Hand Lettering Techniques: Exploring Letterforms Through Monograms | Will Pay | Skillshare

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Hand Lettering Techniques: Exploring Letterforms Through Monograms

teacher avatar Will Pay, Specializing in types of character

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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

    • 1.



    • 2.



    • 3.

      Anatomy of Letters


    • 4.

      On the Street


    • 5.



    • 6.

      Adding Weight


    • 7.



    • 8.

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About This Class

Create your monogram! In this one-hour class, designer Will Pay shares his creative process for designing a monogram — a perfect graphic for a website, logo, or even stationery.

In bite-sized lessons, Will walks you through:

  • letter anatomy
  • lettering embellishments
  • the rules of letterform design
  • designing a monogram

Going behind-the-scenes with Will's process is a treat for all design enthusiasts. You'll join him on the streets of Brooklyn to seek out style inspiration, then had back into his studio to sketch, digitize, and polish the final piece.

How do letters shapes interlock? How can you play and explore what's possible in lettering design? This thorough and creative class is perfect for designers, illustrators, and lettering enthusiasts who are eager to gain a stronger understanding of letters — and everyone who wants to make a monogram!


Final image by Will Pay

Meet Your Teacher

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Will Pay

Specializing in types of character


Will Pay is a hand-lettering artist with a focus on expressive typography. His lettering skills have a wide variety of applications; from logos and packaging, to huge office murals for start-up companies. Using Instagram to attract clients, Will Pay has worked with many businesses big and small, to deliver truly unique one of a kind projects with expressive type. Check more of his work at WillTypeForPay.com

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1. Trailer: Hey guys, I'm Will Pay, designer and letterer, living out in Brooklyn, New York and this is exploring letter forms through monograms. So in this class we're going to be learning about letter forms, what makes a letter, different types of letters and then using that to make your own monogram. Personally I'm making a monograph from my website. So that's wiltypeforpay.com. Monogram started turning up around 400 BCE. Some of the first monograms to turn up were on coins and money. Monogram is really a combination of two or more letters overlapped or interlocking to create a unique mark and these marks help identify who the owner is above possession. It helps symbolize ownership. Monograms are always used by fashion brands. You got Louis Vatan, Shanel, Tiffany and Company. Plenty of brands use monograms. Adding monograms to a brand raises its equity, raises its brand value. Instead of getting inspired by other monograms, get inspired by anything else. Get inspired by the way flowers bloom, get inspired by the way light reflects off a building. These'll help give you a unique perspective when you're applying it to letters. 2. Introduction: Hey guys. I'm Will Pay, designer and letterer living out in Brooklyn, New York. This is exploring letterforms through monograms. So, in this class we're going to be learning about letterforms, what makes a letter, different types of letters, and then using that to make your own monogram. Personally, I'm making a monogram for my website, so that willtypeforpay.com. So it's four letters in there. You can use your name. Perhaps you have a little studio that you're trying to run, or maybe you have a client that you're working with. So, we're going to learn how to make a monogram with that. Monograms started turning up around 400 BCE. Some of the first monograms to turn up were on coins and on money. Most recognizably is king Charlemagne's monogram, which is around 700 to 800 BCE. He had four letters on his monogram. It was etched into stone, it was used on currency. Albrecht Dürer's monogram, AD, was what he signed his paintings and prints with, it was around 14 to 1500's. To this day you still see a call to his monogram by the art director's club. They use his style with the upper case A and the D inside. They use the letter C to help encompass the letter. For the sake of not butchering this guy's name, D-E-M-E-N-G-E-O-T's monogram of the entire alphabet is probably the most ornate and vernacular you will ever see. You can sit here and stare at this and find every letter in the alphabet and then some. Thankfully we're not going to be doing 26 letter monograms, we're going to stick it to around two to four. You have some of the most beautiful monograms came out of the Victorian era. These were highly ornate, decorative, intertwined, overlapped, high contrast. Because most of these were etchings and prints, they had to be monochromatic. So, it really has to do with a lot of light, a lot of shadow, and how those interact with each other. If you've ever gone to the beach and see a girl bust out her own towel with the monogram on it, those are British wedding monograms. Historically, the way those are set up is you have the bride's first initial on the left, the groom's first initial on the right, and the family surname in the middle and larger. We've all seen these on necklaces and towels and little stationery like that. Monograms are also used by teams. A lot of teams might have a mascot, they might have a logo but they also have monograms. They're really important in establishing brand equity. I have a personal vendetta with the San Francisco giants monogram. If you look at it you have an S you have an F, but because of the way the letters overlap, you have a P in here. So, to me this is a monogram of SPF. I should see this on a bottle of sunscreen while I'm whipping out my monogram towel. Monograms are always used by fashion brands. You got Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Tiffany & Company. All money exchange doesn't really overlap but it's still together there. Plenty of brands use monograms, especially high end and fashion brand. So, a monogram is really a combination of two or more letters overlapped or interlocking to create a unique mark, and these marks help identify who the owner is of a possession. So, whether that be a ruler to his money or an artist to his piece, it helps symbolize ownership. Adding a monogram to a brand raises its equity, raises its brand value. Letters share relationships between each other, and if you're looking at their basic structure, the basic shapes, you have symmetry among them and they can be vertically symmetrical, horizontally symmetrical, rotationally symmetrical or asymmetrical. When I say vertically symmetrical, I mean that the axis of symmetry is vertical, so you can flip it side to side. If it's horizontally symmetrical, it's flipping upside down and right setup. Rotationally symmetrical is if you turn it 180 degrees. So, if you look at certain letters like the letter A, capital A is symmetrical on its vertical axis, whereas the letter B is symmetrical on its horizontal axis. Certain letters like the letter O can be vertically symmetrical, horizontally symmetrical, and rotationally symmetrical. If you're working with the letter such as like a G or an R, those letters are asymmetrical, no matter how you flip it, rotate it upside down, right side up, it's not going to be either the same letter or turn into a different letter, such as M turning into a W. Look at your letters, understand what letters you're working with and realize are they symmetrical, and if so, how? That can be an area to play with and explore when you're designing your monogram. Positive and negative space is a great way to help shape and give form to your letters. Positive space refers to space that's occupied by a design or shape or ink. The negative space refers to the surrounding space, the white space, the space that's not occupied. There's a relationship between the two. For example, we got Jessica Hishe's W up here, and the ink is this black and red right here, but this white element, which is just the paper, there is no ink on there. That's the negative space but it's still just as important as the surrounding letters around it. Negative Space help hold letters together and hold ink together, especially when you get down to small sizes they become really important. So, now that you have your letters picked out, go out into some magazines, go check some blogs out, go look at some signage and find the letters you're working with. Take a picture of them, scan it, copy the link, make a mood board of 15 letters that you're working with. So, for example, I have the letter W, I'm going to find 15 different W's, whether they're capitalized, painted, pencil, anything I can. You're going to do 15 for each letter that you have. When you're looking at letters, whether it be print, digital, blog, signage, you really are looking for how many different ways are there to render a letter? So, just flipping through magazines right here, I found this letter M which is slab serif, serifed or Nejd, vernacular, it's all different, just layered on top of each other, and I think it's a really great place to pull from. Not every A has to come to a point. Not every C needs to be round. As you are looking through letters try and find how many different ways there are to render that letter. So, this is the mood board from my letter W, and all of these letters in one way or another show how differently you can render the letter W. For example, if you look up on the top left I got what's called a slab serif, which is a type of serif. It's fairly straightforward kind of letter, but as you move throughout the board you see that there's all different ways in which a W can twist and turn, and bend, and overlap, and intertwine, and it's a great way to give you a jump off point, to know what the rules are and how to break them. So, when you're looking for letters of your own, make sure you find letters of different styles, not just different colors but ways in which the letter forms change. When you're getting inspiration for your monograms, it's really important that you look at a wide variety of design elements, and shapes, and colors. Don't just look at other monograms. What's going to happen is a few things. One, you're either going to come across the letters that you are working with and say, "Oh, that's how a monogram should look," Or you might even think the opposite and say, "Well, now that this is already done, I can't do this shape, I can't do this style. It's already been done before." Rather, instead of getting inspired by other monograms, get inspired by anything else, get inspired by the way flowers bloom, get inspired by the way light reflects off a building. These will help give you a unique perspective when you're applying it to letters. I want you to go out there into the real world, find shapes, find objects, find cars, find shadows, anything you can, that looks like the letter you're working with. Maybe a handrail has the letter H in it, maybe they're doing construction and the fence makes a certain pattern that looks like a Z. Get inspired by the real world, from things other than other letters and other monograms. 3. Anatomy of Letters: When you're looking at letters, it's really important to know the parts of a letter so you know what you're working with. All letters fall on the baseline, that's the line in which you write on, that's the flat surface. Above that, you have the x-height, which is the height of the lowercase x or the average line in which your lowercase letters are going to hit. Then you have your cap height, which is the height of which your uppercase letters are going to hit as well as your ascenders. An ascender is any part of a letter that reaches above the x-height, such as the top part of a D. You have stems, which are the strong strokes coming down such as the letter T, has a very strong stem coming down. You have tails, just like a cat. A tail is what kind of wags underneath at the bottom towards the end. You also have an ear just like a cat. Ears come off the top of a letter like the G, has a little ear right up top. Counters are the negative space inside of a letter. Think of the letter A, has a little hole in it, that's its counter. Letter P, D, any letter with a closed area. If an area has a closed area but it's still open, that's called an aperture. Think of the bottom part of an E. Stress refers to the angle at which a letters access is. When you're writing in script, your stress is at an angle, about 15 degrees or so. Whereas, if you're drawing or creating an upright character, the stress is vertical. A terminal is any part of the end of a letter. Think of the end of an R, the end of an A, those two hoops. In fact, Communication Arts uses their two terminals coming together as their monogram. A bowl refers to the curved part of a letter. Think of the letter A how it swoops up and around. Fun fact, the dot on the eye is called the tittle. Some people like to refer to it as a jot, but we're going to let that slide. So, if you look at letters through time, some of the oldest letters come from block letter, and that is the kind of lettering that scribes and monks used to do when they were handwriting the Bible, think of feather and pen, calligraphy, quills. It was very thick, condensed, ornate. These style of letters are at times really hard to read, they're unlegible. Think of a German beer, it might have that style of lettering. Moving forward, you have things like Serif lettering, and that comes from etching into stone, we have to cap the ends of a letter and then carve the stem in between. Serif lettering also was really important with the Gutenberg press; you start of having wood and metal type when you would ink it. Serifs were what held letters in place together, rather than chipping off and think of how delicate the crossbar on a T might be. Serifs help keep that in place. Serif letters are, think of Times New Roman, Baskerville, Bodoni, Caslon. Moving forward from there, you have more recently, Sans-serif lettering. Sans-serif lettering popularized in, think about the 1950s with Helvetica coming on the scene and just changing what typography was. The concept behind Sans-serif lettering especially in the Swiss style was to make a uniform humanist kind of shape and letter so that you read the context rather than seeing the letter itself. So, these were monoweight, no serifs on there, very legible, highly legible even at small scales. Then, of course, you always have free flow letters, script, handwriting, sign painting, any type of lettering. All of those are the four kinds of styles that you can combine, mesh, use, intertwine, and use for your monogram. How many different ways are there to draw an A? Right here, you got the standard uppercase A, comes to a point and has a crossbar. Maybe you can add some weight to the side, that's one way but it's not really that different. Go all out, comes through a thicker bottom. Maybe it's a rounded point, maybe the crossbar bends a bit, maybe they're reflecting on each other, maybe the top goes flat across. Maybe one side is curved and one side is a point, maybe you draw it as a script, maybe you draw it as an even fancier scripts. Who says that an A has to be symmetrical, maybe one side bends across and comes up and has two parts going across. Maybe it's just like this but rounded. Maybe it's a lowercase A. Maybe an A looks a bit like a mustache. Maybe a snail came across and bit part of the letter A. There's a million ways to draw an A. So when you're drawing your letters, make sure you really do explore how many different ways you can bend and manipulate it. When you look in the dictionary, there's no definition for the letter B. Well, maybe there is, I haven't checked. But a capital B generally has a spine, or stem, and two curved parts. A capital B has a thick stem and a bowl. But maybe one counter is smaller than the other. Maybe they're spiky. Maybe it's actually one counter inside of the other, maybe it's a slab serif. Maybe it's inspired by Gothic and doesn't even have to close up top. Maybe you like the Boston Red Sox, don't steal their letters. Maybe it's a scripted B. Maybe it's this weird geometric pattern. You can do a lot with the letter B. In terms of how to manipulate your letters and add style and character to your letter, let's take the letter I, probably one of the most basic letters. This is a Sans-serif monoweight capital letter I. You can add what's called spurs, which are the little spikes that protrude as opposed to a Serif. You can add these little studs in the middle. If you draw a line in half and pretend this is a bar give one-half of it shadow, or maybe there's an inside shadow into fill you draw these little horizontal marks, or maybe the letter I is spiking as these little flows coming out of it, giving a little shadow underneath each one, or maybe it has objects going across and around it and on top. Again, maybe a snail came across and bit your eye and now it's swollen on the edges but missing in the centers. Maybe you have a horizontal line, so you have these little spurs coming out of it. Maybe you give it a drop shadow, maybe you have these vernacular flares coming off of it. You can combine them all. You have inside outlined spurs. You can start to get inspired by say, Celtic designs and how they intertwine with each other. It can be missing the center. My friend Scott drew this. All of the letters are missing its center, it's actually two parallel lines that run together. So, when you're drawing your letters, don't be afraid to branch out, there's a million different ways to combine and manipulate them. Make sure that you are trying everything you can and throwing everything into this monogram. But do understand that when you get smaller, you lose some detail. So, how big is your monogram going to be? Are you making a T-shirt out of it or are you making a bottle cap? They're two very different styles and you have to take all of these into consideration. 4. On the Street: Hey, guys. We're out here today to go find some letters. Hopefully by now, you pick the letters you're going to be working with. Mine are W, T, F, P. We're going to be looking at shapes, architecture, scaffolding, anything we can to see if we can extrapolate our letter forms. This'll help us think outside of the box when we're coming up with unique letter shapes. A lot of times when people go letter hunting, they're looking at signage, billboards, and ads. But I think a missed opportunity is just looking at the structure and the shape of the building and the way New York City and looks and interacts. A lot of them, newer, modern buildings, all glass, there's not a lot really happening with the architecture. But when you find some of the older buildings that have been here for a while, you start to see a lot of interesting and ornate shapes that you can really start to pull and get inspired from. I was looking up on those. You see those heart shapes right there? Just right next to each other, you got a W right there, you have a T coming across, you have your P shape. You stack these one upon each other, you can find your W's, V, you got your X. You can probably find the whole alphabet if you really just sat here and analyze all of this. What's great is, even if you don't find like necessarily the letter you're looking for, you can find a grid pattern or a structure that you can extrapolate from. So, right here off the bat, you have a couple different letters happening. You got your T, you got an E right here, you can make this an F. You can start to really pull a lot. You cut this off and now you got your P. If you really wanted to, you have your W right there. You can get the whole alphabet out of this. Let's take a picture. Yes, so, just walking down the street, you find a column like this. It's a lot of ornate details going on. When you sit here and start to really look at it, you start to see your letters and new shapes come in together. So, right now, the letter that stands out to me is the W coming together from the two points. There's kind of a cool looking P. There is a T right here. It's a bunch of organic shapes. You got every letter in the alphabet right here. You got a K. It's pretty cool. You got your H, and it's a great starting point if you really want like an organic kind of feel for it. This door frame has a really cool floral pattern going on with it. From here, you can really start to extrapolate sort of a Victorian style more ornate character. So, you got the F, with the crossbar in this. You got a curling out with details coming out this way. Even the base has a nice flow to it. Now that we walked around, found some great photos, some great letters out in the architecture, and out in the world, let's go back, sketch what we see, and put them up on your site, put them on project. 5. Sketching: So, for me, I'm going to be designing a monogram for my website, which is willtypeforpay.com. So, that's W, T, F, P it's four letters, it's a bit of a lot, but I think we can make it happen. When I'm sketching it, I'm going to be working with pencil, tracing paper, grid paper, markers, anything that I can get my hands on. It really doesn't matter just as long as you can get a free flow of ideas. Once I feel that I'm fully inspired and ready to draw, what I do is go right for the structure and the shape of all the letters together for a monogram. There's no point in drawing a beautiful W if you don't know how it relates to the next letters. Especially if you have two, three, four letters in that monogram. So, when you're sketching, jump right into it, don't try and think of the best shape and how it's going to work, but just go quick, and rough, and dirty, just to get your shapes out there. So when you're drawing, you can use paper, loose leaf paper, a tracing paper, anything you'd like. Personally, I like dotted grid paper. It has the benefits of a grid paper without actually having all those big, nasty blue lines all over the place. It's a great way to get proportions right and it's great for the next level up. I'm going to start with a basic W, might look something like this, if my letters are W, T, F, P, I got four letters to work with. I already got one down. Now a T. Maybe there's a T right here. Maybe there's an F right here, and maybe there's a P right here. Then I might think, well, this P can relate to here, which will help build that F and then I got the T right here. Already, I got one down. But what if that W overlapped? In certain countries, they don't call it a W, they call it a double V, just probably a more accurate description of W. So, what if I have a double V? I can draw the T in the center of that and maybe off of that T, I have the letter F and the letter P. Maybe there's a layout to be found here. You know what? Let's try a different style W, maybe freehands. Maybe I can refer back to this one and see if that might look different as a script. These first couple sketches aren't supposed to be picture perfect and pretty, they're supposed to get your idea out there so you can build upon it later. Don't waste three hours trying to get the perfect sketch only to realize that you have nine more to do. Your first ideas probably are not going to be the best, which is why we're looking for 10 different. If you stopped at the first design, it's probably already been done and other people have probably gotten to that conclusion too. By pushing yourself forward, in doing 10 different shapes and styles of lockups, of monograms, you'll get something that's unique, creative, something that'll solve all your problems. A lot of monograms are shaped around a circle and that's because some of the first monograms were on coins, which were circular. So, for example, I drew a circular W with a circular T, and a rounded F, and a rounded P, just to see how that might look. This whole thing can be encompassed in another circle. So, that would be a circular monogram. Hairline monograms and those monograms are just very thin, straight to the point, even weighted. So, for example, I drew a W. All the lines are the same weights. Not all monograms have to overlap with each other. They don't have to necessarily intertwine, just as long as they share the same space and the same area, as long as they relate to one another. You have monograms face on all different types of lettering. So, for example, here, we have a monogram, which is based on sans-serif, mono weights. My first sketch, I just overlapped everybody into a little busy. So, I took the same idea and just spaced it out. Again, I'm paying attention to the negative space. Notice how the negative space holds the letters together. This will be really important when you scale down. You have monograms which can be considered a watermark or a lettermark rather. So, for example, this W has a T, and F, and a P all inside it. You have monograms based on script lettering, so like this W. Again, this is the same concept, just executed in two different ways. Don't be afraid to draw in color, in marker, quick and rough, just to get your ideas out there. This might be more vernacular, this has ornate shapes and layouts going on. This already has a hairline pattern going through it. Again, these are more sans-serif kind of monogram. Notice the symmetry where the T is in the center and the F and the P's are reflected upon each other. Adding crowns and decorative spurs are a great way to date your monogram, to make it look older. Notice the flares coming out that are interacting with the letter, the curves that are coming off of them. So, when you're sketching a monogram, consider the symmetry, consider how much space everybody is occupying. I might just draw a rough grid to work from. Maybe my W goes down and maybe it's a low W. Don't be afraid to put your letters backwards. The only time that's really an issue is when your letter reads differently as backwards. Remember when we talked about a few letters of symmetrical versus asymmetrical? If you have the letter A, you already have some symmetry happening. If you have two As, why not put it upside down? Well, the reason you might not want to do that is because now you have the letter V. You have to consider all your relationships between letters. Remember to think back to the San Francisco Giants logo. You have an S, you have an F, but accidentally you created a P. This is something to consider when you're making yours. When you're overlapping letters, it's really important to know what parts of the letter mean the most. So, for example, this intersection right here of the F tells a lot about the character. This part of the W is less important than that. So, we want to make sure we show that. Think about this, if we reversed it, now the W is more prominent, but you lose a lot of information on that F. So, when you're overlapping, it's really important to know what parts of a letter mean the most. In fact, this W and T come to a point in which both areas are important. So, perhaps, we should make them relate together. When you're doing these sketches, it's really important to just work in black and white. Don't worry about what color palette you're going to use. If your monogram doesn't work in black and white, it's not going to work in color. If you feel that you're working with pencil and you're getting a little frustrated, don't be afraid to change it. Try a brush pen and and see how your letters change. Maybe they're more flowy. Don't necessarily be concerned about the color more as the flow and the weight of it. So, I like what's happening over here. There's a relationship between the P and the W and the F and the W. They relate together notice that there's negative space in between them. I like the shapes that are coming off of here and how they play with each other. I think we have something here. So, what I'm going to do is take this and start to build upon it. 6. Adding Weight: So, now that I had the layout that I'm happy with, I'm going to redraw it and draw it again and draw it again until I find something that I'm happy with. I'm going to change the relationships, change how the letters interact with each other. Again, I'm not getting too detailed. Just making quick rough ideas. I moved my F from the outside to the inside. The reason I did that was to give this W more prominence. The bigger letter, the more important letter that you want to work with should be either bigger or in the center or given some priority in its hierarchy. Whether it'd be thicker or just larger. So, for here, I made sure that W comes all the way to the end and reaches pretty high in the middle. The next letter T, so it will type, is fairly important. Keeping that in the center as well. F and P, I'm going to consider less important. So, I'm going to put them on the sides, in-between. So, now, I've taken the letter that I had before. I've given it some weight, I've given it proportions, I've taken symmetry into consideration as well as the negative space. So, while running across New York City, I found an interesting shape which I extracted a W from. The W's come together and bend out and they have these large flourishes that circular. I took that and I expanded upon it in my sketch. I made sure that they came a little bit pointier. The center of them actually overlap, like a double V as opposed to a W. But the bottoms are fairly unchanged. Notice how they curl in and out of each other just like this sketch that I found. The P was very detailed and filled. The idea of bending the spine of the F, almost like an S, I got from walking around the city. Notice, how the F goes up and down and around, follows the same shape as the F up there. So, when you're looking at positive and negative space, here's an example of how they hold together. Notice how the W comes down, as well as the F. Because they're parallel, there is a relationship between them and that gives more character and weight to the W. Same on the other end. Notice how the W and the P are parallel to each other. When taken together, it helps form the W, giving it more weight and even more importance. In smaller areas, these spurs on the T meet just inside the F. Notice this space that's happening in there. This F curls around, following the same pattern as this T up here. When you're drawing on grid paper, one of the benefits is that you can get everything laid out very cleanly, especially when you bring it to your computer. These dots are really easy to translate into Illustrator when you're working on a grid view. It's also easy to keep everything symmetrical. You can just do a count of rise and run, and I'll show you what I mean. This W has a point here and we're going to say a point here. So, when I want to reflect that and draw it symmetrically on the other side, all I have to do is go down and say it's one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10 dots over. So, when I go here, go down to the same line and go one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10. We found this pillar walking around New York and I was really inspired by how these shapes came together. I found the letter W inside there. So, I drew it as exactly as I saw. We have pillars coming up to a point, coming down the bottoms are curling in and out, coming to a nice rounded terminal. I really like that shape. I don't think I would have gotten to a point like this if I wasn't getting inspired by architecture. So, walking around we found this gate. At first, I didn't see any letters in there but I saw a grid, I saw a pattern, I saw shapes that were happening inside. As I look inside it, I found these small diamonds going across and this long diamond getting stretched out. So, I drew them as I see it, overlapping between each other. Again, when it comes to prominence, you really want to make sure that you're telling the right story by showing what part of a letter goes above and below. Because I wanted to show how this was all one shape, I made sure that everything goes over and under and over and under again. That's the T. The first thing you might notice about this picture is that delivery people shouldn't leave menus. But if you look more carefully at how ornate that door it is, you can start to see shapes coming together and bending together. I was able to extrapolate this letter F. Although, this isn't a classic letter F, it might even resemble an S. It does have some unique features. Notice, how the crossbar over here is weighted on its backside as well as its front. Whereas, typically when you draw the letter F you might only do it in one way. It has some beautiful curves and shapes going out of here. The flares are all over the place. Notice the leafy patterns happening. The insides as well as the outsides are beautiful. I don't think I would have gotten to a place like this without finding this door. I came across this staircase and was really taken back on how beautiful the handrails were but I noticed that it formed the letter P tilted over on its side. I drew that letter as if it was tilted right back up. So, you have two thick parallel lines coming in and out of each other and this decorative little spiral pattern happening inside. I could use this pattern in the monogram, even without it I think this P has a beautiful shape and character to it. It was obviously, extrapolated from this handrail over here. Now, that I did this process, I came across some beautiful letters. Letters that otherwise I wouldn't have gotten to before, and, I can now use this as a jump off point. I don't necessarily have to use these exact letters but it can use this changed mindset when I come to my monogram. I can start to see letters in a new way. I can start to manipulate and bend letters in ways that I couldn't before. I really liked this W. I used the assignment of going around the city and getting these fun letters in my monogram here. The W comes from that sketch of the W and how the bottoms flare out. That F twists and bends in a way that I otherwise wouldn't have drawn it before. The beautiful thick parallel P, you can see right here and the T overlapping. These don't have to be literal translations. Again, you don't want to be stealing as much as you want to be influenced and inspired by. Now, that I have this shape that I really want to work with, that I'm happy with, the next thing I'm going to do is use tracing paper to go over that. So, now, I've traced over the sketch that I had and I've sort of resolved some areas making sure everything is symmetrical. Again, don't worry about little hiccups here and there. Once, we take it digital, we'll be able to clean everything up nicely. When I was tracing this, I was careful to know what areas I want to show and what areas I want to hide behind. Let's look at some examples. This area right here is where the W meets, as well as the T. The W is the most important letter in my monograms, so I really want to make sure that you see it above everything else. This part of the T, you understand that it's a T without that. Whereas, this W might not make sense if you didn't see that point. This F coming across, I gave that a higher priority because again this part of the W is fairly basic. You want to make sure that all your intersections and joints help tell the story of your letter. The curve of the P helps tell the story of the P. If you prefer to work in pencil, I recommend using vellum. It's a great surface, erases almost 100% and it doesn't get textured as tracing paper does. Get a nice clean flat surface. This will be great when you scan or photograph your photo. So, here I've added a bit of shadow, just as one idea that I might want to work with. Maybe there's other text effects that I want to get into. 7. Conclusion: So, I have my letter. I have my tracing. I have my monogram and I think I'm ready to go digital. So, I'm going to go over a couple different ways in which you can get your photo into your computer. Personally, I don't have a scanner at home. Maybe, I can do this at work or so, but I'm going to show you how to photograph your photo, bring it into your computer, and make sure everything looks correct. Make sure your lighting is all good and get as flat as possible. If you don't have a camera around, camera phone is not that bad. Just make sure you can get as much covered in there as possible. So, email it to yourself, upload it to Dropbox. Bring it into your computer however you can. So, right here we have a couple of problems. First thing, it's really yellow. We have some excess going on over here and it's not the highest of contrast, so let's see what we can do. First thing is always make a copy, so you never lose the original. Now, here's a trick that I use to make sure that I get a nice white balance. You could bring up your levels. These three eyedroppers right here. What these are asking for are asking for colors. So, for example, when I click the light one, it's going to ask me to define what color is white. So, when I click here now everything becomes white based on that. If you click something that's too bright, for example, when you hold down option and click you can start to see the burned out areas. So, you want to get that to a minimal. That's pretty good. When you let go everything is brought back. Again just play around with that, or you can drag your sliders to show how much white you want, how much dark you want, to get a nice high contrast image so you know what to draw and what not to. Next, get rid of anything you don't need. Don't forget to dodge and burn and make sure you've got everybody covered and you still want to make sure everything is nice and clear. Get a layer. Fill it black. Change it to color. Now, you got a nice black and white image. Save it out. Now, we're ready to bring it to Illustrator. We have our image here, we're ready to start drawing. What I like to do when I'm tracing. Drop the opacity down to around 25 percent. Rather than sitting here and drawing the outlines, what I'm going to do is actually draw the centers of these and I'll show you why in just a minute. I'm going to do this pretty rough. So, as you do all that you'll eventually get something like this and don't forget if you have some symmetry going on, you don't have to draw it twice. Just copy the parts of the letter you do want over to the other side. So, now that you've got your insides laid out. Make a new layer and what you're going to do is manipulate the weights. So, right now if you look, they're actually the same lines. All I did was copy them up and change the stroke and thickness of it. First thing I'm going to do is thicking the whole thing out. That's about right. Now, Shift-W, Shift-W brings up the stroke weight tool. What that allows you to do is manipulate the thickness of a certain segment of your line. I'm going to keep that thick and then bring this out to a appoint. Do the same thing up here. Bring that out to a point and already I have the shape that I was looking for without doing all the excess outline work. So, eventually, you'll get something that looks like this. Make a new layer, bring that up and now outline it. Now, you have the full shapes of everybody. By the way when you're rendering, it's important that you keep all your shapes intact. Notice this part of the F is separate, I didn't bleed them in yet, and I'll show you why in a bit. Again, I'm not so concerned just yet about who overlaps with what. These are all shapes on their own which can hide and I still have the full letter all here. Okay. I've color coded them so you can help see better. Once you've outlined everything, go in there, make sure your details are all nice, you don't have any weird chunks. Again, pay attention to your negative space. Notice these curves here, how they kind of meet in between and everyone has their own shape. Notice the curve here that that we were talking about earlier. Once you have the fill and the stroke, you can do some fun stuff. For example, you can use both of them to create a shadowed fill. This is when you start to get a little into your decorative area and I'll show you how to do that. So, I have my outline T as well as my inline T. Notice how everybody is exactly centered from each other. So, if you wanted to do, say a shadowed pattern, you can take your hairline. Bring it to its corners. Now, you have this shape. Use your Pathfinder tool to crop it out. And add a little black to that. Now, you got a halftone going. Keep doing that all around so you get a letter like this. If halftones aren't your thing, maybe you want to do some linework. To do that, draw a line you want, bring it to the top of the area you want. We're going to be using the Blend Tool to make a pattern. So, Object, Blend, Blend Options, and Steps, and Distance. I can say, if it's a one point stroke, let's make them two points, spaced. So, I took the shape that I want it in and the lay out, Command seven to make a clipping mask, and there you go. Now, you have some decorative linework happening. So, use these effects and more to help digitize your drawing. So now, that you have your shapes, now that they're outlined, let's talk about the stroke. Select everything, make a new layer, call it Outline, and copy that up. Hit D for its default colors. Remove the center stroke. Everybody's overlapping and intertwined, you don't know what's happening. First thing I'm going to do is select all, Pathfinder, and break them all out. Cool. So now, you have this, a whole jimble jumble. When you're overlapping it's important to reference your original sketch so you know who's overlapping what. So, let's show that sketch again. So for example, I want to make sure that this F goes underneath first and then over. Well, it doesn't line up like that. I want to make sure this F comes up top. So, what I'm going to do is select and delete. Select across and delete. I want to make sure the stroke of the W goes above the crossbar in the F so I'm going to select the F and delete it. For here, I want them to be the same so I'm going to select them and delete. Do this all across your letter until you're finished, and you should get something like this. I've gone across all my areas and decided what needs to overlap and what doesn't. I made sure that each overlap helps tell the story of the monogram. So, your layer should look something like this. Sketch is single stroke. I don't know why, what's that color, but it shouldn't be. Oh, that's why. So, make sure everything's on the right layer. Single layer, your outlines, your fills. You want to get decorative, you can have your decorations over here, and your outlines. So now, we're ready to bring this into Photoshop. Let's make a new document. I'm going to make it 3,000 pixels by 3,000 pixels at 300 DPI. So, I want to take my Fill, draw that blank box, select all my letters, drop it in as a Smart Object. This way now, when I grab my outline they should line up together. All right. Make sure you fill, it's completely empty. There we go. So now, if you zoom all the way in you still have everything lined up perfectly and they're separate elements. Also, if you really want, make sure to drop the weight down to something really small, point one. You can always build up on top of that. So, let me do this again. There we go. Okay. So now, everything lines up down to the pixel. I have my Fill layer, and my Outline layer, and I have my Background layer. Also, if you were doing some shadow fill layer, you would drop that in above here. Don't worry about the colors just yet because we can do it right here. Double-click, go into Color Overlay, and you can select it at whatever color you want. If you wanted different colors in here, you can bring them in as different layers. So, say W, another layer for F, another layer for P, and another layer for T. You should have something that looks like this. You have your fill on one layer and your stroke on another, but you want to add some shadows and some depth. Make a new layer called Shaddow. Use your Selection Tool to work within your strokes, select more than the area you need. Make a Selection, one pixel, go and see your Shaddow layer, you can even use your brush tool at a 100 percent. See this little overhang? You can fix that by copying your Mask layer and bringing it up. Notice how it hides it right there. Don't worry about how dark that shadow is because you can always adjust it, bring it down. I'd recommend using a large brush with a high feather amount so it gets a nice beautiful gradient in there. Do that to the rest of your letters. Manipulate your monogram, push your monogram. Think about depth, think about shadows, and eventually, save a few different documents out, and you might get something like this. So for this one, I was really trying to make a minimal monogram, almost like an emboss. So, let's walk through the layers here. I have a paper background. My Fill layer, I gave it a color overlay of white, an outer glow just a little bit so it pops off the background, and the shadows that I had before, there's a color overlay. The shadows, let's bring that up a bit. Probably too dark, bring it down, something like that. Just in Photoshop, you can come up with a million different ways just to execute your monogram. I settled on something like this. My last name is Pay, so I wanted something green. Again, you can see just from the sketch to the computer in an hour or two, just have your shadows here, no outline, no decorative. I'm keeping it simple because my final application is going to be small. When you're designing your monogram, you should consider how big do you want this. Is it a T-shirt, is it a business card, is it something tiny? So by now, you've learned about monograms, you've gone out, gotten inspired from the real world, you've made your lock-ups, you've added some meat to the bones, you took it to the computer, you vectorized it, you photoshopped it. Now, let's see a real-world application. Where can you put your monogram? It can go on your website, a business card, a wine bottle. So, here's my application. Made some matches. It's monochromatic, still have the shadow in there. On the back, I have that shadowed monogram as well. These are great. You can give them out at a bar or something, and they work. Let's see if I can get this right. There you go. Hopefully you guys have enjoyed this process and have gone through sketching, and drawing, and digitizing, and creating a real world application. So, upload your files, let's see what you got, let's see how your monograms look. I'm sure they all came out great. 8. More Creative Classes on Skillshare: