Hand Lettering in Procreate: Tricks & Tips to Improve Your Lettering | Gia Graham | Skillshare

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Hand Lettering in Procreate: Tricks & Tips to Improve Your Lettering

teacher avatar Gia Graham, Designer, Letterer, Illustrator

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Class Project


    • 3.

      The First Step


    • 4.

      Letterform Structure


    • 5.

      Consistent Letterforms


    • 6.

      Creating Clean Lines


    • 7.

      Letters with Curves


    • 8.



    • 9.

      Slanted and Curved Baselines


    • 10.



    • 11.

      Observe and Adjust


    • 12.

      Final Thoughts


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About This Class

If you’ve recently started on your Procreate hand lettering journey and you want to gain more confidence and consistency with your lettering or if you want a few tips on how to make your work look more polished - then you’ve come to the right class!

Just like with learning any new skill, the early days of your lettering journey can feel challenging, overwhelming and even frustrating. It can sometimes feel like where you are and where you want to be are lightyears away – I certainly felt that way when I was starting out!

The good news is that you won’t feel this way forever. With consistent practice, your lettering will improve and sometimes all it takes to progress to the next level is for one thing to click - that ‘aha!’ moment when something you’ve learned helps everything fall into place - and suddenly the process feels a bit easier.

In this class I will be sharing a few hand lettering tips and tricks that will hopefully spark one of those ‘aha!’ moments for you so you can elevate your work and take the next step in your lettering journey.

I will share pointers and practice exercises to help with the most common challenges beginner students face like:

  • Drawing steady, clean lines
  • Drawing tricky letters with curves
  • Improving spacing
  • Creating consistent letterforms

….and more!

By the end of this class you will know how to observe your lettering, identify the problem areas and make adjustments accordingly. 

This is a beginner-friendly class but it is a follow-up to my Hand Lettering in Procreate class so if you’ve never tried hand lettering before, I recommend that you watch that class first, then revisit this one.

I will be working digitally on the iPad using the Procreate app but these tips will also apply to analog lettering on paper as well. 

Grab your pencil of choice and I'll see you in class!

. . .

If you’d like to continue on your hand lettering journey, you can also watch my other classes like:

Level Up Your Layouts which will give you tips for lettering long quotes

Simple Words to Stunning Art in which I show you how to combine hand lettering with illustration


Find Your Style, a class which helps guide you through the process of developing your own unique style.

Meet Your Teacher

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Gia Graham

Designer, Letterer, Illustrator

Top Teacher

Hello and welcome - I'm so glad you're here!

My name is Gia and I'm a designer, hand lettering artist and illustrator. I was born and raised in Barbados but I live and work out of my sunny home studio in the southern city of Atlanta, Georgia.

My creative experience ranges from corporate design and branding to art direction, photo styling and stationery design but my current focus is licensing my artwork to product based companies.

I've picked up several handy skills, tricks and techniques along my creative journey and I'm excited to share them with you!

. . .

I can't wait to see what you create so please be sure to post your class projects and if you share them on Instagram, be sure to tag me!

Speaking of Instagram, let's conn... See full profile

Level: Beginner

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1. Intro: If you've recently started on your hand lettering journey and you want to gain more confidence and consistency with your lettering. Or if you want a few tips on how to make your work look more polished, then you've come to the right class. Hi, my name is Gia Graham and I'm an illustrator and lettering artist and top teacher here on Skillshare. Just like with learning any new skill, the early days of your lettering journey can feel challenging, overwhelming, and even frustrating. It can sometimes feel like where you are and where you want to be our light years away. I certainly felt that way starting out. The good news is that you won't feel that way forever. With consistent practice, your lettering will improve. And sometimes all it takes to progress to the next level is for that one thing to click that a-ha moment. When something you've learned helps everything fall into place and suddenly the process feels a little bit easier. In this class, I'll be sharing a few hand lettering tips and tricks that will hopefully spark one of those a-ha moments for you. So you can elevate your work and take the next step in your lettering journey. I will share pointers and practice exercises to help with the most common challenges beginner students face, like drawing steady clean lines, drawing tricky letters with curves, improving spacing, creating consistent letter forms and more. By the end of this class, you will know how to observe your lettering, identify the problem areas, and make adjustments accordingly. This is a beginner friendly fast, but it is a follow-up to my Hand Lettering in Procreate class. So if you've never tried hand lettering before, recommend that you watch that class first and then revisit this one. I will be working digitally on the iPad using the Procreate app. But many of these tips will apply to analog lettering on paper as well. So go ahead and grab your pencil of choice, and let's get started. 2. Class Project: The project for this class is to recreate an old lettering piece using the tips you learned in this class to improve on the original, depending on how long you've been on your lettering journey, your original piece might just be a week old, or it might be two or three years old. It doesn't really matter how much time has elapsed since you created the original. The goal is to see how these tips you'll learn in this class will help you improve even in the smallest ways. Because those small changes eventually add up to big improvements over time. After watching the class and trying to practice exercises. Look for one of the first letter in pieces you ever created and draw it again using the process I will outline in the class. You can use the same lettering style, try a different style, change the colors, or add illustrative elements if you'd like, but the words or phrase should be the same. Once you've recreated that piece, post it to the project gallery along with the original to share your project. Scroll down below the class video. Then go to the Projects and Resources tab. The class project button. Name your project and upload as many images as you'd like by clicking the image icon where it says add more content. You can also type notes or ask questions within the project area. Don't forget to upload a cover image because that's what will appear in the gallery view. Also be sure to note the dates on each of your lettering pieces so we can see how the new version compares to the original. Along with the practice exercises throughout the class. I've also created a PDF guide for you with helpful notes on letterforms structure, which you can always use as a reference. You can find the PDF guide under the projects and resources tab, but only when viewing the class in a web browser, not in the app. I can't wait to see your projects. But first, let's get started with class. I'll see you in the next lesson. 3. The First Step: The first step towards improving your lettering is to observe. It's easy to get tunnel vision when you're working on lettering because you're so focused on drawing each letter one at a time with the Canvas zoomed in that it's easy to lose sight of the word or phrase as a whole. This ultra focus can sometimes mean that you're not truly observing your lettering as you draw. For example, when I first started learning hand lettering, I would misspell words all the time. If you scroll far enough back in my Instagram feed, I'm sure you'll find pieces that I posted with misspelled words. Since I was so hyper-focused on drawing each individual letter, I would lose sight of the big picture. These days. I hardly ever misspell words in my work. On the one hand, it's because I'm more at ease with the lettering process and it doesn't take as much extreme focus to draw each letter. But it's also because I zoom out frequently to observe the piece as a whole so that I can make adjustments as I go along. Avoiding that tunnel vision is often the first hurdle to overcome when learning how to improve your lettering. It's really important to start the habit of stepping back, or in this case, zooming out. So you can look at the entire piece as a whole. You should do this frequently while you're working. If you've already taken my find your style class, you already know that I believe that observation is an integral part to being an artist. The ability to pay attention to detail is a huge asset, I would say even a necessity when it comes to improving your lettering. So the first step is clearly to observe, but you're probably wondering, what exactly am I supposed to be observing? We all know that in order to correct a problem, we must first identify it before finalizing a piece checklist that you can use to try to identify where the problem areas might be or the letter forms structured correctly, or the letter forums consistent. Do the lines and curves look clean? Is the spacing consistent? Are my letters sitting on the baseline correctly? And lastly, does this flourish or ligature feel forced? Throughout the class? I will break down each of these checklists items, give you a few tips and techniques on how to improve them. And in some cases, I'll also give you some practice exercises to help you build the muscle memory you'll need to become a better lettering artists. At the end of the class, we will revisit an old piece of lettering and I'll show you how to make your way through this checklist and how to make adjustments to your lettering once the problem areas are identified. Now I want to clarify that the goal here is to improve your lettering form and technique. We're not trying to make the letters perfect. The beauty and hand lettering is that it's done by hand. So inherently, there'll be some imperfection which gives it a hand-crafted feel. We're not aiming to make our lettering look like a computer font. These tips and tricks are simply about improving your craft. With that being said, we're going to tackle the first item on the checklist, which is letter form structure. I'll see you in the next lesson. 4. Letterform Structure: Before we can begin to make improvements on our lettering, we first have to understand the basics of each letter form and how they should be structured. One of the fundamental rules of letterforms structure is that upstrokes are thin and downstrokes are thick. I cover this in my hand lettering fundamentals class, where I also include a PDF stroke guide, which you can use for reference. Remember that the letter form does not have to have high contrast for this rule to apply. By the way, high contrast means when the letter has obvious thick and thin strokes, even low contrast letters will have slightly different stroke widths. And those slight adjustments can help make your lettering feel more polished. For example, this n might seem fine at first glance, but it's actually not structured correctly because the thickness is in the wrong place. Here the two vertical lines are thicker than the diagonal. But the diagonal stroke should actually be the widest part of the n. Therefore, to improve this letter form, I need to thicken up the diagonal stroke. Now the fuel is more solid and well proportioned. Another structural standard to remember is that horizontal strokes should be slightly thinner than vertical and diagonal strokes. For example, the horizontal stroke on this T is the same width as the downstroke. As you can see, it makes the letter look a little top heavy, making the horizontal stroke slightly thinner. We'll adjust for that visual balance and help the latter feel more proportioned. Now, the trick is you also have to be careful not to make the horizontal too thin. As you can see here, this horizontal stroke is about half the width of the downstroke, which also feels disproportionate. So the bottom line is that you don't want your horizontal strokes to be too thick or too thin, make them a little narrower than your downstrokes. And they should be just right. Knowing these basics of how each letter is supposed to be structured is the biggest challenge when it comes to improving the quality of your lettering, especially when you're a beginner. To help with this, I've created a PDF guide for you, which breaks down each letter of the alphabet and the basics of how it should be structured. This should be a helpful reference for when you get stuck on those tricky letters. Remember the PDF guide can be accessed if you're viewing the class in a browser, not in the app. Let's look at a couple of examples. The letter most students have the hardest time with is the letter S. I've already shared a couple of tips on how to draw this letter. And for a refresher on those techniques, you can always watch less than 11 in my hand lettering in Procreate class. But for now, let's revisit how the letter should be structured so you'll know how to make adjustments accordingly. Here's a quick structure recap. The S has three main parts to open counters and a spine. The spine is a downstroke, so it should be the widest part of the letter. The bottom open counter is slightly larger and should extend a little past the top open counter. This helps the letter feel grounded and it helps avoid it from looking as though it's tilted. Since this is a rounded letter, there should be overshoot, meaning that the curve sticks out a little bit past the baseline and the cap height. If you add a serifs to the letter S, it should be vertical, not on an angle or horizontal. I've looked through several projects from my beginner students and traced a few of the letter S I found with common mistakes. Now that we know how the S should be structured, Let's see if we can spot the problem areas. In this example, the spine is narrower than the two open counters, making the spine wider. We'll fix this problem. In this S, the top open counter is larger than the bottom open counter, which makes the letter look top-heavy. Remember the bottom part of the S should be larger than the top part. Here there are two problem areas. First, the bottom part of the S does not extend past the top part like it should. This makes the letter look a little unstable as though it's tipping forward. Also, the serifs are not vertical and they're angled in two different directions. Which further adds to the feeling of instability. Making the bottom open counter extend past the top helps let her feel stable. And the vertical surface also help provide that upright feeling. As I mentioned before, I've made a PDF for you which includes structural notes for each letter of the alphabet. Feel free to reference the guide whenever you feel unsure about how to draw a particular letter form. I promise you that with practice, these structural rules will become second nature. And then time. You won't need to reference a guide nearly as much if at all. Up next, we're going to go over a few tips on how to create consistent letterforms. I'll see you in the next lesson. 5. Consistent Letterforms: In a recent survey, I asked students to tell me what they struggle with the most when it comes to learning hand lettering. One of the top responses was, how to make your letters look consistent. Here are a few tips to help with consistency. I'm sure it's tempting to jump straight into lettering and skip this step of drawing your guidelines first. Or sometimes you might be tempted to just use the Canvas guides so you don't have to pause to draw your own. My advice is don't succumb to that temptation. Using guidelines is the first and most important step to making your lettering consistent. If you're not sure how to create guidelines, revisit lesson four of my hand lettering in Procreate class, there are a couple of different ways you can ensure that your strokes are a consistent width. The first is by using circle templates. Remember in the last lesson I used circles to show the difference in stroke widths. This is a great way to keep your strokes consistent. Create a new layer above your lettering and draw a circle the same width as one of your downstrokes. Then create a circle the same width as one of your upstrokes. Finally, do the same for a horizontal stroke. You can then take the downstroke circle and move it around to measure it against all the downstrokes and your lettering, making adjustments accordingly. Do the same for the upstrokes and horizontal strokes as well. Using a wide brush over your skeleton sketch is a great way to make sure that your strokes are a consistent width. I mentioned this in my hand lettering fundamentals class, but I want to go into little more detail here. My current go-to wide brush is the block pencil brush by sin milk Inc. Another good option is the nickel round brush, which is free with procreate and can be found in the painting section. Whatever brush you choose, you'll want it to have a nice sharp edges and no taper. Of course, you'll first want to map out your letters with a rough skeleton sketch, and I use the six B pencil for this. Next, determine how thick you want the strokes of your letter forms to be on a new layer. Make a few test strokes in different sizes, then decide what size will work best for the lettering you're creating. Here's a tip. When you've made your choice, save that brush size. To do that, tap on the percentage slider until a little window pops up. In the window you'll see the brush size, a sample image of the brush, and a plus sign. Tap the plus sign to save that size. When you do that, you'll notice a blue line appears on the slider, and that tells you that this size has been saved. If you move the slider, you'll see that that blue line turns gray, and that gray line remains in that spot indicating your saved size. By the way, the saved brush size will only appear when you have that particular brush selected. For example, if I switch to the six B pencil, you'll notice that the indicators are gone. When I switch back to the black pencil, they appear again. I'm going to use this first brush size for all the downstrokes. So I'm going to go through and draw all of those lines. You'll notice that I'm drawing above and below the guides. Once I've drawn all my lines, I will go back in and erase the excess right up to the guidelines to ensure that all my letters are exactly the same height. Now for the upstrokes, these will need to be slightly thinner than the downstrokes. So I'm going to drop the brush size down by about ten percentage points and then save that. Now go through and draw all the upstrokes. I'm going to use this smaller size for all of the rounded letters as well. The reason for this is because if I use the same width as I did for the downstrokes, it will make the rounded letters look a little too bulky. So I have to adjust for that visual difference. Also, don't forget to add overshoot for all of your rounded letters. Now I'll go through the same process for all of the horizontal strokes, making sure that I make those slightly smaller than the upstrokes. Now you have a solid base sketch with consistent letter forms. From here you can go straight into inking or you can do another iteration where you add a bit more style like serifs for example. By the way, when inking, just to remember to stay inside the lines. If you ink beyond the lines of the sketch, you'll run the risk of adding weight to the strokes, which will once again make your letters inconsistent. If your brush size is too big, make it a little smaller so the placement of each line is easier to control. Another trick for keeping your stroke size consistent and actually for speeding up your workflow is to create a sample stroke and then duplicate it. Sketch one vertical stroke in the desired width. Then duplicate the layer and move that duplicated stroke into position for the next letter. Repeat this process until all the vertical strokes are complete. Do the same with the upstrokes, making sure the upstroke is a little thinner than the downstroke. Once it's the size you want, duplicate it, and move it into position for the next letter. During the sketching phase, you can also angle the strokes where necessary. One important thing to note, however, is that you don't want to angle your duplicate strokes during the inking phase because Procreate uses raster files. So when you manipulate objects, they will lose their crisp edges. So try to only do this during the sketching phase before you ink your lettering. For the O, we know that the left side is a downstroke while the right side is an upstroke. You can use the strokes we've already drawn as a template. I'm going to copy one of the downstrokes for the left side. And I'm going to copy one of the upstrokes and put that on the right side. Pinch to merge those layers and reduce the opacity. Now, I'll use those widths as a guide to draw my o. Keep in mind that this duplicating method also applies to completed letters as well. Whenever there's a repeating letter in your word, you don't need to redraw that letter multiple times. Simply duplicate the completed letter and move it into place. I can actually use that duplicating shortcut for this C as well. I've already drawn the O so I can duplicate it and erase the areas. I don't need to make the seat. That way. I know the widths and the shapes are consistent. To recap, my tips for creating consistent letters are always use your guides. You circle templates, or you can sketch with a white brush or duplicate your strokes. Up. Next, we're going to tackle another common challenge, which is how to create clean lines. I'll see you in the next lesson. 6. Creating Clean Lines: Another frequently asked questions I get from students is how to draw clean lines. Here are my top three tips. The first thing you want to do is to start with the right Procreate settings and brushes. Make sure your canvas size is large enough and your DPI is set to 300. I mentioned this in my Fundamentals class, but to reiterate here, 3 thousand pixels is a pretty safe size that will give you good-quality. This size is the equivalent to ten inches square. And on my current iPad Pro, which has quite a lot of storage, this gives me 204 layers to work with. If you have a smaller iPad with less storage, you can start out at 1500 pixels, but keep the DPI at 300. Next, make sure you're using a nice smooth brush with no taper when you're inking your lettering. Remember with hand lettering, you're drawing the strokes, not writing them like you would with calligraphy. I've found that it's much easier to control the line work with a brush that gives you a smooth, straight strokes. These days I only use the monoline brush for inking my letter forms. Although you will sometimes need to reduce the size of your brush for inking smaller details. Don't make your brush size too small. Remember that Procreate is a pixel based app. The smaller your lines are, the more pixels you will see. With a thicker line, the pixels are more tightly grouped together so the line appears smoother. There are also a few brush adjustments you can make. If you're really struggling with holding your hands steady and you need a little boost. You can give these a try as well. Tap on the brush you're using to open up the brush settings. Choose stabilization. One of the most helpful adjustments you can make is to turn up the streamline setting. This is a really easy shortcut to help smooth out your strokes. I'll show you the difference it makes. First, I'll turn it down to 0%. And here's what it looks like when I draw a spiral. Now when I turn this streamline backup to a 100%, you can see how much smoother the lines are. Another setting you can adjust is stabilization. However, I wouldn't recommend going higher than 20, maybe 25% though, because this effect can become a bit distracting when it's used at higher percentages. Tip number two to reveal. This may sound really simple, but when you're just starting out, it's really easy to overlook. Holding the pencil in a vise grip who will not help. It will actually hinder your progress and exhaust your hands in the process. If you're having a hard time drawing fluid lines, remember to loosen that grip. Go ahead and grab your pencil and hold it like you normally would. But makes sure there's no tension in your fingers. You should be able to flex your fingers and move the pencil around pretty easily. Now, draw your attention to your arm and shoulder. Are they tight to your body? If so, relax those as well. Bring your shoulders down to a more relaxed position. And you can even roll them a couple of times to release some tension. When drawing is often necessary to use your entire arm, not just your hand and wrist. So it's important to keep everything from your shoulders down as relaxed as possible. Here's a little practice exercise to help you loosen up before you start working on a piece. We're just going to draw a page full of loose circles. I personally find it's best to do this with a pencil brush. Now they don't have to be perfect circles. They might end up looking a little wonky, maybe more like ovals, but that's okay. Start with large circles and fill the canvas. Then you can go through and as smaller circles and the open spaces. Here's what you should think about when you're doing this exercise. You don't want to draw from your wrist because that won't give you a full range of motion. Try to keep your wrists steady and draw with your entire arm. Aim for large sweeping motions and try to draw unbroken lines, not small, sketchy strokes. This is a great exercise to do as a warm up before you start your lettering. The third tip for creating clean lines and your lettering is to lengthen your lines. The goal is to create long fluid strokes because fluid lines look much cleaner than tiny sketchy strokes. Here's an exercise to help you build that muscle. You're going to plot two points on your Canvas, one on the left than one on the right. Then connect those points with a long unbroken lines, go back and forth a few times with just those two points. Then you can add another point and connect that. You can keep going like this, adding new points and making those connections until you basically fill the page with lions. Again, you'll notice that I'm not drawing from the wrist and moving my entire arm. This is why you need to relax your upper body so that that movement can come more fluidly. Not only will this exercise help you practice getting nice smooth lines, it also helps to train your hand eye coordination. So eventually there becomes less of a disconnect between what your hands are doing and what your brain wants them to do. It's almost like you start thinking with your hands. Again. It's about building that muscle memory. So repetition is key. To recap. My top three tips for creating clean lines are to start with the best Procreate settings and brushes. Relax and lengthen your lines up. Next, I'll share a few tips for tackling those tricky curves. I'll see you in the next lesson. 7. Letters with Curves: Another challenge that most beginners face is drawing letters with curves. This can definitely be daunting at first, but here are a few tips to help you tackle those curvy characters. Guess what? You don't have to master the art of creating perfectly seamless curves. You can tackle curved shapes by breaking them down into smaller sections. This sounds really basic, but it's not always obvious when you're just starting out. Keep in mind that even though you're tackling the curve in sections, you still want to use long fluid lines for each of those sections. Pick an area to start from and draw your curve. When starting on the next section, the trick is to overlap the first, this will help make it look like one continuous line. Some people are more comfortable pushing the pencil outwards to draw a curve. While some people prefer to pull the pencil towards them. I don't subscribe to any strict rule here. I say do whatever feels best for you as long as it gets the job done. Also remember that you can and should rotate the canvas in whatever direction you need to make it easier for yourself. When you're just starting out and your hand isn't very steady. I know that this can still be challenging even when you break the curve into smaller sections. So here are a few practice exercises that will help you build your curve drawing skills. First up is target practice with arcs. This is similar to the target practice exercise we did in the last lesson. Except instead of straight lines, we're going to be drawing arcs. First, draw a horizontal line and then plot two points, a starting point and an end point, then draw a target point somewhere above. So the goal is to start here at the starting point. Then draw a curve that hits this target and ends at the end point. The goal is to make your curve as smooth and fluid as possible. So you can continue to add more target points. Each curve won't be perfect and they won't always hit the target points. And that's okay. With repetition. It will get better every time you do this exercise. Now for S curve target practice, for this one, you're going to draw a vertical line. And again, we're going to plot two points, the starting point and an end point. Then you're going to draw two target points, one on either side of the vertical line. And these can be positioned anywhere. What you want to do is start at the starting point, hit the first target, cross the vertical line, hit the second target, and then end at the end point. The goal here is to get comfortable with creating fluid curves. Again, you want to use your entire arm and not just your wrist. Keep adding new target points and connecting them with an unbroken curved line. Lastly, you can try and target practice with wave shapes. For this one, we're going to start out with two vertical lines. Here are going to basically connect these lines with wave shapes. So starting on the left side, your line is going to start very briefly on the vertical curve. Hit the second line, and it will end just briefly on the vertical as well. So this is what it's gonna look like. When you get to the bottom, you can start again, but this time you'll make your way up the line. Going in the opposite direction will probably feel odd and a little wonky at first, but keep going. The more you do it, the easier it will become. Tip number two is to remember that when it comes to lettering, there is a horizontal in every curve. There is no letter form that contains a perfect circle or a perfect arc. The curve will always shift to a horizontal at some point. This horizontal shifts can sometimes be very brief and very subtle, but it's always there. When drawing an, OH, for example, the top of the ladder will start on a horizontal for a brief moment before it starts to curve. Then it will return to a horizontal briefly at the bottom of video before continuing the curve on the other side. Also remember in lesson four we talked about horizontal strokes being slightly thinner. That means that the top and bottom of the OH will not be as thick as the sides. Here are more examples of where the horizontal falls on various curved letters and how much of a horizontal there should be. I know it's really tempting to use the quick shape feature in Procreate to make ovals, circles, and arcs for you. I see students do this all the time. But that shortcut actually distorts your letter forms rather than making them look cleaner. For example, this o created with perfect ovals isn't actually quite correct because the curve doesn't shift to a brief horizontal at the top and the bottom. Here's another example. You can see the difference between these two C's. This one I created by using the quick shape tool. I just use an oval to create the C. And you can see that there's no point at which the curve shifts to a horizontal. It's just a perfect curve. Whereas here the curve shifts to the horizontal, ever so slightly along the top, as well as here along the bottom. This just helps the latter formed feel more grounded and stable on the baseline. Whereas here this feels a little less grounded and stable. This mistake is even more prominent when drawing a letter where the curve is attached to a stem like the p, For example. I often see students do something like this where they will draw an ellipse and use the quick shape feature to help make it a perfect arc. Then they'll attach that arc to the stem. Now let's compare that with a P that's drawn more accurately and there's no horizontal here, so the curve starts directly from the stem, but this attachment to the stem isn't as nice and fluid compared to when the curve starts out on the horizontal and then starts to curve. Okay, let's recap. Drawing curves becomes much easier if you break it down into sections. Try target practice exercises to strengthen your curve drawing skills, and always start your curves on the horizontal. Up next, we'll talk through another highly requested topic which is spacing. I'll see you in the next lesson. 8. Spacing: Spacing can be a real challenge even for experienced letters. It's one of those things that you don't really notice if it's done well, but it can ruin a piece if it's done poorly. Good spacing will not only make your lettering appear polished and consistent, it will also make it easier to read. Whereas poor spacing can negatively affect legibility and even become distracting. One of the reasons why it's so challenging is because there are no rigid calculations for getting it right. It's fluid and how you approach it can change depending on the word, the letters, Word, even the lettering style you choose can affect how you approach spacing. Although the rules can be a bit fluid, there's still a few guidelines that you can keep in mind. The first tip is to make sure there's equal negative space. The negative space inside and around your letters is just as important as the letter forms themselves. So it's really helpful to get into the habit of paying attention to the negative space when working on your lettering. As a general rule, the space between the letters should be approximately the same as the space within the letters. For example, with bold lettering styles, the space inside the letters will be fairly small. The space between the letters should also be fairly small, which means the spacing would be closer. On the other hand, with thin lettering styles, the strokes aren't taking up much space, so you will have larger open spaces inside the letters. You'll want to match that between the letters as well. So the spacing would be a bit wider. Now as you can see, there won't be a one-to-one comparison in terms of the shape of the negative space. It's more about volume. The areas should feel fairly equal overall. Also, just keep in mind that this is a general guideline and it may not perfectly apply to all lettering scenarios. Tip number two is all about optical versus mechanical adjustments. Here's an example of mechanical spacing. When you draw two letters, you might think to measure that space between the letters. Then apply that measurement to all the other letters in the word. Although this spacing between each of the letters is technically equal, visually it looks inconsistent. The reason why it looks strange is because this type of mechanical spacing doesn't accommodate all the optical illusions letter pairs will create. Here's what I mean. Generally speaking, letters fall into three basic shapes. Rectangle, circle, and triangle. Letters like B, E, H and N would fit into a rectangle shape. Letters like C, G, O, and Q would fit into a circular shape. Then you've got letters like a, T, v, and y, which would fit into a triangular shape. So let's look at the word hat. Here we have a rectangle letter next to a triangle, which is then followed by an inverted triangle. As you can see when the letters are spaced, mechanically, the triangles create quite a lot of extra negative space. To counteract this, you'll need to make optical adjustments to reduce the amount of negative space between that pair of triangular letters. This usually means bringing those letters closer together. Tip number three is that you can make stylistic adjustments to help with your spacing. Even after making optical adjustments, there's still some lettering combinations that are notoriously difficult to make work. Here. For example, the L and the I, as well as the H and T, are as close to each other as possible. But there's still a bit too much negative space between those letters compared to the space between all the other letters. In this case, you can also make stylistic adjustments to help the spacing feel more consistent. The first thing I can do to help eliminate this extra space here is I can move the eye and tuck it into that open space created by the L. I can make that smaller. Then what I can do is I can stylize the L so that it's slightly curved and it'll create a nice little nuc for that. I just sit in. I can even around this part of the eye so that it creates a nice shape mirroring the curve of the L. Now that I've established this kind of wavy horizontal stroke, I can mimic that here in other letters of the word so that everything feels consistent. So I'm gonna do the same here on the F. Now I can shift this over so that I fill that gap between the I and the G. Now I can go through and stylize these horizontals as well. Now, for the t and h, There's still a lot of space here. But what I can do is have the crossbar of the t sit above the H so that it will help to close that gap. So first I'm going to shorten one of these strokes on the age just a little. Then I'm going to shift the teat over and have it fill that space. So I now have to make the stem of the T a little bit longer. And I'm also going to create this kind of wavy crossbar on the T. Then just like how I created a little curve here to mimic this curve, I can do the same with the age. With a few stylized adjustments. I've managed to fix the spacing issues and give the lettering a little bit more personality while I'm at it. To recap, as a general rule, the volume of negative space in and around your letters should be about equal. Of course there are exceptions, but this is a good guideline to consider. You can make optical adjustments to account for different letter shape combinations. And you can also make stylistic adjustments to optimize your spacing. Up. Next, I will share a few pointers for lettering on slanted and curved baselines. I'll see you in the next lesson. 9. Slanted and Curved Baselines: A great way to get creative with your lettering is to incorporate slanted or curved baselines into your layouts. I often include curves and slants in my work because it adds creative interests and it often makes a piece feel more engaging. I absolutely encourage beginners to give this a try as well, but it's important to understand how to do it correctly. Number one, biggest beginner mistake I see is tilted lettering. You're probably thinking, well, of course it's going to be tilted if it's on a slant. Actually, that's not the case. Even when you're lettering on a slanted or curved baseline, your letter forms should still remain vertical. Let's break that down. For slanted baselines, you don't want to simply turn your entire word on an angle. Instead, what you want to do is climb the incline. First, draw the slanted baseline. Now to ensure that the Cap Height guide is on the same angle, I'm just going to duplicate this line. Move it up to wherever I want the cap height to be. Then pinch to merge those two layers. Now I'm switching to the six B pencil. And I'm going to let her the word slant, which obviously relates to what we're doing. But it will also create a couple of challenges which I can show you how to work through. Now I think what often happens with beginners is they just turn the canvas and let her their word as though it were on a straight baseline. But as you can see, you'll end up with tilted letters. So that's not what we're going to do. Instead, I'm going to keep each letter vertical. And I'm just going to stair-step the lettering to claim that incline. It's also really helpful to have your Canvas guides on because you can use these verticals as a reference so that you don't tilt your letters. So I'm going to let her this word in two different ways. So let's start with the first example, starting with the letter S. And I'm actually going to draw that guide so that I'm really clear that I'm staying on the vertical. So I'm going to start with the letter S. I'm actually going to use the method that I showed in my Fundamentals class for drawing the letter S. Going to split this oval. And remembering the structure. You're going to want your spine to be the thickest part of the letter. This top open counter won't go out as far. If you're wondering why I continually fill in my letter forms that so that I can get a really good sense of the structure. When it's just the outlines, it's harder to tell what the volume of the letter is like and exactly what the shape is like. Filling it in helps to really determined that structure. So we've got our S and it's perfectly vertical. Now for the L, we're going to again follow that vertical, making sure that it's not tilted one way or the other. Now here's the tricky part. What do you do when you're lettering on a slant and you have a letter with a horizontal stroke in it, like the L or the crossbar of the t. You can either follow this slant at baseline or you can keep it straight as you normally would. And I'll show you both ways. Let's first start with the slanted version. So I'm going to follow the slant and baseline for this L. And I'm also following the slant for this sarah is, Ella has a really tiny serif on it. And I'm following the slanted baseline for that as well. Now for the a, this can get a little bit tricky because it's one of those triangular letters. So even if it's really close to the l, this open space by the L and the open space created by the triangle will create a lot of extra space between these two letters. We're going to have to adjust for that. So first I'm going to build the a kind of off to the side and then I'll move it back into position. When drawing the letter a on a slant, It's really important to use that vertical guide. Otherwise it can get really wonky, really fast. You want the apex of the a that point at the top of the a to be centered on that vertical line. So I'm going to use that as my guide and start from there. And because this is on a slant, the left side of the a will be a little bit longer than the right side to accommodate that slope. Also remember that the apex of the a, there's a little overshoot there, so it's going to come a little bit above your cap height line. I'm just building thickness on this. Bit by bit. It's not quite as thick as these downstrokes, so I'll add a little bit more. When I clean this up, I'll go back in and use my circle templates to make sure that all of the strokes are consistent. Since the serifs and horizontal strokes are following the slant, I'll have the crossbar of the a follow this slant as well. Now that I've got the structure, figure it out, I now need to fit it into the word. And this is where the tips about spacing from the last lesson come into play. Now as I mentioned before, even if I were to position the a right next to the L, because of the shape, it's creating too much negative space. So I'm going to need to make some stylistic adjustments. By the way, I have the a on a separate layer which is going to make that much easier. So I think what I can do is nudge the a into that open space to close up that gap a little bit. But I'll need to shorten the upstroke and possibly lengthen the horizontal stroke on the L so that they work well together. First, I'm just going to shorten this. And in doing so, I realized that I also should move the crossbar up a bit. Let's start with that. And I'm going to adjust the horizontal stroke on this L so that it fits here. Inside, just inside the a, a little bit better. And then I'm just going to take a little styling. 10. Legibility: When it comes to hand lettering, legibility is key. Of course, lettering should be creative and eye-catching, but it's only truly successful if it's easy to read. There are several mistakes I often see beginner students make which negatively impact eligibility. Here are a few tips for how to avoid those mistakes. The first tip is to avoid over flourishing. Flourishes can add elegance, personality, and expressive style to hand lettering layouts. There are many experienced lettering artists who incorporate flourishes into their lettering so beautifully that it seems completely effortless. By the way, I've included links to all of these artists in the resources section in case you'd like to see more of their work. For beginners, it's really tempting to immediately want to mimic this beautifully elaborate style. But the challenge is that flourishing can actually become a distraction when it's overdone or when it's not done well, here are three things to keep in mind when it comes to flourishes. First, remember, restraint. Little goes a long way when it comes to flourishing. A couple well-placed flourishes can actually be more impactful than multiple oddly placed flourishes and curly cues. So remember to show a bit of restraint when deciding to place them. The second thing to keep in mind is that it takes technique, the pros, make it look easy. But please remember that it requires quite a bit of technical skill to create beautiful flourishes. I've been lettering almost daily for five years, and I still struggled to get fancy flourishes to look quite right. The only way to get better at flourishing is to practice, practice, practice. Lastly, remember to go with the float. Your flourishes should flow seamlessly from the letter form. Ideally, you want to think through the flourishing early on in the sketching phase, rather than attempting to add them to your letter forms after the fact. For example, I've seen students draw a letter, then try to add the flourish afterwards. As you can see, it doesn't flow very well because the line abruptly changes direction. Instead, in this case, what you would want to do is think of the flourish while sketching the E. The downstroke would seamlessly flow into that flourish. Or a much simpler option is to extend the crossbar and make a simple flourish here, rather than trying to add it to the downstroke. Keep in mind that getting just the right curves and swishes will sometimes take a lot of trial and error. Like we discussed earlier in the class, you'll want to keep your grip loose and move your entire arm to help with the flow. Try lots of different options before you settle on what will work best. One way to get comfortable with flowing strokes as to warm up by practicing a few loops, you can start off with a few loose figure eight loops. Remember to draw with your entire arm, not just your wrist. And you're going to go down, curve, up, around, and then down again. The aim is to keep your pencil down and try to make one fluid motion. This shape could work as a flourish on the lowercase y, for example. Then you can move on to practicing half loops. These could be used, for example, in a flourish for an uppercase T. Tip number two is to avoid forced ligatures. A ligature is where two or more letters are joined together to create a single glyph. And a glyph is a unique letter form or symbol. Ligatures can be tricky because it takes a certain amount of finesse to get them just right. As you can see in this time-lapse footage, David Soto is masterfully creating a ligature with an F and ampersand and the letter H. And it takes lots of time and experimentation to get it right. When a ligature works well, in this case, it flows seamlessly with the letter forms and it's still easy to read. On the other hand, if it's forced, it can have a negative result of affecting the legibility when attempting to create a ligature, keep these things in mind. Ask yourself, will it distort the letter form? Or will it create a distracting or awkward shape? Here are two examples where the ligature has been forced. In this example, there was an attempt to connect the dot of the I with the end. Here the letter forms have been distorted to force the ligature. The upstroke of an end doesn't naturally turn backwards like this. It almost feels as though it's been broken and twisted around. Also, the eye doesn't expect the dot of the I to be elongated in this way. So it creates another distortion which makes you pause for a second to decipher the word. Here, the same ligature idea is used, but more effectively. In this case, the R and the dot of the I are combined, but the detail is secondary to the legibility of the word. The reason this works is because none of the letter forms have been overly distorted. The R and the I are still structured as expected. Another thing that helps here is that the ball terminals on the other letters have the same feel, so everything flows seamlessly. Here's an example of when a forced ligature creates an awkward or distracting shape before reading the words. The first thing that one notices is this prominent shape. With these two words, there actually aren't really any seamless ways to join two letter forms together to create a ligature. And that's completely okay. Remember, ligatures are supposed to be a creative enhancement to your lettering. There certainly not a requirement. Unless there's an obvious place for a ligature, It's perfectly fine to skip it altogether. Up next, we're going to put all of these tips into practice as we rework an old lettering piece. I'll see you in the next lesson. 11. Observe and Adjust: Now that we've covered these top tips for how to improve, Let's revisit the observation process using an old lettering piece for practice. I'm going to be improving on this piece I created in February of 2018. At this point, I had been lettering for about two months and I was participating in a weekly drawing challenge called homework, which Lauren Hom was hosting at the time. The prompt for this piece was to create a refreshingly honest Valentine by completing the sentence. I love you so much. I add a weird, silly or honest expression of what true love means to you. My artwork said, I love you so much. I'd suffer through early morning chitchat even before my coffee. True story asked my husband, It's been four years since I let her this piece. I was very proud of how it turned out at the time. And rightfully so because it's important to celebrate every step of the journey. This was a big achievement for me as a brand new lettering artists with only two months of lettering practice at that time. Of course, I've learned a lot since then and I've had a lot more practice. So I can now see several issues with this piece that can definitely be improved. Let's go down the checklist. Number one on the list. Are the letter forms structured correctly? I definitely see a few structural issues. For example, in this phrase, early morning, I immediately noticed that the thin stroke on the a is on the wrong side. The thin upstrokes should be on the left, while the thicker downstroke should be on the right. The same issue is happening with the M and the N. For the M. This first stroke should be thin because it's an upstroke and the last stroke should be a thick downstroke. And with the n, the diagonals should be thickest. So all of this will need to be addressed. And I actually might make some changes to the style of these letters. Number two on the checklist or the letter forms consistent. I can see that there's definitely some inconsistency with the stroke widths of these letters. So I'm going to improve on that as well. Number three on the checklist, do the lines and curves look clean? While some of these lines are a bit shaky, especially on the curves. So that will need to be cleaned up a bit. Number four, is a spacing consistent? I think the spacing is a little too tight and some areas which makes the words feel crowded and a little difficult to read. So I will adjust the spacing when I rework this. Number five, are my letters sitting on the baseline correctly? That's a definite no. My letters were clearly tilting on this curved baseline, so I need to correct that. And finally, number six, does this flourish or ligature feel forced? The two ligatures I included do feel forced. And I think they draw a little too much attention to themselves. And then these curlicue flourishes are a bit excessive and they make the lettering feel overly decorated. I think I might simplify the flourishes and ligatures when I remake this. Those are the six checklist items. So now let's work on correcting those issues. I'm going to keep my layout essentially the same with five Stat two lines and curved lettering in a banner for this six line. So the first thing I'm gonna do is just kind of plot where all of my words are going to be with a really rough skeleton sketch. I'm going to keep, I love you fairly large, like it is here. Then maybe make so much a little bit smaller. As you can see, I'm pretty much following the same basic layout structure as the original artwork. And of course I'm going to switch things up a little bit with styles and details. But I've got my basic structure down. So before I get into really finalizing anything, I'm going to start drawing my guides. Actually think I'm going to add a curve to this first baseline just to make it a little bit more dynamic. And here's another trick for drawing a symmetrical curve. You can just use the symmetry tool so that you're sure that your curve is the same shape on both sides. Alright, my guides are drawn, so now it's time to build out these letter forms to help with legibility. I'm going to simplify this lettering and I'm going to give the letter forms a little more weight. So I'm first going to reduce the opacity on my skeleton sketch. Now for this first pass, I'm just kind of playing with the letter forms and trying to see what I come up with. And then I'll go back in and make adjustments and clean things up, makes sure that each stroke is consistent width and all the things that we've talked about so far in the class. Now I've got an L and an O here. So I think I'll use that trick that we used before. And I actually used it in my original where I took the o to help with the spacing. Since I'm drawing low contrast letters, there aren't very obvious thicks and thins, but I'm going to use my circle templates to make sure that the subtle weight changes are in the correct places. I'm using the duplicate method here to make sure that all of my vertical strokes are consistent. And wherever a letter is repeated, I'll just draw it once and duplicate it rather than redrawing it two or more times. Again, I'm going to duplicate here because I just drew this T and I can use it in this spot as well. By the way, I should mention that this duplicating method only works when you're using the same size and the same style of lettering. For example, I let her a couple of O's in the first line. But it wouldn't have made sense to duplicate this o to use in the second line because the style is slightly different and the size is different. So for example, if I were to duplicate that o and reduce the size to fit on this line, you can see it's much narrower and the stroke widths are different. So it really would not have worked on this line. Just remember when you're using this duplicating method, it needs to be the same size and the same style of lettering. My rough sketch for the lettering is done this. So I'm going to just quickly think through some of the embellishments. I'm going to use leaves and flowers. That's my thing. But instead of this large flower here, I think I'm going to incorporate a coffee mug just so that it works with the theme of the lettering. Now I can move on to inking. I'm breaking my curves down into sections so that I can make them as clean as possible. Now I've created these words in a thin Monoline Style. And if you remember from a previous lesson, thin styles work well with more space. So I can space these out a little bit and give them more room than I did in the original version. Unlike in my first version this time I made sure to keep all of my letters vertical on this curved baseline and they're climbing the incline rather than tilting. I actually decided not to use any ligatures because there's already so much to look at in this piece. I feel like it would just clutter the layout. For that same reason, I just use a couple of very simple embellishments on the letter forms. I'm not sure that they really even count as flourishes. And instead I've added a lot more embellishment with the leaves and surrounding illustration. Here's the final transformation. And this is how it compares to the original. My technique has definitely improved over the years. My work is cleaner and my overall style has slowly but surely evolved, which is what we're aiming for, steady improvements over time. 12. Final Thoughts: Now that you know how to evaluate your lettering and what you can do to make improvements. It's your turn to recreate an old piece of lettering using the checklist of action items as your guide. As I mentioned before, if you're still new to hand lettering, that old piece might be something you just created a few weeks ago. Or if you have more experience, you can create a much older piece. Remember that we're not looking for perfection. The goal is to use the tips you learned in the class to help you improve. That improvement might be slow at first. But if you implement these tips along with regular practice, the improvement will happen. If you want to chart your progress on your lettering journey. You can even repeat this process once or twice a year. Find an old piece of artwork and recreate it so that you can see how you've improved. It's always a nice confidence boost to see physical evidence of your growth and take a moment to celebrate it. I'm really looking forward to seeing your projects. Remember to post both the original and the updated version in the project gallery. If you'd like my feedback, just leave a note with your project to let me know if you've enjoyed it. I love it. If you would leave a review. Your reviews not only helped me improve my classes, but they also help prospective students know what to expect. If you'd like to continue on your hand lettering journey, you can watch my other classes like level up your layouts, which will give you tips for lettering long quotes, or simple words to stunning art in which I show you how to combine hand lettering with illustration or my Finder style class, which helps guide you through the process of developing your own unique style. You can also click the follow button. You'll be the first to know whenever I post a new class. And for short lettering and drawing tutorials, you can also follow me on YouTube. As always, it's been a pleasure sharing this creative space with you. And I look forward to seeing you in the next class.