Lowercase Letterform Study: Create a Hand Lettered Quote with Minimal Sketching | Jenny Lee | Skillshare

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Lowercase Letterform Study: Create a Hand Lettered Quote with Minimal Sketching

teacher avatar Jenny Lee, Lover of Digital Simplicity

Watch this class and thousands more

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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

10 Lessons (32m)
    • 1. Getting Started

    • 2. Gathering Materials

    • 3. Lowercase Typography Basics

    • 4. Gathering Inspiration and Resources

    • 5. Drawing and Minimal Sketching

    • 6. Digitizing Part 1: Digitize your letter pieces

    • 7. Digitizing Part 2: Complete your letter inventory

    • 8. Digitizing Part 3: Colors

    • 9. Digitizing Part 4: Final stylistic touches

    • 10. Final Words

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About This Class

Take your favorite song lyrics or quote and transform it into a fun, hand lettered composition using minimal sketching. Learn how to save time when creating a paper to digital lettering piece by combining critical thinking about letterforms with Illustrator magic.

This class is geared towards anyone with a love of lettering and illustration, and a basic understanding of Illustrator. The class is fast-paced, but all crucial steps and tips are included for the software.

This assignment will cover lowercase typography anatomy principles, block hand lettering tips, and tools needed in Illustrator to assemble your digital drawing and add final touches.

Meet Your Teacher

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Jenny Lee

Lover of Digital Simplicity


I'm Jenny Lee, a Philadelphia-based writer. Wife, mom of 2. Energetic INTJ.

I love intentional living and minimalism. Get inspiration on Instagram, subscribe to my videos on YouTube, follow along with posts about minimalism, chat with me on Twitter, or take my Skillshare classes.

Fun facts: I have a bachelor's degree in Interior Design; I never used it. I'm mildly allergic to peanuts, but I eat peanut butter all the time. Fueled by burritos. Things that rock my socks: brunch, running, embroidery, biohacking, and atmospheric indie music.

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1. Getting Started: Hey, everyone, I'm John Coyle. I'm a designer and illustrator and blogger over at hello brio dot com. In this culture class, I'm going to teach you how to create a Hamlet or quote or some lyrics whenever you want to dio. But what makes this class different from other hand lettering classes is I'm gonna show you how to do it. Using the least amount of sketching as possible, most of the magic is gonna happen. An illustrator where we create letter forms, merge pieces together to get the Hamlet airport you need, and doing it this way will help you create a more consistent look throughout your entire quote. So in my first class, I taught you how to make a font from start to finish. While this class is not about making a fought, a lot of the chips used in this tutorial will show you how to use different parts of letter forms for lower case letters to be able to quickly create your lower case forms so you can continue on from my first class. So the first thing that we're going to do in this class she was our quote or song lyric that we want a hand letter and then basically what we deal with that quote is taken inventory of all the letters that are in that quote so that you can start to sketch your letter forms as you come across them. The beauty of this is that even if you have a very long quote, you may only need to draw maybe 10 pieces of letter forms in order to get that into illustrator, digitize them and mold them together and cut them apart. So you have all your letter forms. The great way about doing this is you maintain consistency throughout your entire quote while saving you some time in sketching face. Before we dive into everything, I'm just going to show you some materials that you'll need. This is really basic. And then we're also going to talk about some typography anatomy of lower case letters. So I hope you enjoy this class 2. Gathering Materials: before we dive into everything I want to give a quick overview of the materials you're gonna need. This is really basic. You could do this with just a few pieces of materials that you probably already have laying around. The first you need are tools for sketching, So just a pencil and eraser and you're gonna need a black thinking marker. That way, when you go ahead and scan your work in or take a photo of it, you'll be able to adjust the levels of voter shop really easily. Some other things could help. Withdrawing letters that are more exact is a ruler so that you can draw your baselines and Ascender heights of X Heights etcetera, so that they're all even throughout your work. If you feel comfortable working on plane printer paper, I have a recommend doing that. You can also work on graph or grade paper, but it's really just a matter of preference. And if you're not sure, start with something and then if it doesn't work to switch, shoot on the type of paper. You're also gonna need a smartphone or a scanner to get your work from paper to your computer and Finally, you're going to need the illustrator app as well as motor show. Next up, I'm gonna quickly show you some lower case typography and enemy so that when I'm talking about a specific part of a letter, you know what I'm talking about. 3. Lowercase Typography Basics: Now we have all of our materials gathered. But before we start sketching, I want to go into some typography anatomy for lower case letters. So in this diagram, I have the word ghost. You can see that there are a few horizontal lines drawn rate this month. Same color. We got our A sender appear. We have our X height here, and that corresponds to if you were to draw on exit would be this the height of the X. We have our baseline and then also the D sender line. So while talking about the sender's, this part of the G is the D sender. A main part of the typography anatomy is the stem. This is gonna be a crucial part of our lesson because we'll see how you will be able to use a stem over and over again, going back to the G. We have this section here, which is the bowl. You'll also see these in letters like lower case A or lower case P in the middle of the oh , here we have the counter and along the center of the S. We have the spine along here on the T. We have the crossbar, and in a few places we have what is called a terminal. This is basically where the letters and and they should pretty much look similar. If you're going for a specific font. Look. Some quick things to note is that the stem of most letters like B K H. Etcetera, go all the way up to the Ascender line. But the tea is special because it does not go all the way up to the center line. And that's something that you'll learn more from studying fonts and seeing how they behave in different letters. So you'll see throughout these lower case letters, all of the thicknesses air pretty much the same. And I'm going to keep that consistent throughout the class so you can get a good idea of how to sketch your quote with the least number of letter forms possible. That way, you can reuse the stem over and over again. You can reuse a bowl if possible. Dissenters etcetera like you could easily change this into why, by just changing the bowl of the G and to be a why like that, So in the end, it saves you a lot of time if you're just doing a quick sketch and dropping these into illustrator and reusing parts of each letter So next up, we're gonna be gathering are quote an inspiration and then moving on from there. 4. Gathering Inspiration and Resources: so, up to this point, we have all of our materials that will need to complete the project. And we know some basics of typography anatomy so that we can draw our lower case letters before we jump into everything else. We need to go ahead and choose our quote and our concept, images or inspiration images. I actually looked on Pinterest, and I love finding their inspirational quotes there. So I served through and found a quote from Albert Einstein. That is, creativity is intelligence having fun? I love it. It's short and sweet, and I will be able to show you I had a hand letter that quickly, using only a few Clift pieces or color palette inspiration. I love going through unspool ash dot com They have some really beautiful photography by amateur and professional photographers, and some of their photos on there have really great color schemes. So I'm gonna choose a couple photos from there and then use that to create a color palette illustrator, which I'll show you some tips and tricks on that later. So once you've gone ahead and found your inspirational images and your quote or song lyrics , go ahead and upload them to your skills, your project so other students can keep track of your progress and you can share your progress with everyone. As you go next up, we're going to start sketching our letter forms for a quote. 5. Drawing and Minimal Sketching: So I've picked out my quote. Creativity is intelligence having fun by Albert Einstein. And the first thing we need to to has taken inventory of all the letters that you need the drawl. So I'm just gonna go through here and right down letters as I come across them. Once I come across a letter that I've already written down, I'm just gonna skip over it. And this may look like a lot of letters adroll, especially for such a short quote. But I promise you, once we get into sketching, it will be a lot less work than you think. So again, the goal of this tutorial is to show you how to draw letters by using this the least amount of pieces as possible, because in illustrator will be able to use certain pieces of letters over and over again to create your entire inventory of letters to get your final quote. So we're gonna start with the sea. Keep in mind that any round letter that you draw with around bottom is gonna pull past the D centerline just so it feels like it sits better. Okay, some of the R and you can see already that if I pull this piece from the sea and push it over to the R, it'll kind of look like this and that is OK with me. So I'm gonna leave this as is and not finish. The rest of the are for the E. It really is just an extension of the sea. So if I were to draw this lower end droll the cross of the E here, you can see that I haven't a So that's all I need to draw for that. So I'm already down a few letters here. He A is in fact, this part of the sea combined with this part of the are so I don't need to draw the A the T . I do need to draw just as you're drawing your letters. Whatever style you decide to go with, just make sure that you have a consistent thickness to everything in a consistent feel and look. And for this one of drawing at a slight angle. So I just want to make sure all my angles are consistent. Okay, for the I, I could just use this part of the our job dot now also be able to use this as a period. If I want, go ahead and draw the V on the why again, Pulling this down a little past the baseline onto the S is another stand alone letter for the end. What it really is is an extension of this piece of the stomach. The are combined with the peace that goes all the way down. So I'm just going to draw an outline of the end stem and then go ahead and draw this part. So when I bring it in, it's really only going to be this part of the end. The l does extend all the way up to the Ascender line, unlike the t. So I'm gonna bring that all the way down. I'm at the G, and you can see that since I already have a letter that has a D sender loop, I can go ahead and kind of create an outline for this part of the G, which will use most of this part of the why for the h, I'll be able to combine this Ellen, this end for the F. It's gonna be a combination of a bunch of letters, some actually just gonna draw this one out. If I find that when I bring this in, Illustrator, it looks kind of funky. Aiken, just take pieces of this effort, Put it on the L. So that's more consistent. And actually, I'm gonna leave that as is and take this crossbar from the tea and put it on there. And illustrator. So the last letter is you, which I don't need the draw because it actually already exists here in the UAE. So you can see with all these letters, I really only need to draw a handful of pieces of the letter You can really start to see here. How thinking critically about each lower case letter form that you're drawing will save you a lot of time in the sketch phase so that you can do most of the work. And illustrator. So next up, what I'm going to do is bring this into photo shop and illustrator, clean up the lines a little bit and show you how to make your comprehensive set of letter forms so that you can make your quote 6. Digitizing Part 1: Digitize your letter pieces: so, up to this point, we've drawn all of our letter forms and now we're ready to start digitizing. Go ahead and turns for your photo of your image, or scan your image and put it on your computer and then drag it in the photo shop. I actually went ahead and cleaned up my work with some ink drawing over the grid paper. So that way the grid paper wouldn't be in the picture to digitize, so it command zero to view all and then we're going to bring out the levels palette. So we have the highest contrast. Do that by hitting command. L click the white eye dropper and click somewhere on the white part of your drilling and then click on the black eye dropper and click where you want the blackest part of your drawing. That be that looks pretty good when you click OK and gonna do some inspection of the pieces here and zoom in. Make sure all the letters air closed meeting that there are no open paths that way. When we image trace and illustrator, we won't have any issues. So it actually looks like there's an issue here. Could it be for brush tool and fill in this gap here and then zoom back out. So we're all set to go hit l for lasso tool. And I'm gonna clip around the letters so that we don't have the vignette ing from the photo from the bottom. See how that's darker down there. Fix this, then. Hit command. See for copy. Go into illustrator hit command End for new document. Doesn't really matter what the sizes since it's gonna be a vector format anyway, hit. Okay, Hit command V for paste. Zoom out so we can see all of our letter forms and then hit shift command H to hide the art board from here. What we can do is play with image trace, So go ahead and open the image trace panel. And if you don't already have it open its in window image trace. A great place to start is with the black and white logo preset. Go ahead and click that and you can see all the letter forms air now kind of effect arised so we can play with the threshold. Make sure to expand on the advanced fly out so that you have all the options that you can play with here. Go ahead and adjust the threshold. We really want the letters to be smooth. So we're just going to play around with the settings until it looks the way you want it to look. That looks pretty good. I'm gonna go ahead and click, expand, and then I need toe ungroomed this twice. So hit shift command G twice and then click away with the selection tool, which is short cut via an illustrator. Click on the background to delete it and then click on these parts. And here the counters, etcetera. So we have just solid letter forms. Don't worry about the pieces within the letters because we're actually gonna emerge this together. So it's one solid piece with the selection tool Dragon Click to select all of your letter forms, then make sure you have your past finder window open and go toe window Pathfinder. If you don't have it open and then we're going to click the Unite Option, this is gonna mush all the letters together. As I said before. Then we're going to double click to change the fill color to black so we can see it and then we're all set. So in the next video, we're gonna complete our letter inventory by slicing and dicing these letter forms. So we have all the letters necessary to complete our quote. 7. Digitizing Part 2: Complete your letter inventory: Now that I have all the letter pieces digitized in illustrator, what I can do is begin to make all the letters that are missing or need to be separated in order to have multiple letters. So he remember when I was drawing the sea. This is actually a C and e necid together. So if I zoom in here actually to make a see out of this e So I'm gonna click on it with the selection tool, which is V hold on option, and then click and drag to create a copy. Now, over here, I'm gonna take the knife tool, which you confined by clicking on the eraser tool and then click the fly out. So it is its own tool panel here. Click on knife. And then I'm just gonna with the letter selected take the knife and click and drag across where I need the slices to be. It doesn't have to be perfect, because when I go back to a selection tool, I could take that piece and delete it, and then I'm gonna use some 10 tool to adjust and get rid of some of these extra anchor points. I can use my smooth tool which I have set my shortcut to be shift s and just kind of smooth that out where I need Teoh and you can see now I automatically have my C. The next letter I need is the are which I took to be part of the eye and also part of the sea. Someone zoom out a little bit so I can see what's going on. Option click and drag to copy that piece. And then I'm gonna also duplicate the sea so I can take the slice and combine it with E with this letter piece here to make an are so again with the knife tool, I'm just gonna kind of slice, maybe here, get rid of the extra piece, click and drag this guy over so it looks like an ar do some adjustments with the direct selection tool, which is a kind of click and drag these anchor points until they look good and, uh, going that the smooth tool and just smooth it out a little bit. There we go that I'm gonna click and drag to select both pieces and then in the Pathfinder panel, click Unite and I have one solid are. The next letter is a and that was this piece and this piece combined. So I'm gonna duplicate both. Take this one, click and drag this one we go. And then I went, uh, align them So they're they're together. Make any tweaks. And I need to Now this is getting a little funky because these don't actually line up very well. So we're gonna do is get it as close together as possible. Take the knife tool and slice off a little bit of this area because I don't need that to lead it and then take some of this area and let's see, I'm gonna move this guy over hit queue for the lasso tool. Select the points that I want Teoh edit and then hit a move these guys over. So it'll go into that stem a little better. Bring this back over and that's looking pretty funky. But I'll show you how to fix that too. Let's see, you want to make this a little bit longer. So with the last actual just dragged these guys down with this back over and that's looking better. So I'm gonna select these hit Unite and then with the smooth tool, which I've said as shift s I'm just gonna smooth this out a little bit, so it's more like in a zoom out kind of doing assessment here. So I have my c are e A. And I have my tea already done. I have my eye done, which is air here. When I have these selected since their two pieces, I'm just gonna hit command G to group them together. The V is next, and then I need my wife. So I'm gonna take this option quick and drag. Zoom in a bit, them with a knife tool. And there we go. So now you can go ahead and smooth Selkie over to some of these anchor points beheading P for the pen tool and deleting some of these anchor points until it Billy, it looks good. I'm smooth this out a little bit here. That's good. Seem out. And I have my why. Ah, the next letter I need is the s, which is already done. Says getting a little funky down here. So I'm just gonna delete that jagged edge. Why would using the pen tool The next letter I need is the end someone take this duplicated un group it delete the I point and then drive us up here. And because I don't use that anywhere else, I'm just gonna go ahead and unite these two. If n the next letter I need is l which is already done and a with my smooth tool. Go ahead and smooth this out a little bit, cause it's a lot of anchor points that I have the g so I can bring us up here, zoom in with a knife tool. I can kind of carve out the pieces that I need. So just kind of like that. And that should be all that I need to dio I could just go ahead and remove some of these extra anchor points. Smooth it out with the dark selection tool, You get a smoother part of the G. With this out a little more looks pretty good. Next up is the h, so Oh, I didn't need that piece. That's a bummer. That's okay. So I'm just gonna click Copy this piece quick and copy this piece. He's the knife tool to slice that off again. Delete the extra stem. Move this guy over into this longer stem and unite these together. Next up is F So I'm gonna take this part of the F and then duplicate the tea. We're here, so, man, and I need to get this crossbar offer here. So what I'm gonna do is take the knife tool it's likes here and here. Delete the extra parts of the tea that I don't need. Click and drag this over here so it lines up and I actually didn't need to do any extra clean up. Second, just unite thes. The last letter was the you. So I'm pulling that from the why. Like click on. Copy this one over here. Then all I need to do is take the knife tool, slice off this extra bit here of the D sender, and I have my you. I can clean this up a little bit, so it looks a little more stylized. And that looks pretty good. Now that I have all my letters drawn out, you can see where some of them look a little funky. But you know what? That's actually kind of fun because I like when letters look work here, and when you put it into the full quote. It'll kind of look more comprehensive that way. So now that I have on my letters ready, I'm just gonna have rearranged, um, so that they fit with the quote when my original quote was creativity. Is intelligence having fun? All right, Now I have all of my letters form. It was going to group these altogether. Now that I don't need to pull letters from other words and arrange them high one. Okay. And before I forget, I'm gonna add the author. Okay, so this is all ready to go next step. What I'm gonna do is add color and show you guys how to make swatch pallets that are easy to get from using inspirational photographs. When you're at this part of the project to go ahead and take a screenshot of your work and upload it to your project so everyone can see the progress of your work 8. Digitizing Part 3: Colors: up to this point. We've sketched out our letter pieces for quote. We've created each letter form that we need for the quote. And then we've arranged all the letters in the position that we want it to be for the final drawling. So now what we need to do is add color. I've already chosen a photo from unspool ash dot com. As I've said it to my desktop, I'm just gonna drag it into my illustrator file, go ahead and scooted over second, see everything here and then I'm going to go to the appearance window. So I need to go toe window appearance. And because this image is already selected, I'm just going to go ahead and click effect and then pick silly crystallize And what this is going to dio I'm gonna zoom out so I can see everything. What this is going to do is going to take the image and then kind of dumb down the color so that there are only a few color choices now. I picked this photo because I wanted something that was kind of vibrant with good contrast in colors. So I'm gonna increase the cell size within the crystallized Pop up. Go ahead and click. OK, And then to apply this effect to the photo, I need to go to object. Expand appearance. I'm gonna zoom in on this photo, close out the appearance panel. I don't need that anymore. And click over to my swatches panel if you don't have this open already Goto window and swatches. So what I need to do now is I'm gonna grab maybe seven colors from this image that I for eyedropper tool click a color that I want you to see it show up in the color picker over here and then within the swatches panel Click new Swatch when prompted. I'm not gonna rename this watch, but I'm just gonna hit, OK? And you can see this watch is being added here. So I'm gonna do that a few more times until I have all the colors that I want. Now that I have all my swatches selecting, I realized these two colors air quite similar. Some actually gonna delete this one, and then I want these all to be in one group. So I'm gonna click on the last one and then hold down shift and clicked on the 1st 1 to get the entire group, then go into the bottom of the swatches palette and click New color group. I'm gonna call this sunset Click, OK? And now you have your color group. So we don't need this image anymore. So I'm just gonna go ahead and delete it from the artwork, zoom back into my drawing and I'm going to start playing with color. So if I highlight over everything with the swatches palettes click on the color that I want , you'll see it make the change directly to the artwork. I need a background. So I'm gonna hit the rectangle tool, which is M And when I click and drag within the layers panel, I'm gonna move this to the bottom. Here we go. And I'm going to change the color of this to one of the oranges. So now I can start to play around with this. I actually want to duplicate all of my letters and create kind of a drop shadow effect something. Do this by highlighting all of my letters holding down option and then clicking and dragging. So I have a duplicate, you know, with the arrow keys. Put them into their place. And then I want to prove these together. So right now the light blue text is on top of the light blue text that's been duplicated, So I want to click on the group that's below. So if I go over here in the layers palette and click on the target, it'll highlight that area. Hold down shift and you can select multiples of these and say, Want that to be the darker blue? So we have a nice pop going on here. Now, now, one of my most favorite tools and illustrator is the color guide and the color switcher. It gives you a really quick way of seeing your color. Apply it in multiple different ways. So in order to get that open goto window color guide in order to re color the art, I need to select everything. So with the selection home just gonna click and drag, and then I'm going to click on the Edit or apply colors icon, and from here you can see that it's automatically re coloring the artwork based on the palate so that we have selected. So I'm gonna click on this button here, which randomly changes the color order until I get something that I like. It's really fun to cycle through all of these and see all the different combinations that ill shooter will come up with, cause it's more random than if you were to do it yourself. You can also switch the saturation and brightness of all of these colors, so you get a lot of different options. Now that I've had some time to play around with my quote, you can see that I did some extra things here. I added a period. I changed the colors of some of the letters kind of randomly, and I played again with the color remixing tool, and I really like how this ended up. But I also did this one, and I think I like this one better out of the two. Seeking to see how playing with the color remix and really getting a sense of kind of randomness with color, you can start to explore things that you may not already think about and kind of get you outside of your comfort zone in terms of color. Now, if you come up with multiple iterations of your drawing with color, please just share Both. I want to see what you guys are coming up with in the next and final s, and we're going to complete our artwork by adding finishing touches, pulling an inspiration from historically important graphic designers. 9. Digitizing Part 4: Final stylistic touches: up to this point, we have a fully lettered quote and composition with our desired color palette. Now we're gonna add some final touches with some inspirational work from graphic designers . I found this image by Lissitzky and I really like how has a strong diagonals. He was all about communicating without words for the illiterate people in this country. But I think I can pull some of this information into the drawing that I have, with some of hints towards the diagonal, the graphic shapes and kind of these doodads that I can add on to this because my quote is all about having fun and creativity, etcetera. So I'm gonna go ahead and add some extra detail. I do want this to be mostly about the quote, so I'm gonna keep it subtle and I'll come back in a little bit and show you where I landed . Okay, so you see how I've pulled in some graphical styles inspired by Lissitzky without going overboard. So I have some strong diagonals. I have some geometrical shapes. I created a symbol and then use the symbol sprayer to add some confetti like pieces and some triangles throughout the artwork. Everything's very subtle. It doesn't pull away completely from the quote because the quote still has the highest contrast in the drawing. No matter where you land with your darling, I would love to see the it orations that you've come up with. So please remember to share your project and your progress with other students and myself in the project gallery for the class. 10. Final Words: So I hope you guys enjoyed this class. I appreciate you enrolling. I hope you take away the key points that I have here. Besides the illustrator chips, you may or may not have known already, but one is that you could use the baseline of this method for creating lower case cliffs to help you create a full blown fun. So between my first class in this class, you should be able to upload a full set that has upper case and lower case letters as well as numbers, symbols, etcetera. Using this method of lettering is a fun way to do a quote quickly, especially if you have a coat with a lot of letters, and you don't exactly want to make a font right off the back. Remember to upload your project to the gallery as you complete each step. That way, students can see your progress, and you can share your progress as you go. It's a really fun way to see what other people are working on, where they draw inspiration from and just see other people's finished work. Thanks again for taking my class share with people who you think will love it, and I'll see you around next time