Hand Lettering to Refined Vector | Lindsey Meredith | Skillshare

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Hand Lettering to Refined Vector

teacher avatar Lindsey Meredith, Lover of immaculate linework

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

7 Lessons (28m)
    • 1. Introduction Overview

    • 2. Sketch / Draw Process

    • 3. Prepping AI file

    • 4. Pentool ( Method 1 )

    • 5. Custom Brush ( Method 2 )

    • 6. Width Tool ( Method 3 )

    • 7. Conclusion & Project

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About This Class

In this class we will learn how to take our hand drawn lettering and perfectly refine it in vector with Adobe Illustrator. We will be covering three different vectorization methods. Each method uses a different Illustrator tool as well as a strategic and efficient process for constructing the lettering. The method choice is dependent on the letterings style.


Meet Your Teacher

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Lindsey Meredith

Lover of immaculate linework


Link represents the work of me, Lindsey Kellis Meredith. I am an independent designer and illustrator specializing in logo / identity design, custom lettering, and illustration.

My client list includes Nickelodeon, Disney, Hasbro, Leap Frog, Maple Leaf Sports & Enterainment (raptors, maple leafs) , as well as a few other collegient and professional sports teams and organizations. I have logo work featured in Logo Lounge books 8 and 9.

I am available for hire. Feel free to reach me HERE.

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1. Introduction Overview: Hi. My name is Lindsay MEREDITH. I'm a graphic designer, and I specialize in custom lettering, logo design and illustration in this class hand lettering to refine vector. I'm gonna go over the three primary ways. I used to take my lettering from paper to refine Vector. I don't know about you, but when it comes time to effect arising my lettering. I want two things. Efficiency and control. I want to have control of the flow in the curves of all of my lettering until everything feels just right over time. So far, I have narrowed it down to three primary methods that I use. Each method that I use is heavily dictated by the kind of style of lettering I'm looking to achieve. Each method comes with a different tool used in illustrator as well as a slightly different constructing method. I will start off by sharing my hand lettering process on paper. I always worked to establish a solid concept and line work before executing refinement in Vector. Now here's a brief overview of the three victories Asian Methods Method one will cover the amazing control of the pencil and the types of lettering it works best for I know what you're thinking. The pencil is challenging, but it's well worth the hard learning curve, and I have some great tips. Method two covers the ease and expressive nature of creating custom brushes and illustrator . Lastly, we will learn about the newer with tool which, with the right style of lettering, could be very efficient and quickly create beautiful flow in this class. Also be providing to illustrator files with some hands on exercises that will really help you get a feel for these three methods. Once you've completed the classy in the projects, you will be ready to start your own hand lettering to vector refined project. See you in class. 2. Sketch / Draw Process: as I always make very clear, I am all about the power behind the process in getting your hands on paper and pencil. One main goal of this class and method is to combine the power of hand drawn creativity with the power of the refinement in vector programs like Adobe Illustrator. With that said, Let's get started by talking about the ever important sketching and drawing process. I like to start my creative process with loose, rough sketches where I explore a few different ideas and styles doing things loose. It first is important for purging the bad ideas and finding the strong ones experiment with different pencils and mediums to play with different line weights and styles. Sometimes I will even use a fat carpenter's pencil. This lets some things just happen organically. As you sketch, though I'm not showing it here. You can even use pens, brushes, Crayola markers, even stay loose, sketch and letter away. Once I feel I have narrowed it down to my strongest direction. I do like to find as much as possible on paper, depending on the project in your own personal process, refine as faras, you feel necessary. I love to use tracing paper and keep layering on top for me here, I don't want to refine to perfectionism. Obviously, this is not going to be the final piece. But my goal is to get the mainline work to its most final form as possible, to the point where I know that I will only be perfecting in Vector. That is basically my goal. I know I may be smoothing and correcting imperfections and illustrator but the sketches or find enough to a basic but strong representation of what the final will look like. Here are some quick overview notes. Next, we will set up our document to begin learning the victory ization methods. 3. Prepping AI file: Now that you have your refined sketch ready to perfectly refine, we need to skin it in and place it into illustrator. Okay, Goto file place. And then you're gonna locate the scan of your hand lettering, click on place. It's then going to be attached to your cursor, apply it to the art board, size it up and get it centered. We're gonna dozen made a layer for it and get it named. Name it sketch. And then I like to take some steps to make sure that I can see the sketch while building on top of it. Um, we can dial down the opacity low enough to where it's easy to see, but we'll interfere with drawing on top. Next, we'll create a new layer, and this is lawyer that will be building the vector on. Sometimes I actually like to put my sketch layer on top. Um, this way I can see the sketch. Even better, I can change the blending mode to multiply that way. Once again, it will interfere with my vector. I'll still be able to see my vector line work underneath as I'm building. Another very important step is toe lock that sketch layer that way where you don't accidentally move it around as we start to build. And that should be about it. We have our document all set up, ready to start vector rising. 4. Pentool ( Method 1 ): This first method is my favorite. But for those newer to it, the most challenging the pencil is so powerful and gives you the most control, but does come with a learning her. That is why I want to share with you what I have learned as I have continued to learn and master the tool myself. The pencil is the best when you want ultimate control with lettering. The pencil works best for very specific, stylized text in scripts, thicker lettering and more illustrative lettering as you'll see me doing with this sir fluttering I created. Basically, it's best for lettering that can't be achieved with a single stroke or brush. Rather needs more illustrative control. I'm very aware, does that students tend to want to avoid this tool due to the intimidation of it, and that's why I wanna walk through it. Let's get started. Let's start with a little pinhole practice so you can get a feel for the handlebars and point placement. Here. You'll see I'll click. Wants to start my path. Click and drag now to get this next curve. You'll see the Rubber Band preview shows me that I'm not gonna have the curve I want. So I click black World option and drag in the direction that I want the next curve to go in . Click and drag. Go back to the point pull down option. Drag it up in the direction you want. Click and drag hold down, option and drag out that handlebar again. Now point placement is everything here. I think I will go about midway on the curve. That's usually a good placement. Click and drag. It doesn't quite reach, so I can always command Z and start over and make that handlebar shorter a little bit shorter. This time, click and drag out. Click and drag a little bit again. Pull down option. Click and drag out the handlebar for my next curve. Click and drag. If you don't get a perfect, we can always go back and add it. Now this one's gonna be a long handle bar because I really need to reach far to meet, meet back to the beginning Now, as you can see, I didn't get things perfect and you won't always, because dragging out those handlebars is a little bit of a guessing game. Sometimes until you get a feel for it. but you can always go back, use your direct select tool, play with the handlebars and get them in the right place to where they're matching those curves just right. So that's something I do a lot and there you have it. Hopefully, that gives you a quick feel before we start in the lettering. Okay? Starting here with es. What I'm going to do is click, hold, option and drag out a handlebar to get started. Now you'll see I'll start over here a couple times to get it just right after that first initial click of holding down option, then all I'm doing is clicking and dragging out. When you click and drag your pulling out those handlebars and you'll notice I'm very strategically placing my points and using his minimal amount of points as possible. Let me change my stroke here. Teoh, Um, a black stroke with no Phil so we can see better. OK, also, if you'll notice I clicked back on that point held option, pulled out a handlebar click again. That kind of reset things for me and allowed me control What that next curve was gonna look like all zoom in here to show you hold option pullout handlebar click. Drag a little bit quick back again. That kind of resets things. Click well down. Option. Pull out a handlebar. It's a little confusing, but it's all about clicking back on those points to kind of reset things. And holding down option um, kind of gives you individual control of the next handlebar and you'll notice at the kind of midway point of a given curve is the best way I can describe it. That's kind of a good placement of these curves here. So what kind of speed? Things up. And hopefully you kind of get a feel for what I'm doing. But when you use the illustrator exercise that I provide, you will really get a hands on. Feel for it. Then, as you'll notice here, I use the direct Select Tool Key Command A. And I go back at some points and use the directs like toll to select points and kind of adjust things and get them in a better place. That's what I'm doing. I'm using the directs like tool to move around points and also adjust those handlebars, and then I'll activate the pin tool connect back up and then begin to build will speed up here. Click drag out, click back on the point hold option. Drag out a shorter amount so that that next handlebar is a little bit shorter. That's how you control those next curves. If you don't click back on to the last point that you made and hold down option and then pull up the handlebar the way you want, it kind of makes a very extreme angle for you. Um, so holding down option and clicking back on that previous point to drag out the handlebar at your own angle in your own extremity is what really allows you to have that curve control as you'll notice. I'm building the letters in pieces and individual pieces broken down strategically. Why I do this is to hope things, um, become easier when it comes time to editing and refining. This is very important. It's a huge part of my process that makes things a lot easier down the road. Okay, now that I have all the line work built, I'm gonna fill it in with Black, and what this does is really kind of highlights where I need to do some further refinement . So at this point, um, I'm just going to kind of go back with the direct selectable, which I know this is going very quickly, but basically all I'm doing is just kind of continuing to look at my sketch. I'll even died on the capacity here a little bit. Just perfect things. And even up the line. Wait. Now I'm going to start building in on What I had sketched in was some kind of negative space pieces. And again, I'm building these a separate shapes on top of the, uh the dark shapes of the lettering that already built. So I have these kind of, I guess, swishes or, um, line weight variations inside of the text that kind of give it more of that wave or surf ocean. Look again. I'm just building these on top using that exact same method that I did with the lettering where I use the points and the handlebars to get those perfect curves. And then I'm able to just kind of move those around as separate pieces until I get I'm just right. Sometimes you'll have a shape completed, and you might want to add some anchor points by holding down the plus key, which gives you the pen tool with plus adding and subtracting anchor points is also a huge part of how I kind of edit the path line work of, of shapes, that I'm building an illustrator. Okay, so, as you see here, these are all separate shapes, these outer shapes or separate shapes filled with white than my black text, obviously, but when we go to refine, we don't want to keep it that way. So I always like Teoh, use the Pathfinder to kind of clean things up, but a good tip to share with you as I always keep a copy off in the gray area of, um, my edited section. I might make a new layer for it so that I can hide it and get it out of the way. But I'm just gonna make a copy of this to keep it for for editing down the road in case I kind of need to take a step back. All right. Our next and final step is to make this one nice, solid vector piece on. What we need to do is we drew this line work on top. That's gonna get punched out of the text below it. We're gonna use the Pathfinder. But first we need to take a couple steps. We need to get all of those white pieces to be one united piece that could be punched out of the bottom text. That is also one night united peace. So how we will do that is let's first start. By selecting all the white pieces on top, we are going to go to object down to compound path and make. And now we need to do the same thing for our black lettering underneath. So I'm gonna select all of that by just simply clicking on the layer the little dot next to the layer slicks. Everything in that layer go to compound path make. Now they're both ready to use the Pathfinder. So now I have to do is simply select the white pieces. Select my text, go up the pathfinder. Click on, um, minus front. Now we have one nice vector piece. Everything's punched out and looks great. Here are a few quick take away points. 5. Custom Brush ( Method 2 ): Okay. Now I want to talk about making custom brushes, making custom brushes and illustrators actually really easy, very customizable and very useful for both lettering and illustrations. Line work. What makes it so simple is that you can literally make a brush out of any vector shape that you create an illustrator. There are different kinds of brushes that could be created an illustrator. But in this class, we're going to specifically be talking about the art brush. I use this method the most on type that has very distinct shapes for each stroke of the type, usually not scripts. As you see here with the sketch that I've done of the word jump, each stroke kind of has a distinct shape. So I know that I can make a brush stroke or an art brush out of each of one of the shapes and quickly and organically draw this type as I go. So to get started, let's go ahead and make the first few shapes that we need to make our brushes. A lot of times I will start simply by using the Ellipse tool, and I will draw like an elongated lips just like this with this base shape. What I do is use the directs electoral and play with the points and paths of the shape. And, um, I kind of look at my sketch and emulate the shapes that I see for each stroke of the type. See how I'm kind of creating the end point that I see on this top stroke of the J. So, yeah, just simply manipulate with the points and paths until you get the shape that you're looking for. One thing that's a little bit hard to guess without having a little bit of experiences, how that shape is going to translate once it's turned into a brush and get stretched along a path. I've kind of gotten a feel for that. So I know how to kind of exaggerate certain points and how will usually translate on the path. Um, but sometimes you just kind of let things happen organically. And even if it doesn't match your sketch exactly, sometimes it'll turn out even better. All right, so once we have a shape done, we open up the brush panel like I'm doing right here. First, let me straighten this up just a little bit. But then we'll go ahead after we get it straightened up and drag it into the brush panel, and then you'll have a new window. Um, pop up here and we're gonna select Arte Brush now in these settings will. First, you want to give your brush a good name cause it's good to keep things organized. We have few options. Um, and I also want to point out that you can play with things like pressure if you were to be working with a Wacom tablet, so that's where those settings would be. But I'm not working with Wacom. You'll see there's an arrow here representing the direction that the shape goes on the path so you can control that. I always like to change the colorization method a huge shift, because that allows it to be changed to a different color besides the black that we made the shape to begin with. So go ahead and click OK and you'll notice your brush shows up, then in the palate, ready to be used. And then I usually sometimes save my shapes off to the side here. Okay, now let's go ahead and select the brush tool Key Command be and then I'm just going to simply draw. I have being mindful of the direction on drawing in. So for me, it was from right to left there and then I'm just kind of using the directs like tool to get it lined up there on my path. So that's one way to do it. We can just use the brush tool, select the brush we just made. Just so you know, a Z you can see over there I can also, um, ca just the stroke on on an actual brush that you make. You can change that up. I realized that I want a little bit more angle on this end right here. So I'm gonna make another brush and make this a little bit sharper. And this is kind of what I was talking about, where sometimes it can be a little hard to guess how that's gonna translate on the line. So I realized I didn't get it quite right. So I'm making a new brush here in All I have to do now is simply select um, the one already drew, and then then go to the brush panel, select my new brush, and it'll change and then there that that angle changed for me. So that looks better to me for the stem of the J. And on that same note, you'll see right here I'm actually using the pin tool to go ahead and just draw the line that I want. And you can also do that. Draw those ahead of time and then go over and select your, um, your brushes that you make and apply them to already existing line work so you don't always have to just use the brush tool and paint things directly. You can draw the line, work ahead of time with any of the tools, the pin tool, the pencil tool or the brush tool, and then go over and selected. The the brush is that you create in the brush panel and apply them to that particular line , so I will just kind of speed things up here and let you watch the process. You'll you'll notice that I have some more shapes over here. Um, I've already kind of looked ahead, looked at the different strokes of this lettering and pre made some, um, some brushes, and then I'll probably still find myself having to go back and make some new ones as I go, it seems a little tedious, but really, once you get, um, the hang of it, this is one of those things that I use a lot because I just have it down Pat. Um and I just love making those shapes to create these brushes for this particular kind of style of lettering, a quick trick for making a new brush that say is going in a different direction. You can drag it down to the new, um, icon here in the palate. Then once the dialog box opens up, you can rename it, change the direction and then click OK and see. I had to change the direction of the flow of that stroke for the U. S. So now it's looking right. So that's just one way to make a new brush out of an existing brush. You'll see that kind of like in the last project as I work and then, especially towards the end, I start to refine things by using the directs electoral. And I'm just manipulating those points and paths right there directly on the brush, looking at things like the spacing in between adjusting the line way again. I can use the stroke panel to even bump up the stroke. Wait, But now I'm just gonna move this sketch out of the way. Refined just a little bit more. But we're ready to convert this text now to outline, Go to object, half outlines, stroke. Now it's a fil a bowl object and then I go to object path, simplify And once again, just like our last class to go through the process of playing with that slider until it's simplified and our goal again is just to get minimal points. Um, and then we can just kind of move those points around them to refine even more. Just moving those points and paths and handlebars around looking at places where letters come together overlap. We just want to get those ready for the Pathfinder. Um, I also use the blobby race tool shift E and a raceway parts. If I want to do a certain treatment like I'm doing here after you're done refining, you can go ahead and use Pathfinder, unite and unite all the shapes together, and then you couldn't call it done. Here are a few quick take away points. I hope you join me in the next class and the next class, we're gonna go over the width tool. 6. Width Tool ( Method 3 ): Okay, the third and final tool that I'm going to show you that I used Teoh take my custom lettering to Vector is called the With Tool. It's a newer tool. The With Tool is a handy quick tool in illustrator for achieving varied line waits on a single stroke. It can be quirky, but a good and efficient method for the right kind of open flowing lettering. So let's take a look. As usual. I have my sketch here on the bottom layer. This time we're just gonna go ahead and use what's called the pencil tool. Um, to go ahead, just draw our baselines because with with tool, we're just working with a single stroke, so this time will change things up. I like to use the pencil tool. Sometimes I do like to change a setting on it. If you double click on the pencil tool, you'll get this fidelity slider. I always make sure it's all the way over to the right. This kind of just makes the way. Interprets, um, curves a lot cleaner. Okay, so we're just using a black stroke, um, with no Phil, and basically it would be best if you're using a tablet right now. I'm not. But, um, if you have, like, a welcome tablet, it would be ideal. I'm just gonna take the stroke, wait up a little bit, so I'll be able to see it. Well, and, um, just kind of start to trace thes these letters as best as I can, and he really don't have to go very fast. That's why I changed that fidelity setting. I'll use the pencil tool like this if it's just one simple word like I'm doing here. But as you can see, sometimes it takes multiple attempts. So really, I do prefer the pen tool, but it doesn't hurt on quick projects like this to dio. All right, so I'm gonna draw the rest the words I'll probably go back through with my drinks like tool . Once again. Refined things, um, love to take advantage of that. That drugs, like tool in those handlebars and points. That's what it's all about. The vector has being able to refine in that manner. Okay, so now we're ready for the with tool, But to get started, let's just play with one simple curved line so I can kind of show you how this tool works. The key commanders shift W it's found over here. Um, so basically, you'll notice as I kind of run it along the path. There's this little, um, square and you basically click and pull out, and it's gonna grow on both sides of that of the path that you click and pull on. You can hold down option. That's what I'm doing here. And that allows you to independently control who with on either side of the path. So pulling in obviously brought that point all the way to a complete point Here. I'll do it here on this side if you, um add a spanner where you don't want when you simply click on it and hit delete while you still have the with tool and it will get rid of it. Um, but you'll notice you kind of also want to be very strategic, because if you start putting, um, he's I guess spanners in areas, um, too many areas it can start to look funky. You can always go back and grab them again with with tool and make adjustments as you go. So here I'll just kind of change it up to where It goes from thick, thin, thick. So that's basically the gist of it. We can go ahead and get set up and get started on playing with line weight on our text here . So what I like to do is actually use the with tool to anchor down the finished portions first. So I'm going in here and doing that first. And then I hit up the thicker areas. Um and then remember, hold down. Option when you want to pull on one side or the other here again on the top half of the F. I'm gonna anger down that finished part first, then work on my figure parts. Um, when you go to bring the tips to a point, sometimes it's important to zoom in. I'm not really zooming in here. You may have noticed or notice here that I still broke down my letters into individual pieces. Um, that is hopeful, as I had mentioned with tool can be a little quirky, but when you have the letters pieces broken down into individual lines, it makes things a little bit easier. I probably should have done that with this w here a little bit more, But Azzam Azzam strategic and careful about where I pull things out with a with tool, it should be fine. So once I get the line weight and I can go back and see if I need to move things around, separate parts a little bit and work on the spacing and then toe finalize things up, give myself a copy. And, as usual, I just like to do a final step of refinement by going to object half outline stroke. It is going to come with an ugly amount of points as usual, because that is just seems to be a disadvantage to using these automated ways. So I am gonna have to also be careful, zoom in and and see how things come together. So, um, having converted that toe outlines, I can easily manipulate those points and fill things in and clean that up. So that's what we're gonna do now. All right, So, as you see, once we've done that is coming with a nasty amount of points. Way too many that's gonna complicate things when we want to just kind of move things around , clean things up, so we're going to go up to object. That's simplify once again, our goal is we don't want our our letters forms to change too much. But we want to use this automation for getting rid of some of those points. So you just kind of have to see what works best for, um, the given vector work you're working on. Usually you want to keep it in the mid to upper nineties, and it's still make a good difference for you. Um, if we click on preview Tuggle that on and off, we'll really see it is making a difference. Okay, now we just want to make sure we zoom in, especially looking at places where we know pieces of ended individual letters came together the way we built them and just make sure things were clean. Use the points and paths. Handlebars pull together if you need to use the blubber race tool. Shifty in a race away, overlapping parts. You could do that. If you want to go fill in areas like this shift to be blob brush will help fill those gaps in. We just want to pay attention to detail and really clean it up. Good. I'll use the blob. Brush here is well to bring that those two parts together. All right, So once you got it all cleaned up, weekend once again go to Pathfinder. Unite. And it's one nice piece of vector. And finally, here's the take away points for the with tool. 7. Conclusion & Project: I hope you enjoy the class and come away. Having learned some valuable new tools and techniques for taking your lettering from hand drawn to vector, experiment with these three methods. And remember, you can sometimes combine the three methods if needed. Now it's time to practice what you have learned in the project section I have provided to illustrate of files that are exercises for all three methods. These exercises are made to give you a hands on feel for the things I describe in class. I especially hope it helps with the pencil. The more you practice, the better you will become a mastering these tools. Finally, once you've completed the exercises, I encourage you to pick a single word to hand letter and vector rise. Using the best method based on the style you end up with, don't skip the process. Go through doing several sketches, thinking about the word you chose and what style for illustrative elements you can incorporate. Pick a concept and refine on paper until you were ready to vector rise. At this point, you will hopefully have a good feel for which method you should use. I would love to see you share your progress in the project section of this class and then definitely show off your final lettered piece. Also, don't hesitate to ask any questions and I encourage you to check out my other classes. Also follow me for future ones I will be creating Thank you for joining me in class and happy lettering.