Lettering for Designers: One Drop Cap Letterform at a Time | Jessica Hische | Skillshare

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Lettering for Designers: One Drop Cap Letterform at a Time

teacher avatar Jessica Hische, Letterer and 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.



    • 3.

      What is Lettering?


    • 4.



    • 5.

      Upload, Share, and Critique


    • 6.

      Sketching Tips


    • 7.

      Initial Sketching


    • 8.

      Choosing a Direction


    • 9.

      Drop Cap #1


    • 10.

      Drop Cap #2


    • 11.

      Letterform Basics


    • 12.

      Plotting Vector Points


    • 13.



    • 14.

      Explore Design on Skillshare


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About This Class

The foundation of all lettering is understanding how to create just one beautiful letter.

In this popular class, learn how to create beautiful letters and alphabets by starting with the simplest possible project: making a single letter! You'll join acclaimed letterer and illustrator Jessica Hische as she walks through her personal lettering process and share tips and tricks from throughout her stunning career, ranging from personal projects like "Daily Drop Cap" and "Should I Work For Free" to opening title sequences for Wes Anderson.

You’ll learn how to:

  • Sketch your ideas to create a solid foundation for your design
  • Digitize your work in illustrator, including using handlebars and vector points
  • Identify what makes a letter look organic and replicate it in your own work
  • Critique your work to get those solid finishing touches (even perfect curves)

After finishing this class, you will have a finished drop cap letter and a full arsenal of tools to create perfect letters that will feel natural and look amazing for every project and style.

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Jessica Hische

Letterer and Illustrator


Jessica Hische is a letterer, illustrator, and self-described "avid internetter." After graduating with a degree in Graphic and Interactive Design from Tyler School of Art, she worked for Headcase Design in Philadelphia before taking a position as Senior Designer at Louise Fili Ltd. While working for Louise, Jessica also maintained a busy freelance career, and, after two and a half years of little sleep and a lot of lettering, she left to further her freelance career and embark on several personal projects.

Jessica has become as well known for her side projects as she has for her client work. While she doesn't consider herself a web designer, many of her personal projects are web-centric. Her project Daily Drop Cap is probably the reason you first stumbled across her work, and sh... See full profile

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1. Introduction: My name is Jessica Hische. I'm a letter, and illustrator, and sometimes type designer. I live between San Francisco and Brooklyn. For the most part, I've to spend working on my own since 2009. So we're going to start with something small, something that seems a lot more doable than illustrating all the lyrics to your favorite Smashing Pumpkins song. So, we're just going to start with one letter because that's really the basis of any word. It's just a single letter. From there, you can just do anything, really. So, in this class, I'm going to be going through my process from research, to brainstorming, to sketching, to finalizing and digitizing plus criticizing your own work. I made this class based on my Project Penguin Drop Caps, which Penguin Books made whole classic series based on my Daily Drop Cap series that I did online. Each book, the cover is just a giant letter. The letter is based on the author's last name. So, we're gonna talk about how you guys can actually make your own drop cap based on your own favorite book and you'll be able to see how I do it start to finish and replicate that process on your own. 2. Research: So, hello Skillshares. Here's a little overview of what we're going to do in lesson one. So, lesson one is going to see blankets a little fluffier than it actually is, but it's actually one of the most important parts of the whole process of this project, and the whole process of any project that you're going to take on in the future in terms of lettering work, and that is research. This project that we are going to be doing, is you're actually taking a book that is your favorite book, and you're actually going to read that book. It's important that you read it. Because as much as you can gather, a lot of awesome like factual surface information by reading Spark Notes or whatever other notes website that you use. You can't really cheat that. Well, when you're doing something as abstract as a letter on a book cover, I can actually tell you that four Penguin Drop Caps, every single time that I tried to skate by and not read the book just because the timing was too tight or something, my sketches got denied, and I wouldn't even tell the art director that it wasn't, that I hadn't read the book or something. I just can't get there unless I actually do the research and get the vibe right for the book. So, one of the reasons why I really wanted to start you guys on this project instead of doing a poster of your favorite band lyric or some random inspirational phrase that you guys have heard of before, is because, doing a poster like a finalized piece of art that you're going to hang on your wall can be really intimidating. I have a Google Doc just full of random phrases that I like heard over time that I would love to future make a lettering poster about, but I just haven't done because it's much more intimidating to start a final piece of artwork than it is to start something that's more experimental. There are some like the orangey, like once I was a big G, now lowercase g or whatever, that is totally going to be a lettered thing that I will do at some point with lowercase g and big G's just wait for it. So, the great thing about this project, the Penguin Drop camps in general is that it was sort of modeled after something that I did as an experimental way to mess with lettering and to make myself do lettering every single day. I'm really excited to get you guys in on this letter by letter basis because the thing that's the most important about lettering is actually practicing. You can't just dive in and do your best piece of artwork the first time that you do it. You just need to find reasons to actually do it. So, giving yourself a project that's small and accomplishable and something that you can do in a couple of days, in the case of my daily job cap project, I would do a single letter every single day for 12 alphabets, and that was how I was able to practice lettering even when I wasn't getting hired to do lettering. That project, even though it was just for fun side project, ended up bringing in most of the lettering side work that I ended up doing. I was getting consistent work as an illustrator but it wasn't until that project that people actually started knowing me to be a letterer. So sometimes, you just need a project just to get yourself working, just to get some pieces on your website so that people can see that you're actually interested in doing this first. My daily job cap project ended up being what brought about the Penguin Drop Caps project. They had seen it years ago. In the end, this entire classic series was made based on my original project. So, you guys are going to be able to do in your own way sort of continuing the Penguin Drop Cap series, and I think that you should get creative with the titles that you decide to bring into the Penguin Classics library. First of all, what you absolutely do want to do is pick a book that you like or that you're reading right now. Sometimes it's more challenging to actually pick something that you don't quite understand, or something that was always a challenge that you wanted to read it in high school and never did or faked your way through it in high school or something, and things that are the hardest to do or stuff that don't have a ton of story to them. So, if you want to give yourself a little bit of an easier time, pick something with a lot going on. I suggest like there's a ton going on in Jane Eyre. If you want to fun read that will also impress people, Jane Eyre is kind of a good book to do. There's just a lot of story. Or anything by Dickens. Dickens is full of stuff. It's just stuff happening all the time. But if you want to do something that's a little bit more challenging and a bit more abstract, you can pick a more kind of a serial. Something that's about the human condition or something like that. Anyway, people will think you're really smart. Alternatively, if you don't actually want to do a book, make something for your mom. Moms are always good to make stuff for, they like that. Make something about your pet. I know that you love your pet more than any person loves anything, but I do recommend, reading is always good for you, so do that. At least read a third of the book, and if you read a third to half of a book, you can get a really good sense of the setting and the tone and what some of the characters are doing, and then you can do some like Wikipediaing afterwards to pull up any sort of key facts that might have happened. I like to do my research and my execution on very different days. If you separate your research from your sketching, from your execution, what you're going to sort of naturally do is edit out all of the cheesiness that would have come if you're on a crazy deadline and had to do it all in one day, because it's natural to have terrible ideas, like you should have terrible ideas, write out all of your terrible ideas. Allow yourself to be an idiot in your sketchbook. Your sketch book is for you and you alone, it is not some artists book, it is for you. So, let yourself just go nuts in it and don't censor yourself. Because sometimes, you're weird cheesy ideas lead to really good ideas. So, it's just good to be able to get it all out and to not have to rely on something necessarily that was your first round idea. So, as you're reading, make sure that you're taking notes as you go along because if you wait till the very end you're going to forget some cool stuff or you're going to forget that random side idea that you had while you were reading it that could turn into something really personal and crazy later. So, for my project, I'm actually going to be doing a cover for a book that I recently read, Ender's Game, which I'm sure many of you are fans of because you are all nerds and awesome. So, that's where we're going to start. 3. What is Lettering?: So, before I dive in too deep I should probably give you guys a little explanation about actually what lettering is, in case you don't know for sure. A lot of people use the word "Type" to mean basically everything within the typographic world. Typography, in general, is the art of actually setting type. So, like really beautiful brochures, really beautiful posters, and everything, where you're working with fonts and typesetting them, and making beautiful graphic design, is typography. Typography is incredibly important, and it's a vital part about graphic design, but it's not necessarily what people thought are letters do. So, lettering, is sort of a subset within the type world, that is, it can be similar to like confused with calligraphy rather, but there's a big difference between the two. In that calligraphy, is writing, and lettering is drawing. So, a lot of the work that I do is very calligraphic, and a lot of people confuse it with calligraphy. But it's a very, very different way of working. So with calligraphy, it's all that is it came couple of styles over and over again, so that you develop this like really perfect muscle memory with your hands, so that next time when you're hired to do someone's wedding invitation or some fancy certificate or something like that, you can just do beautiful Spencerian script first time off perfectly. It takes years and years and years of training to be efficient and good as a calligrapher. Then there's type design, which is actually making typefaces. So, fonts and type design are very different from lettering. So, what type designers do is create systems of letters. They draw like at a very minimum 52 characters, but usually closer to 200 something like that just to get the basic accented characters and punctuation and what not in there and what they have to do is make letters that work in endless combinations together, no matter who is using them. With lettering when I draw a word, I draw a word. If you write me and say "I love that L that you drew, can you like can you send me the D?" That D doesn't exist. I don't draw alphabets for everything. I draw custom pieces of artwork for the specific thing that I'm hired to do or that I hire myself to do or whatever. So, that's really the difference. Letters get to work in a lot of different styles and gets do really crazy stuff, because we don't have to worry about how that V is going to interact with some upside down question mark down the line, we can do whatever we want. So, that's why these projects are super fun because you can get really experimental. It's important to know your history and as much as I say that you can like anything goes with lettering, there's certain things that you can't do. You sort of do have to follow the historical models quite a bit, just because, otherwise there will be some funkiness in your art, and you can't put your finger on it, and everyone else will be like, "That just looks a little weird." It's usually always because you're breaking some basic rule that the calligraphers created or the scribes created when they first started drawing these letters. The analogy that I came up with for that is like because I get a lot of people that write me and say, "Well, now that we work digital and that we're not working by hand, we can we can do anything with letters. We can make them upside down, we can make them backwards." I equate it to like, technically, you can take a person, and you can take their eye and just move it just a little bit over this way and like, technically it would still be an eye, and technically it would still work, but everyone would look at that person and be like something's messed up with that person's face. I can tell. You know and that that's something that we're used to looking at each other, so we can look at it and say, "Your eye is in a weird spot." But with letters, some people just don't stare at letters quite as much as people like me, and they'll look at an A with reversed stress on the A, so like an A for instance, you're always going to have your upstroke is going to be thin and your downstroke is going to be thick, you see a lot of this going on. A lot of people will look at that A and say, "Something is not quite right, I don't know what's not right about it." It's always because people are breaking some like inherent rule that's just a part of calligraphy. So, letters, we do all sorts of crazy stuff to letters, but we don't break the rules that hardcore, at least the ones that respect the letters 4. Brainstorming: Actually, I got an idea. Okay. So, as you guys can see, we're now in the, Jessica writes down insane things into her sketchbook, stage of the process. So these, my sketchbooks are precious to me, and usually, I actually do a lot of my brainstorming just in random pieces of paper and stuff like that, because I would look like a crazy, schizophrenic person if anybody actually discovered these, and just have found my lists of Christmas, Christmas bells, Christmas whatever, and it's just like pages and pages and pages of nonsense, I'd just look like this crazy person. So, for Ender's Game here, we've got Orson Scott Card is our author. C obviously, would be the letter that we're working with, so I'm just going to put a C on my page just for who knows why? Maybe it will lead to something later. Now, I'm just going to write down literally anything that comes to mind, anything, even if it's the stupidest thing that has ever entered your mind under the sun, you're going to write it down, even if you're thinking about how you have to feed your dog later, or how your dad left a passive-aggressive stuff like note on your door or something, write that down, because that might have something to do with how you felt while you were reading that book, and you can incorporate it in some really weird, creepy way later. You will get it and the art director will get it, and no one else will get it, but it will be special because of that. So, for Ender's Game, I usually and probably just going to start with some super basic facts. I'll write down the authors or not the authors, the characters names, things that I might feel that I thought about why I was thinking about the characters, like for instance, there's of course, Ender, there's Peter, his brother who's a major protagonists or antagonists or whatever, Valentine, his sister, children, space, buggers, aliens, spaceship. You can see how this would get really crazy really fast, zero gravity, flash suit. Also, I'm going to tell you if you have not read Ender's Game, this will ruin it for you, spoiler wise, so just be prepared. So, if you're going to see the movie, I'm about to say some things. So anyway, hive, Queen bee. So, I'm thinking about this C, and one of the features of the actual ship is the fact that, these ships are sort of shaped in a circle way, and that's how they create gravity through centrifugal or centripetal force, how we say that. So, Ender talks at a point in the book, how there's all the pathways, always look like they're going up because you're on these circular ships, so maybe there's something that I can do, where it's like Ender running around the sea. So, I'm going to write, the ship gravity, there's a lake scene that's really powerful. You get the drift. Just write down everything, you'll have pages and pages of notes if you loved the book, if you didn't love the book you'll be like, hair, tree, you'll be writing down things that are just like stupid, but, this is why it's important, read the book take notes while you're working, and then give yourself a breath, give yourself a minute. Take a day, sit on it, don't do anything, and then go back to your notebook and really just let your mind wander and say whatever you want. All right. So, based on a lot of crazy writing down of things, also Wikipedia rabbit holding, which I very much recommend while you are brainstorming because sometimes you end up discovering random things that you never would have discovered, and that's how learning happens. I've come up with a few different options. So, one of the things that stood out to me in the book, is this like at the end of the book the Buggers and they are trying to communicate with Ender and he finds this like pod full of larva, and it's up to him to find a place to basically rebirth this nation of Buggers that he destroyed by accident because he didn't know that he was actually destroying it. So, it's kind of like a super powerful symbol, and I feel like we got a C, it's a very round thing, it's like pod of stuff with like maybe like one little Bugger crawling out, could be something that's super cool. So, I've bookmarked that as a thing to explore I will do some thumbnails on that one. I also like the idea of the kids being these really small people against this huge enemy. So, maybe there's something where the C is just really imposing item and then you just see this little tiny ship that you know is occupied by a little kid or something just like right at the entrance of the sea, so that could be something that could be really cool. Then, also there's all these sort of like, back on Earth, there's these stuff happening with like the Warsaw pact and with Russia, and this symbol of this double-headed eagle kept coming up when I was looking, and the double-headed eagle means like authority over religion and secular stuff for a state to have. So, in the book there's this huge push the beginning, how everyone's religions are basically like super harsh harsh and if you do practice your religion, you'll not do it openly, and then, he and one of the other characters in the book have this like exchange where he says salaam to him and it's like basically a very not conscious thing to do. So, the double-headed eagle could be a really awesome thing to explore when I'm doing my sketches as well, so I think there's some good stuff going on enough to definitely get me going with my sketches. So, I think for now I'm going to table this, I'm going to sit on it, I'm going to sleep on it, I'm going to think if anything comes to mind what I would do later, or let me have a crazy weird dream tonight, and maybe come up with something totally bizarre, but this is definitely a good start for brainstorming. 5. Upload, Share, and Critique: Obviously, you guys now are ready to roll with your sketches. So, what I want you to do is, take your time, look at all of your brainstorming. I recommend sketching on a different day, then you brainstorm. What I usually do is I'll do like, sort of my last minute reading and my going over Wikipedia staff the night before I sketch, and make sure that I have all my brainstorming ready to roll, and that maybe I even have a couple of loose ideas of what I want to do, and then I save my sketching for the morning because I find that I'm the freshest in the morning with my sketches. So, if you guys want, you can actually upload several versions of your sketches for the other students to give feedback on. You might have a couple that you're in love with and you might want to get some feedback, and I recommend that if you do that, you definitely post with your notes. Talking about the thought behind your process, just so that you can get the best feedback for your sketches. But if you've got an awesome friend in the room and you guys are having a work party, and you guys just want to do it that way, feel free to just roll within, pick your favorite sketch as is. Outside feedback is always good, so what's really nice about these skillshare things is that, you guys are all working together, and posts in your work. So, peer feedback is kind of the best ever. So, I would recommend just like definitely putting your work in front of a lot of people's eyes, because they're going to see stuff that you've never seen before. If you're in art school now, I'm sure there's going to be like the critique ruiners in the group to say that everything looks like a hot dog or something like that. So, I definitely recommend like always getting outside feedback, even if it's just like to see if your friend can rate it as a C, or see if your friend sees any weird sexual, like penises in it anywhere that you didn't see before because there will be those. Believe me, they're everywhere. It definitely worthwhile having a little bit of overseeing. 6. Sketching Tips: I use the same sketchbook every single time. I'm a believer in having a sketchbook that is sizable. None of these like little tiny small skins just because you end up just like micro-working. I actually know a lot of folks that just refuse to do sketches in sketchbooks, just because they feel they are not getting really precious with their drawings, and that they can't explore the way that they would if it was just throwaway paper. So, my studio-mate, Eric Renovic who is another letterer, he doesn't use sketchbooks really at all, he just uses them when he travels. Instead he has a roll of a tracing paper on his desk, and he just pulls it out, draws on it, tears it off, moves on, pulls it out, draws on it, tears it off moves on. What that really allows him to do, is to be really loose in his iterations. So, my sketches look really tight but I do like to loose under-sketches when I'm working. This is just how I end up sketching. So, if you actually page through my sketchbook, things look really finalized and crazy, but I draw it really lightly first, and then draw on top of my sketches to actually finalize them. So, this scratch, for instance, is really crazy. I ended up going overboard a little bit. I think it's just because I was tired of being on the computer that day. So, usually my sketches aren't quite as resolved as the sketches, but I was actually in the end really happy that I ended up going above and beyond because this is very much like a giant committee of people deciding on stuff and doing a little work ahead of time, actually makes a big difference. So, I'll show you guys a few of my sketches and I'll actually talk about some of the sketches that I had done for the Penguin series as well. It'll probably be a little hard to see some of this stuff on camera, but sometimes when I'm sketching out, actually I do just these really super-light compositional based sketches, that are just, really for me I'll never scan these. They're just so that when I actually jump on the computer, I can actually just look at my sketchbook and see where things were going. Then, these sketches are some of the ones that I did for Penguin. So, you can see some of my little notes to myself about Steinbeck and whatnot. These are the sketches that I would have showed them to Penguin to get approved to do the finals. So, for this one, there was a series of mystery stories by Queen Ellery. So Q was the letter that I was told to do, and the three options that I showed were all very they're a little cheesy, but I feel like they're classically done cheesy so that works. In the most recent round that I did, I had a lot of fun messing with those, here's my crazy notes. As you can see, these are for paperless post stuff. But, here we have the U for the series and also the W. So, the W is Walt Whitman's leaves of grass, and they were pretty straight forward about what they wanted to see in that. So, one of the options that I showed was based on the original lettering on the original publication of the book but just with a W. So, that's what we ended up going with for that one. Then for the U, it was a book by Sigrid Undset, who is a Norwegian author. The main character Kirsten ends up encountering this fairy lady in the woods and she gives her this golden wreath of flowers to tempt her away from her normal life. So, there's an option that I make, the U entirely out of these flowers, and then there's another one, there's a lot of talk about her golden hair and she ends up in like a convent. I felt like they give so much emphasis to her golden locks. So, I wanted to show an option that was actually just head of hair but turned upside-down tomato into U, but we ended up going for the floral one because I think it was really different visually than everything else in the series. So, sometimes you end up choosing an option, not because it's necessarily your craziest most, whatever concept, but because for the project, it just makes sense. So, sometimes you just have to get over yourself in terms of your own desires for a project knowing that something that is not necessarily at the top of your list is actually better for your client. So, that's why they always tell you don't show the option that you are not happy with because they always pick that option. It's usually, because the one that you're not happy with, is the one that is like the widest like the easiest to love you know. So, the easiest to love is always going to win. So, just so you know that. The way that I end up sketching, like I was saying, is I tend to draw really loosely first. So, if I was going to be drawing a script, I'm not going to dive into my Ender's Game stuff yet, but if I was going to be drawing a script, I'll draw really loosely first just with just crappy big pencil. I have some fancy pencils, but these are the ones that are you don't actually sharpen you just click, so I like that. Just let myself really loosely draw in the structure of the letters, not really thinking about anything major decoration or anything yet, just letting the shape of them take place. So, you can really think about lettering in three different stages. Right. So, it works in the same way like people. So, the lettering is made up of a skeleton which is the bare bone structure of the type. So, if you took this big fat juicy type, and stripped away all the weight, it would still have this backbone to it that gives it a lot of its general feeling. So, there's the skeleton, and then on top of the skeleton is the body which is the muscle and meat. It's all that thick juicy weight, and that's how you can have a typeface that comes like 100 weights, but you can still tell that they're all from the same typeface, because they share this shared skeleton. Then on top of that, you have the clothes. So, if you took all my clothes off, you'd still know it was me. It's not like a crazy head-to-toe costume that I'm wearing right now. So, when you think about letters, a lot of people focus first on the clothes instead of focusing on the skeleton or the body. So, you want to really build it from the ground up. Because if you're just concerned about the clothes, then you're going to end up making letters that all feel the same, they'll just have little do-dads that are different between them. So, that's something that I actually noticed a lot with people when they start out doing lettering work, is that they'll be using the same skeleton for all of their work. So, they might make 50 alphabets, but it's all basically the same alphabet just with like, this one has a do-dad on this side and this one has a swash on this side. So, if you start skeleton first, you're going to end up making some really wild changes to your lettering instead of just having it be all surface. So, I'll start by drawing this really loose underpinning of what I want things to be, and then pretend this is for a gift card or something like that. Maybe, I'll even add some swashes, and now if I feel like structurally they're going to be majorly important for later. Then, after I have that, I'll go in and actually decide: Do I want this to be really thick? Do I want it to be more thin and elegant? Am I going to have a lot of these swashes that ended up making up a lot of the character of it. So, in this case, I might go ahead and thicken this guy up a good amount, but there is a limit to what I can do just because I want it to still be legible. There's not a client alive that doesn't want your lettering to be incredibly legible. So, just say that that's an important thing to you from the get-go, and you will be awesome. With our letters that we're making for our book covers, you should pretty much be able to recognize it as a letter even if you get pretty crazy because we're so used to looking at letter forms, that unless you're doing something really quite bizarre, you're going to be able to notice that a C is a C, and D is a D. There are a few letter forms for the drop cap series where I did get a little bonkers. I think because you see them in context of the other covers, they're more legible. So, legibility can be about contexts. So, after I have my thicks and thins drawn in here, then I'll go in and actually refine the edges of my drawing if I want to. If I'm going to show this to a client, I need to make sure that it looks a bit closer to what the final that I'm going to be doing for them, looks like. But if it's just for me, I can just jump straight to digital from this stage. Clients, you always have to remember you might be working with the best art director under the sun, but ultimately they do have to show your work to somebody that doesn't know art at all. Usually, there's always some some end client on the other end of the line that will make comments about, "Why is the pencil sketch gray?" You're like, "Because the pencil is grey." So, that definitely does come up, and just be able to talk intelligently about your work. Being able to talk about what you're actually showing on a page, and as I was just going over these conceptual stuff with you, you might do artwork that is okay, but if you can just sell them so much on the thought behind it, you can really push through the idea that you really want. So, for these my sketches, for my Ender's Game cover might not be quite where I want them to be by the time I even show them to the art director. Because the sketch stage for me, is really a time to just play with layout, and maybe there's going to be a lot of detail that I'll add once I'm digital. But if I can send those sketches along, and say "I got this idea about a serpent eating itself and it's rooted in this history," or "I got this double eagle, and I feel that's about their repression with religion." Then, you get the art directors really excited, because what they want to know is that you're thinking about it as much as humanly possible, and that you're really pouring all of yourself, and your heart, and your mind into this project. By refining my sketches, what I would end up doing is just defining my edges. I might actually go in and fill in some of my letters just because really this is something that a lot of people do. They always draw from like an outline instead of drawing as a shape, and it makes your sketches look a lot nicer if you draw from an outline, because you can't see all your crazy spacing mistakes, but drawing with shape actually makes you understand the structure of the letters a lot more. So, if you're talking to type designers, they definitely don't draw the outline of the letters first. They let the type itself grow out of this really loose sketchy-style. So, if I were to draw like how a type designer would draw, I might say, start by really loosely drawing in the structure of this letter, and then defining my edges later as I choose. Feel free to go nuts, and erase, and make changes, and all of a sudden you're like, "Oh! Now I really like this little hokey thing that's going on here, and then I got this flatness and you can let the shapes that emerge just from your sketching affect what you're actually drawing, and it's much easier to actually see what you're doing when you're drawing, and in shape form versus when you're drawing an outline. So, now that I actually have this a colored in, I can see that it's a little too vertical for my taste, and it feels this is a little too precious, and maybe I want to mix that, and maybe this just needs to get a little longer, and I wouldn't have seen that if I hadn't actually properly drawn it out. If we were super old school here, I would make this sketch as perfect as humanly possible because I would be using some crazy machinery to trace it and get it to digitize that way, but since we live in modern ages, we don't need to do that. We can just do it to the level that we want to do it. So anyway, I think sketching is incredibly important. I think it really helps you experiment, because you can get really detailed focused if you just jump straight to digital, and when I was doing daily drop cap, I wouldn't do sketches first, I would just jump to the computer and allow the water to just emerge that way. But I think because of that, there's a lot of repetitions in some of my letters, and I think that if I spent the extra half hour doing sketches first, I'd probably get even weirder and more experimental with my drop caps. So, I do think that it can be really important especially for client work, especially for anything that's meant to be really conceptual to spend a good amount of time letting yourself sketch, and letting yourself experiment, and letting yourself do crappy doodles, and work in the margins and be on the phone and doing little curlicues and stuff like that. Because all of that might affect the work that you do later. 7. Initial Sketching: So, I've got my sketches done and as you guys probably saw, these sketches are not the most beautiful thing you've ever seen someone drawn your life, and the reason is because what we're focused on right now is concept. So, I can of course like if I feel like noodling more and doing more finalized sketch before I jump to vector, I can absolutely do that, and I'm sure as I was flipping through my notebook, you guys saw that a lot of my sketches are more finalized looking. When it comes to doing these book covers and doing stuff like these book covers, what's key first is landing on a concept that I like. So, what I don't want to do is get hung up on little tiny details, I want to focus first on what concept is the strongest, what's going to work the best in the series, what's going to end up translating the best in the medium that I'm working in. So, these sketches are pretty rough, and in the end, if I was working with another art director that didn't trust me quite as well as this art director does, I might have to do a second sketch that's a little bit more refined, but because me and Paul are super sympatico, I can just show him these sketches and he would be ready to go. So, out of my page of nonsense, came four ideas that I was pretty into, and actually, two of these ideas are in the same zone but stylistically a little bit different, so we'll see where that goes. So, one of the ideas that I was exploring is there's a lot of snake references in the book. So, I was thinking about this symbol of the serpent eating its own tail, so that's a pretty famous symbol. I'm sure you guys have seen some crappy tattoo of it a lot of times. So, I did a little research really quickly and just went on Wikipedia to see just make sure my symbol was right, like my meaning behind the symbol was right, and it really stands for recreation and the cyclical nature of things. So, I felt like because there's this war with the buggers that's going on, it's the third time around of the war and there trying not to have the same result. There's also this situation with Russia and it's like war is such a repetitive thing in human nature, it's like something that can't be avoided, so you just have to roll with it. So, it felt like that could have been a good option to explore. We also have this other option that's double eagle one here. So, there is this whole under toe of this Russia, Warsaw Pact thing going on. So, I was thinking about Russian symbolism and what I can do to incorporate Russian symbolism into the cover. So, this would be a very, very illustrative approach but also would have a very more traditional letterform to it. Then this other option here is more linked to the MDD which is their main weapon in the book, it's called The molecular distribution device. So, it's sort of like the humans main way to destroy the buggers if they ever came and had an invasion. So, they end up training with this thing and at the climax of the book in the part where he's fighting the buggers and stuff like that in this simulation, Ender ends up destroying this planet using the MDD and then after the simulation is over, he finds out that actually it wasn't a simulation, that he destroyed an entire race of creatures. So, I felt like we could really do an option where the C is actually like a letter that symbolizes this planet that's being destroyed and this little plane is coming in with the MDD and just bursting it into little tiny molecules. So, I think this is the one that probably ties in the most directly with the book. So, if I were going to say that we were marketing the book at like a wider audience, that probably be the one that I would pick or some of these other ones are a little on a tangent. Then, I have one last option here which is pretty much the same concept as the MDD one that I just explained except instead of it being this letter form that's bursting into molecules, it would be an actual planet shape that has the C on the planet, and then that would be like cracking apart and you maybe you'd see some like distant moons and planets in the background. The only reason why I was thinking about that as another option is that maybe it feels a little less juvenile than the molecules breaking apart which could feel very like confetti, even though it's a very serious part of the book. So, we'll see. I'm going to put all this stuff down, I'm going to take my awesome scans and then send this off to Paul Buckley who is the director for the Penguin series and see what he thinks about these options. 8. Choosing a Direction: I'm going to use the world's fanciest scanner, i.e. my phone to take pictures of these in order to send them off to a real live art director. I use a scanner sometimes if I'm incorporating whatever I'm sketching into my final artwork. I've done a couple of pieces where it would just be way too complicated to digitize things in illustrator, so I actually spent like eight hours drawing, and that was the final art, and in that case, that is the final piece, so I do need to use a proper scanner. But when it comes to actually getting these really rough sketches into illustrator for me to use, or getting them out to an art director to approve, you don't need anything super fancy. So, if you have even an iPhone 4, iPhone 3S, or something with a camera that is not like a 1998 camera, you're fine. You can also use that crappy point and shoot that you have around if you ever do that as well. So, I just try to not get myself in some crazy light so that I'm projecting a shadow onto my work, and then hold very still and take a picture, and take another picture. Just make sure you don't have your flash on. Then in a wonderful world I would just use the Photoshop Express app on my phone to quick black and whitefy up the contrast so they look like proper scans. But the one that they have added on the phone since the iOS update isn't the best for me right now. So, I will be emailing it for myself, cleaning them up in the actual Photoshop, and then sending them off with content and comments to an art director. So, now I'm going to take my fancy pants, iPhone, scanned photo thing is, and turn them into something that I can actually send to an art director. So, I just have them open in Photoshop. I'm not doing anything crazy to them. All that I'm going to really do, is first make sure that they're are black and white. So mode grayscale. If I was like super-smart I would be doing this as an action right now, so I could just repeat it later but I'm feeling lazy, and I don't want to do that. So we're not going to do that. So, I've got this one as black and white, grey scale, and now I'm just going to use my levels to just pick the grey of the paper, make it white, and then pick the black of my pencil, and make it actually black. I might want to mess with this just a little bit, so it's not super extreme. But usually that will get you most of the way there. I can go ahead and erase here, some of this grey junk that's going on, just so that it looks more like a scan and less like a pencil draft. Mostly so that I don't give my art directors too much information about the other crap that I'm working on at this moment since, sometimes you're working on stuff that people aren't allowed to see. I don't think that was the case, and that was just our way that we drew earlier but just in case you've got some super secret NASA project going on, who knows? Awesome. Then I will go ahead and crop this, no need having a massive art board, and save, and we are ready to roll. Now I'll go ahead and do that to all of my sketches, it's a pretty easy process. Again, if I was really smart I would do this as an action but I like a little repetition. I don't know about you guys, but I find it pretty sense, sometimes it's fun to go the long way. You can also notice here that I'm using a mouse even though I have this fancy wacom tab infront of me, because as much as I try to love the wacom tablet, it's really just here for when my mouse batteries die. For whatever reason the mouse is my tool. It is the thing that I am the best at. Truthfully if I'm always going to be super honest I actually do so much work on the trackpad on my laptop, it is ridiculous, and I'm probably going to lose all sensation in my hand at some point or another, but I've always been able to do that since college because I was too lazy to not do work on my bed, and now it's coming in very much in handy for when I'm traveling that I can actually execute full crazy lettering projects just with the trackpad. I do recommend actually having a few means and methods by which you execute because I'm not sure if you guys are familiar with this thing called carpal tunnel, but it's just a repetitive stress injury, and all that means is that you mess with your wrists and mess with your hands just by doing the same behaviors over and over again. So, I actually have more problems with my left hand than I have of my right hand because my left hand is always in this mego claw at the keyboard here and my right hands at least move it around a bit, or I'm using the wacom sometimes or using my trackpads sometimes. But it's not a bad thing to alternate the way that you actually do work, just so that you don't get those repetitive stress injuries. All right. So now we've got our three sketches ready to roll. I'm going to rename my files, sketch one, sketch two, sketch three and sketch four, just so that there is no confusion about what I'm talking about when I send this off to my art director. Then, I will also send along all of my awesome commentary, all of my thoughts that I was thinking when I was actually creating these sketches which give a little context to what's going on. So, what you don't want to do is just send a bunch of sketches to your art director and not actually explain the concepts that are going on in it. Think about it when you were in art school, some of you guys were probably in art school, but if you got up to critique your piece of work that's on the wall, and we're just like, what are you think with my poster? I think it's good, I felt like doing it. Your teacher would just tear you a new one. You have to go up there and give context, and talk about your thought process because people don't trust a decent unless it's got some thought behind it. So, in this case, I've got these these four sketches which look like crappy doodles from my notebook. But once I give them a little bit of context, I think that the art director is really going to at least have something to consider when he's looking at them. So, when you guys have your amazing sketches and you want to get feedback from all the peers on Skillshare because everybody's really awesome at giving feedback, I definitely recommend posting it with some context to your concepts, because I'm sure that you guys can do a bunch of just different Skillshare videos and stuff like that are more about executing and, oh that's a beautiful thing, that you made. But what I really like about this is that I hope that you guys are really getting your thinking caps on while you're doing and getting some nice tough criticism about whether or not your brain is working while you're doing this. So, I definitely do think that posting some of your thoughts behind your work would be really important. I've convinced my art director on the penguin project to give us a little feedback on our sketches, even though these aren't officially a part of the penguin drop cap series. I was looking at these in the face and tackle shop and I should it to the guys and they confirmed that that's a sick looking seagull. Not even a good seagull, just a sick looking seagull. It was like American, like republican, that war type guys, they were actually. These are eagle guys. They didn't fail it. So, you lost your audience. That's okay. We should move on to the next one maybe. All right. Sounds good. Well, we got the concept down, so I can work on the execution for sure. You have the other one too, with the molecules, right? Yeah. Being rejective. Yeah. The molecule one, is probably the one that I think is the most immediately tied into the actual story. I could also see the actual molecules themselves being in a silver foil or something and looking really shiny and bad ass on a black cover. That would be nice. Yeah I think of all of the sketches, that's the one that's definitely the most, I want to say the most literal because that always sounds bad, but it is the one that ties in the most directly to the plot line. I like the multichoice ones. It is clearly the most distinctive of the three. Well, thank you very much. All right. Always a pleasure working with you Paul. All right you just be good , bye. All right. Now I've got these four sketches, I sent them off to the art director., well I sent off three of them because I decided to straight up eliminate one of them. We had our round of enlightening feedback with Paul Buckley, art director extraordinaire. Thankfully he has chosen my favorite option, which is the molecules being blown apart. So, while I super love this option, I think of all the ones, this is the one that I think is the best for the book cover. I think we're also going to digitize the seagull option, just so that I could show you guys actually how I work with some curves and some more traditional letterforms. So, even though this is the Polish bird option or whatever, I do think it's worth at least me starting to digitize it just that you guys can see how I would approach actually drawing this letter form. 9. Drop Cap #1: Already. So, first things first, when I'm starting a new project and I have my sketch done, and I'm ready to get it digital, the first thing that I have to do is actually set up my art board. So, I made my art board for this file, the size of one of these penguin books, which is 5.5 by 7.75 high. So, since we're just centering our artwork on this and because vector is endlessly scalable, as long as we're somewhat close, it should be fine. So what I will suggest doing is setting up your file in a couple of different layers. So, I'm using Illustrator right now, Adobe Illustrator. It's kind of my main jam for doing lettering and it's probably most people's main gem for doing lettering. So, I don't do a lot of crazy fancy tricks. In Illustrator, I'm pretty straightforward. It's kind of just like pen tool, some gradients here and there and suddenly my swatches up in a good way, but I'll tell you sort of like how to get it started. So, I'll make a layer called sketch. I will make a layer called duides, and I will make a layer called art. Sometimes I don't need a guides layer and sometimes I can just drag the guides from the rulers, but I think it does help a lot if I want to turn my guides on and off really quickly. So, I'm going to take our chosen sketch here which would be our molecules sketch, there we go, and drag this into my art board onto my sketch layer. So, obviously my file needs to be resized a bit. That seems about right. Then what I'm going to do is I'm going to take this and turn the opacity down so that I can still see my sketch but that it's not distracting the high-contrast. So, that I can just work on top of it. So, what I've got now, it's my art board with my sketch on it and then, what you guys can do if you want to make yourself feel all superficial is on your art layer, you can typeset the name of your book. They used the archer on these guys so, and we space it out like well. Here is my align tool, get that stuff off centered and then I'm just going to lock this. So, I don't touch it until later. Already, and now we've got our letter form here and I can go about this two ways. I can actually draw my letter form and then turn my sketch off and then make my molecules work in that way or I can just start placing molecules on this guy. Then I'm going to go about it in the latter way. So, our molecules just really need to be these sort of circular elements here and all of these book covers are done as two-color artwork. So, I can think about, always thinking about working with two different colors. So, first thing I'm going do is, I'm actually going to delete all of my swatches. So that I don't get distracted and so that when I send this artwork off to the printer, I'm not working with like 100 million non-swatches and then I use a thing called global swatches and so what that's good for is they behave like spots, like spot colors but are actually process colors. So, ultimately when these go to press, they will be spot colors but for now I don't feel like thumbing through by pantone books yet. So, we can treat them as global colors and just replace them later. So, I'm going to call this color one, and then I'll make another swatch and call it color two and just make it different. You can do whatever for now. There we go. So, start with my molecules and I will actually not make like a crazy brush or anything as people probably assume that you would do with this guy. Instead, I will just start dragging and dropping stuff and because I'm doing that instead of using a brush, it ends up being a little more chaotic and hand placed. So, as you can imagine, this is a little on the tedious side but we let our people love tedium. So, Matthew Carter who's the super famous type dude, he won the MacArthur Genius Grant. He's amazing and he's also featured in the Helvetica movie which I'm sure that you've seen because you're a graphic designer most likely. He was the guy with the awesome silver ponytail and the British accent. He says this really funny thing about type design and says that watching a type designer work is like watching a refrigerator make ice. So, that's pretty much what you guys are doing right now, you're watching a refrigerator make ice. I think I am going to repeat some stuff here. So, I'm going to do this. It's okay to copy paste as long as you can hide your copy pasting. This is what I have found. So, I'm just going to grab from a few different areas and do this. This is like the way to make a pattern without making a pattern, and note, this would be not possible if I didn't do at least a little bit of work to begin with. So, also I'm pretty happy that I'm not working on top of like a Gotham C or something which I'm sure is what you guys would all do because that's what graphic designers do. Instead, I'm working on top of my sketch. So, you can tell. I mean it's super obvious that I'm not following that where the molecules are placed on my sketch. But I am following the basic shape of the C. Then once I turn my sketch off, you're going to see just how screwed up my C actually looks and we're going to have to make some changes to make it not look so screwy. Looking pretty good so far. I think what I'm going to do is turn my sketch off and finish off my C without a sketch on. I also think that I'm going to have to get really dense with some of these molecules in the center, because the whole premise of it is that it goes from like a solid form to this kind of busted up molecular thing. So, what I might end up having to do is actually overlap a bunch of them in the center. Frequently zoom out, check our letter form. Definitely need to get some more stuff going on in here. Now, I can start scattering my molecules. So, I'll start with my little guys, and I'll just get them kind of like randomly positioned around here. I'm going to teach you guys a trick in Illustrator too. This is a fun thing. It's useless for what I'm doing right now because everything that I'm doing right now is all about like me placing them in these individual ways and not about it being like repetition but there's this cool trick that if you want to just repeat the same thing that you just did like, say I copy pasted this guy and I want it to be the same, I just have to hold it and do a command D, and it will repeat the same action that I just did over and over. So that's really handy if you're doing like patterns and stuff like that, but we're not doing that, delete. Yeah, this is getting there. Now, you get some bigger guys go in, some bigger molecules and I definitely think this is going to be a black book cover. So, a lot of times, the colors that I choose will happen just naturally based on what the art entails. So, for instance, this is a book that occurs in space. So, I want my cover to be black and then I definitely think that I want to use some foil on the cover, and the most likely candidate would be silver foil because of stars. So, I think silver foil will probably be one of my colors, and then I just have to choose something that goes with both the black of the cover and then the silver foil of the stars. That's a pretty good-looking C. Let's get some of these guys really just often the middle of nowhere here because we're going to pretend like we have a much larger plate for this than we normally do. I will unlock my type so that I can take that. Let me just put on some layer because then we can show it or not show it. I'll go ahead and make that the same color as our blue. Then, I will make another layer for our background. The reason why I'm doing that is because I will make this a non-printing layer because this is going to go on leather, or paper, or whatever you guys want to do. If I say it doesn't print, that means when I show it or send it to the printer, they're not going to print this big thing of black on top of an already black paper. So, that would be awesome. Now, of course, it's going to look really different, now that we have it on black. I'm going to go ahead and make our silver foil color and make some of these stars. These are our molecules, but we're going to go ahead and say that some of them are stars over here. I forgot to make that global. So, global swatches are one of those things that you don't learn about in school but they're super, super useful when you're actually making artwork that will print. The reason why they're so useful is because, unlike non-global swatches, you can do stuff like make hues, which is really handy if you want to do lighter colors or you want it to be a one color job but to include lighter colors. So, for instance here, I'll just select a couple of these and I'll show you what I'm talking about. So, these guys, see my color shows up just as a spot color would and then I can go ahead and make these a percentage. So, it's still technically one color. It's just printing a hue of that color. So, maybe that's how I'll get away with my two color here. I could make this blue a really dark color and then just work with hues of it for some of these molecules. Then, we got to get our C shape over here, so I'll leave some room for it. Then the other reason why you do global swatches is because, say this was a very, very complicated drawing, and I decided, you know what? I hate this blue color. I don't want it to be blue anymore, I want it to be this really deep crazy purple. I can go in and make the change here, and then it makes the change globally. So, I don't have to do all that select all nonsense that you do if you don't use global swatches. So, it's the most handy thing in the whole universe and I definitely recommend setting up your files this way. Even when you first start a file in Illustrator, it just makes it so much easier moving forward. Purple is really awesome with this cover. So, we're going to see if we can get away with that. So, I'll go ahead and start making these guys in to a second color. We're going to just do our silver because I feel purple and silver would be pretty bad ass. I don't want these to be 50-50 one color or another color. I want to use one of the colors as my primary color and then the second color as a secondary color. So, I like a little bit of asymmetry. I'd like it to be perfect. I might go ahead and make some of these that are close together a similar color palette even though it'll add a pretty concentrated zone of our silver over there. But, I think it looks pretty good. I'll lock this guy. Maybe, I like that. Awesome. So, now, I feel like my molecules are dense enough that they feel like it's a unit. So, I'm not feeling the need to go in and make things overlap but I might go ahead and add in some little tiny micro molecules in here. All right. I'm pretty going for that. What we normally to do, I'm going to delete some of these because I like this angular thing that's happening here, where it's not quite up here, it's not quite down there, but we got some stuff going on here, I'm into that. Okay. Then we'll draw our little shape, which I'm going to do as stealth bomber shape. I want it to look like a paper airplane, that's the only thing. If I want it to be really funny, I could just make it little bit enterprise but that wouldn't really work it out in our favor I think. Feel like maybe just what we need is like a distant planet or something so that we can make sure we know we're in outer space. So, I work entirely in strokes and shapes. Usually, I keep all my strokes as strokes until the bitter end. Right now, I'm making this little planet and I just made everything into shapes. I may use my pathfinder tool here to divide things out, which is just going to break everything apart. Then, I'm going to go ahead and merge my things or make them the color of the planet. So, it looks like it's hiding behind it. Maybe actually this goes from being thin to thick. Yeah, that looks a little more realistic there. Realistic as if that's for working with realism. I feel like this would be the point where I would put it up for peer review if I were on Skillshare. I believe we have ourselves the finished color or at least finished for now. We're going to want to critique ourselves later but this will be good for now. I say let it be and come back to it tomorrow and see how we feel about it. 10. Drop Cap #2: Okey-dokey. As you guys might notice, I'm wearing my glasses now because my eyes are getting tired, and now I have to wear glasses in order to actually do the fine tuning work that we're going to be doing. As you guys also notice, we did our first Enders game cover, but there wasn't a lot of hyper crazy instruction about actual vector point plotting in that video. I talked a bit about global swatches, which I think are super important, I talked about some quickie tips for command pasting, but I'm sure you guys know that already because you guys are aces on the computer. So, what I'm going to do is I'm going to walk you guys through some really important stuff about actually pointing plots in Illustrator. What's really important about doing so, which will really help your vector skills and make you work a lot faster in the future. So, the first thing that you have to remember is that most people always plot way too many points or not enough points when they're actually drawing in Illustrator. The pen tool is the most powerful tool in the entire universe. Don't let anyone tell you that the Hedron collider or whatever is more powerful, the pen tool is the most powerful. If you think about how Illustrator draws circles, so if you just use the circle tool in Illustrator, all the circles have a North, South, East and West point. If you think about that when you're actually drawing curves that if a full circle is four points that means that if you're doing something that's semicircle, you wouldn't want something that's less than three points. I tend to start by plotting my points very minimally, just because it makes it easier to edit them later. So, I might actually make a curve unless it is a perfect circle to just have a North and South point as I start, and then as I'm perfecting my artwork I'll go ahead and add those additional points to actually smooth out my curves. Another thing that you guys probably don't know about, or probably don't do that much as non crazy type people is you don't plot your points on the extrema of the forms. So, what the extrema are it's the extreme North, South, East and West. So, what type designers try to do and now I'm talking about type designers not letters because letters, they don't have to worry about their files looking all crazy. What type designers do is they always plot their points on the extrema and what that does is, it helps with the letters rendering on screen. It also helps them to be able to use plugins in the future to actually interpolate between weights. A lot of times what type designers will do is they draw these master weights. So, they'll draw a light, a regular, and a bold. If you see something that's in-between of those. What they'll do is they'll use there is a tool called Super pellater and pre-pellater, they are plugins designed by type designers used to work with type software. You can actually interpolate between two weights, you usually have to make some corrections for the final. But if your plots are pointed perfectly between the two in the right places, and with the right set of handlebars and stuff like that, then you can actually interpolate and it's not going to get all junky and crazy. So, understanding how to do this just makes you faster and faster and faster. What you're going to end up noticing is that even when you're trying to work with some existing type, you're going to completely forget about live trace. Live trace is the enemy of beautiful perfect curves for sure. If you really want to do something really clean like a logo type, or doing something where you're very concerned about the edges, and how perfectly drawn everything is, you're not going to want to live trace. Because even if you live trace, your end result is not going to be, it's just going to take you more time to edit it, as of quickie live trace thing than it would take you to draw from scratch. Also, drawing from scratch is always worth doing just because it's really hard to find excuses to practice good vector drawing, and it's one of those skills that just takes time. I would say, even when you can go about it the fast way, go about it the long way, spend time practicing, spend time drawing things from scratch because it will make a huge difference in how quickly you work and how well you work in the future. So, I'm going to go ahead and set up my file, just like we did with our last Enders game cover. Probably not going to finish this one for you guys on camera just because it's like watching grass grow to get me to do it, but we'll be able to cover a lot of the basis just by doing this initial work on our letter. So, I'm going to go ahead and delete my existing artwork, except for my Enders game and Orson Scott Card. I'm going to save a new file, "Enders Game two." I turn off my background here while we get our sketch in place, here we go. Again, just like before I'm going to go and make my sketch nice and light. Now, for this guy, since we've got a pretty well-defined letter form I might go ahead and do, is just put in a cap-height and a baseline just so that I know what I'm working with here. The way that I'm going to end up doing this, is I'm going to trace it, but I'm not going to trace it super precisely. I'm probably going to work on my letter form with my sketch off just so that I'm not affected by my sketch as I'm working. So here I've got my pen tool and I've got my letter forms, so as you can see I've got two serifs on this guy. So, C's are one of those letters that you can treat in a few different ways, all letters you can treat a few different ways. But C's can either have two serifs, they can have a single serif, up top and a different terminal down at the bottom depending on how the rest of your letter forms look. But since we're only doing one letter form, we can do whatever we feel like works for this. So, I'm going to make my guides in other colors you guys can see it because this yellow is impossible to see, there we go. So, I hold down the shift, of course, when I want to go perfectly horizontal or perfectly vertical. What I'm going to do is plot very minimal points. Again, what I'm concerned about is keeping my points on the extrema. So, as you can see, I'm plotting this incredibly quickly because what's important to me right now is just getting my points down so then I can correct them. Here I have my C letter form, I'm going to turn off my sketch so I can work on my C independent of my Seagull eagles. I'm going to go ahead and manipulate my curves here. I'm holding down the Shift key as I'm doing it, just so that I can make sure that these handlebars are coming out perfectly horizontal, because it's just easier for me to manipulate the curves if they're drawn in that way. If I don't do that, I'm just trying to make them work in the way that they however, there's no rhyme or reason to it and you end up scooting things around forever. So, as you can see, I'm making just a lot of little micro moves, I'll probably go in and zoom in and see what I'm doing. In terms of how these serifs operate, you usually want them to be close to or touching the baseline and cap-height, though it's not a hard fast rule. What you definitely want is for the actual curvature of the letter to dip below the baseline and go above the cap height. The reason why that's important is because it's all about how much surface area the letter touches of the cap height and the baseline. So, if you're thinking about an H, say that you were drawing an H instead of a C, we were going to have serifs just like how we do. This would probably be about that thick if we were going for it. We have our serif, I'm just going to do these super quick just so I can get my point across, not make imperfect letters right now. I'm just teaching. So, you see for this H or the stem of this H, we have a lot of surface area touching our cap-height and our baseline. What we need to do is make sure that we look at our C and our O and our Q, and all that stuff that we feel we're getting enough thickness going on down here. If you really look at how much this C is touching the baseline aka, where it cuts through the letter, it's about this much surface area, which is about that compared to our serifs. Maybe we actually do want to dip down a little bit further, so it has a little bit more contact point, but we can play it by ear. The best thing about doing type and lettering stuff is it really just is all, you just feel it out, you keep working at it, you keep massaging it, you keep making it good. Above and beyond what you do is you critique yourself and do print outs as you're going along. You can see too that these letters that I'm drawing here doesn't have perfectly vertical serifs that's because I don't really want them to be perfectly vertical. I feel like I don't want to make some Bodoni perfect C right now because I wanted to have a little bit more character. So, this C is starting look pretty good. As you can see my points are really quite minimal right now. So, if I was going to go ahead and perfect this, I'd probably even out my point placement on the inside of this curve as well adding in this extra point. So, what I'm going to do is just super loosely draw this eagle guy and then I'm going to delete it, I believe that's all resolved. See, now separate that just looks like a Parrot Head if I'm just moving points in a very minute way, adding in my details when I get to them, but for right now I'm going to just keep my eagle as one color and my letter as another color. Start duplicating my design here. So, what you can see is that it's very symmetrical right now, but when I actually go in and add shading to this guy I'll probably make the shading asymmetrical. I'll reverse the shading just so that it doesn't look boring. So, I've got one wing down. So, rather than finishing this double eagle, which I will future finish, I want to go over some awesome vector stuff with you guys on some really intense letter stuff with you guys. 11. Letterform Basics: So, I'm going to go ahead and just hide this junk, and we're going to get down to it. So, for one thing I've been talking a little bit about how asymmetrical letters can be, and what I definitely want to do is show you guys that not all letters are created equal and that type designers actually make pretty big changes within their letter forms. So, I run this workshop at my studio here in San Francisco and also in Brooklyn called Letter Together, and in that workshop what I do is have my students draw just two letters over the course of two days, and it's really super intense and we cover some very nerdy stuff throughout the course of it. One of the main things that I try to get them to appreciate is the fact that letter forms are not just all copy pasted individual parts, that it's not as systematic as they think that it would be. So, the typeface that I have them start with is Adobe Caslon. The reason why I do that is because one thing- not a lot of people realize that even typefaces like Baskerville and Caslon, there are multiple versions that exist for those typefaces that were digitized at different points in time. So, that's why you see people coming up with new releases of Garamond and stuff like that. Garamond is long dead, but appreciators of his work are still alive and well. So, for incidence, here with this caslon, you can see that we've got an E and F right next to each other, and if you were a brand new person to type design, the first thing that you would do is probably perfectly line up these crossbars on the E and the F. But as you can see, they're very much not lined up here on this letter form. The one on the F is a little bit lower. The reason for that is because structural parts of the letter like these cross bars are always in place to help manage the negative space within the letter. So, on this E, it's a much more closed letter form because we've got this full top part and this full bottom part. But on this F we've got this whole open space down at the bottom. If this crossbar was up a little bit higher, we would have too much white space down below. So, the type designer that worked on this typeface moved it down a little bit, just to even out the space between the top and bottom of this letter form. So, also, a few things that I want to point out is that there's a lot of roundness to these letter forms. So, see these little end things that are little unround. The reason why those guys are there are not because structurally that's necessary. And actually if you look at the original cuts of Caslon I very much doubt they had rounded corners, just because when type was created as metal type, this would be so labor-intensive to make that happen. There's no way that they would have done it. So, what these little rounded corners are meant to do is meant to emulate the softness that happens when you actually print these letter forms. So, whenever you see people making typefaces that have rounded corners like this, it's not because if this was made in the 15th century, that they would have these rounded corners. It's because they're trying to emulate what it would actually look like if it was printed, branding grotesque. That's right. So, it has these rounded edges, which really give a very nice softness to the letter forms and do make it feel nice and pretty even though it can be used as a screen font. I really like a little softness to my letter but there are parts where the softness makes sense and there's parts where it doesn't. So, where it does make sense is maybe on the edges of these as long as they're nice and tight and not too loose, but where it doesn't necessarily make sense is where really structural parts of the letter form meet up with each other. So, for instance on this F here, these corners are left to be sharp, because if they were rounded and you actually tried to print this, the ink would bleed so tremendously in this corner that it would just look very blobby and gross. So, the actual corners are left sharp hears that if it does bleed a little bit it's going to look more like this than it is a giant, blobby serif. So, oftentimes there's typefaces that you guys have probably seen that have ink traps in them. So, if you guys have ever seen any letter forms that look like this where they have these little carrots cut in there, and I know that now that I pointed out you're going to totally notice it but you've probably never noticed it before. You would notice it especially in the cap A here, and think to yourself, I don't understand why it does that. Well, the reason why it does that is because that isn't ink trap, and that is meant so that when the actual letter forms are printed on really crappy paper with really crappy ink and really humid conditions, that the ink actually pools in there and then it ends up looking like that. So, by the time the ink get through with it, it looks like the letter form that you set out for and if it didn't have that ink trap it would look like a giant blobby mess in here. Another thing to consider is that serifs don't always have to be the same length. So, if you look at this l here, the top of the L is a double-sided serif here, and the serif on the left side is shorter than the serif on the right side. In the same way that the body of the F was slightly different, this serif is meant to eat up a little bit of this white space over here, a very little bit albeit but a little bit of that white space, and that really just helps make this feel less stubby up in this corner. So, there's a lot of symmetry to letter forms and a lot of asymmetry to letter forms. So, I recommend looking at typefaces that you really like and figuring out these little idiosyncrasies that actually make up the typeface and ask yourself why they happen. So, I would definitely recommend looking at things- just looking at the way this is Bowden and ask yourself why that happened. Is that because we needed to get a little bit more weight in the serifs so that these wouldn't feel like these little stick arms? Probably. Or look to even the L. If you looked really closely you can see that there's a little bit of flaring to this, and ask yourself why does that happen, why does that happen specifically on that L? So, this is something that I could spend days and days looking at each and every letter form and telling you individually things about each one that make them special and awesome. It's a very fun thing to do, and one of the things that I do in my workshop too is that while we work with this typeface Adobe Caslon, I have the students who only look at the H and the O and then they have to make up what they think the other letter forms looks like to match them and the results that we get are totally wild. So, that's a great exercise to do for yourself too, is just to take a typeface that you feel like you're very familiar with, be it archer or something that you use on a day-to-day basis or Baskerville or just something that you've looked at your whole life. And only look at the H and the O or only look at one other letter form and ask yourself, what would the J look like in this typeface? What would the K look like in this typeface? What would the lowercase A and lowercase G look like in this typeface? Do sketches of those, and you'll be really surprised at how off your guesses are, but also how creative you can be in your guesses. So, that's a great way to practice observation when it comes to letter forms as well. 12. Plotting Vector Points: Now, just to get away from the computer for a little bit because watching people endlessly plot vector points in the computer can be just mind numbing. I'm going to talk about how to plot your vector points in a very analog way, just because it might actually be faster for me to explain it this way. So, I talked about the extrema and why that is important for type designers. So, that was about plotting your points on the extreme North, South, East and West of a form. That's going to help you editing your points later, it's going to help you if you are actually a legit type designer. It's just a overall best-practices thing to do. Another really good best-practices is to look at the position of your handlebars here. So, what you never want to do is cross the streams. So, you never want to have a handlebar that is going to cross in the path of another handlebar. That doesn't just mean like actually they cross, but if you have one handlebar that's a lot longer, and like visually it's crossing the path of what another would have done, that's still too long. So, what you want to do is always make sure, even just draw invisible lines past them. If these guys are actually crossing that path, so say this handlebar right here was super long and crossed the invisible path of this guy's handlebar, we'd be doing it wrong right there. So, don't cross the streams, very important part of anchor point plotting and that can be difficult to remember to do specifically when you're working on tight curves. So, if you have a tight curve, a lot of times people end up making these really long handlebars in here just to get that guy super sharp, but don't use your handlebars to do all of your work for you, scoot those points down. If you move those points down towards the angle that you want, it's going to make for a much nicer curve than if you actually just drag your handlebars out really long to do all the work for you. So, another big thing to consider is, are all of your anchor points sharing the workload? So, what some people end up doing is they draw these letter forms and then they have this shape, that's just a little bit wonky and they can't figure out why it's wonky and the reason why it's usually wonky is because they have a couple of these little teeny tiny shorty handlebars and then a couple that are super long and doing all the work for the whole shape. So, you always want to look at things like if you're doing a rounded corner and think, are my handlebars sharing the workload? Or, do I have a point that's way up here and this handlebar is doing double duty just to make that curve happen. So, if you had an anchor point all the way up here and we're using a really long handlebar to make up this curve, I would not recommend that. Instead, scoot this guy down, get it to come closer to this handlebar and this handlebar are more evenly weighted. So, these guys aren't always going to be mathematically perfect to each other. There's a lot of people that try to strive for that, but it's really hard to do in Illustrator and I also don't think it's 100 percent necessary, I think you can eyeball it and have it work out in your favor. One thing to consider too is that, on certain shapes, they're not going to be perfectly symmetrical. So, say we're working with an O, right? This O is an italicized O. So, if you've got an O like this, and it's italicized, your point structure is going to be very similar to this original point structure with our points on the North, East, South and West, but instead, they're going to be in different relationships to each other to get this angle right. So, while in your mind you think about this angled O as having a point at the farthest angles and then middle along the waist, it's not actually how it works if you want to plot your points right. The best way to actually plot your points is to draw, if you're wondering about where they should be, draw a box around your letter form and around the counter of your letter form. Wherever the part of the letter form would hit that box, that's where your anchor point is going to be, because that's the extrema of the letter. That's the extreme North, extreme South, extreme East and extreme West. So, as you can see, on my O, that's italicized, that would mean that my anchor points were plotted in these positions and then my handlebars would be of different lengths of course because if this guy was the same length as this, these guys would be crossing the streams. So, instead of all of these having a direct relationship to each other, these outer ones are going to have a relationship to each other and these guys are going to have a relationship to each other. You can play with this. There's going to be a logic to whatever letter form you guys are drawing, but just remember, don't cross the streams, don't let one anchor point do all the work and make sure that you plot your points on the extrema when you can. Start with the North and South if that's the most comfortable and then add your East and West when you feel like you've got it in the right place just to smooth out your curve. But if you've plot your points that way, one, the nerds are going to be super happy with you and two down the line, when you look at your artwork in two months and hate it, as we all do, because we all get so much better when we practice, you'll be able to fix your drawing really quickly instead of having a maneuver like a thousand little tiny points from your live trace or a thousand little tiny points because you were really lazy and just went all around your letter form when you first started out. 13. Self-Critique: Now for the last part of our journey together, which is self-criticism. This stage is like the beginning, where, you think about research, you think about reading, you think about brainstorming, and don't think of it as being the most important thing about artwork creation. But, it is incredibly important in your process. Just as important as research is, actually being able to look at the work that you've done, with a critical eye, to spend time with it, to spend time away from it, to come back to it, to put it in front of other people's faces, just to get some really honest criticism. It's really easy, especially when you work on the computer, to spend all of your time hyper-focused on these little tiny details, and not realize that there's a giant glaring mistake in front of your face, until it's already too late. I'm sure a lot of you guys went to college, or are in college, or, went to high school and had to turn in term papers. Without a doubt, whenever you had to write this paper, you could use spellcheck until kingdom come, you could reread it 100 times, and without fail, as soon as you printed it out, you would discover the two thus next to each other, you would discover some really intense grammatical error that your computer wasn't smart enough to pick up, and it's all just about seeing your work through another lens. One of the things that I can recommend to anybody that's interested in lettering and type, is to buy a laser printer. It's going to seem a little ironic that I'm not using one today, but it's just because my laser printer is definitely going away of a dinosaur today, slash has been for a little bit of time, so I have to shop on a new one. But, laser printers are super cheap. They basically cost the same as the ink cartridge within them. While they seem like something that wouldn't be incredibly useful to have around the office, they're going to be more useful to you in terms of self-criticism, than an inkjet printer would be. Just mostly because inkjet printers are going to smooth out a lot of your mistakes, where laser printers are going to be very unforgiving. I have an old dropcap here that I did. I'm not critiquing my crazy double eagle thing because, it's going to take me way too long, it's going to be midnight by the time that stuff happens, so I finish it up. Plus, it's really fun to look at work that you've done in the past, and just hate on it in a really big way. But as you can imagine, you get a whole lot better after you've been doing something for a couple of years. After all of my digitizing tricks that you guys have been learning, and the more and more that you guys are going to practice that, the more you're going to look at the work that you did six months ago and hate every ounce of it, and that is completely healthy, and completely amazing, and if you don't feel that way, you probably have an ego problem. I'm looking at this dropcap, which was part of my first alphabet that I did. It's a capital letter R, it's very decorative. There are a few things that I see straight off the bat that I can criticize. For one thing, I have my slab serifs here. You can see the height of my serifs. Which is this nice sort of thick height to it. What I have here is where the top bowl of the R, meets the bottom leg of the R here, it gets very, very thin. This is something that not a lot of people look at when they look at serif typefaces. But generally, the thinnest part of your serif is not going to be all that much thinner than the finished part of your letter form itself. I have a thin up here on the top of my letter form, and this would be a thin here but it's like a fraction of the thickness of my actual serif. If I were to going to go in and correct my drawing here, I would thicken this up so that it matched the thickness of my serif right there. Looking at other parts of the letter form, I can already see some little dents, I was on that drew this, so I know this structure that I drew it in. When I first started doing lettering, and actually still a lot of the way that I do it, is that I'll draw a stroke as my skeleton. I talked about the skeleton, the body, and the clothes earlier today, and then I would draw my weight as a shape on top of that stroke. Right here, on the letter form, I can actually see where this stroke is meeting up with the shape of this R because there's a little dent, here, and a little dent, here. This is just because these are two separate shapes, and my eye wasn't quite awesome enough to spot those little dents at the time. Now, my adult, Jessica, artself, would probably instead of drawing these as two separate shapes, I've added a bit of another step on top of my digitizing process. Where, I might use the stroke and shape method to start, but then if I want this to be like super pristine final artwork, especially if it was for a logo type, or something that could be the size of a building, I would actually retrace over the entire thing as shape, so that I can make sure that all of my curves are hyper, hyper smooth. What I wouldn't do, is outline my strokes, and then merge my stroke shapes and my shape shapes. Because when you outline strokes, illustrator's just going to plot points wherever it thinks points should be. Sometimes those points are missing a handlebar, sometimes there's like two points right on top of each other. But the only way to know exactly how points are being plotted, is if you're doing it yourself. I definitely recommend that if you're working on a logo type, or something that needs to be perfect, perfect, perfect, perfect, if it takes an extra step to get that perfection to happen, take that extra step. Another thing that I notice about this drawing here, is that I have this random little tail going on here. What I have done, is just tacked on a little ball right at the end, and not in a very logical way. This swash comes off, and then a ball just goes right on the side of it there. There's no graceful curve around to the ball terminal like, how it would be if you were actually doing it calligraphically. If I were going to correct this, I would definitely, if I wanted to keep that ball terminal, I would curve this swash around quite a bit more, and add that ball terminal in a much more graceful way. But, since I don't have a ball terminal anywhere else on this letter form, and since maybe it seems a little bit fluffy to have it, I might just chop it off entirely, and just lose it. Because unless we are seeing more ball terminals all over the place with these letters, I don't really have a solid reason to have it. As I'm looking at this letter, those are my glaring mistakes, and anything else is a little, me being very, very hypercritical of myself. There's obviously a little issue right here because, since the vector is being rendered through the printer, and this is at a certain size. I've got a little lump that's happening here because I think I've got a little eh! In one of my handlebars. I can fix that or not, it depends on how big this guy's going to be printing, ultimately. What I don't want you guys to do, is feel like completely intimidated by perfection because, you have to look at what you're doing, and what it's going to do. If you're working on a book cover, and it's going to print foil stamps, and that foil stamping is going to be outrageously clean, just because you're working with this like ultra printer that's amazing, you want your artwork to be really awesome. But, if you're going to be printing something on newsprint, stuff's going to bleed, or if it's going to be really small, you can leave a couple of these little mistakes in there, and they're just gonna disappear in the final printing. What it doesn't disappear on, is your website, when you show it in vector format on your website. I would say like, sometimes things are ready to go to the printer, but not ready to go on your site yet. Definitely think about the final medium, about how things are going to actually work when they're printed, or when they're not printed, what size they're going to need to be, what the needs of your clients are, what the needs are you are? And use that to influence the level of perfection that you apply to your work. I think that a lot of people get really hung up on being absolutely perfect every single time, and I think that it's an awesome thing to strive for, but it's not practical. Sometimes you have a deadline in three hours, and it just has to be done. I think that, if you become very efficient at plot plotting your vector points, and have a really good eye, and do you consider yourself a perfectionist, you can get it to 98% and no one else will notice that last two percent. If you want it to be picture perfect, you're going to be proud of it for the rest of your life, you spend that extra six hours making it a 100% perfect. Ultimately in six months, you're going to look at it and there's going to be mistakes that you notice anyway. I think, shoot for perfection, but forgive yourself if it's not perfect. Just because there's more to life than being 100% perfect. At this point, hopefully you have a piece of artwork that you have brainstormed about, you have sketched, you have digitized, you have printed, you have criticised. And you're hopefully in a place where you can share it with some of your peers on here on the site, or make yourself a fancy poster, or decide that you want to make a whole alphabet of it, whatever you feel like doing with your project in the future. I'm positive that whatever you making is amazing. Because, everyone that thinks that they're terrible at art, makes the best art in the whole universe. Please, please, post even your terrible art, because I will come in and check on it, probably won't be able to comment too much just because I'm assuming that there's going to be a fair amount of you, but I am going to look. Know that I will be seeing it. 14. Explore Design on Skillshare: way.