Layouts For Lettering | Beginner Tips For Creating Quote Layouts With Your Lettering | Emma Witte | Skillshare

Layouts For Lettering | Beginner Tips For Creating Quote Layouts With Your Lettering

Emma Witte, Owner & Artist, Black Chalk Collective

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16 Lessons (27m)
    • 1. Introduction to Layouts for Lettering

    • 2. Overview of Class

    • 3. Tip 1: Size and Orientation

    • 4. Tip 2: Shapes and Boundaries

    • 5. Tip 3: Negative Space

    • 6. Tip 4: Colour and Illustrations

    • 7. Tip 5: Audience

    • 8. Tip 6: Combining Styles

    • 9. Tip 7: Consistency

    • 10. Tip 8: Show Someone

    • 11. Tip 9: Use Pencil

    • 12. Example 1: Similar Words in Quotes

    • 13. Example 2: Happy Birthday (multiple versions)

    • 14. Example 3: Emphasise important words

    • 15. Example 4: Repetition and Patterns

    • 16. Final Words


About This Class

Have you been learning lettering and now wanna try your hand (literally) at creating layouts, quotes or just some sentences that don't look like words simply stacked on top of one another?

Introducing the newest class by Black Chalk Co... Layouts for Lettering!

This is a BEGINNER level layouts class that will cover the following topics:

  • Size/orientation
  • Shape/boundaries
  • Negative space
  • Colour/illustrations
  • Audience
  • Combining styles
  • Consistency
  • Emphasis

You will need a basic understanding of brush or hand lettering in order for this class to be helpful. Please check out the other lettering classes offered by Black Chalk Co if you need to brush up!

Students will be talked through different tips and considerations to take into account when creating lettering layouts, then shown 4 different quote layouts that cover:

  • phrases with similar words in them
  • creating multiple versions of layouts
  • emphasis on important words for effect
  • repetition and patterns to play on

The aim of this class is to leave you feeling less nervous about attempting quotes/layouts, and to equip you with Black Chalk Co's top tips for creating lettered layouts!

This class does not teach any form of illustration - nor the basics of brush lettering.

Materials needed:

  • Pencil
  • Paper

Optional supplies to take your layouts further after this class:

  • Ruler
  • Favourite pen for inking final design
  • High quality paper for final piece
  • Light box if you're really into tracing and drafting


1. Introduction to Layouts for Lettering: Hey guys. Emma from Bloodshot Collective here, and welcome to my layouts for lettering class. This class is perfect for you if you have doubled in brush lettering or hand lettering and you're looking for some tips to put your words into quotes, phrases, anything like that, without simply looking like you're just stacking your words on top of each other. It's going to be a pretty quick and breezy, easy, fun class. Nothing too scary or complicated. All you need to get started is a pencil and some paper. But if you're looking for a few more things that might help make your layout journey easier, you can obviously have a ruler to keep things nice and straight, an eraser is always handy if you've got a pencil, maybe a favorite pen to finally ink your piece in when you're happy with it, plain paper is good for sketching, but then some more high-quality paper if you're using brush pens, like rodeo is really helpful and a massive investment, but if you happen to have while laying around a lightbox is always good for tracing and seeing through your drafts and just helping you cut down how many times you have to revise things. So this bad boy here, I've had since 2016, I think I paid a 130 bucks for off eBay. I hear there are a lot cheaper now, so that might be something you want to add to your collection afterwards. But anyway, let's get started. 2. Overview of Class: I've ditched a lot of that because I'm not actually going to even use it for this class, I just wanted you to know what one is. It just reflects off the lights in my studio, so I've put that away. Now, we're going to get stuck into some general considerations. I think creating quotes in layouts is something that's really scary to beginner letterists because they just don't know what the rules are. To be fair, there aren't really any like as long as you work is legible and somewhat balanced, it's fine to do whatever you want. Sometimes things that are completely unconventional can be more beautiful than ever. Please don't feel like it's got this huge rulebook that you need to follow. But what I want to do is just try and share with you some tips that I use when I'm putting together my layouts and mostly just a lot of things I like to take into consideration. Obviously, every time you do a layout or a quote for something, it's going to be different because you're working with different words, and different sentences. It might be a couple of words. It might be something really long. Every time you approach it, it's going to be a bit different. But with these tips, hopefully you can create some kind of system going forward. 3. Tip 1: Size and Orientation: The first thing I like to take into consideration is the size of the piece and the orientation that I can write it in. This might be dictated to you by a client. Let's say you're taking on a commission piece. They might want a Miro for a wall, and the Miro might be landscape. That would dictate the kind of shape that you have to work within. Obviously, you are not going to be drafting this thing on the wall or on a piece of paper that big. You're going to start off pretty small, sketching it out on a piece of paper. But let's say, for instance, I'm just working on a full piece of paper, in landscape. Let's just say I'm just doing it for fun, I'm just writing a quote that I want to post on Instagram. There's not much point me try to sketch something up here in this little corner because I'm just stressing myself out for no reason. If I've got a whole A4 page to work with, why not just work with that size. Same if you were doing A5. When it gets to A3, I find that it gets a bit big and I like to condense it down to A4. I think this is just the easiest size to work within. But that might not be the case for you. As I said, everyone is different. But if I was working on something large scale, let's say a company came and said to me, "We want you to do our menu boards for in our restaurant on chalkboards." I would then ask them for the measurements and scale down so I'm working within something that's easy to sketch on. That might give me the measurements and then I figure out that, okay, well it's obviously upright. It's portrait. I can start my sketching out this way. There's no point sketching out something this way if it's going to be upright. The first thing you want to do is focus on the size and the orientation of your piece. 4. Tip 2: Shapes and Boundaries: The next thing you want to do is think about the shape. That might be predetermined. As I said, with the size that might have come from a client or it could be something that you decide for yourself. Maybe you've decided I want to create a piece that's, let's pretend that's an even circle, circular. Maybe you want to go even more difficult and do something that's in a triangle and stuck your words on top of each other like that. Set yourself bounds to work within. I think a lot of people get stuck when they have too much freedom. They're like, "Okay, well, I can just write my words all over the place." But all of a sudden if we give ourselves an outline, it just makes things a lot easier. If I've moved from a rectangle shape with no real start and stop point to now a little circle. I know that I'm working within this space and maybe, I'll arch my words and have one going that way, one going that way, and one going that way, and maybe they'll even be a couple of little ones in there. It just helps you plan things out. Try and set yourself a boundary to work within. 5. Tip 3: Negative Space: I always try to think of my words and my sentences as patterns. I think that it just helps, when you're putting things together to always think of them like Tetris and how can you slot things in so they fit nicely, and they sit beautifully and there's not too much space floating around. What I mean by that is, negative space is just empty space in our piece. Let's just say I am fresh out of learning my lettering now. I'm doing calligraphy. This is what it looks like. When I attempt to layout, because I'm new at this. All I really know is this. What I challenge you to do is to look at the negative space. If we were to sit ourselves our bounds, we have some negative space here. So on either side of the g, we don't really have anything up the top, we've got a little bit here. It would depend how high we took that t. If we took that t really high, then we'd have some here and some here as well. We've got a little bit here, a little bit there as well, and then a little bit here. We want to try and figure out, how can we get rid of that negative space? It's always really important to think about, what let us are ascending and descending that are going to affect how we fit things in. My first instinct when I look at this is to just move that up into there. So if we did that again. Already that looks so much better and then I might decide that I want to take that swash on the t really wide and I might want to fill in the negative space on this side, by creating a sweep on my v. Then I might fix this one up, by bringing my g down. So it's all about playing within some bounds. If we didn't set that border and we didn't set those boundaries. Well, that might be fun because we don't know what we're working within. It's always helpful to set yourself some bounds and look for these areas. Look at these areas like little empty blocks in a Tetris game and figure out how you're going to fill them. How can you fill them up to make everything fit a bit more tidier and make it look more like a design instead of would simply stacked on top of each other. 6. Tip 4: Colour and Illustrations: Another thing you want to take into consideration is color and illustrations. Are you allowed to use color if you're doing this for a client? Are you allowed to incorporate illustrations? Or are you just keeping it simple, keeping it monochrome and just words only? I'm a bit of a fan of keeping it simple. When I use a whole bunch of illustrations when I do quotes, I just like them to be words, and even using color, sometimes I don't even bother with that. I like the lettering to speak for itself, but color and illustrations can be really helpful because it could help you block out space, if you're working within a square. You really want it to have this beautiful floral paste coming out from the corner. Well, now you know that you only have that space to work within. Make sure you take that into consideration as well. A reason why color can be important is because if you're working within a very small amount of space and you need your words to be quite tightly fit together, color can be a good way to separate them. If you've got a lot of words all squished in together, rather than them becoming one big illegible mess, you can change the color of each second one so they stand out more. 7. Tip 5: Audience: To further expand on that point, you really need to think about your audience and who's going to be looking at this? Are you doing this just for fun? Are you doing this just for Instagram where the people that are going to see it are people who also enjoy and see lettering on a regular basis? Or is this something that's going up in public? The reason why I bring this point up is because I've worked on a lot of murals and things like that before, where eyes are going to be on it that don't necessarily look at cursive or calligraphy every day. They might be used to seeing the letter 'a' on a computer like this, not like this. They might not understand what my writing is if I incorporate fancy letters. It's important to keep in mind who's going to be looking at your work because it can be as beautiful as anything, but if people can't read it, what's the point? 8. Tip 6: Combining Styles: One of my favorite things to do when it comes to creating layouts or quartz is to break things up with different styles. Again, I like to keep it pretty simple and I just go between block letters and script. I really do like 100 different styles. But you can definitely incorporate more than two. I guess it would depend, A, what's in your arsenal, what have you already mastered? B, how over complicated is the pace getting, is getting a bit too much if you have five different types of lettering styles in there? My favorite would be doing a combination of block letters and then cursive. If I'm doing something like a long form quite, let's say like words upon words, upon words, I might choose to do every second line with block letters, just so it stands out a little bit and breaks it up and doesn't look too overwhelming to look out and too much work to read. In saying that though, things like Bible verses, things like wedding vows. Sometimes people just want them to be in beautiful script. So there's no reason you can't do that, but there's something else you should then keep in mind. 9. Tip 7: Consistency: If you're choosing to do really long form quotes and phrases and sayings and all that stuff in just script, what you want to try and do to make sure that it looks appealing to the eye is maintain consistency. If I show you this, you might go, oh, yeah, that's nice. That's nice script. But to me, if I was doing this in a piece where I had lines upon lines upon lines of words, I would really try to find every possible opportunity I could to keep my letters within those words consistent. So [inaudible] there some flow in my piece and this is what I mean. I might try to aim for a more balanced baseline by bringing that o down a bit further. Now, I had two different styles of s's in that top one. So I might keep them the same. I had two different types of t's, I had two different connections for the n, and I had two different cross bars for the t. See how much nicer that looks, it's just small changes that can really help your piece look more consistent. Another way you can do this is when you move on to other letters. Let's say in my sentence, I've also got the word good. Now let's say, normally my g might look like this, but because I'm really keen on keeping things consistent and keeping a flow happening, I might want the descender to mirror this flow here. So instead of looping back up like that, instead I might go and have a really low loop like that. I might then carry that on and I get to my d, all the while trying to keep shapes like this, looking similar. I might go and try and do that. Then on my second draft, I might look at this again and go, "Okay, well actually that shape is nowhere near the same size as that shape." So this time, I'm going to take that one out a little wider, and I might end it a little sooner as well. This is what I would be looking for in my drafts. If I was doing something that was just purely script or a lot of script, I would be trying to find every possible opportunity where I could make sure that my letters are consistent because it's just going to help with the flow of things. It's going to look a lot nicer than if we've got this happening here. That's an exaggerated one. But as you can see, there's different styles of o's, there's different styles of ascenders and descenders, it makes a difference. You might choose to keep things really plain. As long as there's some consistency with your letters and your letters' styles, then I think it's fine and it's all going to look good in the end. But try to pick a style when you're going into something and there's no reason why you can't change things up in the middle. 10. Tip 8: Show Someone: If your near at the end of your game, one thing I recommend doing is showing someone. If you feeling a little bit uncertain whether it looks good, as artist, we often can doubt ourselves, particularly when we are trying something new. I recommend showing someone. I've got lettering friends and I've got non-lettering friends that I like to show my work to if I'm not sure about it because I'm going to get some interesting feedback. From the friends that do lettering, they're going to give me constructive feedback and specific things I can change based on their skill set and what they know. My non-lettering friends are going to tell me if they can read it or not pretty much. So it's good to get both sides of the fence. If you really are feeling a bit unsure, like if something just looks a little bit off, then it's always good to just ask someone else. 11. Tip 9: Use Pencil: Final thing I want to point out is obviously you're seeing me use a marker for this. I'm purely doing that so you can see it easily on-screen. I highly recommend sketching in pencil so you don't waste as much paper and you can easily adjust things without having to start all over again. Now, let's get into looking at some actual quotes come to life. 12. Example 1: Similar Words in Quotes: The first quote we're going to have a look at is empowered women, empower women. The reason I love this quote and the reason I wanted to show it to you is because it has the same kind of two words in it. Obviously, when we say it's empowered and empower, but it' an interesting quote to play around with. Another one that I've done before is out of work, work of art for conference. They're always just fun to play around with. So these are the tips I want to share with you. It can be hard to read something like this because there's repetition. We want to try and mix things up, which is why I have two different scripts and why I've chosen to change them instead of having empowered women on the top line [inaudible] It looked more interesting to have script on both end [inaudible] on both. Once you've got your draft and you really want to look at how can we make it look similar, keep the Ms in the script the same, keep the Ws the same. Once you're happy with that, we can go ahead and do our final copy. Feel free to watch this slow-down if you need to, but I'll talk you through the changes now. I've decided to go with [inaudible] for empowered on the top line and women on the bottom line. It's important to keep these as consistent as possible. Another thing I want to point out is this is why color is going to come into it and make things stand out. We can really condense this quote to be quite close if we change the color on each line where we're using script. So you'll notice I've got my Es the same, the Ws the same, and the Ms the same, and the Os the same to try and keep it looking as consistent as possible. I really flourished this E, so it matches the flourished N that'll happen on women. I'm going to keep the M the same. I've decided to make a flowy P. I'll have the O nice and big and round as well. We'll do the same kind of W on both lines. I could have flourished that one a little bit better. It fits in nicely there. I've chosen that R and not a traditional copperplate R because I want people to be able to read it easily. We can go a bit higher with a flourish on the W here. Keep the O similar. The M black one on the bottom line, same with the E, and last, a big flourish for N. There you go. I hope this one has helped you understand how to do quotes that have a lot of similar words. 13. Example 2: Happy Birthday (multiple versions): Now we're going to look at some happy birthday. This is just something that always pops up for me because I need to write it on cards. I'm starting this with birthday and I've got my nice sweepy b, and I'm trying to match the curves on the old letters as I can same with h and the d and now the y. Keeping it nice and flow-y. But I'm going to arch happy over the top slightly and maybe put some lines on either side. I've tried to fit that in as much as I can with the letters of Birthday. Now, what if I wanted to do the happy we script as well? It's going to be a lot to have birthday in scripts. Maybe I would just, where would I fit that? Maybe I would just fit birthday next to it small and block letters, or let's do something else. If we space things out a little bit more, think of it again, like a Tetras game, we can fit that they are really nice and snug in with the y this of course is going to be better suited to something that is long, like a long cod. Another thing we can do is create a band. If we have a banded circle, we can write our scripted birthday in the middle. Why not make it look like a logo and have the happy curving on the top and on the bottom side of the circle. Something a bit fun and something a bit different. It's always good to play around with multiple designs before settling on your final one. Don't be afraid to sketch out a few and say, [inaudible]. 14. Example 3: Emphasise important words: The next quote we're going to look at is create something everyday even if it sucks, this is just one of my favorite phrases to play around with, and I really want to stress the importance of emphasizing words in your quotes. If you've got something short and snappy, but there's still a fair few amount of words and not to forget create something every day, even if it sucks, that's eight words. We need to decide what are we going to emphasize? What needs to stand out and maybe catch people's attention? Generally speaking, we can de-emphasize words like; the, in, if, it, of, those fill words that don't really make a difference. We need them in the sentence, but didn't really make a break it. I've decided my important words are going to be create and sucks. Create because it's about creating, and sucks as maybe like a shock factor to draw in people's attention. I've decided to go with a portrait shaped boundary and I'm going to work within it. Going up with a slight little angle here and I'm just filling in as much as I can at the top we create. I'm going to make a nice big swash on the T just to feel that top corner, but you could use it with an illustration of a pen or a pencil, floss if you like, whatever it may be. Now, I'm going to work on filling in some of the negative space. I could have worked from another way of doing the two emphasize words first, then putting the filler words in. We'll do that next, but in this example, we're just going to work top to bottom through the quote. I'm going to put the next pot even if it's down here, and it breaks it up like you've got something every day over on the right-hand side, even if it's on the bottom left, and then we're going to put socks on a slight angle. I can take the K up to fitting that negative space there. I can do a flourish on the K and fill in the bottom space, which again could be filled with illustrations. I'm going to use a change my squash on the top T and then replicated in the middle to fill that negative space there. Remember, it's all about thinking of it like a game of Tetris. Where's the empty space and what can we do to fill it? Doesn't have to be with words every time. It could be with flourishes, illustrations, whatever it may be. Might just even be color if you're using lots of column, maybe using different mediums. Now, we're going to have a look if we change the boundary and make it a little bit more square. We're going to start off by plugging in our words of emphasis first, those being create and sucks. To be honest, we're not really changing this too much, we're not changing the game with this quote, but it's just little tweaks that might make you lock your layout a little bit more. I'm using a brush pen here, I'm just going a little bit slower so that ruin the brush tip, and same style and everything. This time I'm going to get my flourish right first time. Now I'm going to put in sucks before I've put in the filler words just to make sure I've got my top and bottom areas of the bounds filled in. Same style again, same K, and then flourished the bottom of that, just like we did before. Try and make it a little bit more like the top one, little bit curlier, and now it's time to fit in the filler words. This time I'm going to have them running from one side of the page to the other rather than some on the right, some on the left. It's all about just trying to aim for some consistency. You don't like that function on the computer, justify in Microsoft Word, where it fits your words neatly in a rectangle or whatever. It's like doing that figure in lettering, spacing things out so it doesn't look to weird. As you can see, crew plan is better off by not having the K bank smack in the middle there, maybe reducing the size of its ascender and moving the each oval so it's a little bit nicer without that space, but again, it is justified. Play around with the boundaries, play around with the negative space. Play around with the way that you've stuck to your words and have a bit of fun. There are so many different ways you can do each and every quote. 15. Example 4: Repetition and Patterns: The final quote we're going to look at is, "Don't talk, act, don't say show, don't promise proof." I like these quotes which there are a lot of in the world because there is repetition, which gives us a chance to look at patterns, and I love patterns. So if I was tackling, this is a new be, who's just learn how to letter, and just let the basic letters, nothing fancy, just a lowercase minuscule alphabet. All I really know is how to stack. This is what my quote might look like. It's just each different sentence stacked on top of each other, and if you like the look of that, then by all means go for it. That might be a layout, but I'd like to look at where they are patterns, there patterns in the dormant. There are three sets of words in each sentence. There's the, "Don't" which is not that important. Then there's the next word which is semi-important. But the last one to me is the very important word. It's the one that we should emphasize, "Don't do this, do that, don't do this, do that." So the other words that I want to stand out. So I talked about in the last layout, how important it is to emphasize your important words. This is another example of where we can make those stand out. We don't want to emphasize what we don't want people to do. We want to emphasize what we do, want them to do, and it allows us to create a pattern. So I'm stacking my words on top of each other. It's like that justify function I talked about in the last one, and it just add some consistency to our layout, and gives us a structure in which we play with. I didn't necessarily set a boundary for this one, but I saw an opportunity to create a pattern, and so I went with it. I'm going to make the emphasis on these words even bigger by changing up the color that I'm using. I'm just picking, and choosing different tips, and tricks that I've learned along the way, and I'm adding them in this negative space, just need that taste. I'm going to add that swaption on the W, and I'm going to try make that O bigger to fill in some more negative space there, swash on the V and an E. So it's all about combining all the different things that we've learnt, putting them together, and trying to create a really nice, aesthetically pleasing quote. 16. Final Words: There you have it. You are now equipped with my top tips on tackling layouts for lettering. I hope that you found this class useful and I hope that you are not too scared of going forth and playing around with different words, phrases, sayings, quotes, whatever it may be. I really look forward to seeing your attempts. In the project section, you are welcome to upload your attempt at any type of quote or phrase that you like. Or why don't you have a look at some of these that I've created for you on screen today and try your version of them. My favorite thing in a workshop is to simply give a phrase or a quote to my students and see how each person interprets and creates their layout. There are a million different ways that you can do things. I encourage you to take all of these tips into consideration, put your own spin on it, and see how you go. I really look forward to it and I'll see you in the next video. Bye.