Lettering from Sketch to Vector | Ilana Griffo | Skillshare

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Lettering from Sketch to Vector

teacher avatar Ilana Griffo, Artist & Author

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.

      Class Intro


    • 2.



    • 3.

      Setting Up Your File


    • 4.

      Using Basic Shapes


    • 5.

      Creating Curves


    • 6.



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About This Class

In this class, I'm going to show you multiple ways you can re-draw your lettering using Adobe Illustrator. I'm going to show you how I use basic shapes, pathfinder, and the pen tool to transform my sketches into a crisp, scalable vector file. I can't wait to see what you create!

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Ilana Griffo

Artist & Author


Ilana is a Designer & Author. She loves all things lettering, and helping others pursue their creative passion. She's also the co-owner at Goodtype, and a mom to both two and four-legged babies.



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Related Skills

Graphic Design Creative

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1. Class Intro: Hi everyone. I'm Ilana Griffo. I'm a graphic designer and hand lettering artist. I run a bite size design studio and paper goods shop called Sugar and Type. In this class, I'm going to show you how I use various tools in Adobe Illustrator for my lettering projects. Creating vector art will allow you two create smooth curves, crisp lines, and scalable art that works at any size. For this class, you'll need sum drawing materials and Adobe Illustrator. If you have a scanner, keep that handy too. If not, your phone will be just fine. I'm so excited for this class. Let's dive in. 2. Scanning: The first thing we are going to do is scan our lettering. For this class, I chose to write lettering as my word, but you can choose any word you like. We are not going to review sketching in the class, but there are tones of tutorials out there for hand lettering. I use the black micron pen for this, and any white paper will do just fine. Do your best to softly erase any pencil marks so you have a clean copy. Then you'll want to capture a photo of your art. If you don't have a scanner, don't worry, you can use a scanner app on your phone, like scan bar, or just take a picture and email it to yourself. The resolution hear isn't critical since we'll be recreating the file as vector artwork. But if you can, try scanning at 600 DPI. You can always adjust the levels of your photo in Photoshop or if you made a mistake, you can go in and cover it up. I like to have a high contrast black and white photo for this type of work. Next, you'll want to save it somewhere you will remember, because we'll be needing it in the next step. 3. Setting Up Your File: Let's open up Adobe Illustrator and get started with our project. We're going to open a new document, and I'm going to title mine Skillshare-Lettering. I want mine to be in pixels,1,000 by 800, and I want mine horizontal, because that's how I took my photo. Since I'm not going to be printing, I don't need any bleed and RGB color model be perfect. The first thing I want you to do is make sure you're in the right workspace. Go to Window, Workspace, and click on the Typography setting. I do a lot of work in essentials as well, but I found that this one will cover the basics for this class. We're going to go to File, Place and let's grab that image we were just working with. Go ahead and click on your Artboard and the image should appear. We want to scale our image so it fits across the artboard, but we don't want to change the proportions so we need to hold down Shift. Make sure you're on the selection tool, that shortcut is V. Then you'll hold down Shift and just drag, that looks great. Let's change the opacity to 30 percent, so that it's in the background and will act as a guide throughout the project. The next thing we want to do is lock that layer. If you go into the Layers panel, the first thing you want to do is name your layer. Let's call this one original scan, and then we'll lock it by pressing right here. That way any work we do won't affect it. Let's create a new layer so we can work on it, let's set up sum guides to help us align everything. By pressing Command R, our rulers will appear. To set up a guide you just need to grab from your ruler to where you want your guide. I want one guide to be the baseline, I also want one at the top. If you needed a diagonal line for something more Italic, you can use the pen tool to create a guide. The pen tool is made up of anchor points, paths, basic curves, and handles, we'll be using the pen tool a lot in this class. If you click on ''P'' you can get to the pen tool. You can click where you want your guide to start, and then click again where you want it to end. This diagonal line would be a great guide for Italics. To turn it into a guide, we just need to go to View, Guides Make Guide, you can see that it's now the same color as the other guides. We won't be needing it for this project, so I'm going to go ahead and press ''Command Z'' to undo. 4. Using Basic Shapes: Let's get started by making some basic shapes that we can see throughout our lettering. It looks like we've got quite a few rectangles hear. Let's start with the rectangle tool. You can get to the rectangle tool right here, or by pressing M. Our L, R, I and N all have rectangles in it. Let's start with our L. To draw a rectangle we just need to start by clicking, drag down and release where we want it to end. If you hold Shift, you'll get a square, so we don't want to be holding shift write now. I'm going to make a copy of the stem of the L and rotate it 90 degrees for the leg. I want to make sure I'm on the selection tool, I'll do that by pressing V, then a hold down option until I get the double arrow and I'll shift my item over. If you hold down shift while you're doing this, your item will stay on the same plane. Now to rotate it, we'll go to the rotate tool and double click it. We want it to move 90 degrees and then we'll press okay. Since we want to grab everything, we'll grab that selection tool by pressing V, and we'll just move it down while holding shift. We know we want this shorter but we want to keep the height, so we just need to move these two anchor points over to the left. To do this, I'm going to grab the direct selection tool, which is shortcut A. The difference between the direct selection tool and the selection tool, is that the direct selection tool will let you isolate one anchor point or multiple anchor points, while the selection tool will grab a shape as a whole. I know I need these two anchor points selected. Let's make sure we're on the direct selection tool by pressing A, then I'm going to draw a shape around those two anchor points, hold Shift and bring it in. I'm going to do the same thing over here. That pink line showing up is my smart guide, that's telling me that I have an intersection. That means everything is inline. Perfect, our L is done. Before we unite it into one shape, I want to use some of these items for sum of our other letters. The stem of our L matches the sum of R, so I'm going to make a copy and move it over. Another way to make a copy is to press Command C with your items selected and Command V. You can see it just placed anywhere on the board. If you want to place the item in the same spot, hold down Shift Command and V. Now let's drag it over, and we've got our R started. I think I'd like our R to be a little thinner, so let's grab the two outside anchor points and bring them in. I am holding Shift here so nothing moves out of line. Let's also copy this again for the I and for the N. Command C, Command V, and I'll move it over. Let's grab those top two anchor points with the direct selection tool and shift that down so our I is shorter. We also want to use that stem of the R to start our N, but we known it needs to be thinner. Let's make another copy here. Let's select the rectangle with the selection tool. Then hold down option and start to drag your duplicate over. Hold down Shift while you're dragging. I want this piece to be a bit thinner since that's how it is in my image. I'm going to grab the two outside anchor points using the direct selection tool and bring it in. Now let's move it over so it's in place. I know we need to duplicate this for the other side. Now I'm going to lock both layers and show you how I like to do the middle of the N. I'm going two grab both of them with the selection tool and I'm going to press command tool to lock them. You can zoom in by pressing Z and clicking or you can press command plus sign. I'm going to grab the pen tool by pressing P and I'm going to start a path at the outside edge of that first rectangle. I'm going to draw my next point at the bottom outside, another won on the inside and back up. We need to close our path so that it's finished, so we're going to click right on top of that first anchor point. You can see that circle means I'm about to close a path. Now you can see if I unlock by pressing Command Option and two, its three pieces that are making up our shape. Each piece could have its own color, or we can unite them into one shape. 5. Creating Curves: When learning to use the pen tool, one of the common mistakes is using too many points. When doing this, you'll create jagged edges. Our goal is to have crisp lines. So we're going to use fewer points by placing our points on the extremas, those are the highest and lowest points of a curve. We're also going to keep our handles at 90 and 45-degree angles by holding Shift when dragging them out. We'll start by placing our first point right at the edge and dragging out our handles while holding Shift. A lot of people would place their next point here, but actually, we want to go straight to the bottom to our extrema and drag out those handles. Remember to hold Shift, and we'll come back and refine this curve later. To make a straight edge, we're going to press "Option", click on that anchor point, then finish and close our path. Now we'll drop the opacity and we'll go in and refine that shape. Hold down Shift and adjust your handles. For the counter, I'm going to copy that exact same shape, scale it down. I'm going to unite these two shapes with the Pathfinder tool, and I'm going to leave this as white, so it looks like it's popping right out. For the tail of our R, I know I want it to come down a little lower so it doesn't intersect with the i. I'm going to lock the i so I don't accidentally shift it. We'll place our first point here and then we'll go to the lowest point of our curve. We'll drag out our handles, then we'll place a second one at the top here. I like to experiment with the corners if they look better at 45 or 90. I'm going to keep this one at 45. I'll come here and place another point at the bottom of my curve, drag out those handles and finish out the curve. Again, I'm going to press "Option" and then close my path. Now I can go in and make refinements. I know I want this to come down, so I want to grab the three anchor points so I only affect this section. I'll grab them with the Direct Selection tool, then I'll hold down shift and move it down. I like that much better than my sketch. Now I'll grab the two parts of the R, I'll use the Pathfinder tool and unite them. Our counter's still there, but we're going to bring it to the front by pressing Shift, Command, and the right bracket. Now it's in the front so we can divide it. Grab both shapes, press "Divide", and then we'll remove this part so we can see that it's actually one piece now. Now we can make adjustments within. Much better. Now let's work on the tittle of the i. One way you can make a circle is by going to the Ellipse tool. The shortcut for that is L. If you wanted to make an oval, you just need to click and drag. If you hold down Shift while doing that, you'll get a perfect circle, but for this, I want to show you how to draw your own circle using the Pen tool. Command Z to undo that. So grab our Pen tool and let's click at the top, the highest point of our circle. Now let's drag our handles out in the direction we want to go. I'm dragging to the left because the next way I am going to go is towards my left. Now I want to go the bottom part. You can see if I don't use my handles, its not the shape I'm going for. So let's undo and do it again while dragging. That looks great. Now let's close our path and redraw that handle. Perfect. Now I can go in and make adjustments. That's one of my favorite things about the Pen tool, is that everything's editable. I can go in and grab this section, move it up or move these handles in to really perfect my shape. Let's move on to the g. When working on script lettering, I like to draw an outline of my shape. I'll start at my extrema, drag my handles out, and move to the bottom. You can see I need to place a point here, but this angle doesn't look right. While I'm on the Pen tool, I'm going hold down Option, drag that one handle in, when I release Option, I can pick up my path where I left off. I find that endpoints are usually where I don't use a 45 or 90 degree angle. Now that my path is closed, I'll go in and make those minor refinements. By pressing "A" and holding down Shift here and grabbing the path instead of the anchor point, I can make a symmetrical corner. If that's the look you're going for, that's perfect. The reason we have an overlap here is because I want to make sure I can go in and edit this piece without affecting the rest of it. That's looking pretty good. Let's turn it to a fill. Let's move on to our capital E. For my E, I like to draw some of the outlines first. I like to draw anything that doesn't have a curve, just as my foundation. You can see here that I need to turn this to a stroke, otherwise we won't be able to see what we're working with below it. Now for this curve at the top, I'm going to pick up the path, draw one more anchor point, then I'm going to unite these two paths by closing the path and dragging my handlebars. I know I want this exact same curve at the bottom, so I'm going to use my Direct Selection tool, grab the anchor points I want, Command C for copy and Command F for paste in front. I'm going to take that object and transform it to reflect. I want to reflect it over the horizontal axis. Now it's at the bottom and we can create some symmetry. I need to make this shorter so I can see, and I know I grabbed too much of that path at the top. I can go into outline mode here and see a little better. Now I can see that those two paths need to join. I'm going to grab both of them with the direct selection tool and press Command J. I don't need all these extra anchor points though. So I'm going to press the minus sign and remove those two anchor points. You can see that the path stayed intact. If I had pressed "Delete", I would have lost a portion of my path. Perfect. I know that this serif and the bottom serif are going to be different, so I'll work on the top one and then I'll move to the bottom. I'm going to pick up my path. I can see here it looks a little wonky. If we zoom in, it's sharp and then goes into the curve, so I want to make that a little softer by adding those handles there. That's better. I like zooming in really close, but remember to consider what size people are going to be viewing your file at. Now for this middle serif, I'm going to use basic shapes to create this. I'm going to use the Rounded Rectangle tool. I'm going to draw my rectangle, and then now all I want to do is add a regular rectangle to unite them. I'll use the Pathfinder tool and then I'll do the same thing here. I want to make my E a little taller, so I'm going to grab the bottom half by using the Direct Selection tool and move it down. I'm going back to this anchor point because I'm not loving the way it looks. Much better. Let's turn this into a fill now so we can see how it really looks. Perfect. Now we've just got these three letters left. These are in the style of modern calligraphy where the downstrokes are thick and the upstrokes are thin. We've also got a ligature here because the crossbar of the t is actually the crossbar of both ts. We'll save that part for last. Grab the Pen tool, and let's start at that top point again. Drag our handles, pick our next point. We'll come back and fix that curve again later. I'm not going to go into drawing the next letter because I like to each of my letters to be separate before I'm ready to finalize my project. Again, let's turn this to stroke so we can see below the artwork and we'll keep drawing. You can see that looks nothing like we want it to. Now that we've got the basic shape, we can go in and refine it. A lot of this is playing around with trying to find the right space to place your anchor point. That looks pretty good. Let's move on to our t. I'm going to place a point here because I want it to be a really crisp straight line. I don't want it to bow out. Since these are the same letter, we can actually just make a copy and then make adjustments instead of doing all that work over again. I know I want a really crisp corner here, so I'm going to use the Direct Selection tool. You can see this is making a perfect corner. I know we've got some adjusting to do up here. Let's turn this back into fill so we can see how it's looking. That's looking great. Let's work on this swash now. I'm going to start at this edge and then draw an anchor point here and pull my handles. Now it's time to go back and revise. This is a pretty organic shape, so I'm not too worried about those vertical and horizontal handles here. I want it to be it really flowy and really fun. I'm going to grab this part of the path. You can see that the [inaudible] curves are also being affected. I'm going to press "Shift C" here, hold down Shift, and we'll get that nice corner. I think I might have gone a little too thick with my sketch here, so I'm going to leave it like that. Let's see what happens when we turn it into a fill. That's looking great. 6. FinishingUp: Now, let's remove our background layer and see how we like it. Click on the eyeball and that layer disappears. To remove our guide so we can seen really clearly we'll just press Command semicolon. If we go into outline mode, we can see anywhere our plats are overlapping. Once you're really satisfied, you can go in and you can unite your shapes. I like to keep a copy of the lettering before I unite it in case I want to make changes later. Grab everything and press Command C, create a new layer and we'll go to edit, paste in place. That way it's in exactly the same place, but on a new layer. We'll lock that layer and we'll call that one "lettering pieces". Now add some color and I can't wait to see what you've created. I hope this class taught you some new tips for working in Adobe Illustrator. Remember it's okay if your sketches aren't perfect as you'll be using as a guide. Keep your letter forms unique, and the fewer anchor points the better. When you start working with the pen tool, don't get discouraged if your artwork isn't looking just like your sketch. Remember that a lot of this process is going to be in the refinement you'll do after you place your initial points. For your class project, choose your own word and be sure to share your work with the class. Upload your finished piece and process screenshots to the project page, and feel free to ask me any question. If you post any of your work on Instagram, be sure to tag @sugartype. Please leave me a mirror view and I can't wait to create with you again.