The Golden Secrets of Script Lettering: Find Inspiration In Your Handwriting | Martina Flor | Skillshare

The Golden Secrets of Script Lettering: Find Inspiration In Your Handwriting

Martina Flor, Letterer & Designer

The Golden Secrets of Script Lettering: Find Inspiration In Your Handwriting

Martina Flor, Letterer & Designer

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9 Lessons (1h)
    • 1. Trailer

    • 2. Project: Create a Script Lettering using your handwriting

    • 3. Writing with different tools

    • 4. Selecting and Criticizing

    • 5. Sketching and Improving shapes

    • 6. Flourishes

    • 7. Refining your Sketch

    • 8. Digitisation

    • 9. Final Thoughts

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About This Class

Explore how designer Martina Flor uses her handwriting to create a piece of Script Lettering. In this 60-minute class, you will learn her step-by-step process for transforming spontaneous handwriting into a lettering piece. Martina will give you a insight on her process creating lettering and share tips to to turn an spontaneous/imperfect handwritten expression into a personal and unique script design.

This class is the perfect complement for Martina’s previous Skillshare class ‘The Golden Secrets of Lettering’ and it is tailored for designers, illustrators, and everyone who wants to improve their set of skills for creating lettering. No prior knowledge or experience required!

Meet Your Teacher

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Martina Flor

Letterer & Designer

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Martina combines her talents as designer and illustrator in the drawing of letters. Based in Berlin, she runs a leading studio specializing in lettering and custom typography for clients around the globe, such as The Washington Post, Vanity Fair, Harper Collins, Penguin Random House, Monotype, Etsy, Adobe, Fontshop, and Cosmopolitan, among others.

With a master in Type Design from the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague (KABK) under her belt, she dedicates a large part of her time to teaching lettering and type design. Her book The Golden Secrets of Lettering (Princeton Architectural Press and Thames & Hudson, 2017) is also published in English, German, Spanish, and French.

When she is not busy drawing letters, Martina teaches at several universities, travels around the... See full profile

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1. Trailer: Hi there. My name is Martina Flora and I'm a letter and designer living in Berlin, Germany where I ran my own studio in custom typography and lettering, working for clients all over the world. This class is called "The Golden Secrets of Script Lettering" and we would be creating lettering piece departing from our own handwriting. This assignment will teach you how to make a lot of fundamental design decisions when working with lettering like how to improve defective letters shapes, spacing, proportions, and making individual letters more sharp and unique. I will also give you some insights for doing flourishes. We will be going together through the entire task, from sketch to digitization. I will be showing you some of my own sketches for commercial commissions and giving you tips into improving your own creative process. Although being independent unit, this class is a good compliment for my previous class, the golden sequence of lettering and it is tailored to designers, letters, or anyone who wants to improve their set of skills to do lettering. So I'm looking forward to see you all there. 2. Project: Create a Script Lettering using your handwriting: One of the challenges of working with letter design is to create letter shapes that are unique and personal. My classes are not focused on giving you a set of models that you could copy into creating lettering, but to give you a set of tools that you could actually use to boost your creativity at creating letter shapes. One of these tools is your handwriting. We all agree into saying that your handwriting is a very personal thing that you have, and learning how to improve your letter shapes from your own handwriting, will help you achieve those unique letters shapes and unique forms that you're aiming for. I will show you some of my sketches from commercial commissions and show you how is my process into getting my handwriting into a final lettering piece. Here are some of the sketches for my commercial commissions. Normally, this is a commission for Vanity Fair in Spain, and they wanted to have a page opener. I normally start with very small little sketches. Especially when using my handwriting, it's really easy to create several sketches, where I can try out different structures, I can try out different flourishes, I can see how that might work in combination with roman letter shapes. Once I try out in little sizes and in small sizes, these different structures, then sometimes I just scale up some of these sketches. Here you can find a scaled copy of this sketch over there. Once I have the sketch, I can start working in layers. On top of it, refining. Let me put this on the side. Refining some letters shapes, deciding on some ligatures, how they might work. Deciding on the size of the capital letters. Refining every detail that here is not very well-defined in the second layer. I will then use a third layer to go more deep into these details. When I work with sketches, I normally go from the overall image, the structure, the letters shapes that I'm going to use into more detail. My last sketch will be a closer image of how this artwork will look as a final artwork. Once I have my sketch, I will scan it and add some color to it and send it to the client. This is the moment where we get to discuss with the client whether this composition works, whether the color scheme works, whether the shapes are working, whether it's legible. This is a space where we discuss changes and once this is discussed, I can move into the digital drawing and deliver the final artwork. I worked like this for a while already. Since I have my studio in custom typography, I had to improve my working process. I had to be able to work with agencies, topology houses would normally have very short deadlines and I had to be able to deliver the artwork in time. This sketching technique helped me to discuss with the client, know what he wants to have, and be able to deliver the work in time. This is another commission for 5280 Magazine in the US. Also I had to do a page opener, and they wanted to have a ribbon type on it. I started with my handwriting. Since it was a lot of texts, I started checking how these texts could flow through the page, and then I move onto bigger sizes. Then you can see the steps by the numbers. Then I move to creating this ribbon type. This is the final sketch that I sent to my client, including the fill shapes. Let me show you the sketch that I actually sent to my client. Of course, it was a color sketch. When I sent this to my client, he told me, "We love it. But actually, the texts that we wanted to have on this page are those three words over there and not the whole wording that you used." I made a mistake, I actually messed it up. But with this technique, using sketches and working really fast because this sketch is something I did in perhaps one or two hours, I could come back to my client some few hours later with a new sketch using the wording that they actually wanted to have. I could actually fix the problem in very few time. I delivered also a color sketch and the client could tell me whether the structure is good, whether the color works, whether the location of this label works, and I could then deliver the final artwork in time. This is why working with sketches is so important especially when working with letters shapes. You will see after your own experience during this class, that your digital drawing moves a lot slower than your sketch. The sketch is a very good place to discuss changes, and structure, and about letters shapes, about color scheme with your client. Another thing that is very important, is that your client feels as part of the project. He sees the thing developing. He has space to change stuff. He's not getting surprised by the digital neat result that you're presenting in your digital drawing, but he has a space where he sees how the things look so to say. Nowadays, where we don't see so many things handmade, where we work so much with the digital environment, I think the client appreciate this handwork that letter design has. This is something we have to show. Actually, this is a value that this discipline has that it's just nice to show and the clients appreciate that. I will show you in the meantime other work. Another thing about working with sketches is that it gives you a lot of room to work to make decisions afterwards. When you show a digital image to your client, he will very likely perceive it as a final artwork, although you think and you know that there is a lot of work to do. I want to show you the final sketch. Working with sketches, gives you the room to decide on other things later. Here you can see clear my first attempt with handwriting, some improvements into the letter shapes, how thick they are, how the ligatures work. I also allow myself to be playful with the flourishes. How the capitals are flowing in the page. This is an improved version of my handwriting. The digital drawing then is the neat digital result that I get from my hand sketch. Now we are moving towards creating our own script lettering by using our handwriting. 3. Writing with different tools: Now we're moving on to creating our own literary piece by using our handwriting. Here I selected a couple of tools that we can use to write. Of course, there's a lot more than these tools to write. So I encourage you to choose an explorer, the tools you have at home, in your studio, or the ones you can find in a supply shop. I selected some different tools. Some of them are markers, pencils, and brushes, and they give very different results when writing. There will be very different departing points when doing our lettering piece. So this is also a pen with a pointed end. This is rather different than the first one, that is a pointed brush. I will use this pen or this tool that is actually two pencils put together with a rubber band, and try to write something with it. It will always give you this double sides. This is very useful to create ribbon type or what is known as ribbon type, because it gives you these two sides of one ribbon. I have a marker over here. I will use a capital letter. This gives you, of course, another departing point, where the strokes are much thicker and they have all these thick pods that are created by the papers sucking in the ink. The classical pencil. This is the basic tool we can all use and we can all find in our places and studios. Here's the last one, a pointed brush pen, which is actually a marker. It's not using ink, but it's more like a marker. This was an overview of all the different results you can achieve with different tools. Of course, you can choose whatever tool fits better to you or you feel more comfortable with. I actually work very good with pencil. I'm just going to use a pencil to start our project of creating a lettering piece from our handwriting. So with this pencil, I will do different tests. I will write my name by using one word. So in this case will be my name, and I will do several tests on how to write than name. Actually, I will use this marker so you can see better in the video the different tests that I do. I will write my name, Martina. This is my first attempt. I can try to make this a little bit more expanded, a little bit more relaxed. This will be another variation on the same word. I could also say, "Maybe I can come up with a different M, and I can explore how many different Ms I can do for my name." I will continue with my tests, and you can continue with yours. After this, we are going to select the ones we're going to work on further. 4. Selecting and Criticizing: Here are some of the trials that I did with my own handwriting. I tried different ways of writing my name. Some of them are more sharp and they are written more fast. You can see that some of them are written more slowly and with more flourishing. I tried also different solutions for a single letter to see how they work. I also tried the same with the capital letters. Remember there's several ways of drawing an M. There are several ways of drawing most of the letters in our alphabet so I would recommend you to search the one that fits better for your design. Don't worry if your handwriting is not charming or nice. Actually, the thing about this class is that we will take our imperfect handwriting and turn it into something and improve it as much as we can to turn it into a lettering piece. From this whole bunch of different ways of writing my name, I will choose one of them. I actually like this one over here. I think I like the ligature with this flourish here. I like this shape of the M better than this one over here with the three loops. I actually like how the lettering starts with this loop and ends with the loop of the a. I will isolate this one and we'll speak about how to analyze what looks good and what looks weird from my handwriting. There's a couple of parameters we can refer to when analyzing our own handwriting. One of them is the slant. Are my letters slanted? Are they sitting upright? This means are they all having the same slant? Are they standing upright? One of the things to look at is these slant and is this slant applied on all the letters? Is one of them sitting upright among a bunch of letters that are sitting with a slant? The slant is one of those things we have to look at in our design and see that it's consistently applied throughout the whole word. The other thing to look at are the connections. So are all my letters connected? Are some of them connected and some of them not? One of the keys of handwriting is basically to be able to write without lifting your pen so much. This is supposed to improve the speed when you write and it keeps also a certain rhythm when writing your words. One of the things to notice in your design is whether the connections are flowing or not. If some of them are disconnected, like for instance in my design, the r is not connected in this case. Is this an exception? How can I turn this exception into a rule? Can I disconnect other letters so this becomes like a rule into my design, or shall I just connect this letter that is disconnected in this case because of the movement of my hand? Connections is another thing we're going to look at when analyzing our handwriting. The other thing is the rhythm. Was I writing fast? Was I writing slow? The way you write actually imprints a certain character to your writing. It's not the same to write something when I'm nervous than to write something when I have all the time I want, when I'm am relaxed and I can play around. The way you write, prints a certain character on your letter shapes. This is important to realize in your design. Are all my letters consistently written with the same speed or is any of them slower than the others? How can I get this rhythm consistent throughout all the word? The rhythm and the speed of writing is another one of the concepts we can refer to when analyzing our handwriting. The last one would be the oval we are using. When looking at our rounded shapes or our rounded forms in our handwriting, we can find a constant. If we're writing with the same hand, with the same rhythm, with the same speed, then, also our shapes tend to be regular in the way they are performed. It's good to check on the ovals that I'm using. If my a is using that oval, then, the loop of my r in this case will very likely use the same oval. As well, my flourishes will repeat that oval in the way they are drawn. The same happens in the M. So it's interesting or it's important to realize what's the primary oval that you're using in your design so as to keep it constant throughout the whole word. 5. Sketching and Improving shapes: So now, I'm going to continue improving this handwriting. What I did is to isolate the one that I like the most from all the others. If you wrote in very small sizes, I will recommend you to scale it up with a copy so you can work better into the details. With all the concept we just saw in the previous lesson about how to analyze our own handwriting, I can already look at my written name with a more critical eye and I can decide which things I would like to improve. I will start working on this with layers of tracing paper that I will just place on top of my handwriting, and improve the shapes that I don't like or improve the features that I think are not working so nicely so far, and continue working with this layering system using only tracing paper. This is the 40 gram tracing paper, you can find it at any supply shop. Basically, what I would like to do with my written name are a couple of things. I think, for instance, the spacing between the N and the A, I think it's too wide. I think this could improve a little bit. I think also the R is rather expanded in comparison with the A, or perhaps the A is too narrow. If I compare my A with my other A, this one is much wider than this one over here. I think also there's something about this feature here that needs some solution, either a loop or some flourish coming out of it. I think if we remember this concept of the oval we are using to draw our letters. I think this oval works very nicely with all the other ovals that I'm using in my name. However, I think this one over here is pretty wide and expanded. It's rounded in comparison with this one over here that it is more like an oval. I will try to keep that one a little bit more in this direction. I think on the other hand, that this loop here or this flourish here, is working quite nicely. Although, the shape is rather different from this one over there, it's using the same oval but laying down in horizontally. What I will do now after looking at all the things that I want to improve from my lettering, I would just start working with these layers of improvement. I will number my layers, I will add some weight to my letter shapes, I will correct the things that I wanted to change, and make this handwritten word turn into a lettering piece. 6. Flourishes: I get many times the question on how to do flourishes and I have a couple of tips to help you go through it. One of the first things that I will recommend you when you want to work with flourishes, is to keep it simple in the beginning. This means don't try to make thousands of them, start by trying some here and there and get more complex with the practice and experience and try a lot of options. Make your flourish, go up, go down, turn a couple of times, don't stick to the first attempt, so this means try out different solutions for a single stroke. Don't stick to the first trial that you made, so always try different solutions and see which one works best for yours. Search for the valence, the flourish should hold your lettering piece. Perhaps you have an opener as it's happening here, and you have a closing stroke like it's happening here as well. You have something to underline, to hold your design altogether. So try to start by a few flourishes and then make them worth, make them hold the lettering as a single piece. The last tip that I will give you is keep your strokes coming back to the lettering. This will make the flourishes look much more elegant and less hookie, this means that your flourishes should ideally always come back towards your word. Try not to have them, you know, going out and finishing there. Because this will make the flourish look like a hook. Whereas when coming back to your lettering, it can look a lot more elegant. 7. Refining your Sketch: What I will do now after looking at all the things that I want to improve from my lettering, I will just start working with this layers of improvement. I will number my layers, I will add some weight to my letter shapes, I will correct the things that I wanted to change, and make this handwritten word turn into a lettering base. One good thing about sketching layers with tracing paper is that you can draw on top of your previous drawing without ruining it and also without starting over every time. By having the previous layer as the base you can pick up whatever was good and improve whatever was wrong. You may use as many layers as you want or need to get your sketch to the stage where you need to get. Throughout this layering process you will go from drawing more fast and less detailed to sketching slower and more detailed. A couple of tips for drawing with this technique. First, don't work only with outlines. Fill the shapes so you can get an idea of how heavy your letter shapes are. Another tip will be shift your tracing paper as much as you need in the cases you need to correct a slant, or add spacing, or open a counter of a letter. At last, explore all you can. Try different solutions for a single letter. Try out different flourishes and various stroke endings. The great thing about this technique is that you can always go back on your steps. Here I've finished my first sketch. I added some weight to my letters. I know you might be wondering, how do I add some weight to my letters? In my previous class, "The golden secrets of lettering", there is a lesson that explains exactly how to refer to calligraphic tools to actually do lettering or to add weight to your letter shapes. I will encourage you to have a look at this class. I think it will give you a lot of information on how to properly add weight to your letter shapes. Now I made my first sketch. Of course there's a lot of things to improve. But it is good to look at it and again think of the things that I want to change. I want to make for instance my M a little bit more dynamic. I think is too aesthetic right now. I think the flourishes have improved. The A is again using the same oval that these flourish over there. I think the stroke is much more elegant right now. I think the width of the shapes has improved a lot. In this case I think this A is looking rather small in comparison with the first A. In the second layer I will continue improving all of those things that I notice now. I will try to get this drawing as much final as I can so I can then move onto the digital ground. I will continue improving into the digital ground. But for now I made enough decisions on certain basic shapes on getting my letter shapes more or less coherent. I defined also some of the features, like for instance the stroke endings, how heavy my letters are. This is already enough information for me to continue into the digital drawing. I will scan this, and I will open my vector drawing program and show you how to plot your anchor points on your sketch. 8. Digitisation: Here I'm. I have scanned my sketch and I have placed it, in my case, Adobe Illustrator document. You can use whatever drawing software you like. So I'm placing my sketch on one of the layers, and ideally, I will be putting down the opacity of this layer, so I can actually see it quite in the background. I will start my digital drawing or my vector drawing on a new layer. I'll call this vector. So here we are. To draw letter shapes on vectors, we use a special technique. Under any condition, we don't push the outer tracing button, which is normally a feature that you have in most of the vector drawings, which tells us of points that you cannot control. What we are looking here is for a technique that picks up our sketch as faithful as possible with as few points as we can. Why are we using as few points as we can? Because the more points we have, the harder it will be to edit a certain shape. For using as few points as we can, we use a special technique that is called the technique of the extreme points, which basically uses the very few points that you need to get a shape right. In my previous class, The Golden Secrets of Lettering, there is a pretty extensive explanation on how to draw with extreme points, so I invite you to have a look at it, and to get a deeper understanding on how to draw with extrema points. The extrema points technique is based on the circle of the Illustrator. If you draw a circle in Illustrator, like I'm doing now, let me zoom in to show you, you will get four points: the north, south, east, west of your circle. So this four points are forming this circle between each point there will be a curve. To edit that curve, then we put some random color on that circle. To edit this curve, I will need to either move those points and those handles. A certain curve is edited between two extreme points, which are those or there, and the anchor points coming out from those two points. What this means is that I just need two points and two handles to get a curve right, or to handle a curve. If I will have a third point in this intersection, to edit that curve over there, I will need then to move that point, that one, and all the handles that are flying around between those points. The few points you can get, the better to draw when it comes to draw letter shapes. Usually, those extreme points are found on the horizontal and vertical axis. This means that those extrema points are always found in the intersection between this horizontal and the curve itself. Wherever these curves meet with that straight line is where the extrema points is going to be found. Don't worry if you find it hard to to use it in the beginning, you will see with the time and with the practice how many points you need to get a certain shape. However, aiming to get as few points as you can when translating your sketch into a digital drawing, it's already a big advantage when working with vectors. Let me delete this. What I would do is on my new layer of director drawing, I will start trying to locate those extrema points into my drawing. I will just very roughly locate those points. Ideally, when digitizing your shapes or your sketch into digital drawing, ideally you will try to draw continuous strokes. This means, for instance, that this swash that is coming out of the M, ideally, I would try to draw it altogether as a whole shape instead of drawing individual shapes that then I have to put together. Therefore, with this principle then, your strokes will look a lot more flowing and natural, which is more or less correspond to the way they were written or done. I would just draw these stroke as a whole just to be able to close this shape and show you what's the result of it. I will just use black for that shape. This is the first attempt to locate the points on my shape, and as you can see, there's a lot of weird shapes coming out. This curl here is not flowing correctly. This means that the drawing on the digital environment, it's also a craft. You have to work on those points, shift those anchors to get the shapes as smooth as possible or as smooth as you want to have them. Another thing that is important when drawing a script lettering in the computer, in your digital vector program, is that you will want to keep some of the shapes independent from each other. Although this will be an entire lettering piece, in the very beginning it's very good to have, for instance, the t or the stroke of the t independent from the i, n connection, and the a as another independent letter. Ideally, you will have all those letters besides those that are connecting, like for instance, the a and the r here, those need to stay together because they are directly connecting, or the connection of the a is forming the r over here. But those that can be independent, that can be unattached to other letters, then I would suggest you to keep it like this. Because if eventually you have to make some changes on the spacing or on the width of a certain letter, you can always shift the letters to the side and work on that individual letter. I will continue finishing my lettering piece, working with extrema points. I will show you the result of that ones. I will stop here for a second just so I think it's good to stop from time to time and look at your drawing and see how your drawing is developing. What are the next steps? As I told you before, I'm keeping some shapes independent from each other. For instance, the a, the a is built then with two strokes. I think great thing about keeping these shapes separately is that I can obtain a well defined stroke with very few points and a very defined curve with very few points. If I would have those two shapes merge together, then I will have a lot more extra points there where those two strokes come together. Keeping those shapes separately is a bigger banded. Also, if I want to move that shape more to the right, to the left, I have that freedom. The same with the t for instance, and also with the stroke of the t going through. These are two separate units that I can merge later if I want to use this as logotype or applied on a certain piece, then perhaps it's better to have everything merged together into one shape. But, to draw it is much more easy, and is actually the way to go to obtain strokes that are going through in the same line and that have a certain flow. I still have a lot of work to do. I have a lot of anchor points to shift. I can see here that there is a bump. I can also see this shape is pretty irregular. I would like to improve that. This whole stroke over here is getting rather thick. I will have to make that one thinner. The M in general is pretty heavy, I have to find some balance, although it's a capital, and capitals are usually much more expressive and big and thick because they also have a lot more wide space. I would like to have that one a little bit more light.. As you see, the improvements continue in the digital drawing. Try to stop from time to time and look at your drawing and see how it is developing and see what are the steps coming next. I will continue improving my drawing. I hope you do the same. 9. Final Thoughts: Congratulations, you have learned how to get inspiration on your own handwriting to create more unique and personal letter shapes. We have gone through the whole process of creating a script lettering. We have first tried out different tools and we have written our name in several ways. We have also learned a couple of criteria to judge and criticize our own drawing. This is very important when working with lettering, to be able to actually criticize the things that are wrong and recognize the things that are right. We have also after this, used sketching technique to improve those shapes and to change the features we wanted to change. We have also learned a couple of criteria to create flourishes, so we have worked on our flourishing. After we achieved a neat sketch or hand sketch, or after we solved most of the problems in this hand sketch, we went to our vector drawing software and we learn how to translate this sketch into a vector drawing. Hopefully this class have given you all the necessary tools to get script lettering from your handwriting. I encourage you all to continue using your handwriting in integrating lettering, and I encourage you especially to use your handwriting more often. The more you use it, the better it will get and the more personal results you will get. Go ahead, write a letter, write a shopping list, use it more often and you'll see how good it will be for your lettering work. I also encourage you to check out my previous class, The Golden Secrets of Lettering. I think it will help you expand a lot more your set of creative skills for creating lettering. I'm also very much looking forward to see your projects posted on the project page. I think, especially in this project where we're using our own handwriting, it will be very interesting to see the variety of results we get from the different handwritings of everyone out there. Thank you for being there and bye.