Hand Lettering - Turning Words Into Art | Jane Snedden Peever | Skillshare

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Hand Lettering - Turning Words Into Art

teacher avatar Jane Snedden Peever, Living the Creative Life

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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.

      Materials and the Plan


    • 3.

      Laying Out Your Letters


    • 4.

      Filling Out Your Letters


    • 5.

      Inking The Outline


    • 6.

      Filling In Your Letters


    • 7.

      Adding The Flourish and Details


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About This Class


Hand Lettering Turn Your Words Into Art

Join me in this class as we explore the steps in making your own hand lettered illustration.  You do not need any special pens in this class, just a pencil and a thick and thin black marker will get you going.  I will suggest the pens I like to use if you want to try them as well.  I will walk you through the process of getting your words lined up on your page, filling them out with shape and detail and then adding in your own illustration and flourishes to create a complete design.  

By the end of this class you will be able to make your own hand lettered art which you can use on gift cards, inspiring art posters and so much more.  

Meet Your Teacher

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Jane Snedden Peever

Living the Creative Life

Top Teacher


- Create Some Space For Yourself, And Enjoy Simply Creating Something From Your Heart-


Hi I'm Jane and my favourite ways to relax are crocheting and doodling.

I love exploring creativity through texture, colour and shapes

and sharing this with you through

Simple and Fun Classes.

One of the best things we can do for ourselves is to carve out some space everyday for a little creativity. 

It doesn't have to be elaborate or complicated, just simple and fun and speaks to... See full profile

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1. Intro: Hey everyone, my name's Jane. Today, we're going to create some beautiful hand lettered designs. Join me while I take you step-by-step through my process of sketching out a hand lettered phrase and turning it into a beautiful illustrated design. You won't need any special pens for this process. It can all be done with a pencil and irregular black marker. The project that we'll work on will be to follow along with me and post your progress. When we're done, I'll give you inspiration to try different ideas using the same liner that we created in class. Join me today and let's get creative. Hit Enroll, and I'll see you in class. 2. Materials and the Plan: Welcome to class. Today we're going to explore how to turn a simple one or two-word phrase into an illustrative work of art. I'm going to show you how to use just your pencil to achieve beautiful hand lettering and then add in some of your own illustration and doodle designs. For this class, you'll need a paper, pencil, eraser and a pen. A ruler and a triangle will become handy if you want to draw in your own grid lines. However, in this case, I have provided a pre-line grid setup for this project in the downloads you can just print that out and use it if you would prefer. I like to use a mechanical pencil, but it can be handy to also will have a softer lead pencil to help sketch in some loose design ideas and a couple of pens in different sizes also help. Now I tend to be a pen holder and I keep a large collection by my side all the time. But all you really need is a fine tip and a medium tip for the details and a thicker tip for filling in larger sections. I also use a PITT brush pen by Faber Castell to fill in larger areas. Most art pen brands will have a brush pen version of their own. I'm going to walk you through the steps from laying out your letter structure on the page to filling out the letter body, filling it in and adding the illustration so you end up with a beautiful design that has a message. I love to add lettering into my designs to help illustrate a feeling or a thought. The project for this class will be to use the techniques I show you to create a hand letter design using a one or two-word phrase. You can post your progress as you follow along with me and if you'd like, you can also create your own hand lettered design idea. Print out your grid if you'd like to use that. I will also show you how to draw your own. Grab a pencil and a piece of paper and let's get started. The word phrase I've chosen is, amaze yourself. Let's get drawing and amaze ourselves. 3. Laying Out Your Letters: To start, I'll show you how I draw my own grid onto the paper. In this instance, I know I have two words and therefore I want two baselines with the respect to x-lines and [inaudible] lines. I'm making it easy and just using the width of the ruler for the distance between the lines, then you can put slanted lines in to guide your letter direction. I use my triangle for this. I've got this one out of my son's old geometry set but they are easy to find at the Dollar store. I've provided this lettering grid for you in the download so if you prefer, you can print it out and place it under your paper to help guide your initial placement of the letters. Now I know I want to use the two-word phrase, amaze yourself so I write this odd and rough to determine their placement in relation to each other and where the center line will fall. You can plan this out with a ruler and measure for each letter but I like to freehand and play with it as I go. Go ahead and write your words out. I'm using a script style or cursive style. You could use block print or any style you feel most comfortable with. We're not filling out the letters yet so just focus on the letter structure. This may take a few trials to get your placement to your liking. The key here is to play with it lots, it gets easier the more you do it. Trust me, your eye will develop with practice. Make sure your letters fall within your guidelines so the small letters all play to the x-height line in your slant for each letter falls along or is parallel to the slanted guidelines. Although we're going for free form, the eyes still likes to see a symmetry imbalance in the framework. It can make all the difference in your final product if your letters don't line up with each other in a certain eye-appealing form. Keep playing with it even if it means doing it many times. This framework will be what makes or breaks your design. When I'm happy with my basic letter layout, I'll add in some flourish ideas to finish off the concept. These may change but it gets me started. This is just a skeleton and you will use this to develop your Word Art. 4. Filling Out Your Letters: Now we're going to use our skeleton to start filling other letters with our pencil. I'm going to use a faux calligraphy style which follows the general guidelines of thin upstroke and thick downstroke. I form the letters as if I was using a real calligraphy pen or a brush pen. Where the letter would require an upstroke to form it, I'll leave it thin and where it would require a downstroke, I'll thicken it out. Anywhere in between, gets tapered. The fun with free-form sketching is I can change this up in areas if I want to. My own design style, I use a lot of rounded edges, and I like to finish my ends in a pedal shape. While you're experimenting with your style, you will go through many, many copies of paper. When I'm working out a new design, I go through a lot of smudged up papers before I get to the one that I like. If I were to say with art, there's a lot of messy before you get to the pretty. Once you've established the style of letters that works for you, it will come easier, but that's when you can mix it up and learn a whole new style. When looking for inspiration, be aware of a lettering on signs in books, magazines, and even online. Typography is everywhere you look, and the styles are endless. You can do balloon style, brush lettering, block letters, graffiti style, and there's so many other unique styles and combinations of styles out there and there's still new ones that we see all the time. I've also included a printable download of the finished filled out letter line art. This is going to allow you to see the design up or close, and even trace it out with your own hand. Sometimes the best way to learn a style is to copy it, so that your hand learns the movement involved in forming the letters and it creates a muscle memory. When forming a minor of your letters, it is important to keep some consistency in similar letter shapes. The curve of the A and the O should look alike, the Es should all be similar, the loop of the R and the loop of the S are similar especially because they're lying beside each other, and the loop of the L and the F are also similar as they're also lying right beside each other. With freestyle lettering it is still important to know the rules so you can break them with intention while still keeping an appealing and a harmonious look and feel to your letters and overall design. I have overlapped and intertwined some of the letter shapes, and I'll show you in the next section how I'll make this work and stand out as a design element. 5. Inking The Outline: Now that we're happy with our final outline sketch, we can start inking it with our pen. I use a medium to a fine marker to do the initial outline. One of the things that you must consider before you ink this outline is to plan any white space you may want in it. I've decided I want to stencil effect my full calligraphy. This means anywhere the lines cross or touch, I want a thin white space to separate the pieces. For example, on the capital A, where the pedal shaped falls in front, I've separated them with a thin white line. You'll see what this looks like as I do the inking. This is just a style that I like and it gives more depth to my design. It's important to always plan ahead with this thing as some areas, I want to line in front and some I want layer behind. These are decisions that I must make before I ink. I generally ink from left to right as I'm a righty. This way, I do not smudge any lines as I go. It's important that your pencil lines are clear for this stage and you have erased any other ideas. Once you get inking attended, just follow where the pencil goes and it's easy to ink in the wrong place if you have more than one idea penciled in. Continue inking, being sure to outline those sections and retaining that white space in between each of them as you planned out ahead of time. This stage I find very rewarding as it's fun to see your design start to come to life with the amount of time that you have invested into it so far. Feel free if you find you want to make some changes to place another page over top and trace your outline out again with your new changes in place. It's much easier to do it now than when you add more detail in later. Don't get obsessed with needing it to be perfect, but it is easier to make the changes now at this stage, if you decide you'd like them or that you missed something. At this stage, you're just inking the outline. Once we have a completely inked in, we pull out or pencil again and start designing the inside of the letters. There are many different ideas that you can do. Again, you may want to gather some ideas from other sources around you to spark some design ideas for yourself. At the end of this class, I'm going to show you five different versions I've done using this particular line art. Be sure to erase all your pencil lines once your inkling is done. We will be working in new ideas and we don't want to confuse the issue by having unneeded sketch marks mixed in with our new elements. Once the outline is complete, it's good to revisit your design plan, often new ideas will occur to you at this stage as to how you'd like to fill in the inner parts of your letters. One technique I'll use is to photocopy or scan and print my design so I can play with these ideas. This lets me forgo having to retrace all of it over and over and keeps my original piece clean for my final choice. If you'd like to, make some copies of your inked in line art, grab your pencil, and play around on these copies with some of the concepts you're thinking about. I'll show you in the next lesson the steps that I decided to use to fill in my letters. 6. Filling In Your Letters: Here, we are again, at the next designing stage. Your art's going to evolve in layers. This gives you space to redesign as you go, and entertain new concepts and ideas that'll be sparked along the way. Using your pencil, you can start to play around with some of your parts. I've decided I want to give the illusion of volume to my letters by adding in a look of light reflecting off portions of them. I'll add small oblong shapes to give this appearance. As you'll see in my final design, I changed my mind quite a few times about where I wanted to place them. I take my time, I play with this for quite a while to make sure I like what I've done. Planning out this whitespace ahead of time is crucial for the success of your design. In this case, I have to decide if I want a uniform realistic look, or do I want a random artsy look, to my lighted areas. Keep your eraser handy, and if you want to play with a few different ideas, then do as I suggested in the last lesson, and make copies of your lettering outline, and use these to play with. Keep your original clean and ready, and then you can put your final choice on that. Once I'm happy with my placement, I will ink them all in, and again, I use a fine to medium pen to accomplish this. So now that I have my whitespace defined, I'm going to fill in the letters. For this process, I'll use a range of pen thicknesses. The finer pens are good for filling in points and small areas, but are not practical for filling in larger areas. For this, I'll use a larger tip. I also enjoy using a small brush pen. The one I'm using here is by Faber-Castell. It allows me to fill large areas when I put more pressure on it, and I can use a lighter pressure if I want to do finer areas. Try a range of pens to see which you prefer. The tips can be a little different, some can be quite firm and some can be quite soft. A softer tip is easier to fill in larger areas, but you won't get the exact line that you need with a software tip. That's when the firmer tips come in handy. Different brands may have different depths of black ink as well. Be sure if you use a range of pen brands, that the inks blend well together, you don't want shade lines messing up your design. Again, be sure to ink, so your hand moves away from your inked sections. I move from left to right, since I'm right-handed, and this is really important with the thicker pins and the brushes as the amount of ink may take a few seconds to dry. So once we have it filled in, I can move on to my illustration and flourishes. 7. Adding The Flourish and Details: Now we get to play with adding in the extras that turn it into a complete design. Again, pull out your pencils and start to play. This is where your style will show up, because the extras that you add will be something that calls to you. Just as flourishes that are part of the letters need to flow with the letters themselves to enhance the movement of the design, so too must your illustration design elements. In this case, I'm going to add a few simple leaves and petals, which are what I really love to do, and I'm going to add them in key areas to enhance the flow of the piece. These key areas are often where two letters meet or where a letter curves inward creating a concave space or outward creating a convex space. You'll find at this stage that you may want to stand back, do a lot of squinting to see where the design is missing something or where something would enhance, or even if something you've added just seems out of place. In addition to the petals, I'm going to add some small circles along some of the lines structures. For me, this helps fill in some of the blank spaces and it also helps with the movement of the design. Then when I'm happy with it, I'll go ahead and ink it. The design possibilities are endless, of course, and these are a few examples of designs using the same line work. In some, I've added a lot of illustration, others, I've kept it fairly simple. You can play with the inside of the letters. You don't necessarily have to fill them in, but instead you could put illustration inside the line work as well as outside of it. You can also play with drop shadow effects using simple lines or stippling. This is where you can get super creative and explore endless ideas. So go ahead and get creative. I'm looking forward to seeing your amazing designs. Thanks so much for joining me and I look forward to seeing you all in the project section.