Monoline Lettering: From Sketch to Screen | Jamie Bartlett | Skillshare

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Monoline Lettering: From Sketch to Screen

teacher avatar Jamie Bartlett, Graphic designer and left-handed letterer

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.

      What You'll Need


    • 2.

      My Sketching Process


    • 3.

      Digitizing Your Sketch


    • 4.

      Spacing Out Letters


    • 5.

      Finishing Touches


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About This Class

In this class I’m going to show you my process for sketching monoline lettering and converting it to vector paths in Illustrator. The simplified method I'll be teaching you creates super smooth curves that will take your monoline lettering to the next level. I'm really excited for this class, it's going to be a whole lot of fun!

I can’t wait to see what you guys create.

Meet Your Teacher

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Jamie Bartlett

Graphic designer and left-handed letterer


Jamie Bartlett is a graphic designer and left-handed letterer working out of Denver, CO. She graduated from John Brown University with a degree in Graphic Design and now runs a shop for her hand lettered designs and fonts. Her work reflects everything she loves in life: a good cup of coffee, nerdy design terms, tandem bikes, road trips, and so much more.

Check out all Jamie's classes to learn her tricks of the trade. 

To see what she's up to now, follow her on Instagram and Dribbble.


  &... See full profile

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1. What You'll Need: Hi guys, I'm Jamie Bartlett. In this class, I'm going to show you my process for sketching monoline lettering and converting it to vector paths in illustrator. This simplified method I'll be teaching you create super smooth curves that will take your monoline lettering to the next level. I'm really excited for this class. It's going to be a whole lot of fun. Let's get started. To start, we're going to need some paper, whatever pencil you feel comfortable with, a straight edge ruler and eventually we are going to need some tracing paper. Before I start, I always write the word I'm going to be lettering at the top of my page. That way I can see every letter and how they're going to go together. Because if I don't do this more often than not, I end up leaving a letter out because I get so focused on drawing the letters that I don't think about spelling. 2. My Sketching Process: Next you need to decide what you want your lettering to look like. I usually start thinking about my first letter because it's the first letter you see and the biggest letter and it can help determine what you want the other letters to look like. So I start sketching that letter and see all the different ways that that letter can be formed. Of course, you can find tons of inspiration online. I think I'm going to go with this style on. Next, I want to make a baseline for my lettering. This will help keep my lettering somewhat straight. Now I'm going to just start drawing and see what I come up with. At this point I'm not really worried about how my letters are going to look, I'm just playing around with how they fit together. I'm liking how this is working together, but right now it's looking pretty rough. So I'm going to draw it again and refine some of this. I'll draw another baseline and do it on this line. At this point, I like how many letters are looking. So rather than keep redrawing it from scratch over and over, I'm going to go to my tracing paper. But before I do that, I'm going to draw some guides on this paper to help me in the next stage. I'll draw guides at the top of my uppercase and lowercase letters. Then I'll grab the tracing paper and use that to refine my sketch. This way I don't have to keep redrawing from scratch, I can be tracing and refining as I go. [inaudible] are really tight right here. So as I redraw it, I'm going to spread it out some. Then I'm just going to keep redrawing it until I'm happy with how it looks. I want to get it as close to final as possible, but we can always do some small adjusting in Illustrator. I don't really like what's happening there, so I'm going to erase it and redraw that portion. A little bit more like that. This ends a little funky, but I'll probably just be reusing the first end anyway. I think that's good enough to take it into Illustrator. Now you can either scan your lettering with a scanner or if you don't have one, you can download a scanning app for your phone. I like to use one called Scanbot because you can adjust for a perspective if you need to, and it also stores all your scans inside the app rather than mixing it in with all your photos. So to start we need make a new document and I'm going to make mine 3,000 pixels by 2,000 pixels. For my project, I'm going to work in RGB because I won't be printing this and make sure this checkbox Align New Objects to pixel grid is unchecked. Click ''OK''. Now we need to put our sketch into our document. So I'm going to go to File, Place, place our photo. I'm going to enlarge mine, to about there. So now I want to change the opacity of my picture to about 50 percent, and then lock the layer so I can't move it and then down here, I'm going to add another layer and this is the layer I'm going to start working in, and that makes it a lot easier to trace on. So with layer two selected, I'm going to go to my pen tool and you can do that by pressing P on your keyboard. Now it's a lot easier if you zoom in. So now that I have my artwork, I need to set up a few guides. Right now my rulers aren't showing up, so all I need to do is press Command+R on the keyboard, and now they show up and if you click on the ruler and pull down, you can get a guide. So I want to guide on the top of my lowercase letters- This point. - and also on the bottom of my lowercase letters. Then it also want one on top of the M, which is the same for the L and then also on the bottom of the M where all these descenders hit, and now I need one more guide. I want an angle guide that matches the slant of my letters. So to do that, I'm going to draw a line with the pen tool and since the n here is the straightest line of my letters, I'm going to trace that one. I'm going to switch back to my selection tool by pressing V on the keyboard and now I want to scale this up. You can actually make any path into a guide. To do that, you need to go up to View, Guides, Make Guides, or you also press Apple five on the keyboard. Now I have an angle guide. Now we want to make some duplicates of this angled guide. So I need to go up to View, Guides and unlock my guides. Now I can duplicate this like any other layer. If I hold option on the keyboard, I get double arrow and that means if I click and drag, and then let go, I get another guide. I can do that as many times as I want. It's okay if your sketch doesn't line up with your guides perfectly. That's what these guides are for. We can correct our lettering as we start to draw it. Then once you're done making your guides, go back up to View, Guides and lock your guides. I think that's good for my guides So let's start drawing. 3. Digitizing Your Sketch: Now we need to switch to the Pen Tool by pressing "Piano Keyboard". We're going to start with the M. I like to zoom in pretty close. Now before we start drawing, you'll notice this pink line that appears, and that means my smart guides are turned on. When I start to put my points down, they'll snap to these guides. That can be helpful sometimes. But for this project, I don't want to use that. I need to go to view, smart guides and make sure that's unchecked. A lot of times when we start drawing with the pen tool, we aren't really sure where we should be placing these points. We just start drawing, and we put points wherever we want, and we do stuff like this. You can see here, there's quite a bit of points, is 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 points in this little area. We could adjust these and try to make them smoother. But the more points we have, the less natural of a curve we're going to create. When I do Monoline Lettering, what I like to do is limit myself to creating only horizontal and vertical bezier handles. By doing that, you limit yourself to where those points can be placed. Let me show you what I mean by starting on this M. I'm going to put a point here, and with the mouse held down and holding "Shift" on the keyboard, I stretch out my bezier handles and holding "Shift" locks it horizontally. I'm going to pull that out a little bit. Now I want to go all the way down to the bottom here, and find the furthest point, which is right about here. I'm going to click, hold "Shift" again and drag my curve out. I'm going to try to follow my sketch as close as possible. Then I'm going to go up here, click. I don't need any handles there. Go back down to the furthest point, hold "Shift", drag it out, and keep going up here, and continue going to the furthest point up, and then back to the furthest point down, and then finish it off right there. Now we need to go back and make some adjustments. Because you can see here, this handle has been dragged out too far. I switched to the Direct Selection Tool by pressing "A" key on the keyboard, I can click on my "Anchor Point", then hold "Shift", and then drag this back in a little bit. Let's see, this one looks like it might need to come out a little bit. Then up here, this one definitely needs be pulled out. Then that looks pretty good. I'm going to change my path to black so I can really see it. I can turn off the background layer, and then turn off my guides by pressing "Command Semicolon", I can really see it. This one looks like it needs a little more work, maybe I brought it up too far. You just always want to remember to hold "Shift". Now I'll probably come back into justice more once I get all of my other letters done. But as you can see, by limiting yourself to just those horizontal and vertical handles, I can create some pretty smooth paths with a lot less points. Let's see. I only have 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 points on entire M, and this letter only is horizontal bezier handles. Let's keep going. For the, o, I'm going to switch back to the Pen Tool, find the highest point, hold shift and drag to the left, then go all the way to the bottom, drag to the right, and go back up. That only needed two points. In the past, I would drag a point here, find a point there, and go all the way around, and do twice as many points. That doesn't look nearly as good. There we go. Then I need to add this one. I'm not going to worry too much about getting it perfect. I want to get as close to possible. But once I get my lettering done, then I can always come back and adjust more. You can probably notice, I'm not sticking it so closely to my sketch. I want to look at my guides, and adjust it slightly based on those. My sketch was a rough and it's hard to get things level, and at the same angle exactly when you're just doing it by hand and don't have this many guides to go off of. For the n, I want this part of the n to be a separate path from the curved part. I'm going to switch back to my Selection Tool by pressing the clicking off of it, and then back to my Pen Tool to start a new path. Let's find the highest point on the end holding 'Shift', and we'll go all the way down here. Hold "Shift", and then we can go back and drag this one out a little further. I'm going to go ahead and move this slightly over here, and then move this. Now another thing, I didn't want these connected because I wanted to be able to move them if I needed to. But this point should line up with this point. Now when doing stuff like that, it's helpful to have the smart guides turned on because the point snap to each other. To quickly turn those on, I need to do is press command "U" on the keyboard and you can see the purple showing up. That means it's on, click on this point and drag it, and it snaps it to that point. Let's zoom in. There we have it snapped right in there. Do mark out. Let's disable the smart guides by pressing command "U" again. Now we have this, o, and we have another o here. I'm just going to duplicate this by holding shift option, dragging it over. We also have another n, to do the same thing for those, then we're going to continue my way through my word. Always just have your finger on the shift. Now if I clicked here, it will connect those to one path. I'd just like to keep my letters disconnected sometimes, just in case I want to move them around. If you don't need them disconnected, you can just click and connect the two paths, or just click slightly away from the anchor point, switch to your Direct Selection Tool. Turn on your smart guides, and snap it into place. While I'm here, I'm going to do a little bit of adjusting. Then this n, I do want it to be a little bit different. This point is going to end over here, and I delete this point, and just adjust it slightly, which makes it a little more interesting, so they're not exactly the same. Then let's move on to our last letter. Go to the top, go round all the way around to here. I can see if I clicked down here and stretched we have this weird S shape happening. I need to switch the direction of this handle. To do that, I hold "Option" on the keyboard, which changes the pen tool to the anchor point tool. I click on that. Then I want to hold shift, so it keeps it straight, and drag that out the opposite direction. Now I can just continue my path. Now I can just go back, and adjust any of my handles that need adjusting. At this point is a good idea to turn off your sketch, so you can see the pass on their own and you can even turn off the guides just to give you a little clearer view of what's happening. If you do have trouble getting a curve to look exactly how you want it with just the vertical and horizontal bezier handles. Try adding in another point by using a 45 degree bezier handle. Just as an example of add a point here, and I want to use 45 degrees. I still hold shift and I'll snap to a 45 degree. It snaps to a horizontal, 45 and vertical. I don't want that point, I'm going to undo. Just remember, the fewer points you have, the more natural of a curve you're going to get. I'm going to continue adjusting my curves where I think it needs it. Getting rid of any straight edges I see or bulges and try to make everything look as smooth and natural as possible. Another thing that would be smart to do at this point is make your stroke as thick as you want it to be. Because sometimes a thicker stroke can change the look of the path. I'm going to set mine to eight, and do a little more adjusting. If you want to redraw your handles so that they're the same length, all you need to do is switch to that anchor tool by holding "Option". Click on your "Point" and redraw. 4. Spacing Out Letters: Now I got the paths pretty close to what I want them to be. I'm going to work on the spacing of the letters a little bit. One trick I like to do is squint my eyes and look at the word. By squinting, it helps you to see where some of the letters might be tighter than they need to be, or further apart. So you should just look to where there's big gaps or the gaps aren't big enough. To me it looks like this o and n are a little tight. So I'm going to move my letters out a little bit. This o and n are a little tight too. It looks like this i could be centered a little better between the l and n. So I'm going to select those points and just nudge them over a little bit with the arrows on my keyboard. I'll keep squinting and looking, and seeing what I think. 5. Finishing Touches: Now that we have all our parts done, we can do a few things to finish it off. First option, we could add a round cap to the ends of our letters. If we want to do that, make sure our entire part is selected. Go to our Stroke palette, and click on the Round Cap, and we also want to click on the rounded corners too so that areas like this on the E are rounded. You can zoom in and you can see on the ends, they're all nice and rounded. If you want to keep the ends flat, you'll have to do a little more work, because right now the caps are going in the direction of the paths, and it looks a lot better if they're perfectly horizontal. To do this, we need to outline our paths. You absolutely need to duplicate this first, you always have this and can change the stroke weight later on if you need to. Just drag your layer down to a new layer, and it makes a copy. You can just lock and hide your copy. Select your entire word, go up to Object, Path Outline Stroke. Now, our word is a fill and no longer a stroke, we need a zoom in. To make these horizontal, we're going to zoom in pretty far and I'm going to turn on our smart guides, and that's Command U on the keyboard. I don't want it to snap to the guides, so I need to turn off the guides. I want it to snap level with this point. As you do this, make sure you don't want to pull it out here, and then you'll have a weird thickness up here. You want to make sure that as you pull the point up, your paths outline matches the shape. Once it's level, you can let go, and move on to the next one. We're going to do the same thing to this down here. I don't want to do it here, I want to keep that angle with the curve. I would continue doing this for the whole word. Then one more option would be to have the flat caps, but to have the corners slightly rounded, so they're not so sharp. This option is only available for Illustrator CC, I'll higher. What you'll need to do is make sure you have the corner path selected that you want around, then go up here to Corners and change it to however rounded you want. One pixel is usually pretty good, and it just slightly rounds it to make it a little softer. You can select all your corners and do the rounding all at once, or do them one at a time. When you're done with your lettering, make sure to post it to your Project Page, and I'd love to see your whole process starting with your sketch. Once you're done drawing your past in Illustrator, take a screenshot of all of your vertical and horizontal handles. You can do that by going up to Illustrator, Preferences Selection & Anchor Display, and make sure you have show handles when multiple anchors are selected, checked. Click "Okay". Then when you have your Direct Selection tool selected and select your entire paths, all your handles will display. That's a fun way to look at how you created your curves. Thanks guys for taking my class, I hope you liked it. Feel free to ask me any questions, and if you post any of you work on Instagram, be sure to tag me under a pair of pairs, and also don't forget to leave me your review. Thanks again guys. I'll see you next time.