Logo Lettering: Hand Letter an Effective Logotype From Sketch to Vector | Nicolas Fredrickson | Skillshare

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Logo Lettering: Hand Letter an Effective Logotype From Sketch to Vector

teacher avatar Nicolas Fredrickson, Letterer & Designer

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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.

      Tools Of The Trade


    • 3.

      Start Concepting


    • 4.

      Select Strongest Concept


    • 5.

      Revise Chosen Concept


    • 6.



    • 7.



    • 8.

      Final Critique


    • 9.

      Go Be Great!


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About This Class

It's the details that matter. And working with your hands forces you to pay attention to even the smallest ones. When I'm lettering, I know every imperfection, I know every flourish. There are countless decisions to be made and I'm aware of each and every one of them. That's the beauty of hand lettering. When you know your work, it's inevitably going to be much stronger.

You probably see hand lettering all over the internet nowadays. But it's not always as simple as it seems. There is a tedious process behind effective lettering, which I am going to share with you. In this class, you will learn how to apply hand­crafted concept roughs, into a refined scaleable logo. I will teach you how to create a finished logo using my very own process. You'll learn about my thought process when starting a project, all the way to how I plot my vector anchor points. The best part is, no prior experience or training is required! By the end of this class, you will be ready to contribute to the world of custom lettering!

Check out some of my work on my website and Instagram!

Videography: Suit & Tie Films

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Nicolas Fredrickson

Letterer & Designer


Hi, I'm Nicolas Fredrickson, and I draw letters for a living! I do this full time as a freelancer. I got my biggest exposure from a project called "Omatype". I live in Omaha, so Omaha + Typography= Omatype. This was a 365 day project I did with my good friend Erin Pille (Instagram @breathoffresherin). We hand lettered a piece every single day and uploaded it to Instagram. Yea, this was intense. But I really wanted to step up my game in lettering and decide if it was just a fad, or something I was truly passionate about.

Turns out it's a passion! I no work with companies all around the world to help build them success through branding, apparel design, etc. I am extremely thankful for what I call the best job in the world!

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1. Intro: My name is Nicolas Fredrickson. I'm a hand letter and graphic designer. As a kid, I would have told you, I wanted to be in the NBA, but unfortunately, I never got that a foot and a half growth sport. So what I do now is, I draw letters all day. I've always loved working with my hands, I do a lot of woodworking with my dad, and when you work with your hands, it forces you to pay attention to details. You're constantly critiquing yourself, and I think that makes me a better designer. The biggest push to get my career moving, my friend and I did this project called Omatype. It was a 365 day lettering project. Every day we hand lettered a piece and uploaded it to Instagram. That's built a ton of exposure and support from the Instagram community. So hand lettering, I first got drawn into that when I just couldn't find the right typefaces. I was really in love with searching for all these typefaces. A lot of times it just didn't feel quite right, and I thought, why don't I just create this myself? Obviously, at the beginning it was like a terrible idea. I thought about like, "No, this isn't going to work," but I just kept pushing through that doubt, and this project Omatype was a huge motivation booster, kind of like if I'm going to do it, then I got to get through this project. The fun thing about lettering is, it's custom for each project, so if I'm collaborating with the illustrator, we can figure out what the right style is for that particular project, or within each company there's going to be different type treatments. So the value of custom lettering is each project is unique. You do research based on the company and you give them the best possible outcome. If you're really concerned about the company and their success, you want to give them the best custom type treatment you can. So what you're going to learn in this class is what I do all the time. I do a lot of branding for companies, starting from scratch, giving them custom type. We're going to go from the research stages, to concepting, to vectorizing the lettering, to texture. So let's get started. 2. Tools Of The Trade: You'll need a sketchbook, drafting pencil, adjustable eraser, microns, brush pen, ruler, tracing paper and a computer. Moleskine sketchbooks are nice because they come in a variety of different sizes and you have the option between gridded, blank, ruled. I prefer the gridded just so I can have a more structured piece in the end. Then I use a bunch of different tools to actually create the lettering. The drafting pencil is nice because the lead is really thin. This one's 0.3 mm and that really helps me get detail. The adjustable eraser is nice because these erasers last for quite a while. The microns are perfect for transferring your sketch onto the tracing paper, and a Tombow brush pen is good for having different stroke widths in your piece. I use the two foot ruler because a lot of times I like to sketch larger and plus it's good if you need a specific ratio, you can measure that out. You're going to need the tracing paper to bring it into the computer. Finally I use that 15 inch MacBook Pro and it's powerful enough to run all the programs I need, and every good designer uses an Apple computer. 3. Start Concepting: This is the concepting stage. Here's where you're going to want to put all your ideas on paper. This can be done in various ways. Whether you want to start with a word list or just start sketching away. The point is to get all your ideas on paper without erasing. You may have hated concept at one point, but then maybe later you'll draw inspiration from it. As you can see, I started with a word list up here for my company, Fierce Motors. I took the word motors and just felt whatever built off of that I wrote down. I wrote mechanic, bikers customize their own bike, complexity, lots of parts. A lot of times the words may not even make sense, but you got to get it out. Then fierce, I wrote strong, power, masculine, grunge, movement. Then I liked the word complexity, had thought that had potential as well as the word movement. Then the key was, how can I combine those two words and making something significant? When thinking about motorcycles, you realize they get you from point A to point B. But in an experience that's much different than just driving a minivan. There's this perpetual idea of movement. That's why I chose movement as my strongest word. As you can see, I started sketching out some ideas based on that concept. I was also drawn to the word complexity. When you talk to people who ride motorcycles, they know a thing or two about the bike itself. My uncle says, "You shouldn't ride a bike If you don't know how to take it apart and put it back together." I thought complexity was a fitting word. I started studying the motorcycles themselves and looking at different parts and pieces. As you can see, I started sketching handlebars, gas tanks, wheels, just different parts. Then I had the idea to form the gas tank with the wings, which then fit my original goal of combining movement and complexity. Down here you can see that I started giving that a shot. On the next page, I finally got closer with the concept and I started liking how it appeared. I continued sketching out different ideas on how I wanted the lettering itself to look. A lot of times you can tell which concepts have potential and which don't, but you just want to keep going just in case you can explore more. I felt that this logo had to have movement to it. I was being more drawn to the script lettering. Another thing to keep in mind is, you want to keep your concepts loose. You don't want to get too drawn into an idea right at the beginning and miss out on the opportunities to explore different ideas. I spent anywhere from 10 sketches to 200 sketches. It all just depends. Sometimes you do or hit a really great concept and sometimes it just takes a little longer. Just like I said before, this pencil is really nice because it can give me really thin lines. I'll demonstrate some sketching. Another thing to keep in mind is when you are sketching, you want to play around with hierarchy, and balance, and layout. Remember, it doesn't have to be perfect at this point. You're just trying to get your ideas down on paper. I came up with this tagline, rider fly for the brand because it was a play on the logo mark itself, the idea of of the gas tank ride and then the fly focusing on the wings. I know I hold my pencil weird. You never want to erase ideas. If you need to erase just to tweak a particular concept, maybe you want to fix this F, that's fine, but never totally erase an idea. Make it better like that. 4. Select Strongest Concept: So I'm starting to hone down on this particular concept. I'm liking how this layout is working. As you can see, I've illustrated that a few different ways. Pretty similar in all three, but there's subtle things that I'm picking up on. Now that we have a variety of sketches, it's time to choose our strongest ones. A lot of times, you should include your art director, client, they like to have a say in this too. Usually I just start circling the ideas that I think are stronger. Just really liking how this one turned out. Sometimes this can be hard because you need to eliminate down. Now that I've chosen three concepts, I need to limit it down even further. I need to figure out which one's working better and why? There's always going to be one best solution, it's impossible to have three equally perfect solutions at the logo. I like the wing concept that originally I was working with, but as I started to progress and combine it with the gas tank, I think it got stronger in sketches like this. I like it, how I included the handle bars in this sketch, but I don't think the layout is as strong as some of the other ideas. Ultimately I'm going to move forward with this one. I like the idea of having a script to show movement. I like that the logo mark has the, looking back to my words of complexity and movement. Here's the logo mark, I'm deciding to work with. I like that it combines both of those ideas into a clever way in the tagline place on that. 5. Revise Chosen Concept: Now that I've selected my strongest concept, I move forward with it. Here's our experiment with different letter f's. How, swoopy I want the tale of the e to be. Just different things that I'm going to need to experiment with. Here's where I start to refine it a little bit more. I know that I want the fierce word to be script, so I'm playing with some different options here. Here you can see I used my ruler to make sure my angle is correct. Like I said before, the grid lines are really nice because when I'm working on sans serifs like this, I can make sure my lines are perfectly straight. Obviously that's going to need some tweaking in the computer but, for the most part it gives me a good basis. Now I'm getting closer to the final and the sketch has to be pretty tight at this point. You still have some wiggling room but, you want it pretty close. As I was talking a little bit about hierarchy or earlier, you can see here that the fierce is the most prominent part and that's how it should be. Motors is the secondary info so that should stand out the second, along with the logo mark. Then this supporting input doesn't need to be as emphasized. You can see here, I did this little sketch for layout purposes. It doesn't look like much but, I know that I want this fierce word to eventually be angled. The motors underneath the logo mark and then the supporting info. That's just a little note to help me on later. As you can see, my layout is much more refined, but there are still some notes I had to take in order to fix in the computer. I think some of these supporting elements should be a little bit smaller. I think I do want to go ahead and make that an angle. I went back and forth with that idea, but I think having an angle further enhances the movement idea. Let's see, motors might need a tweak a little bit. Overall, here's a pretty good point to move on to transferring into my tracing paper. One thing that actually helps is to tape the tracing paper down. A lot of times it can wiggle around. You just use this masking tape, here it go. Get out my microns. Actually this Tom boat pen comes with a dual-purpose. It's got this brush pen side like I was talking about earlier. But then also it just has this regular pen side which is pretty nice. I want this to be one single way, so it helps me figure that out just using a thick enough tip that will give me that uniform way. Then I'll write off the but, then I'm going to need to thicken this up in the computer but, been tracing over this so, it's more of just a template at this point. So now I need take notes on my tracing paper as well. Just going to put a little arrow there, I need to round that out. For this part right here, I'm going back to the previous sketch I have. This one, and I'm going ahead and trace that. Hopefully you don't need to do this whole thing, but if you guys get the picture. I'm going and switch to my thinner pens for this part, here with the 0-500 micron. Obviously the cleaner you are, the easier it's going to be to trace over in the computer. So that's a pretty good basis. I can certainly go back to this, but I'm going to sketch it off to this side here, because I think it's the exact trace size just yet. All right, so now it's time to scan. 6. Vectorization: I scanned my drawing and I just wanted both black and white, I brought it into Illustrator and now we're going to trace over it. Now, with tracing on Illustrator, there are two different ways you can go about it, you can use the pen tool which is my preferred method, or you can do what's called image trace, and I'll talk a little bit about both. We're going to start with the pen tool here, but first I'd like to draw myself some grid lines, it looks like I wasn't quite perfect on there. You can also do slanted grid lines if you select your pen tool and then you just draw a line, that's pretty close like that. However many you want to draw, I'm just copying and pasting in place and that's Edit > Copy and then Edit > Paste in place, I'm just used to these keyboard shortcuts, and then I just select them all, you go to View > Guides > Make Guides. Now with my pen tool, I'm going to start tracing over this shape. The trick with the pen tool is you want to have as few points as possible, and there are certain places where the points work the best, and those places are called the extremas. That's basically where the curve hits its lowest point, or where the curve hits its highest point like that, sometimes if you can't really tell visually you can draw a line to see just where that is and it looks like it's right in here. I'll start on this one I guess it doesn't really matter too much, looks like it's right around here. What I was doing is I was clicking and dragging while holding down Shift to make sure I have a straight line, then I'm going to come over to this area and do the same thing, click, Shift, drag. You can see it's starting to form, then what I'll do is I usually change this fill to a stroke because it gets crazy sometimes. Another thing I'm going to do I'm going to go to my move tool, just real quick I'm going to bump up the stroke width so I can see it a little easier. Here we go. I click back on it, get the pen tool again and then just start from a broken point. You're going to click again, but then also drag while holding Shift, basically the same thing we're doing, and it reconnects it. Then Shift, drag, sometimes I'll put a point right here too, it's another extrema but if you can get away without putting that one, then it's pretty nice. I'm going to change the color of this downing box real quick, it's difficult to see, so you double-click on the layer and dark green is pretty fine. Go back to the pen tool, and as you can see it's looking a little techy right here. Actually we'll go to the direct selection tool, click on the point, and then sometimes it just helps to turn your guides off. Then click on it, hold, Shift again and then nudge it, this definitely takes some playing with sometimes you need to position a little differently. A lot of times your sketches aren't perfect either, so you have to eyeball it a lot, so you have to go back in and refine, it's pretty good, going back to my pen tool, click, Shift, drag, again. Sometimes you can break the rules a little bit on the endpoints because if I hold on Shift, it would look crappy. But the more horizontal and vertical lines you can have the better, because that just makes for easier editing later on. Find the starting point, I need to go back to my direct selection tool, pull that one a little bit more, it looks a little closer. Go back to my pen tool, same thing, click, Shift, drag. Actually I might pull a little further, you can see it's looking a little junkie up here, hold Shift, move that over, all of this can just be a lot of trial and error. You can see it's definitely starting to take shape, it's a lot closer anyway, go back to my pen tool and we connect. This part's fun because you go all the way back up here, lot of starters, I think you go here, here, here, here, here, here, but that's just bad practice. You go from here all the way up to here, a little bit higher so you can just see you what I'm doing. Direct selection tool again, and you're just tweaking that and I'm going to click on the point and just move it back down a little. It's just easier for you to see if I put it up there. Actually, I've finished this one off. Here's why I have the guides, so I can make sure that's pretty close. Here we go. One thing I like to do also is, I'll select this with my Move tool, go into the Strokes panel, and I will turn this to rounded, as well as the corner. See what it does, just makes it a little more refined. Turn off my guides again. I think this still needs some work right here. Like I said, the closer your sketch is, the easier it'll be to trace, but mine wasn't 100 percent accurate, so I have to eyeball some of these things. But I think that's pretty close. Yeah, it looks pretty good. I also wanted to talk about live tracing and why I prefer the Pen tool over that. I'm going to go to this layer. I have my rough scan on a separate layer and when I click on this and there's this panel here called "Image trace," I'm actually going to bump this up too, so you can see it clear first. This is the easy way, but I don't think it's the best way. You'll see what it does here. So now everything, once I click "Expand," everything is a vector. But you can see there's thousands of points and that makes it insanely hard to edit. If I needed to edit this curve just a little bit, then I wouldn't need to tweak every single one of these points. When I have it with the Pen tool, there's just this one point here, it's all I need to do, just bam. But sometimes you want that really roughen the look. For instance, something like this isn't so bad, but it just depends on your project. If you want your final outcome to be super loose and it's not as important to have the crispness of the Pen tool, then this might be the better solution. We're going to undo that and scan back command. The nice thing about Sans-serif is a lot of times, you can use these pre-built shapes the Illustrator offers. For the O, I could easily use the rounded rectangle. Take out the fill real quick. So that's not bad, but if I want to change the settings, I can click and I can edit the corner radius if I want it to be more rounded or less rounded, whatever. For the letter M, I will just have to use the Pen tool. It's easy enough if you have these smart guides on, it'll tell you the appropriate spots. For this also, I am going to round off the edges. Make it a little bigger. I do a similar thing for the R. I think that's way too round, so going to do that about third of the size or so maybe, that just take some plan with getting used to it. Here's what I'll do. I'll actually click these outside points that I don't need, and I'll delete them. Then I can click and hold with the Direct Selection tool over these points and just nudge them over. There you go. Of course, I could just do this all with my Pen tool, but a lot of times it's quicker just using this method. All right, cool. [inaudible] to how it looks once I've traced the whole thing. Here's a shot of my fully traced piece using the same methods I told you before. Now, once I've got everything traced, I need to start. I still need to angle this, I hadn't done that yet. For the purpose of this video, you can see that I went with the image trace for this, for the logo mark. I liked the rugged aspect to it. Then once I made these last few tweaks, I get to this point. 7. Texture: Now I think I want to add some texture to it. I'm going to select this whole shape, copy it, go over to Photoshop, and I have this document sized at 11 by 11 at 300 DPI. I'm going to paste it in here. That's probably about fine. One thing that I like to start when I'm adding texture is we go to Filter, Distort, Ripple. Here I can mess around with the sides. You can see how that made it a little wobbly. That just adds for a more realistic look in the end. Obviously, you can get pretty crazy with it, but it's not what we're going for. For texture, I add a layer mask and it's this icon down here. I go to my brush tool, here we go. I have this brush that I made myself. A lot of tutorials out there that can show you how to make a brush. This is just based off of a stamp pad. I'm just using this shortcut to make it a little bit smaller, but you can adjust it in here too. First thing I like to do is just cover everything. I'm not going to leave it like this, but I just want to make sure everything has gotten some love. That's why the black is the main color. I'm going to swap these around. With layer masks, the white brings back in the black erases. That's nice, you can switch back and forth between the two. Even that's starting to look pretty nice. I might actually increase the ripple a little bit more. When you start add texture, it's not as noticeable. It doesn't have to be obvious, it can be subtle. It's pretty close. There's all sorts of different textures you can apply. Sometimes I'll go way up to this already pre-built brush and drag it down quite a way. Sometimes you can erase from the edges a little bit, give it a stamp look. A lot of people asked me how I do this texture. It's a little bit of a process, but it makes for a cool look. You can go all the way around if you wanted to do that or you can just leave it like this. Then one thing to make the texture stand out a little bit more sometimes I'll do this, I'll click on the Layer Mask thumbnail. Then I use command L, which just brings up the levels. Then you can play with these, turn the black up. Here we go. Maybe that's a little bit too intense, but you just got to find this sweet spot. You see what I was talking about on this E, its texture doesn't quite go out to the edges. It'll all take some playing with. Overall, here is my final piece. There you go. 8. Final Critique: So now that I've put the finishing touches on it, I want to do one last critique. So a couple of ways I go about doing that is I get up out of my chair and I go stand back, take a look at it from a distance and see how it looks. Are the correct words popping out? Is the hierarchy there? That's a good way to test it. When you're up close, you can obviously see every little detail, but when you're back, is fierce prominent? Is motors prominent? Is the logo mark prominent? Sometimes that just helps getting up and looking at it from a distance. Another thing I do is, sometimes I'll print it out and magically, you can pick up on things from a printed copy that you don't on the computer. I don't think you need the best printer in the world. This is just for yourself. You're not hanging it up on your wall. You're going to toss it as soon as your done with this but a lot of times you might somehow get to this stage and notice you misspelled a word or maybe something isn't centered, that should be centered and just having a printed out copy can help you see those kinds of things. 9. Go Be Great!: Congratulations. You should be all wrapped up with your logo at this point. I look forward to seeing them, so please share them with me and I'll do my best to critique. Just know moving forward, it will take a lot of practice. You're not going to get amazing just overnight. So if you're feeling discouraged, just know I was there too and you just got to push through that. I say, you just got to constantly practice and also constantly observe. You can be observing whether it's the typo on a stop sign or some old buildings with some cool lettering on it. Just always keep your eyes open. I do appreciate you guys taking the time to watch this, and I look forward to seeing what you do, and how you grow as a [inaudible]. Thank you.