Lettering with Motifs: Using Graphics as Type to Create a Themed Postcard | Abby Hersey | Skillshare

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Lettering with Motifs: Using Graphics as Type to Create a Themed Postcard

teacher avatar Abby Hersey, I draw things. I make things. I love coffee.

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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.

      Research & Brainstorming


    • 3.



    • 4.

      Digitizing Motifs


    • 5.

      Digital Layout


    • 6.

      Recoloring Artwork


    • 7.



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About This Class

Join pattern designer & illustrator Abby Hersey as she shares her process for creating high-impact, beautiful lettering from icons and motifs. Using existing letters as a template, you will arrange motifs drawn by hand or digitally into lettering for a postcard.

Lessons will cover:

  • Best practices for research and brainstorming
  • Digitizing your hand drawn artwork (scanning, cleaning up, and vectorizing your motifs)
  • Arranging motifs to create letterforms that are readable and beautiful

Basic Adobe Illustrator experience is required.

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Abby Hersey

I draw things. I make things. I love coffee.



My love of design began with the over-the-top, unquestionably 1980’s rainbow wallpaper in my childhood bedroom. It inspired in me a love of color, pattern, and shape that’s only grown over the years and has driven me to create engaging and inspiring designs of my own. I passionately believe in the power of illustration and design to transform spaces, simplify communications, and build relationships.

I was formally trained in graphic design, but most of what I use on a daily basis is self-taught, trial and error,  or learned from Skillshare, which is why I am passionate about sharing what I've learned, demystifying design concepts and technical skills through my classes.

When I’m not in the studio, I’m probably outdoo... See full profile

Level: Intermediate

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1. Intro: I'm Abby Hirsi, a service pattern designer and illustrator based out of Columbus, Ohio. As a surface pattern designer, I love to create motifs and work them into really dense patterns. That's my signature style. Dense, motif packed patterns. I wanted to incorporate this style into lettering as well, but found that simply applying a pattern toe lettering didn't yield the results I wanted. It felt a little forced. I decided to use the process I followed when creating a pattern to create custom lettering that felt truly you meet by allowing the motifs to dictate the edges of my text instead of hard lines, it turned into something that felt organic and had a great visual impact in this class. I'm going to share my process for researching, sketching and digitizing motifs, and you'll use those motifs to create high impact, beautiful lettering that is truly unique and expresses your signature style. We'll cover house to digitize your hand drawn artwork, preserving the particular look of your hand drawn elements. I'll show you how to arrange your elements to create letter forms that are both beautiful and readable, and I'll show you an easy way to re color your artwork 2. Research & Brainstorming: our class project is to create a themed postcard that you could use as a greeting or a gift or even frame and hang on the wall for my theme. I've selected Valentine's Day and will be creating a valentine. The first step in our research and brainstorming is to narrow down some typefaces that we would consider using for a project matter how beautiful your designs. At the end of the day, the message has to be readable, and I like to nail this down. First, I use a tool called word mark dot i t. It's a website. It allows you to type in any text and then preview it, using all of the system fonts that you have on your computer for my card. I'm not sure exactly which text I want to use. I could use love. I could use hugs. I think he's kisses used Xs and O's. I have an inkling that I'm gonna go with exes and oh's, but no matter how you slice it, the important part is to nail down the style. If I end up going with a different word for my card, that's fine. I can iron that out later, but I'm gonna go ahead and preview x o x o hit the load fonts button and you can see it's previewing using all of the thoughts that I have loaded on my computer have enough of them that there are many, many, many pages that I could go through. You don't want to spend too much time worrying about this, but you do want to nail down a few typefaces that you would be willing to consider when we move forward with the project, you're looking for something that is simple and solid. This will help for your message to be readable, even when you have all of these different things going on in the lettering. You can use Sarah of typefaces I have in the past, but something solids, dirty and simple will do the trick as I'm scrolling through here and making note of some of these nice, bold fonts, some of the shapes that I really like again you wanna go with anything too tricky because that's asking a lot of the person who's looking at the card Teoh piece together all of these motifs into a letter form that isn't immediately recognizable. So once I've narrowed down my fonts. I'm going to start brainstorming a list of elements and motifs that go well with my theme for Valentine's Day. That's kisses, hugs, really, This is just a brain dump. Um, you're putting down anything you can think of that goes along with your theme. No, no wrong things. At this point, I don't even know kissy lips. His word. But I'm going with it again. You're just coming up with a list of things that are associate ID with your theme that could translate into elements in your design. In looking at this list, most of these things I can just draw off top of my head. Hearts are easy arrows or easy. I am intimately familiar with candy kisses and could draw those blindfolded. Some of the things are a little trickier, and I might want to collect some reference images for those kissy lips. For example. In my head, I know what kissy lips look like, but translating that into drawing, I might want some reference. Same thing with Cuban. I'm not great with human form, and I might want some reference photos to go along with Cuba, not going go full scale mood board for this project. But I am gonna hit Google and see if I can get some. Uh Oh, look, kissy lips are thing. That's what people call him. Grab some images just so I have an idea, actually, just gonna do a screen shot of this. There's something to refer back to. When im sketching. Do you keep it like the still what I can pull off a silhouette? Some of these drugs are more complicated, but that doesn't mean can't used them for reference. Go ahead, take a screenshot That as well, last thing to start considering at this point, are color schemes that you might want to use for your final artworks will finalize color as one of the last steps of our process, but it's good to be thinking about now. I keep a running board on Pinterest for color schemes that I like that attract my tensions that seemed fresh, and I refer back to it when creating artwork. I've collected some for Valentine's Day. Specifically, some of these air, extremely traditional and traditional, is not necessarily bad. I'm definitely going to reference a traditional color palette and then also see if there's something a little different that might work. This is beautiful. Saved a swell. Just saving these. My desktop. For now. Go to off the wall, necessarily. But if that's your if that's your style, it feels right. I really like the colors in this one more. That's just a little more pops out. So I've narrowed down some type faces I might like to use. I've come up with a list of ideas for sketching and just a handful of color palettes to try out on my design, so I'm ready to move on to my sketching face. 3. Sketching: Now we're ready for the sketching portion of our project. When im sketching, I like to use cheap printer paper. I am less precious about my drawings when I use printer paper versus a sketchbook. And for a project like this, where the goal is to come up with as many varied elements as I can and knowing that some of those won't make it in the final project, I draw a little more freely when I'm using cheap paper. It's a mental trick, I'm sure, but it works for me. On duh, I highly recommend it. If you're having trouble coming up with sketches, if you're taking a lot of time and feel like you're self editing, just cut that out. I also have a mechanical pencil, nothing very fancy, and we'll get started first. We're gonna do some thumbnails for our text layout. A good size for a postcard is four by six or five by seven, so I'm just gonna again not being very precise. Draw myself a couple postcard shapes. At this point, I'm not concerned about the motifs or the overall look of the elements. I am just concerned with figuring out what text I want to use and how I want to use it. I said I was probably gonna go with XO and, uh, still feeling that way, but I'll let the thumbnails bear that out strong. A nice, sturdy X and O not being too concerned that being perfect, I just want to see how it fills the card. Make sure I like the like characters stacked. They could also do them this way. This is a super basic, but it helps me figure out what I like and what I don't better to figure it out Now, then, when you're almost done with your project. Also gonna take love for a spin. I just keep going back to the X. I know, though he's gross but gets the point across color, this one in a little cycle period better together because I definitely definitely want to go with the ex neo. It's not sure if I like them staffed or like this. I think I like this better, so that's the window go with when it comes time for layout, terms of sketching my motifs, I have my brainstorm list close at hand, and I will just begin drawing some of the things on that list and try and produce as many motives as possible 4. Digitizing Motifs: I finished sketching and now have a variety of motifs to work with. I'm ready to begin preparing them to bring into the computer. We're going to be using the live trace feature and illustrator. And so I want to make the piece of artwork that I scan or photograph in as crisp and clean as possible. The way I achieved this is a use but inexpensive light table and trace my motifs onto a fresh piece of paper. If you don't have access to a light table or if you prefer, you can draw directly over top of your sketches with an ink pen and use that. I, however, like the option for a do over in case I screw up and want to preserve the integrity of my original sketches. So I opt to trace relate to people. I'm gonna fasten my two pieces of paper together with a little bit of washing team to keep them from wiggling around independently of each other as they work and then fire lily box. You can see this got just show through and give me nice lines to trace from one thing to keep in mind as you're tracing your drawings is that any items that are touching will come in through life trace as a single shape. So a good example of this would be on my postage stamp. I haven't arrow kind of going through it, and the arrow shaped overlaps the edge of the heart. I'm going to want to trace these as two separate items instead of one single trace, because I won't be able to separate them out if I trace them together. Same thing with these flowers. The pedals will be traced as one, and the stems and leaves will be traced separately. So here I'm tracing my pedals. And on a separate piece of paper, I will trace the stems. Same thing with the postage stamp. No. Trace the heart now and come back with a second piece of paper to trace the era of Go ahead and do this outside border because it's not touching anything. Gonna proceed same way through all of my motifs and that will be ready to bring them in to my computer. I finished racing all of my motifs and Penn and I'm ready to bring them into the computer. This could be accomplished using a scanner or a camera, and one way is not necessarily better than the other. It all really depends on your scanner and your camera. If you have a high end scanner that you're really comfortable using, that will do a great job for you. If you have a smartphone, chances are it will take a decent photo to accomplish what you need it to. A swell. The one thing to keep in mind if you're using a camera as opposed to a scanner, is to keep your camera super flat and level as you take the photo. You want to be tilting one way or the other, because that can work your artwork and make it more difficult to digitize. Once we bring him into illustrator, I've transferred my drawings into the computer, and I am ready to move forward with digitizing them an illustrator. Go ahead and make a new illustrator file, and I'm going to send it at the size of my postcard seven by five. But right now, size doesn't really matter. We have time to adjust that later I'll go ahead and place. The first of my drawings comes in nice and large. Go ahead, shrink it down a little bit. And since we'll be tweaking the motifs again, I'm not really concerned with the size right now. I just want to be able to work with it, select my image and click on Image Trace. It's creating a preview for us, and now we see what it would look like if we were to convert it straight to Vector. You can make tweaks to this by going in to the Image trace panel. It shows you what it set up to dio and moving these sliders will make a small difference in your artwork, and it will refresh that preview. If your lines feel little heavy, you can lighten it up. If you feel like it's not capturing enough of your artwork, you can thicken it up. But I like using the black and wait preset. It's very straightforward what it's bringing in and, uh, good to go. I am going to change it to create stacked paths using this overlap tool, because I'm going to remove all of these white areas and just use the black shape to fill with color. I didn't that I think I'm pretty happy with it overall, and so I'll hit expand. This creates the vector paths that we're going to work with for motifs. They're all in one group right now, so I'm going to ungroomed them, remove my white background and make a few more adjustments down here on our lettering where the, uh we want this area to remain un colored. I need to knock that out. I select my black shape and my white shape and click on my Pathfinder tool on the right. We're going to go ahead and select minus front, which creates a compound path. Now there's that that white there. It's just this black shape here to do that for my owes individually. And maybe I think that's also true on my postage stamp. I want this area to remain white. Well, it will ultimately be a color. I'm going to just change it so that I can then select something white, select the same fill color and delete them all. And you can see now I'm working with exactly the shapes that I wanted to bring it. Gonna go ahead and do this with my other sketch. Combine those elements into one file and then we'll begin our layout 5. Digital Layout: I finished digitizing all of my motifs and have combined them into one file. I've also added a little bit of color. This is not what I played on for my final colors by any stretch, but I like to start with some color on the move chiefs because it helps arrange them in a way that provides a little movement. And it helps you lay the basic building blocks of what will ultimately be your color arrangement. I use a very basic palette of five colors that it's kind of one of my go twos and applied it in a way that seemed pleasing to me. And you don't get too distracted with color at this point. But a little color on there really helps with making sure the layout makes sense. Gonna copy all of our motifs and name this layer elements, create a new layer gold artwork, duplicate the motifs there and then locked down our elements. This preserves your original artwork. Should you make any changes, you regret or accidentally delete something. You can go back to that elements layer and find what you started with. I'm also going to create a layer that I'm recalled templates. And this will be where we place the text that we're going to use as a guide for a ranger. Motifs. Go ahead and turn off our artwork layer right now so we can just focus on getting that text , right? I decided to go with x o x o. I'm gonna set it in one of the fonts that I liked size it appropriately for a postcard and center it up. Also going to change the color of the text to light gray. I need to be able to see it, but I don't want it to overwhelmingly be visible because that will inform my process as I arranged the motifs. So I've made a light gray and I'm just gonna go ahead and drop that template layer down below our artwork. It's just there for reference. Not going to touch it, and I'll lock it. But we do want to be able to see it. Go ahead and turn my artwork back on and select all of my motifs There. Obviously too large at this stage, based on the size of the text. None of them would fit very well. So I'm gonna go ahead and shrink them down, just kind of guessing. I want to make sure most of the elements will fit nicely. Cupid's kind of an outlier. He's pretty big and looking at my letters, he's not gonna fit well, anywhere at that size, we're shrink him a little bit individually. Um, but overall, I like the mix I have of large and small icons. This helps create a really dynamic graphic, and so I don't want everything to be uniform in size. I want some variety, but also to make sure all of those pieces will ultimately fit in the letters. I think the sizes air pretty good. I'm gonna go ahead and duplicate thes off to the left because I'm gonna be using each motif many times throughout the project. And I don't I don't wanna have to copy and paste them out of the letters themselves. I just wanna be able to grab up here and now I'll start arranging in the letter X Typically start by using my larger motifs and you'll see some of them have kind of a natural shape that isn't too far off what the letter has. And I like to find those instances and make use of them take advantage of Cupid's bow here , really making a nice clean line with that angle. And as I go, I'll rotate them, flipped them, resize them as needed to make the best use of the space. Then they start filling in with some of the smaller motifs. This is a process that can be a pretty time consuming and rather than babble on and on, I'm going. Teoh, press ahead with this and meet back here in a few minutes. - I've got my letter form pretty full now with my various motifs, and I just want to double check how it's going to look in the final piece and see if there's any areas I need to add or subtract or resize or re color. The best way to check your progress is to turn off that template layer that leaves you with just the letter form that you're creating. And now that I've done that, I can see I've got some gaps that I'm probably gonna want to fill in a little bit, Uh, and maybe some edges to tidy up. Start by filling in some of this white space here. I'm gonna grab some of these tiny hearts. I'm into that space, the tiny heart to probably work over here. A swell. - I think that I had some hearts here as well. If you have to money open areas, too many spots with white space, it can cause the viewer's eye to rest in that area instead of moving on to check out all the other really cool motifs you've made. So you want to go for something that has, you know, whitespace? Sure, but not too much in one area. Keep the eye moving around. Okay, now here's a spot on the edge where this heart is hanging over a little further than I would like trying to keep my edges organic and not worry about having hard lines per se. But this one just a little far out side of the lines. We'll shrink that in. It's the touch. You haven't gonna want something to fill that gap. I'm pretty happy with how it is now. There's nice movement. There's plenty for the eye to look at. There are giant gaps where people will get stuck and, uh, the edges air pretty clear. It's gonna be a nice, readable letter form in the final piece, so I'll turn my template back on and continue this process with my remaining letters. 6. Recoloring Artwork: finished Philly in the rest of my letter forms, and I've turned off my template layer to double check. I'm really happy with the way my artwork looks overall, and I'm ready to start applying color. I'm going to go ahead and copy my artwork to a new layer and name that layer color, then gonna lock down my artwork layer to preserve it so that if I make any mistakes during the coloring process, I can always go back to the version I see now and work forward from there. Gonna grab screenshots from our brainstorming and research session and use Thies to develop some color palettes I can use just going to use my eyedropper tool to sample the color and then drag it from my color down to swatches. I'll repeat that for all of the colors in a given scheme. And now that I have those, they're going to use my selection tool in the shift key to select all five of my colors and click new color group. I could name it something. I'm just gonna let it be Color Group One for now. And that pulls them down here into their own grouping that we can utilize with the re color artwork tool. Go ahead and do the same for the rest of my inspiration images. Oh, - I now have four new color schemes that I can work with my re color, my artwork and my original color scheme. Here you'll notice that they all contain five colors, and the number of colors isn't really important. You may want more or less in your work, and that's fine. But what is important is to keep it consistent from color palette to color palette. It will make it a lot easier to use the re color artwork feature. If all of your palates have the same number of colors, go ahead and select my heart work. Go to edit edit colors, re color our work. This brings up a dialog that shows the current colors in my file. The color. I'm changing them, too, and the color groups available to me by selecting another color group. You'll see that it instantly previews the change in my artwork based on these colors replacing thes colors. I can drag these around to change the order of replacement and therefore my artwork. There's also an option. Have it randomly changed the color order for you. I'm gonna go ahead and try out my traditional palette and you'll see that this light color is used on some things that then just become basically invisible. They may be that this color is just too light to use for this artwork, and we want to change that color. It could be that changing the order of the colors would help it, but you can see as I flipped through. There are some things that just aren't showing because I'm using such a light color. If I were using bolder colors like this color palette, you'll see that everything still filling out the letter nicely. And there's a lot of arriving. You can try out different options. See what I like best. When I'm satisfied with the way the color trims looks, I can click OK, and you don't need to save your changes to the Swatch Group. It's just referring to the order of your swatches. You'll see that my artwork has changed completely. You can do this as many times as you like and come up with as many versions as you would want. You can come out here and add more color palettes. Make adjustments to the existing colors until you get your piece exactly the way you would like it. 7. Conclusion: Now it's time to put your finished artwork to use for postcard priming. I'm a big fan of MU. They print beautiful, high quality postcards, and they offer you the option to use multiple files in a single order. If you wound up with multiple color ways for your postcard, this is a great way to get them printed. It's also useful if you want to do an assortment of greetings. This lettering technique, however, has unlimited possibilities for use posters to you. Sure, it's mugs, tote bags. These would all be great ways to show off your artwork. If you decide to put your artwork on something other than a postcard, please share this in your project. I'm looking forward to seeing what you all create.