Hand Lettering Techniques: 5 Ways to Better Work | Mary Kate McDevitt | Skillshare

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Hand Lettering Techniques: 5 Ways to Better Work

teacher avatar Mary Kate McDevitt, Lettering and Illustration

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.

      Why is Self Critique Important?


    • 3.

      The 5 Flags to Look Out For


    • 4.

      Starting Your Project: Inspiration


    • 5.



    • 6.

      Revising Your Sketch


    • 7.

      Refining Your Drawing


    • 8.

      Digitizing Your Drawing


    • 9.

      Adding Color to Your Piece


    • 10.



    • 11.

      BONUS: Revising Existing Work


    • 12.

      BONUS: Revising Existing Work II


    • 13.

      What's Next?


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About This Class

Does your lettering work feel off, but you can't put your finger on why?

Mary Kate McDevitt has been lettering and illustrating for years, constantly refining and improving her work. Over the years, she's learned to critique her own lettering, noticing common mistakes and how to fix them. In this comprehensive 55-minute class, Mary Kate will share her tips to critique your own work and solve students' most common lettering missteps, including:

  • Awkward Letterforms
  • Mismatched Styles
  • Unbalanced Composition
  • Style Mismatched to Concept
  • Extraneous Details

In bite-sized lessons, you'll follow Mary Kate through creating a lettering piece from start to finish, considering the 5 flags for self critique as you go. She will point out examples, common issues, and fixes along the way. You'll also watch Mary Kate critique and improve an old piece, providing opportunities to improve your eye.

Whether you're a letterer, designer, illustrator, or enthusiast, you'll gain a set of tools for self-critique to make your work better than ever.

All lettering levels welcome, although students are encouraged to explore Mary Kate's beginning lettering classes here on Skillshare, including Hand Lettering Essentials for Beginners.

Meet Your Teacher

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Mary Kate McDevitt

Lettering and Illustration



My new book Illustration Workshop is available for purchase on Amazon and a book store near you!

You can purchase it online here!

I'm excited to announce my new journal Every Day is Epic is officially out today! This journal takes the pressure off documenting a regular day by framing it with illustrations, funny quips and plenty of places to doodle.

To celebrate with all of you, I'm offering a giveaway to 5 Skillshare students to win a copy and one grand prize winner will also have a 30 minute portfolio review/consultation. Use the hashtag #EPICSKILLSHARE to enter through instagram with a link to your project.

Contest Details:

To be eligible, you have to have already submitted a project or submit a new project in one of Mary Kate's 6... See full profile

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1. Introduction: I am Mary Kate McDevitt, and I'm an illustrator in letter. This class is on self critique. Self critique is incredibly important in your process. Otherwise, you're just kind of making stuff, putting out there, and you don't really care what the outcome is, what it's supposed to look like, or even if it makes sense. So, it's always really important to kind of have critique in your mind as you go along with projects. When I was in school, and we would have critiques, it was more kind of about concept, and really pushing your concept. Just kind of nitpicking what was working, and what wasn't in terms of color and layout. When I graduated and I started working on my own, it became even more important to take those skills to the next level. I have this W where I was just trying to do this extra squash, that kind of went back into itself. After discussing it with the art director, we decided to just keep the W really simple. This is where it ended up, and I think that is a much better solution. So, the kind of project you want to do is entirely up to you. I'm going to do a hand letter quote. The hand letter quote I'm going to be doing is actually going to be for a school. Some of them are going to be hanging up in their classroom. That's something you can do as well as some kind of motivational, inspirational quote. You could also do a book cover. You could also do a greeting card. It's really up to you, as long as it includes lettering and illustration in some way. You may look back on a piece that you did, and just like something looks awful about it, and you can put your finger on it. That's what we're going to hope to uncover in our class today. 2. Why is Self Critique Important?: Self-critique is incredibly important in your process. Otherwise you're just making stuff putting out there, and you don't really care what the outcome is what it's supposed to look like, or even if it makes sense. So, it's always really important to kind of have critique in your mind as you go along with projects. When I was in school, and we would have critiques it was more about concept and really pushing your concept and just like nitpicking what was working and what wasn't in terms of color and layout. When I graduated and I started working on my own, it became even more important to take those skills to the next level. Because even when I'm working with an art director, I can't always depend on them to point out things that are going to look weird. Sure, they can point out little things that they would agree on; This doesn't sell, or this doesn't read well. But in terms of what the letter is supposed to look like, and whether a letter is looking wonky, that's something that's really not their job to do. So it's up to you to make sure that you're being careful and pointing out those mistakes ahead of time. So it's always important to do self-critique from the very start to the end of a project. Self-critique is really scary. It can be hard to admit if you've done a project wrong or if something looks off on the drawing, because you're looking at your project and you think it's great. I've definitely done the same thing where it's like, "There's nothing wrong with this drawing. I'm going to keep going and do my thing.", Without really looking at it with a critical eye. So, the way you can kind of train your eye, is I think community is a big thing. Sharing your projects with other people, and having them give their honest opinion. One way you can think about doing self-critique on your own, is basically sleeping on it. You finish a project, don't send it off to the client right away. Don't send it to the printers or however you finish up your project don't post it on Instagram. Do it at night, look at it with a fresh eye, that will help pretrain the way you look at it. Just basically, being aware that you're looking at your project critically rather than everything I do is awesome. Which I'm sure it is, but it's also important to be critical about your work. 3. The 5 Flags to Look Out For: I have five flags that I always look for in my work when I'm self critiquing: awkward letterforms, mismatched styles, unbalanced composition, style mismatch to concept, and extraneous drop shadows washes and details. So, the first flag to look out for when you're starting self critique or working on a project is awkward letterforms. Awkward letterforms occur when it's either squished in the composition, we either went too far stylistically and tried something that is just making the letter not readable, or just not working. So, we're going to look at a couple examples from my work in terms of awkward letterforms. This was a project I did and this is actually not the printed version because my art director correctly corrected this awkward letterforms. So, I have this W where I was just trying to do this extra swash that went back into itself but after discussing it with the art director, we decided to just keep the W really simple and this is where it ended up, and I think that is a much better solution. It's really important to fix awkward letterforms because they're really distracting in the composition. Your eye goes directly to it and it just looks like there's something wrong with it, whether it's drawn incorrectly, or you're trying to do extraneous squashes or something, or if it's squished in the composition. It's really important that each letter is legible and looks right in the composition. Another flag to look out for is Mismatched Styles. I think when you pair something like a calligraphic style with some rodeo style script, you can just tell that it's really not going to go together, it's not going to go together conceptually and it's really not going to fit in the composition. The styles you want to fit together are more simple paired with things that look like it could be in the same family. There's nothing wrong with mixing and matching styles. I think it can make a layout look more energetic and have more concept to it, but also if you're pairing different styles together and they just don't fit, it's going to make the composition look very strange. If you're unsure about mixing styles, maybe try starting out simple and adding onto it as you go along. It's important to consider styles working together like a family. If you want to add some cousins to the mix like that could fit very well, very simple style sans Sarah of mix with a very simple saraph or even a simple script that could work. But if you start mixing two very disparate styles together, it's not going to really fit, it's going to look really awkward. Having a balanced composition is very important when you're lettering your work because it's an issue of hierarchy. If your eye goes straight to one word and all the other letters are really crammed in there and doesn't really have a sense of importance, it's going to affect the way the reader looks at it. This quote that I did, the quote is really long, but the biggest word on there is candy where I feel like we could have been adding more emphasis to other words. This one, the lettering is a little stronger but there's some issues where the word 'the' is just crammed in there very awkwardly, where I could have used the space better, and using this space in terms of layout is really important and that's what you want to focus on when you're creating your compositions. Here we're going to talk about Style Mismatch To Concept. When your style doesn't match up with your concept, it really makes the piece really weak. It's also really important to create mood boards. This is when mood boards are become incredibly important when you're putting your piece together. That way from start to finish, you can always refer back to your mood board to make sure you're on the right path. So, a couple of pieces of mine that I feel like the concept could have been tighter to the style, the idea is that it was meant to look like a soda pop bottle top, and I feel like the style went a little bit more Victorian. At the time I was really inspired by Victorian style lettering. But that doesn't necessarily mean because it's something you're really into at the moment, a project comes along that you have an idea for and it's not matching up, then you need to let it go. You'll do Victorian style lettering on some other project, maybe I should have been looking more like retro slick more mid-century modern style lettering. Well, I still really like this piece because I think the lettering is fun, it just doesn't match up with the style. In this other example, these are sketches that I had presented for an Editorial Project. The project was for Atlantis CSA, so that was the headline and this is the concept that they went with. I feel they didn't go with this concept because it's like a farmers market, that style but it really looks futuristic and I think that's what she was referring to when she went with this piece which is clearly referencing those vegetable food crates. So conceptually, this sketch made a lot more sense for the final than this one where was loose and really not understanding where I was heading with that concept. Adding drop shadows, swatches and details to your lettering work can help support your concept. But if you're adding extraneous drop shadows, swatches and details, it can water down your concept and just make your lettering and composition look busy. So, these are a couple examples of my work where I feel like the extraneous details and swatches was really hurting my lettering work. So, these were some sketches that I had presented for a book cover and none of these concepts were chosen because I feel like I went a little over the top with the details. In this example, there is so many really fine details where Monsoon looks so light compared to English. So, as a book cover where readability is incredibly important, it was hard to differentiate the two words and Monsoon was getting lost in the composition. In this one, the lettering and the swatches are all the same weight, so, nothing was really called out. Sometimes you can get away with that, but if you're not making it a point in your pencil sketches to make sure that this swatches are going to be more into the background and the lettering going to come forward, it's going to be hard to really let that get across in your pencil sketches. On this one, I just feel like the borders probably way too busy compared to the more simple style lettering. In this piece again, I just feel like the style of that S was just really calling way too much attention to itself and the way the banners and the swatches are working, were really just making the lettering making sure the lettering was fitting in the composition rather than making sure the swatches were fitting in the composition. So, you have to make sure that you're balancing in a way where everything is living harmoniously in the layout, and not calling too much attention to swatches rather than the lettering itself. In this layout, I feel like I went way over the top with the border and the swatches felt like they were just falling into the background. So, there's this weird balance especially with this very strange looking S that is almost looking like an ampersand, and that's really important to stay away from S well. So, I feel like with the really heavy dotted border and the lights swatches, it was really hard to find what you're supposed to focus on this particular layout. Now that we've talked about the five flags to look for in yourself critique, we're going to address one of the examples that I just went over and go through fixing some of the issues without having to go back to the drawing board. 4. Starting Your Project: Inspiration: So now that we've looked at past work with a critical eye and went over the five flags to look out for when you're creating work or looking at work, when you're critiquing, we're going to start of piece start to finish keeping all those things we discussed in mind. So I'm going to be creating a poster, this poster is actually going to be used in school classrooms. So I want to make sure of that it's very legible, it's very fun to read and that it works for a lot of different grades. So the quote is, "It always seems impossible until it's done." That's a Nelson Mandela quote and I've already went ahead and started doing some thumbnails. So the best way to make sure of that, you go into your thumbnails with a lot of knowledge and preparation and research, is this kind of thinking about the quote? So, I did some brainstorming. I just kind of write a bunch of words, lists, my maps anything to kind of get the wheels turning in your brain and make sure that you're coming up with a concept that works for the quote and kind of gets you thinking about how you're going to start working stylistically. So a lot of things I wrote down are just kind of like: hard work, build, progress, assemble and I started thinking about like different ways of thinking about that, that could be used as motifs throughout the drawing. Then I started thinking about puzzles and working things out and I had this idea of string and I thought maybe string could be kind of a cool border element. So that's the thumbnail I'm going to be working with. Once I have these thumbnails and I have my brainstorming, then I start creating a mood board that all relates back to that concept. It's also very important that when you are creating your mood board, that each piece that you choose to include makes sense. Because if you start including things that you just like, that's when you end up with something that has a mismatch style as a concept. I was looking up sailor nods, I like this Henri Matisse painting and all this T-shirt that kind of was drawing from Matisse as well. These tangles, I like the way the type is kind of inner tangled in this kind of graphic, obviously just and not. Because of kind of we maybe it could be hard to draw and not and not just look like scribbles. I really like the way the numbers are overlapping here, the way the shape is interacting with the type here. So I really feel like I'm getting a sense of what I want to accomplish based on my thumbnail, my brainstorming to my mood board. So it's kind of all coming together. So as long if I'm always referring back to the materials that I've kind of collected at the beginning stage, I know I'm going to be on track with my sketches. 5. Sketching: So, really I'm just going to start roughing in where I think things are going to land on the page. Balances it's something that I want to make sure that I'm aware of during this sketch phase, but I'm really just like roughly going to lay it all out. It's really helpful just to drawing guides, and more like is shapes and then fill the lettering in as you go along. As you can see, I'm not super focused on the style of the lettering. I'm going to figure that out as I go along, but it's really important to get the layout down first. That way I'm not caught up in the style of the lettering and then I'm scrambling when things get squashed. That's when awkward letter-forms occur. So, now I'm seeing the layout come to life, and I'm seeing any, reviewing it for any potential issues. So, right now, it looks like always is off to the side. Well, it's symmetrical, so I might want to make it a little bigger. Next, I'm going to be thinking about the weight of the lettering, and if everything has enough space, I can make it thicker or thin as I want without feeling like it needs to be completely rethought. So, this want to give yourself enough room with W's especially because they do take up so much more space, because when you see a W that's crammed in there, and then the A is super wide like that, and the W is super narrow, that's when it just looks like something's off. That's something you're going to want to look back and redo. That's why I working this loose at the beginning can be so beneficial. Since this is on a straight angle, I just want to make sure that it's staying nice and parallel. It's just good. It looks way too tiny. I also feel like everything can get shifted up quite a bit. That's something I can do in my revised sketch. Pretty simply by just scooting it down a little bit. That way you don't have to redraw and move everything up because that would be a pain. So, there is some go arounds when you're doing these revised drawings. I might think about adding in rather than more swirls which are we'll just get caught up in the string which I want to make sure is called up. Just little details, little polka bats, and stars, and stuff, just to fill it out and just make sure it's still looking really playful. I just want to write at the top to be more like a knot, because I'm going to have this really busy border at the top. That means it always seems a little bit. It's going to be a little bit of more simple style, and I'll probably add in more details and done. So, it balances itself out that way. 6. Revising Your Sketch: So, now that I have the basic structure of the drawing basically down, rather than keep reworking and reworking the same drawing, I'm going to bring in a fresh sheet to start revising and making more detailed decisions. So, I'm going to bring the Light Pad back in, and just use that to lightly roughen the drawing again and then start working in more details. But it's important to stay flexible at this stage, because you don't really want to stay so strict to this one idea you had at the beginning, because it might not work as everything's getting tighter and tighter, you're seeing things differently. So, it's important to keep your ideas flexible, the styles flexible, just make sure everything's coming through organically. So the next step, I want to maybe start thinking about other details, drop shadows, any other extra details I want to add in, and you just want to evaluate where you are with your layout and add in what's necessary. Well I'm not liking how these swatches the way they work in this area, because they seem too busy like these and I want them to be a little bit more structured. So, I wanted to use the same space, we'll see. Maybe something like that. Okay. So now, I'm thinking about where I could maybe add a drop shadow. So one issue I know a lot of letters have with drop shadows, is making sure all the angles are lining up. So you can do it on the computer and fake it, or not fake it, but it looks more correct because you can duplicate it and make sure it's lining up. But if you're drawing it in, it's really just a matter of maybe muscle memory or just making sure that your hand is angling down at the same angle as everything else. So, I'm just drawing these little hatches, all at the same angle, same length or as close to it as possible, and if you run into something then either that needs to be adjusted or the depth of your drop shadow needs to be adjusted. But I think this is basically where I want it to be. There's a few things that you can fix when you're in inking stage, but it's easier to move around in the computer. I would potentially move down just a tiny little movement, hardly anything worth redrawing at all for. You can get away with a lot of things like that but as long as you're aware of it, you can either make a note of it after you're done sketching things you want to address in the computer. So, I know this is starting to look like a revised sketch, but really this is still at a messy rough stage. So, the next step, I want to take this and do the same thing again, where I take another sheet of paper, and I know it's a lot, but it's the only way to get the best clean drawing you can. It's just by repetition drawing it, because you're always seeing something new when you're approaching it with a fresh sheet of paper. I think this is at a good place now, if I start working on it more it's just going to start getting more messy and convoluted. So, I'm going to put another sheet of paper, and really create a nice clean revised drawing. So that when I do get to the inking stage, all the decisions have been made and I can focus on a nice clean drawing. 7. Refining Your Drawing: Okay. So, now I'm going to start a revised sketch on a fresh sheet of paper. So, I don't need my rough sketch. But now you can kind of start to see how it's progressing and little things kind of getting revised and corrected as I go along. So, I'm just going to review what I want to kind of pay close attention to. So, I do think that always I think this curve should be a little corrected. I don't think the top of the S should be so exaggerated like that. So, I might fix that, already making that quick change is making a lot better. At this stage, I could move it down a little bit. So I can kind of just make little notes that I'll be able to see when I have the light pad on, just to make sure that everything is getting addressed that I would like addressed. So, let's turn the light pad on. So, really, I just want to make sure that everything's kind of getting nice, crisp, clean drawing that I can scan in and when I'm working on this antique I know all I have to really do is focus on the drawing, focus on the line weights, and not have to worry about moving so much stuff around. Because while you can kind of make small adjustments, it's better to have everything addressed at the sketch phase. So like I did before, I'm just going to flow everything in kind of lightly and then I'll turn off the light pad and work in more detail. But so long as I kind of build everything up really slowly, the layout and the drawing are still flexible for me to make those kind of revisions that maybe needed. Now, I'm going to continue just kind of filling in the right details but now without all the extraneous pencil sketch lines it's looking crisper and it's easier for me to see where things should be tighter or where edits need to be made. Because sometimes, when you see too many pencil sketch lines, it kind of like romanticizes the drawing and it makes a little harder to see when there's errors. So, then when you get to inking and it is all crisp and clear you're finally seeing like oh actually this letter was kind of wonky all along but on the pencil sketch with all the sketch lines it kind of actually looked kind of quaint and cool and if that's something that you want to do in your final, you'll have to just kind of figure out a way to emulate that kind of texture. But more often than not it's just looks kind of incorrect and just make sure that you're always doing a revised drawing and that's kind of why it's so important to do that. Now, I'm just going to go ahead and fill in the inline details so that I have that to follow when I'm doing the final. Always fixing the angles of the letters to make sure that the N line is fitting in there nice and evenly. I do feel tempted to put some squashes here but I think I was right at the beginning where I think filling it in with this kind of textured pattern will fill in those spaces without feeling like every single space needs to be addressed, because I have so much going on around the edges. The border is the only thing that I really need to address and since it's so organic it kind of takes some trial and error to get it just right to how I'm envisioning it but now I think the drawing is at a better spot to bring it in and start thinking it up. 8. Digitizing Your Drawing: So, now that I have my revised sketch, I was able to take a picture with my phone or you can scan it in, or if you're inking on paper, choose your tools and materials and everything like that. I'm working on my sen teek and I'm going to be drawing this in Photoshop. So, what I basically did was just kind of prepare my sketch, I put it in. I added guides for the border, a little bit of bleed, and I basically just put on top a opacity just a full bleed white, so it's not super bright and I can draw on top of it. I always make sure you're working on layers. Right now, I'm just going to be focusing on inking in black. I don't want to get into color right away. If I'm going to be working in a different layer or something I know is going to be a different color, I might shift it to gray just so I know it's a different layer and just thinking about it in terms of that. But I'm not going to get into color right away. But I do have my mood board nearby so I'm thinking of it as I draw along because I'm really not making any decisions, I'm just focusing on drawing and I can think about whatever I want now. So, I chose my brush. I have a whole bunch of brushes to choose from. I basically like to choose a brush that's as close to the kind of tool I typically use, and I can just control the weight of the tool on my computer. So I'm going just start with the lettering, because I know I have that down path and all work with the border and everything after that. So, I just want to adjust the texture, because I know I wanted to have a really hand drawn look, obviously it is hand drawn even though I'm drawing in the computer. But I just want to make those adjustments so I know I want like a nice crunchy line. So, if you're working with pen and ink and you do want the line waits to shift, keep in mind what kind of tool you're using. So, if you're using a micron, maybe you use a finer weight micron for finer lines and a heavier weight, that way you can control the line weight much easier rather than having the like draw in heavy line weights which can come out very inconsistent line weight quality. So, it is important to zoom out make sure everything is on track and you can make adjustments as you go along like this, you could probably be a little skewed it over. Now, I'm going to add the inline details and then we can get to the border and other drop shadows. Now, the inline detail I wouldn't do the same weight as the outline because you just wouldn't really want it to be competing like that. Because this is going to be maybe different color or- yes, so this is also on a different layer. But you want it to not stand out as much as the outline. Always just make sure the inline is following the same angles as the letters and the same curves of the letters. So, when it looks off it's just going to look like there's something wobbling around inside your letter like it's loosened and not really attached to it, and this is when we're going to start kind of filling in very quick colors. I'm going to add a fill to this, but I'm just going to make it a light gray. Now, I'm going to select it all and drag it down. This is what I was trying to talk about before about how you can fake adding drop shadows, and then connect the corners to each of the filled lines. This way they're all consistent and you can make sure that it's looking good visually and it also looks as close to accurate as possible. Sometimes you have to fudge it a little bit. Yes, so each time I add something, especially since I'm not deciding on color right now, everything is on its own layer. So, it's really important to make sure all the layers are separated, that way when you do go into changing colors, you have that option to make whatever layer a different color. So, like the end lines like those can be a different color, and even if I wanted like the O and E to be different, the same color but different from the D and N, make those on a different layer as well. That keeps everything organized and a lot easier to edit especially if you're working with a client and they want very specific things shifted in color. First, before I do the border, I'm going to experiment with putting a drop line under impossible because I would like to maybe draw a little bit more attention to it. I can all happen with color, but I just want to make sure I'm exploring all options that are in front of me on this stage. I'm going to probably try a few more options for the border until I find one that I'm satisfied with, but I think the heavier line weight is working a little better and the amount of space that fills up is working. So, I'm going to start trying to- well, I'm going to finish up the background texture, a few more edits, and then we'll jump into color. 9. Adding Color to Your Piece: Before I jump into color, I just want to talk through a couple things that I did while I was inking. I was making sure that I was keeping all the lettering on the same curve, fixing any awkward letterforms and making sure that the layout was also balanced. While the border still needs some tweaking, I don't think it's so over the top where it's interfering with the lettering. I think once we start adding color that will help a great deal in how the border works with the lettering. So, there's probably still a few more little background texture pattern to work in. But once everything comes into color, it'll become more clear what kind of changes need to be made. But you can see the sketch behind here. So, I think a few things have moved, but pretty much everything is right on track. It's always good to zoom out, take a second look, like right now. I didn't notice this before but this D is probably floating away from the O, so I'm going to just bring it back in a little bit. Just make sure if you do move stuff around, you have to grab everything and keep it all centered. Much better. Okay. So, to make fill letters, we're going to basically do the same thing we did when we were adding drop shadows. Select the inside, expand it. Really, I'm just going to just fill it for now. Okay. So, now everything has a fill, and I'll just be able to start plugging in colors and start making some decisions. So, I'm going to create a new layer and I'm going to look back at my mood board, and look at the colors that were getting my attention. One of the colors that I really liked was this combination of yellow and pink. Yellow has this sense of urgency and pink cools it down. I think that fits in with the concept of the quote. I also really like this cream color with a lot of bright colors on top of it. Basically, keeping it all mostly neutral. So, I might be using a really dark navy blue for either maybe even the background or maybe the outline of the lettering. So, let's just see what the cream looks like. That looks pretty lousy with gray, but we're going to be changing that shortly. I'll choose a slightly more saturated green. Save. Always save. The way I just choose colors is just by going into the layer style and choosing color overlay. That way, I can choose colors in real time and make decisions like that. This deep pink is catching my attention, orangish color. When I'm choosing colors, right away, I just put everything in categories. So, right now, it's like all the drop shadows, I'm just going to make this orangey pink. Then, let me try a bright yellow for the lettering. So, once I've assigned colors to everything, then I can go ahead and make like maybe It, Seems, and It's will be maybe not yellow, they can be their own little color category or I can change all the colors and Done to all different kinds of colors. Just want to see what the outline would look like in maybe like a dark navy. Now, I'm not liking that pink next to it, but that's what how it happens. Same with your drawing, you want the colors to just stay flexible. If you really are feeling stuck, refer back to your mood board and make sure that you're hitting the kind of colors that were inspiring your piece from the start. If you are feeling stuck on color, start making different iterations of your color. That way you can say, "Oh, I did like that cream color." Before you start making so many different kinds of versions of color within one file, it makes it really hard to go back and think like, "Oh, what was that exact color I was using?" So, it might be a good idea to start saving different file versions, and you can work from there rather than constantly changing, changing, changing. So I'm going to go back to a cream. When you are working with drop shadows, depending on the background color, is really when you decide if you're going to be working on a light drop shadow color or a dark drop shadow color, because you really want it to stand out, make the lettering stand out. If your drop shadow is standing out, then it's probably not going to be effective. So, right now, it would probably be beneficial if maybe the outline was a little darker. If I wanted to keep this blue drop shadow or I always like when the drop shadow is just a few shades little darker than the background, that way it really acts as a shadow and just really subdued, and the lettering stands out the most. Drop lines, you can have a little bit more fun with because they're much more subtle. But it also, if you do feel you wanted to be really plain and not plain, just a little more simple and subdued, adding the drop line detail like what we had in the sketch, it can help bring a little bit more detail and fun to the drop shadow. Another fun thing you can do with drop shadows is adding a dimensional color to it. So, just create a clipping mask and basically draw over it, and you want the shaded part to go either under or on the side. You just figure out how you want that dimension to work where you want your shadows to be, but this creates a really neat graphic look to your lettering. It can really make a drop shadow stand out and also be pretty effective. So, this is getting close to done. I'm going to work up two or three more color options, sleep on it, and get back to which I'm going to pick tomorrow morning. 10. Closing: I hope you enjoyed my process of self critique from starting a project from start to finish, as well as looking my past projects and critiquing them, all keeping in mind awkward letter forms, mismatched styles, unbalanced compositions, style mismatch from concept, and extraneous drop shadows, washes, and details. I hope you can use the critiques we learned in this class in your own work, and please, I encourage everyone to use the critiques in the community, and on everyone else's projects. So, happy critiquing. 11. BONUS: Revising Existing Work: So this is the example that I use that I'm going to be fixing some of the issues that we talked about. I'm working on a light pad. I have a print out of my old lettering and a sheet of paper that I'm going to be using to redraw it. So, at this stage, I just want to get the basic layout down because the layout I'm not as concerned about is just some of the things like reworking the way the lettering works in the layout and addressing some of those issues like this S here, and just some of the spacing and style of birthday. But that's pretty much it. I'm pretty happy with the border. So, we're going to be focusing more on just the lettering itself. So, right off the bat, I'm noticing N now, it's just pretty big and it really doesn't need to be that big. Just for your is something that I'd probably want to call out more. So, I'm just going to lightly going right on top of that lettering just basically make N now a little bit more spaced out and a little simpler. It doesn't need a drop shadow, it doesn't need that much attention to it. I have these little florets on the sides. Maybe it doesn't even need that and I could just do something small simple dashes. The banners I feel like they're awkward. I don't really like the way it just barely touches the banner for birthdays, so maybe that's something I'm going to also address just basically work a little bit more organicly in the composition. So now that I'm pretty much focused on looking at this piece more critically and I'm already noticing new things, it might be a good idea to go back in and start making notes of things that you wanted to address early on. That way you don't forget those issues as well. So, if you're working on a large sheet of paper like I am here, you can just make notes on the side or you can make it on your original print out. So, I'm just going to quickly like S and just make these really small notes like the second one and the third one need to be changed. So, I'm going to continue fixing this border, just try and make that curve a little smoother. Anytime you have curves and goals, you want to make sure that the curves are smooth, the angles are parallel. It looks like the angle like stupendous actually looks like that curve is pretty well done, it's just the way the lettering works in it that isn't working and making it look awkward. Again, as you go along, you just notice things that it's like, oh why did you even do that in the first place? Like for so tiny whereas like this is all small, it's probably better for readability just to keep them all the same size because sometimes you change the sizes too often, it just really ends up making it look messy rather than just spending more time in detail on the words that are good like birthday, magnificent, and stupendous. So, I'm going to quickly just roughen the angles that I do like and do think are working. I think at this stage, it's probably better to just get the format and put the guides in and basically because I have so many banners and everything's on a curve, it's probably better to get those down first and that can be really helpful when you're working on your lettering anyway. Just to make sure that everything spaced out right and then you can fit the lettering into the layout as you see fit. So, I pretty much just filled in the banners and where the lettering goes and now I can see what is going to fit better. One of the things I really wanted to change was the way the one and only fit into this space down here. Because we still want attention to it, but, in the original layout, I feel like it just fell really crammed in there and didn't have the same energy as everything else on the page, on the lap. Also it can be really beneficial to work on several different sheets of paper because if you're satisfied with the way the banners and the guys are working, you can also throw another sheet of paper on top of that not using the original layout and now you're working off the guides that you had set down. So when you don't have the original layout to use as reference, you're not so much starting from scratch but you have the layout and now you can really fix the lettering rather than going back and like maybe the counter form here is a little small and maybe this C in the E are little close here and you can really start to notice these things more. Now I can feel more confident to move forward with a fresher eye. So, now that I have my layout in, I'm going to start putting the lettering and really lightly, so I can make adjustments as I go along. So, I'm getting to the point where I'm trying to find where it's going to fit in best and obviously the swash of the S isn't helping anybody. So I think I'd really like to just keep it, just simple just like the above magnificent, oh and I forgot the exclamation point. Always remember grammar. Now that I'm not going to have the giant swash of this S interfering with it, it just live here pretty simply rather than calling so much attention to it. But now if I do want to make S bigger because I do think that could be fun, it doesn't need to be so thick and bold and stand out from the rest of the world. So, I have my layout and I can just see it really lightly without using the light pad and sometimes that keeps the drawing a little bit more flexible. 12. BONUS: Revising Existing Work II: Now, I need to figure out where the one and only goes. I wasn't happy with my original sketch, so I think I'm going to maybe work one and only on an angle. Fit that, and again, very simply. I think the reason I felt like I needed to move the around everywhere is because it comes up so many times, like three the's in a row feels like it looks too repetitive, but I swear, it's much simpler if you just keep them all the same level importance rather than feeling like you need to move it around. But I am going to draw a little bit more attention to one and only by making it work a little bit more on the angle because I still want to work with this space, but this open space here isn't really doing anything for the layout other than making it feel really unbalanced. Because right here, it's feeling really balance and I have these banners, maybe working it in or a banner can be an option. Always remember, if you feel like the lettering is starting to drop off, if you're working on an angle, always put guides in. I always like to keep a small ruler handy. That way you know that's pretty spot on. It's nice when that works out. Just to draw it guys so you know you're working at the angles are all parallel. The other thing I think I would like to address in this layout is just because these words are so long that I actually think working with a thick thin lettering style with these serifs might not be the best option. I think you can still get this vintage style across with the sans serif and also just make it a lot easier to read, and maybe even still be able to fit in a drop shadow. So I'm going to make the lettering style slightly simpler because the layout and the banners and the colors and everything are so busy. But I'm still going to make the S have a little bit more character, but I'm going to make it the same weight as the rest of the word because that's when it really starts to make more sense than this. It almost looks like this stupendous, which is not a word. So now that I have the lettering working in the layout a little better, I'm going to start drawing in the rest of the guidelines on my fresh sheet of paper so I can put this other drawing paper aside and really start focusing on revising this one drawing. Now, I have the basic structure of my entire drawing, and from here, I can also continue making some more revisions, and also start to think about how I'm going to add the details back in like the extra swashes and how I want the banners to look. Also, just make sure everything's on the right line. Yeah. When you're working on your revised drawing, whether this is going to be the final revised sketch you make or if you're going to make another sketch after this, you always want to just make sure that you're trying to be as crisp and concise as possible, because after this, you're going to get to the inking stage and you don't want to focus on having to like, okay, I need to make sure that I'm making these changes as you're inking because that's when you really want to just focus on the way you're drawing rather than making decisions on the drawing. Okay, so I have my lettering with the weight added to rough in. But now I'm going to just fill in how I want the swashes to work. Because here I felt like it was a little inconsistent and not really something I would want to do in my work. I don't think these vertical lines are really helping anything to just break up the flow. But what I did add was I really liked all the three super important words in these banners. So rather than just having this look like it's on an arc fitting that in this banner and calling it out a little bit more with color rather than this drop shadow which when you have a really long word and the letters are really condensed, adding a drop shadow like this I think just looks awkward. So I'm going to eliminate that drop shadow altogether. But rather than just leaving it and maybe having the middle look really light, I'm going to be putting it in this banner. So, I think that's going to be a big improvement. So I fix this S and just made it fit in with the rest of the style of the letters rather than this big heavy swash on the end of the S. I might want to make a little bit more upright. You don't want it to become not legible. I'm going to fill in these spaces with some simple swashes. So as you see on this original one, I have a bunch of different styles that I'm working with. These are even really hard to see, but I have like some swirls right here and then it's different from this one which gets a little bit more extra weight and then these lines. So I'm going to keep it really consistent so that they just fall back into the background but add that character and detail that I liked from my initial inspiration. The one and only, I really like it on an angle because that's like how you would read it, which I think is kind of fun and the one and only is like you on your birthday. Happy birthday. Now, that I've changed that, it feels more important to the layout, not just something that was forgotten and pushed to the end. It's like there's four more words on this thing. Now, it feels like everything works a little bit more harmoniously. As you can see, something that was like kind of okay, there still a lot of things you can change. While they're subtle changes, they're all really important to make the drawing a lot better. I think this is now in a better spot. Although the sketch obviously looks a little rough, with the revised sketch, we'll be able to fix those issues and it'll look really tight to bring it into ink drawing and finalizing and color. 13. What's Next?: way.