides back on so that they'll all be at the same height. I want to differentiate the two drop shadows from each other, especially since they're the same color. I think I'm going to add a pattern detail to trying. Yeah, I like how that looks. I've made a few other small adjustments and I'm really loving this piece, but I feel like proof and trying are dominating the design right now and I really want mistakes to be a little bit more prominent. I think I'm going to go back and add even more thickness and maybe even a drop line to it. Yeah, much better. I think I'm almost done. But before I call it a day, I'm going to add some retro inspired doodles around the eraser and the words. There we go. I think I'm going to call this complete and now it's your turn to try. 21. Thank You!: Making the choice to learn something new and so far outside your artistic comfort zone is such a brave, bold step, and I'm honored you've taken an hour out of your schedule to come learn hand lettering with me. I truly hope you found this class valuable, and that it's motivated you to give hand lettering a try. Remember to post your class project to the Projects and Resources tab of this class, so your work can help inspire others and so I can leave you feed back. Or if you prefer to post on Instagram, you can use the #surfacesandlettering. If you haven't already, now is the perfect time to download all the class materials. If you'd like to keep in touch with me or know when my next class comes out, the best places to find me are either on Instagram using my handle @smcnabstudio, and my free Facebook group for artists, the creativity clan, or right here on Skillshare. All you have to do is press the follow button right up there. Again, thank you so much for joining me in this exploration of hand lettering. Now, it's time to get creating.