Level-Up Your Script Lettering | Ian Barnard | Skillshare

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Level-Up Your Script Lettering

teacher avatar Ian Barnard, Hand lettering Artist

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.

      Smooth Connections


    • 3.

      Avoiding Squashed Letters


    • 4.



    • 5.



    • 6.



    • 7.

      Wrapping up


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About This Class

Welcome to Level-Up Your Script Lettering! In this class, I’m going to take you through my process to improve your script lettering. You'll learn to tackle common mistakes to make your lettering more cohesive and polished. We'll cover my 5 steps to level up your script lettering, which includes: 

  • Forming smooth connections
  • Avoiding squashed letters
  • Weight balance & Contrast
  • Guidelines
  • Spacing

This class will mainly be focusing on the lowercase letters as that’s the area which needs the most attention. This class is ideal for students who know the basics of writing in script, but want to improve their lettering. You'll learn skills that will help make your portfolio stand out with great pieces of work, or create artwork you can sell online. For this class, there are no required materials, so grab your pencil, brush pen, or iPad and let's get started!

Meet Your Teacher

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Ian Barnard

Hand lettering Artist

Level: Intermediate

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1. Introduction: Ever since I first picked up calligraphy pen, that was six years ago. Script lecturing has been the backbone to all the work I've done. Having a foundation in traditional calligraphy has really helped my script lecturing to stay consistent in both the flow and legibility. Over the years, I've learned to self-critique my work, seeing when something doesn't quite feel right and knowing how to correct those letter forms. Hi, my name is Ian Barnard. I'm a full-time lettering artist and calligrapher from a small little town in the Southeast of Merry Old England. In this class, I'm going to show you five steps to level up your script lettering. First, we'll be looking at making smooth connections and avoiding squash letters. Then, we dive into white balance guidelines and finally, spacing. We'll mainly be looking at lowercase letters as this is the area that needs most attention. This class is for people who know the basics to writing in script, but really want to improve their lettering, make their portfolio of social platforms stand out with great pieces of work or sell their artwork online. Your project for this class is to take a new or existing piece of work, apply these five techniques to it, and then, show the before and after in a Skillshare Project Gallery. You don't need any special equipment for this class. I'm going to be using an iPad Pro, but you can use a brush pen, a marker, or even a pencil. So without further ado, let's get into class. 2. Smooth Connections: Let's dive into the first thing smooth connections. We're going to be looking at how the letters join together, and making sure that those connections are as smooth as possible. Focusing on consistent flow mean it's easier for the viewer to follow, and read your word. To help you understand what I mean by smooth connections. Let me show you this example. The exit strike of the letter e, is coming to an abrupt stop when it comes in connection with the letter a. The same as the a comes in connection with the letter t. Think about it like, a road. You coming up to a stop sign. You have to slow down, stop, take a look in both directions, and then you can head off again. There is no consistent speed, or direction. Now looking at another example. Here, letter e is seamlessly flowing into the letter a, and the same as the a flows into letter t. Going back to our road analogy, it's a bit like a motorway, or freeway. You don't have to slow down, or stop, or think about which direction you're heading in. You just have to keep at a constant speed, and filter into the flow of traffic. That's what we're aiming for here. What would cause your letters not have smooth connections? The first thing that might be happening, is that you're finishing your exit strikes too low. In this top example, we can see that they're finishing just above the baseline, where all the letters are sitting. Whereas in this bottom example, they're finishing much higher, near the height of most of the lowercase letters. Fancies you finishing higher is the transition between one letter to the other is going to be smoother. Another thing to bear in mind is knowing what letter comes next while you're constructing the carmine, so maybe I'm constructing e, I know that my next letter is going to be a, so that determines how I come out of the letter e. Let me show you that in an example of me writing. I'll write the word coastal, I'm signing off the letter c. I'm going to go straight into let o, so I come up quite high. Curve it slightly, because I know the next letter is a curve one. You're either going to come up against the curve or come up against the straight side, so after the a, I know I'm going to come up, because I've got the s next, and with the s rather than coming straight out lie that, because when the next lecture which is t comes down. You can have that abrupt stopping as I join together, so as I do the s. Another thing I've got the t next, so I come up. When I did a t, it smoothly transitions from the s to the t. Then I've got the a next side come up, and slightly curved. Now got an a next, it all come up, this doesn't just apply to script that's all on the same baseline. It does apply to the bouncy modern script. The same principle applies. [inaudible] I've come back up to where we done just above. We've got a next, and now I'm coming up to the s, so I come right back up to the top. I got a t next, I'll come back up, or the i, so I come back, and curved slightly. Now if I finish on the a, so I know is straight side, and as you can see, they all finish enjoying near the top. Consistency, or help the connection of your letters. The second thing is, your letters might be too close. If you're already making the exit shape finish near the top of the letters, but it's still not looking right. It might be because those letters are too close to each other, and here we have with the t, and i. The i is starting too soon, so to fix this. One way is to push your letters to the right. Increase the space between the letters, so that the exit stroke hits the left-hand side of each of the letters. That's one way to fix it. The other way is to adjust the angle which the x stroke comes up, so if you make it a sharp [inaudible] We then have to then adjust the spacing. Let me show you now, and finishing on that left-hand edge. The third thing is, I may not follow the natural shape the letters are made from. Mostly lower-case alphabet can be constructed with these few simple shapes. Having these basic shapes in mind to enjoin the letters. For example, the e is a child of the o. We'll help you to know which direction the x stroke should be pointing. Same goes to letter c, or if you drawing an eye, to the bottom of the eye, or an l, [inaudible] don't feel you're pointing the right direction. Just having the hours reference will help you to realize where you need to change it, and pointing in the right direction. 3. Avoiding Squashed Letters: Next up, we're going to be looking at how to avoid squash letters. Even though in this course we're focusing on the construction of 'how' words, each of those letters needs to be added to shine in saying. My son and daughter are both parts of the Barnard family sharing the Barnard characteristics, lucky them. But they also, they're only little person needing to stand up on their own two feet, and that's the same with our letters. What do I mean by squashed letters? Well, letters that are made up of two or more components, but when they are put together, they look a bit too condensed. There's a few reasons why this might be happening and how we can correct it. First, we're going to look at over-lapping components. Given an example of letter d here, we can see that the O shape is overlapping part of the O shape. If I was to continue this around, we can see that this area here is where the overlap is happening. If this is done, it produces a weird shape inside the negative space, which is partly curved and partly straight, a bit like a reverse capital D. What we're after is a nice, smooth oval shape. To achieve this nice oval shape, the second component just needs to touch the previous one. Thinking back to the previous step where the exit strike was crashing into proceeding letter, we see this here and here. We also want to make those connections inside our letters smooth as possible as well. That will give us a smooth oval shape inside our letter. This is also true for letters that contain the U-shape, either y and the w and obviously the U. Here in this first example, we got a lot of overlap going on here because the second component or the second strike has been started too early and overlapping the first one. Again, it produces a shape which is partly curved, hits here and then it's straight again, a bit like a reversed capital D. Whereas on this next one, there's only a tiny bit of overlap going on and thus produces nearly that oval shape that we're looking for. With letters like n, m, h, b, p, it might be that you're starting the second component a bit too high. Which means that there isn't enough room for the strike to have a smooth curve before coming into the down-stroke. By starting at the bottom right-hand corner of the first component and gradually coming up and away from it, you will then find it will give a more natural curve to our letters. Here, we're aiming for roughly the middle of the letter, the daylight to appear between the first and second component. Let me show that in practice. Here we have the letter b, as we can see it's starting a bit too high up here. If I was to follow this curve, the oval around, you'll see it's starting on this left-hand edge and produces a D-shape rather than oval. By starting at the bottom right-hand corner of our letter, we got up and away, produce the curve and then back in again, aiming for this center area for daylight to be produced. Here we are having a smooth oval inside. With the p, starting here on the baseline, on the right hand side, coming up and away, doing our curve and then back in the finishing middle, producing another oval shape inside there. With the h, bottom right-hand corner, again, up and away, produces this much smoother shape inside our letters. For letters like m, where you have three components, bottom right-hand corner again, up and away. Then again, exactly the same, bottom right-hand corner, up and away to produce two smooth internal shapes. 4. Weight: One of the beautiful things about script lettering is the harmony between the thick and thin stripes of each letter. Our aim here is to get both sides balanced, rather than one dominating the other. In this technique, I'm going to show you how this can be achieved with the new lettering. A rule to remember, when applying a thick down strokes to your letters, whether you're using a brush pen or drawing it with a pencil, is not to start too high or to finish too low. If you don't, then it forces you and the stroke to do two jobs at once, drawing from thick to thin or vice versa and also changing direction as well. This creates attention at the bottom or the top and also shifts the balance, so it looks like the thick stroke is dominating the thin strokes. A way to remember where to start and stop, is thinking of the shape of the oval as a clock face. If the weight is on the left-hand side, lie the a over the a and when you're looking to start at eleven o'clock and again counter clockwise and finishing about seven o'clock. When the weight is on the right-hand side, like letters b, a bold b and bold p. Looking to start at one o'clock, going clockwise, finishing at five o'clock. For partially care of letters like the i, we're looking to start with a thick stroke and then going down until we hit about seven o'clock, thinking about this shape as our clock shaped oval. Then with letters that included the compound curve like the n and the m, which is a thin stroke, thick stroke, thin stroke, we aim to start at one o'clock and going down and finishing at seven o'clock. Thinking about this area's clock face and this area's clock face as two separate ovals. The reason why we do this, is that it gives our thick strokes a chance to taper down to a thin stroke before it then has to change direction. Now we know where to start and finish our letters, we can now look at contrast. There is an extent to how thick, script can get before it looks too out of proportion with a thin strikes. When this happens, it might be worth changing the contrast of our letters. In this instance with the a, rather than starting over here 11 o'clock like we did with the thinner script. We're going to start back here at one o'clock and then we are going to continue a thick stroke, all the way around until we hit five o'clock. Again we don't want to start or finish where the change in direction happens. We want to keep that thick stroke, consistent top, middle and bottom of the letter. The same goes for this a shape, fixed radical way down. Instead of stopping here, at seven o'clock, you're going to continue all the way around until we get to five o'clock. If you decide to do this heavier style, also you want to slightly thicken up the thin stroke to balance evenly all letters. Let me draw this one for you so you can see how it looks like. Here is a skeleton of the letter a and then we're going to start here, at the one o'clock, thick strokes, thick strokes, thick strokes until we get to five o'clock, thicken up that thin stroke a bit, fill it in. The same thing happens with the i shape. Thick, thick, thick, all the way around to five o'clock and thicken up the thin stroke. With a compound curve, it's the same thing. Instead of starting over here at one o'clock, bring it back to 11 o'clock, that's going to be our starting point and you continue with that thick stroke all way around until we hit five o'clock. Thick up highs, pose the letters too. So again, that size, that width and that width are all the same size and again, we don't want to finish or start where the change in direction happens. Let's see what this looks like in a whole word. Here is a word with a variety different letters to show you how it would look. With the C here, we got a smaller clock face here and a bigger one on the outside. We're going to start here at seven o'clock and then we're going to take that thick stroke all the way around counterclockwise until we hit five o'clock. Then we've got that thicker, a heavier thin stroke right there. With a letter like the r is slightly different but we're going to start with the clock face here. We're going to start at seven o'clock here and then it's thick stroke all the way down and around to five o'clock. Keeping with that consistent width. With e, it's a bit like c, so we don't want to start with change of direction, we're going to start over here with clock face seven o'clock and it's thick stroke all the way round counterclockwise again until we reach five o'clock. With the a which we've just done before, it's one o'clock, thick stroke all the way around until we hit five o'clock and then it's back into the thin stroke, thick stroke all the way down to five o'clock. As you can see, there's this pattern emerging as its consistently finishing in the same place and that's what we're after, keeping these letters balanced. Thick stroke all the way down, again the compound curve will start here, 11 o'clock all the way around to five o'clock. The g is a bit like the a, starting at one o'clock thick stroke all the way around, finishing at five o'clock. Then with the descender, thick stroke all the way down until we get to seven o'clock because the white's going the other way and then its a thin stroke all the way around. As you can see, we've got consistent white going on here in the middle of the letters and the top of the letters as well. That's what we're looking for, that consistency throughout. Choosing the white ones here and making sure each letter follows that example and using that clock face, thinking about where you start and where you stop. It's the same in every letter. 5. Guidelines: If you've ever struggled with consistency with the words, it might be because you're not using guidelines. Doesn't matter whether you're doing traditional or modern script lettering style, having a proper set of guidelines setup will really help. It's quite hard to keep your letters as the same size when you're just eyeballing them on a page. Also, you might feel it's very restrictive hiring guidelines but will soon come to realize you will increase the quality and the legibility of your words. I use four main horizontal guidelines when I'm drawing on my letters, and they are the baseline. This is where the main part of each letter will sit. For instance that a or e or the power of the p. The next guide we have is the waistline or sometimes referred to as the x-height. This indicates the height of the lowercase letters in reference to the letter x. Then we have the ascender line, this indicates where the vertical stem of each letter will reach above the baseline. Say for instance, letter b or h or l. Then we have the descender line, this indicates where the vertical similar letter will reach below the baseline. Say for instance the g or the q, or the y. These measurements aren't set in styles so you can decide how high you have your waistline, how high you have your, ascender, descender. I tried to keep my ascender, descender quite short because I deal with library design or quotes limited on space. But say you're doing some wedding stationary, then you might want to increase the height of your ascender descender's to enhance the elegance of your lettering. Or say is that you mirror the height you choose for your ascender and descender, so they're exactly the same. In addition to those four horizontal guides always use slot lines. The slant lines, this is the angle which your letters will sit. I usually choose something between 50-60 degrees, but whatever feels best to you and why you write, what you need to do is just keep that angle consistent throughout your letters. We'll say if you're wanting to do the more bouncy style lettering, then giving yourself a second baseline and alternating between one and the other will help you with a consistent rhythm across your words. See, one to the other will leave you this wave-like pattern. Having these guidelines in place means that you have one less thing to worry about when you're trying to find your letters and keep them consistent. 6. Spacing: One of the things often overlooked, is spacing out your letters properly. You might have some beautifully constructed letters, but if they're not space properly. It can distract from the hard work that you've put in. What we're focusing on here is the space between every pair of letter, consistent throughout a whole word. One way we can check this is by drawing a series of rectangles in-between each letter in our word. You could do this either by using a piece of tracing paper and a pencil, over the top of your pen work. Or a new layer in Procreate, if that's what you're using. Because this will help us to determine, where in our lettering spacing is off and we need to correct it. Because once we finish doing this, we can then just hide our original lettering. Then we're left with a series of rectangle shapes, which have completely different widths to them. The first one is probably the width we're after. Then we look at the rest of them we got one that's too thin and then too wide. These ones here are just about okay. But then we're going too thin again and to wide. Once you've done that part, bring back your original lettering. Then we should be able to see where we need to adjust the spacing. Looking over here, where it's too thin and too thick, we could probably deal with the l moving over towards the i more to balance out the space inside of it. The same with the f, need to moves that over a bit so that there's more space between that and the i, and less space between that and the o. The same with the i over here, moving it more towards the a, will increase the space between n and the i and less space between the i and the a. Once you've been through that, find out where your letters are. Then redraw your lettering and hopefully, that would have sorted out the spacing. Because when you try the exercise again, you should be left with series rectangles. They are all now consistent in their width. Which means that your spacing will be consistent through your words. Now, this isn't something you need to every word you write. It's just an exercise to help train your eye to visualize where the spacing is off. Especially, the more you do it, the more you will realize where the spacing's off them, where you need to correct it. There's no right and wrong amount of space for those rectangles is just whether you want your spacing to be tight or loose. But it's just about having a consistent width of spacing throughout the whole word. 7. Wrapping up: There you go, that's five techniques to level up your script lettering. Some of these might be familiar to you already and some might be very new. These have just been ones that have helped me the most when it comes to my lettering. Don't forget to post your before and after in the Project Gallery. I'm really looking forward to seeing how it's helped your lettering.