Hand Lettering for Total Beginners | Tanja Meyer | Skillshare

Hand Lettering for Total Beginners

Tanja Meyer, Illustrator and Lettering Artist

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21 Lessons (41m)
    • 1. Intro

      0:49
    • 2. Class Project

      1:11
    • 3. Materials

      1:46
    • 4. Get Inspired

      2:01
    • 5. Typefaces

      1:17
    • 6. Faux Calligraphy

      4:57
    • 7. Thumbnail Sketching

      1:25
    • 8. Analysing and Practicing

      0:53
    • 9. Play With It

      2:05
    • 10. Sketching your Lettering

      2:30
    • 11. Sketching define it

      1:20
    • 12. Writing Angle

      5:54
    • 13. Distance between the letters

      2:02
    • 14. Volume of letters

      2:45
    • 15. Final Steps

      0:40
    • 16. DIY Carbon Paper

      1:41
    • 17. Congratulations!

      1:08
    • 18. Bonus 1: Watercolor Gradient

      1:20
    • 19. Bonus 2: Watercolor Background

      1:41
    • 20. Bonus 3: Watercolor Background with Pens

      1:38
    • 21. Bonus 4: Pen Black and White

      1:46
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About This Class

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Handlettering for total beginners 

If you always wanted to start with hand lettering, and create great designs for your projects but you didn't found the flow right away, if you want to jump into the next level of hand lettering skills or if you just want to learn a productive workflow for your design projects, this class is for you!

Tanja has spent many years teaching total beginners. In serveral offline classes, she gained experience with the needs of creatives, who love creating and illustrating but who don't know where to start. This class, gives you a professional workflow to improve your work and a lot of motivation to go on practising. You learn to reflect, control and adjust your work in a highly understandable way.

In this class you'll learn:

  • a productive and fun sketching workflow
  • the basics of typography
  • a technique to design letterings in faux calligraphy
  • to stay openminded for all your ideas
  • to avoid frustration
  • the (open) secrets of a good and balanced lettering design
  • techniques you can apply to any drawing project

You will be creating a finished design, that you may work out with any of your favourite media, the process is your project.

Even if you have some experience in hand lettering, you will find some new tricks and tips that could approve your workflow. 

Get your extra boost of motivation! 

Transcripts

1. Intro : Hi, my name is Tanya Maya, and this is hand lettering for total beginners. This class is for anyone who's interested in hand lettering. I'm a professional illustrator and art teacher since the last seven years. My favorite jobs are illustration jobs. In the field of art teaching, I've been working with a lot of different people over the time, who have never done anything with art heard. Of course, I have a cat. In this class, I'm going to show you my professional workflow. I'm going to teach you about the basic typography, I'll show you workflow to design a lettering in a really understandable and fun and productive way. This class is filled with practical tips, logical and easy steps to improve and control your work. Let's dive in and get a successful start in hand lettering. 2. Class Project : As a class project, you will be designing your very own hand lettering. Just one word to the keep it simple. We focus on the design process, with a lot of exercises and methods to push your creativity and to improve your work. From the roughest to the last detail, we work out our finished lettering. You can show the community every step, that is your main project, developing a design. At the end of the class, you can work it out with any of your favorite media. If you need some more inspiration, you can watch my bonus videos with different ways to simple work out your hand lettering. Please, feel free to share your work in the project section. Share every step you take, and every move you make, every breath you take. A lot of people think that good art just jump out of artist's head, and that is just a God-given talent, but it's not, it's just practice. What's more important, is that everyone needs small steps to get a really good design. Let's dive into this together, let's support each other by sharing our whole process, and let's start with the class. 3. Materials: When it comes to sketching and lettering and illustration or whatever I want to design, I always keep it really simple with my materials. The first thing that you really should keep in mind, is keep it cheap. Because I don't know how you feel, but if I have some really fancy paper in front of me, I really want to create something nice. But if I'm sketching, the possibility to not create something nice is really high. I don't want you to get frustrated because of that, and I really want to feel free to create whatever comes into my head. if it's not that good, it doesn't matter because I got it out of my head and I tried it out. This is why I use some simple pencils, you can use mechanical pencils, this is what I am using them most, or just a normal pencil and an eraser. I am using simple copy paper, the cheapest one that I can get. This is what I am using. When it comes to tracing paper, I am really just using sandwich paper. It is super cheap. It's like 100 sheets of paper for three or four euro, and this is what makes me feel free to create whatever comes into my mind. It fulfills the same purpose as expensive tracing paper, but I am allowed to mess it up over and over again and this is really a nice feeling. I prepared some worksheets for you. You can print them out for the class, but if you don't have a printer, you can follow the class anyway. I will show you everything also on a blank sheet of paper. They are really nice to use and to keep all the rules and all the nice tips that I have for you in mind. 4. Get Inspired : [MUSIC] You can get inspired by the work of other artists. For example, I made watercolor words, or bold and mixed media letterings, and also calligraphy work with florals. You can also look for artwork and topography in magazines. I am reading The Flow, and look at this gorgeous illustration of lettering by Bodil Jane, or this one by Keely Reyes, or this last one by Lisa Congdon. Hand lettering has so many faces. So look around yourself to get a sneak of what is possible. I also love collecting books about topography. For example, the Typography Sketchbooks by Steven Heller and Lita Talarico. Artists from all over the world show their sketchbooks and their roughs and this is super inspiring. For example, these sketchbook pages by Michael Hochleitner, or the roughs by Thierry Hausermann. The colorful work of Katie Lombardo was one of my favorite. She has really simple letters, but she makes it really special by color and by decoration. You can also put together a Pinterest mood board. I put the link to my mood board in the about section of this class. You can follow me if you like. I love the creative ways artists handle topography. Looking at this mood board gives me always some motivation to create my own individual artworks. This is really important right now. Don't copy, make it your own. Do you like it colorful and bold, or do you like thin and black and white? Collect everything that your own tastes give you and make your own artwork out of different visuals, out of different techniques. Be individual with your work. 5. Typefaces : To get you out of your handwriting zone, you need to deal with different typefaces, which means the appearance letters can have. There are a lot of different ones and I will show you the typefaces I like to use the most. Monolines are letter types where every stroke has the same thickness, the same weight. They can be bold and thin. Then there are letters with changing font-weight, they have a thick and a thin stroke in one letter. I will tell you more about the creation and design of such letters in the following lesson, the Faux Calligraphy. Next in line, Serif fonts. Serifs are recognizable by those small strokes at the end of a larger stroke in a letter. They're mostly used in book printing because the small strokes helped the reader to stay in the right line. This makes it much easier to read long texts. A lot of lettering artists create letterings with serifs because you can get really creative with them. Script fonts or calligraphy fonts look like really nice handwriting. What you need to keep in mind is that you can combine all typefaces, you can write a Monoline lettering in script font or a Serif lettering in bold. See, I made a script font with changing font-weight and then a Monoline. 6. Faux Calligraphy : In the classic calligraphy, you work with a pen. This pen has a slit in the middle, as you can see. This allows the ink to flow down even onto your paper. When you press the pen, the tip opens, and if you pull it down and make a line, I will demonstrate it, you can make a thick line. This is no pressure, thin, and with pressure, I can make a thick line. This is where the classic visual of the calligraphy comes from. It's really easy to push your pen and make a thick downstroke. It's not that easy to push your pen and make a thick upstroke. You can hear it, you can see it, it's not as even as this one. This is rather a simple rule. Thin up and thick down for the changing font-weight comes from. If we want to adjust this to our lettering, we can make use of the fill calligraphy. In this case, we just add a double line. Let me show you. If I have just a normal curve, thin up and thick down, I can add a double line and fill it out if I want to. Something like this. I just faked the visual of the changing font weight. We can also do this with a letter, for example, an a. This is up, this is down, this is up, down, and up. Every time I get down, I just put a double line to my letter and this looks just like a calligraphy lettering. The question I always get is, how do I adjust the double line? It's basically really, really simple. If we have a curve, for example, I'm doing some other letters now. Let me show you. Maybe a d, that's basically an a, an e and the g, for example. Every time I have the highest or the lowest point of the curve, I adjust a double line. It starts here and it ends here. Just really smooth into the letter. Also starts here, because it's down, and it ends here. Here, the same. This is the highest point and the lowest point up, down, up. Just the downstroke, I'm adding the double line and here too. Starts here and here. What's really great about that is that you can be really creative with this downstroke, because only you can decide how thick the downstroke must be. It doesn't matter if you've put it on the right or on the left side of your letter, just decide every time for you because sometimes you don't have the room for it on the left side or the other side, and sometimes it fits. Just try it out with some letters. You can try it out with your own handwriting. For example, if I am writing my name now, this looks like this. I don't have a nice handwriting. It's okay, but it's not calligraphy. But if I adjust the double line just with the simple rules, thin up, thick down. Also, this word gets more stylish immediately. Try it out for the first thing you do, thin up and thick down, and yes, be creative with it. 7. Thumbnail Sketching : Whatever I want to design, I work from the roughest to the last detail, I make small composition sketches. The only two things that matter right now is what do I draw and where do I put it? I start with simple forms like a line, a wave or a bow, for example. I will put my word in the form just to get a feeling of how it looks. In this stage, there are no fancy font types needed. Spare your energy and work on that later. You can play with your options, of course. With the quick script font or a capital letter, with the writing angle. Remember, draw fast. I do this kind of sketching because it helps me first to collect all my ideas and see my options. It is much easier to decide for a composition first, don't get lost in working out too many details so soon, things must be sought through before you start working it out. If everything is planned, design, and improved, you know your media, things only could go fantastic for you. I often do a lot of them drawing everything that comes to my mind. Draw everything that you can think of first really quick. 8. Analysing and Practicing : What will help you designing your hand lettering, is analyzing typographic work and getting practice in drawing letters. To get started, you can simply print out your word of choice with prints from the computer. Where I learn most from, is analyzing it. For example, if I compare this G to the C, I recognize that the G is the C with an extra element. Those letters have the same basic over form, so I know if I use the same basic forms to construct my letters, I will create a nice consistency in my work. So I'm having a little homework for you now, to get better at lettering, you need to practice it. I advise you to type in some words of your choice on your computer with different fonts, try drawing them freehand. You will get a better feeling for lettering if you practice that a lot. 9. Play With It : I'd like to show you one simple exercise that you can use to get creative. We play with letters to get new ones. We start with letters that we found somewhere. You can print them out from your computer, you can cut them out of magazines, or you can use photos you make yourself from shop logos or other typographic work for example. Let's take a close look to this row of A's. As simple as they seem, they are all different. Some are cursive, some are script, some have serifs. To play with them, we pick one. Draw it and change one tiny thing. The basic structure of an A is a triangle and a stroke. So one option we have is trying the same triangle but we change the stroke a little. For example, a little lower and longer. Now I've created a new A based on my inspiration A. Let's try another A but let's change two things. As you can see, by observing and studying typography and changing elements, if you like, you can get super creative. This trains your creative muscles so well and I recommend you playing this game a lot. Remember that not every letter has to look perfect. They can look weird, they can look overloaded, they can be everything. Don't get blocked by thoughts like, "Maybe this looks stupid." Do it anyway. It's fun and it doesn't matter. You do it for yourself and you learn from every drawing you make. If you feel comfortable, you can try your ideas on whole words. I'll try to change the word, Amore, a little, and I picked the last A I drew for that. I will respect the writing angles, so I draw this one in a right angle to fit the other letters. You will get a detailed demo on how to control the writing angle later in this class. Because I started with a flourish, I like to end with one. Have fun playing around. 10. Sketching your Lettering: I choose one of my thumbnail sketches, the where. I like it simple. Let's take this one, and I adjust the letters I practiced. I choose to practice a serif font because it's really clear. But I also like the other two because of the flourishes. I think I want to draw a combination. I can combine two visuals with each other and create something new. I must be a wizard. Next thing, I start designing my final piece. I give you the advice to sketch always on the same size as your final piece will be. You can trace it later with an LED light board or a simple trick that I will show you. In the beginning, I make sure to leave some space to the edges, that gives me enough freedom to try things out, so the scale wouldn't matter. Then let's put the composition sketch in there. From my smallest sketch, I get a good overview of where my individual letters are. The G is the middle letter, but it's not in the middle, because the I takes up very little space. I can use this as a guide when I'm drawing. First, I put all of the letter forms in there to make sure my letters fit. If it doesn't, never mind, make another one and try again. I don't waste time drawing it nice in the beginning because all nice drawn things won't look good if the composition isn't clear and balanced. I see a lot of students getting lost in details too soon. I used to be one of them too. Every time I draw something, I get better at it, so I am positive that there definitely will be a sketch where all my letters fit in nice. If it finally does, I draw my letters in the composition with the font of choice. Again, not too much love on detail please. Over the time, a vocabulary of letters will be stored in your brain, that you can draw freehand without thinking, you simply get routined. But first, let's try drawing them bigger. If some ideas pop into your mind while drawing, just draw it in there. I really focus on the basic appearance of the letters first. As soon as the basic structure of your lettering is in place, you can start getting creative with it. Yay. 11. Sketching define it: There is one super important thing to keep in mind when designing a picture or lettering. It is important that the picture is balanced. Every single letter should be balanced and stable and so should the whole word. This lettering is very unbalanced at the moment. I use to flourish here and the little one there and another one there. When I compare the interplay of this lettering across the entire page, I quickly noticed that something is missing here. I recommend you to always think of your lettering like a pair of scales. If there's lot of something on one side, you need some of it on the opposite side to balance it out. Work with repetitions. I'll erase this little flourish because it disturbs the whole balance. It's simply too much in this place. I tried to apply another bigger flourish under my lettering. This is no magic at all. I just repeated familiar shape and as you can see, this version looks much better. So I'm tracing it on a fresh sheet of paper. Again, I only trace what I like and the rest stays in the earlier version. In this stage, you can add some little details like thin and thick lines and a flourishing stars. Get creative and add whatever you want. But keep the balance in mind when adding more elements and details. 12. Writing Angle : What you really need to control if you want an even-looking hand lettering, you need to control the writing angle. You can see the difference between those two. Here I made a writing angle which is really, really even, and this one is a writing angle which is a little bit chaotic. I made it on purpose, I admit, but you'll see the difference right now. If you want something looking more naive or whatever, you can play with it, you can play with the writing angle. But if you want something which has really even a nice look, you need to control the writing angle. How do you do this? You can control the writing angle, for example, if you compare all the thick downstrokes with each other, for example, this one, this one, this one here. If I am marking them in the letters that are straight, I see the angle is really nice and really even. In the round letters, you can mark the highest and the lowest point, and you can connect them to check the writing angle, and this is okay. You choose highest and the lowest point, connect it, and check the writing angle. If you have triangular letters, for example, the A or the V, you connect the highest point with the middle of the two arms and you have the writing angle. This is how you can control it. I understand that especially if you're in the beginning and you may need to focus on drawing the letters that you have, it can be really difficult to extra-focus on the writing angle. This is why I just draw and then control it. But you can also help yourself by drawing a grid, for example. This one has straight lines and I can easily write a word with a writing angle. This is right up straight, so for example, the word magic. I only need the thick downstrokes to match those orientation lines. The a, highest point and lowest point, and the thick downstroke, again, orientation on these orientation lines, highest and lowest point. Yes, it fits and this stroke is going to assemble like this and the i, and the c highest and lowest point. I drew this, I didn't write it. I really focused on the writing angle and now it looks really even. Let's do the same word with the cursive writing angle. Again, I'm matching my thick downstrokes to my orientation lines. I think with those orientation lines, it really gets more easy to draw on the right angle, and c, I almost did the same letters, but they look totally different if they are cursive. This is how you can do it. This is a special form of writing angle. Most of the time, it doesn't change in the word. But this is like you're holding a deck of cards, for example, and the writing angle can get open. I don't know how to explain it but let me show you. Again, I am orientating on those writing angle orientation lines, but it changes over the time when I'm drawing it. Now my word looks really like as if it's drawn in a bowl. Let's go to my magic lettering and let's see if there's some writing angles that I can adjust. In most cases, we want a balanced lettering that looks very even. No matter how satisfied you are with your work, I recommend you to check your writing angle. The easiest way to do this is to compare the angle of the thick downstrokes. For triangular letters, connect the tip to the middle of the line between the two arms. With round letters, you connect the highest and the lowest point. As you can see, my G tilts a little to the right. I wouldn't have noticed this if I had not carried out the check, and my C has the same angle as the G. I have the tendency to tilt my round letters a bit. With another layer of sandwich paper, I'm going to adjust the angle. The M, the A, and the I had the same angle and I am just tracing them. For the G and the C, I turned my top paper just a little so that I can trace the letters at the right angle. Try to find good points of orientation. The I is a good orientation in here. For the fact that I did not notice the difference in the writing angle without checking, we can now see a big difference in comparison with the drawing below. They almost didn't fit in the frame together. But as you can see, the corrected version looks a lot better than the earlier draft. Changing small things can have a big impact on the overall picture. You may be picky about your work. 13. Distance between the letters : Another control method for your lettering is the distance between the letters. I take a close look on the individual spaces. I want them similar. Really quick, I see that the A crosses the M, and I want to change that because it's the only letter in the word that is overlapping another part, so trace the good stuff, change the bad. If I pull my M farther away from the A, the letter M will look weird because here will be too much space compared to the rest. Always compare everything with each other. I will try to find a solution where I can keep a serif that doesn't cross the M. Just go to Google or Pinterest and look for serif fonts. Maybe your idea won't look good, but try it out anyway because maybe it will. I often get the question, "Tonya, do you think my lettering is going to be super amazing if I use a lot of glitter for A and a lot of neon color for the B, and just a lot of flourishes on the C?" My answer is always, "I don't know if I don't see Whatever is on your mind, don't think about the idea, always draw it. Your ideas will evolve and grow only on your paper. I think this is a good solution for the serif in the A. Let's adjust this serif to the rest of the lettering. Again, working with repetitions will make your work more calm and stable. Last thing I'm changing is the distance between the A and the G. Here, I push my upper paper a little to the left to get a bigger distance. This is finished now, and it looks much better after controlling the distance. Let's go further to the next lesson and check the volume of the letters. 14. Volume of letters: The final thing to control is the volume of your letters. Let me show you a rather exaggerated example on the word Magic again. In some cases, a typographic art work with letters drawn extremely different in volume is the exact thing that you want to create because it fits to the message. Look at work from Graphic Designer Paula Scher, especially for the public theater is amazing how she used it. If it's not your intention to play with the volume, you should go check it because the lettering could look more chaotic than you like. I try to imagine that every letter is a glass filled with water. What I want in my lettering is a similar amount of water and letters with volume, the I is an exception. What helps is drawing some guidelines first, and then you can draw in the letters. If I have a script font lettering, I use some rhythm to draw, for example round letters like A, G, or C, in the exact same way so the volumes are similar. Try drawing every round letter with the same basic font. The last thing about volume you need to keep in mind is the volume of your down strokes. It should have the same thickness to look even in the whole picture. If I use a brush pen to add in calligraphy style, they automatically have the same stroke thickness because this is how thick the brush pen can get. This technique is nice for writing quick greeting cards, or named tags for example. But if you are drawing and designing your lettering like we do, we are working with a pencil and a double line to create the visual and at this point, things could get imprecise. To get a really good overview of the volume of the letters, I recommend that you color them all in quickly. Now I can compare the strokes. The capital letters are much easier to draw thick, as you can see, I made them thicker than the rest. The only safe methods to control it is to color your letters in, you will recognize tiny differences quicker. Let's check my lettering together. Basically, this looks good, but I still found some small things that I'd like to change. First, the down stroke of the C, compared to the G, the C down stroke is a little different and I want to fix that and this flourish is way too heavy. I think this lettering is almost good. Let's check all the down strokes. I see this one in the M can be lighter. That's it, let's make it magic again. 15. Final Steps : In the last lessons, we learned how to become a control freak about your work. Now I like to draw in some of my magic decorations again. They magically disappeared in my controlling section. Let's first trace everything you approve of. I drew one little star in here and a like to work with repetition. Let's draw some more. Decorations don't have to be super diverse or complicated. Some small elements are most of the time enough, especially if you want the viewer to focus on your lettering. Less is more. 16. DIY Carbon Paper: First, I paint the lines with a black pen. Quick tip for you to draw straight lines without a ruler. Your fingers and the wrists are stiff and only my arm moves in one direction. This is how I draw straight lines with every medium. Now let's make our own carbon paper. If you work with an editor tracing pad, you can of course, transfer your design with it. The great thing about this technique is that you can easily reproduce a design and work it out in several variations. I use a simple HB pencil for this because it's not too soft. Pencils that are soft will leave dark lines on the special paper. They could bother you under certain circumstances. I drew the lines in black at first because I now apply pencil to the back of the paper. I will definitely recognize my final design after I have drawn the pencil on the back. That is the most important thing. So I'm definitely going to wash my hands now. I will show you how to put this design on your fancy paper. I use cold pressed watercolor paper and I trace my design on it. I put the template on the right place and I pay attention to even edges. I want my lettering in the center of the page. After that I fix it with tape. Now I can draw over the outlines. What happens is that we leave an exact pencil line on the water color paper. So on with this soft version of your final design, you can start working it out. 17. Congratulations!: Congratulation, you've finished your workflow. From now on, it's up to you. If you keep going, if you keep inspired, and if you just look for new solutions for your letterings, you'll get more achieved and your work is going to get better every day. If you want feedback just share your project in the project section. You can tag me also on Instagram and I'll be happy to give you some feedback on your work. If you have any questions left, just post a discussion, I'll be happy to answer them. If you need some inspiration to work you lettering out, you can also watch more bonus videos, I made few, three, few free little tutorials for black and white lettering, watercolor lettering, and watercolor background. If you need some extra inspiration, get that into your heads and start. Thank you guys so much for taking my class. I really hope you enjoyed it and I'm super curious on your work. You can follow me for more lettering illustration and watercolor classes. I hope to see you and your projects very soon. Have fun with it and goodbye. 18. Bonus 1: Watercolor Gradient : This is just a short tutorial for your inspiration. Let's take a close look on the technique. To create letterings with watercolor gradient I use cold pressed watercolor paper and water colors. If you are unexperienced with mixing colors, I advise you to choose colors of the same family like I did. I used different shades of blue and green. I am using the wet on wet technique so the colors would simply blend themselves into each other. Make sure to work out the letter with one color next to the other. The color needs to be wet to get the blending effect. Now you can work out the whole word like that. 19. Bonus 2: Watercolor Background : So a simple way to spice up your lettering is a watercolor background. I'm using normal water colors and not that too expensive for the color paper right now, cold pressed. The first thing I'm doing is just making the big round a little bit wet. The second thing I'm doing, I'm using watercolors that match my message. So I wanted to keep it magic right now and I'm starting off with something cloudy. I am taking blue and green clouds and I'm using the class really light right now and not using a lot of pigment because I don't want them to be too dominant. I really wanted my lettering be the most important thing in my picture and the background is just a little extra to make it look nice. So I'm starting with something cloudy like that, and then I put in some splatters onto the white paper because in the end, these splatters will also get the watercolor look, they won't look really round thing. Because of the water, they just spread. Now, I'm going to let it dry. If it's dry, I can put my black and white lettering on this piece of paper. 20. Bonus 3: Watercolor Background with Pens : If you don't own a set of watercolors, you can use every normal pen with water based ink, and a piece of plastic like a sheet protector to create a great background for lettering. At first, you draw your colors on the sheet protector. Then you wet your watercolor paper. Better use too much than too little water. The surface needs to be wet so the colors can flow. Now you can turn around the sheet protector and put the pen strokes onto the wet surface. By using your hands and your fingers, you can now spread the colors and mix them together. Be careful and don't use your fingernails. They would make scratches on your paper. If you're satisfied with your background, you can pull off the plastic sheet. Have a piece of tissue ready and pull the foil off the paper in one quick sweep. Dab off the rest of the water with the tissue. Black ink letterings work the best on watercolor background. Try your own and create some different backgrounds with this technique. It's fun. 21. Bonus 4: Pen Black and White: By using different pens, you can create different looks for your lettering. I like using brush pens and point liners with waterproof ink because they have the deepest black pigments. With a brush pen, for example, you can paint very detailed, but also very rough. With different black pens, you can play with the length, thickness, and decorations, for example. You can also make shadows with your pen by using dots that build different shades of light and dark. Again, you have so many possibilities to get creative with black and white. I'll show you my favorite visual for magic in the time lapse.