The Golden Secrets of Hand-Lettering: Create the Perfect Postcard | Martina Flor | Skillshare

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The Golden Secrets of Hand-Lettering: Create the Perfect Postcard

teacher avatar Martina Flor, Lettering Artist, Author & Educator

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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.



    • 3.

      The Project


    • 4.

      Looking for inspiration


    • 5.

      Training your typographic eye


    • 6.

      Letter Design Basics


    • 7.

      The role of calligraphy in letter design


    • 8.

      Rough Sketches


    • 9.

      Refining your sketch


    • 10.

      From analog to digital


    • 11.

      Techniques to draw letters in digital vectors I


    • 12.

      Techniques to draw letters in digital vectors II


    • 13.

      Printing and Correcting


    • 14.

      Color and Texture


    • 15.

      Take The Ultimate Lettering Quiz


    • 16.



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About This Class

Berliner Letterer and Designer Martina Flor will introduce you to the Art of Lettering and will teach you the principles behind letter design as well as effective techniques to think, sketch and create a lettering piece from scratch. Martina believes that drawing letters is something everyone can learn and is willing to unveil all secrets behind this art.

She will also show you how is the professional work with custom typography and lettering, including tips to improve your work process. You'll walk away from this class with a sharper eye when working with typography and essential and practical tools to draw lettering and to guide your own improvement afterwards. After this class you'll see typography in a completely different way.


Class Outline

  • Trailer. Have you seen a beautiful postcard, and wondered exactly what was involved in  its creation? The source is actually a profession called lettering art. This process includes creating concepts, sketching outlines, and digitalization. In this class, letterer and designer Martina Flor will show you how to make unforgettable postcards.
  • Introduction. This course will teach you how lettering, calligraphy, and type design are different. For example, a calligraphy letter is more flowing and artful than lettering designs. Type design is about matching combinations of stylized letters for mass production, rather than creating something like a postcard. Lettering has more of an emphasis on storytelling and is more commercial than calligraphy art.
  • The Project. Your project is intended to design lettering for a postcard. The card will only contain a few words, but you will need to put a lot of time and care into each letter. You can use Flor’s examples to inspire you and grasp an idea of what you can create. You will see how simple combinations of shapes, color, and typography can express relatively complex messages and emotions.
  • Looking for Inspiration. Look at some design websites, which can help you understand lettering. Then you’ll become inspired to make original postcards. Photos of physical signs can be useful templates as well. Everything from chrome on car logos to street art can catalyze your creativity. Try taking a walk and looking for examples.
  • Letter Design Basics. You will master three basic lettering shapes: square, circle, and triangle. Most letters embody or fall under or embody combinations of these three broad categories. However, there are differences between capital letters and lowercase letters.
  • Rough Sketches. Now it’s time to dive into the project. You will learn about the different materials and styles that might be optimal for creating lettered postcards. For example, it might be helpful to use tracing paper in addition to regular paper. Some artists use multiple mini-sketches, while others reserve a whole piece of paper for one draft.
  • Refining Your Sketch. You will learn how to use tracing paper to refine your rough sketches into beautiful designs that are fit for postcards. This technique allows you to improve your drawings layer by layer.
  • Vector Drawing Techniques for Letter Shapes I. Vector drawing is a valuable skill for any design career. You will learn how to transform drawings into digital assets, which use vectors to mimic and expand rough sketches. This process will help you develop sharper shapes, curves, and edges. The instructor will demonstrate fundamentals of vector drawing, including extrema points and handles.
  • Vector Drawing Techniques for Letter Shapes II. Now you can use your knowledge of extrema points and other aspects of design to draw vectors. You will practice the manipulation of extrema points, handles, and strokes. This project is a great opportunity to improve your skill through Adobe Illustrator.
  • Color and Texture. You will learn some techniques for adding color and texture to lettering. This part of the project is another opportunity to improve your skills in Adobe Illustrator.
  • Conclusion. By the time you’re finished with this class, you should have a grasp on the fundamentals of lettering art. Perhaps postcards will only be the beginning for you.

Find out how much you really know about letters.

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Martina Flor

Lettering Artist, Author & Educator


Martina Flor combines her talents as both a designer and an illustrator in the drawing of letters. Based in Berlin, she runs one of the world's leading studios in lettering and custom typography, working for clients all over the globe such as The Washington Post, Vanity Fair, HarperCollins, Monotype, Etsy, Adobe, Mercedes Benz, Lufthansa, and Cosmopolitan, among many others.

Martina Flor earned her Master's in Type Design from the esteemed Royal Academy of Art in The Hague, The Netherlands. Since then she has dedicated a large part of her time to teaching lettering and type design. She has published two books in several languages, The Golden Secrets of Lettering and The Big Leap, and launch... See full profile

Level: All Levels

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1. Trailer: My name is Martina Flor, and I'm a lettering artist and designer, working and living in Berlin, Germany. I run my studio on lettering and custom typography, were I work on projects of different kind for fans around the world. I guess it's called, The Golden Secrets of Lettering, and we will be going through all the process of creating a lettering piece from scratch, from concept, to sketch, to digitalization, including some tips to add color and texture to your final art. This final art would be used for a postcard that we could send to someone we like, someone we would like to get in touch with, or a complete stranger. The concept of this class is based on my letter collections online project, where I design and send postcards around the globe, and I will share my making that process with you. We will start by training our typographic eye by looking at examples of typography or typographic faces that surround us. I will show you some theoretical principles to understand the structure of letter shapes, and I will share with you the clinical use to achieve more, extreme, personal, and unique result when working with lettering. This class this suitable for beginners as well as for those with previous experience, who want to go a step forward into the art of lettering, and expand their set of creative skills. After this class, we will see typography in a completely different way. 2. Introduction: Hi, welcome to my class. Before we start or to start, I actually would like to start defining a little bit what lettering is. Lettering is often confused with either calligraphy or type design. Actually lettering is a discipline on itself. Lettering is drawing letters while calligraphy is writing letters, this means that in calligraphy we try to master a certain tool following a certain model to write beautiful letters and calligraphy embraces a lot the randomness and the surprise of a certain stroke described by this tool scratching the paper. In the case of lettering, it is more a design discipline. It means that we decide or we made a certain decision on how do we want a certain letter to look like. How do we want this A to be. How do we want this curve to look like. In this sense, it's pretty similar or is related to type design where also the type designers decide on a certain shape they want their letters to have. The case of type design, what a type designer does is to design an alphabet where every possible combination of letters works. This means that the resulting font, I can install it in my computer and I can write any word with it, and every combination will work. In the case of lettering, we are producing custom work. We're producing work that is applied on just one or a few applications. I designed a lettering piece for my studio. I have this hanging on my studio wall to explain my colleagues and also my clients a little bit about what my work is about. I often say that lettering is telling stories with letters. It sounds a bit poetic, but at the same time it explains why lettering is different to type design. We are designing letters. We are working with letter shapes, but we're also telling a story with that, we are communicating something. In this sense we combine letter shapes, color, texture, and also composition. We decide how this certain design is sitting on a certain page. We try to tell a story, to communicate something with that. This is a little bit about lettering. Finally, I come from a type design background. I got my master in type design in the Badlands. After that, I specialized in lettering. Actually the big challenge on my career was to actually get loose, to actually achieve colorful, interesting, and very extreme results. You see that the technique I'm going to share today with you is informed by these two facts in my career. On one side, the very nerdy background that has to do with knowing why the letter shapes are how they are and what's the basics behind letter design and on the other hand, a technique that I developed with the time that allows me to create very expressive and extreme results. These combined is what I'm going to share with you today. Stay there, we're going to see now what the project we're going to develop in this class is going to be about. 3. The Project: The project we're going to do together in this class is designing a lettering for a postcard. I think it's a good way to start to focus on a word or a couple of words so we can actually get the best out of this class. I would like to share with you some of the pieces I did for a side project of mine called Lateral Collections; it's an early project where I design regularly a postcard that I would send to someone around the world. Most of these postcards are a way to explore different lettering styles and a way also to create series of lettering using same style. This is one of the postcards I made in my project. In this case, I used a lettering style with open serifs and I chose a color scheme that works nicely with this concept. Blue and orange and black, don't have so much contrast among them, however the white is bringing the type to the front of the postcard. A series I did for this project is illustrating all the seasons, so in this case I illustrated Autumn. The letter shapes are based on these broken or using this broken dry stroke endings that reminds to the trees in Autumn, as well the decorative elements that are surrounding the lettering piece have to do with the Autumn. The texture that I'm using inside the letters also reminds to the textures found on a tree or on the leaves. So altogether is speaking about Autumn, the color scheme that also has to do with this dry leaves and with these dry trees is speaking together with the letter shapes and the texture use. On the other hand for instance, for Spring, I draw a much more friendly letter shapes or much more elegant letter shapes with this soft terminals that are combined with a spring color scheme, help me communicate the idea of flourishing and of sun and flowers. This is a German expression, in German geil means hot or cool, so this means super cool or super hot. What I decided to do for this is to use very sharp letter shapes that are combined with this golden effect, express the idea of super hot or cool or super glamorous. I liked this project because it allows me to develop series of the same lettering style. In this case, I was using this 50s lettering style and I could create two different postcards and explore what are the possibilities of this lettering style and I used also different color schemes but they have a relationship to each other. To speak about, excellent, I draw very neat and very elegant and sharp letter shapes. I combined them with these very thin and joyful flourishes and the color scheme, a little bit laid back but at the same time with a lot of contrast, is helping me to express the idea of excellence and perfection. In the same direction but in an ironic way, I used the same elements for this postcard. In this case I was trying to be ironic, say something awful or not really nice to someone in a very elegant and refined way. Sometimes the selection of certain shapes help you either to be ironic or either to reinforce your message. The last one I'm showing you is this one from a quote from a German artists, where I used the idea of artists and the idea of strokes and very expressive gestures. I translated this into very flamboyant strokes and in my topography. The idea, whatever you want to communicate, is also related to the combination of color, letter shapes, texture. So in this first exercise, we are going to concentrate on combining all these elements into one postcard. I recommend you to just choose one word, maximum two or three, so you can get the best out of it. In a second trial or in a third trial, you will be able to draw probably more words than those. But I will recommend you to start by small piece of lettering. Go choose your word and we see each other in the next lecture. 4. Looking for inspiration: Now I would like to show you a couple of sites and places where I looked for inspiration for my work. We are surrounded by typography, so we can find inspiration everywhere. In the street, on the newspaper, on the packaging of the things we eat. We are surrounded all the time by typography, not necessarily good or well done but, hopefully, this class will make our eyes sharper so we can actually differentiate or recognize things that are well done from the things that are not so well done. I have two sites that I would like to share with you. Vernacular Typography, it's a project by Molly Woodward and I assume she lives in New York because she has a brief stance, archive of typography in New York, divided in different categories. For instance, she has gold lettering. You can scroll through all the different types of gold lettering in New York. You can have more or less an overview of which letter shapes are in use on this technique. Some pictures are better than others, but the archive is Briggs tense. You have also, for instance, neon and lights. You can already see a how the material that is used to build that sign is affecting the letter shapes. Usually, with neon signs, you have to try to keep the light tube in a piece throughout several letters. You can see here the connection between the B and the A, and the connection between the A and the R. This is pretty interesting to see. There's a lot of other categories. I will also like to show you typography in other places. In France, for instance, and it's pretty interesting to see how the lettering is speaking about the identity of that place. How letter shapes are starting to have a relationship to each other. How they also change according to the material they are made of. Whether they are made of metal or wood or neon as we just saw. It is pretty interesting to see how, for instance, lettering found in France looks in combination with lettering found in Italy, for instance. There is a mix of all sorts of street art. But you can already find some interesting pieces, and how the shapes are starting to have a relationship to each other. Look at this R for instance here and look at the R on this other sign, they have a relationship in shape and perhaps it's not a coincidence that they are found on the same city. Scripted typography or connected typography, and as well neon typography. This is a pretty interesting one to go through. There's another one that I really like. This is chromeography. It's a project by Stephen Coles and it's a collaborative project where everyone can actually submit pictures. What I find really interesting from this is that it's very specific. It collects only pictures of the chromes found on the cars. I found incredible that they're so different from each other although they're using the same material and they're used for the same purpose. Just as name tag for that car. What I also find very interesting from this is to see how they relate to the car and how they express a certain feature of that car, whether that car is fast or modern or very fancy, or whether the car is for families or a family car. By using the same material, the possibilities are multiple or infinite. I actually recommend you to go out and start looking up in your city and your neighborhood, to try to identify the typography pieces that are calling your attention. They will be pretty useful for later when we start training our eye on being critical with those shapes or those lettering pieces. We're moving, now, forward to type basics and how we can identify the relationships between letter shapes. We're going to train our eye to be able to differentiate those lettering pieces that are worth it and those that are not. 5. Training your typographic eye: We're moving now onto the basics of level design. Something I consider very important when working with typography is the sense of observation. Its actually learning how to look and what to look and not being so naive when looking at typography. We'll look at some examples of lettering that I found on the street. Some of them or I think most of them are from here from Berlin. We will learn to analyze them and to find the relationships between the letters and see how they are built, or try to find out how the designer of that lettering piece did, what he did or she. We can clearly see the relationship between the U and the N, they're more less mirrored shapes. Also we can quickly see the relationship between the A and the E, they're the two rounded shapes of this lettering. If we look more carefully, we can also find the relationship between the top of the R and the point of the I. This is an example of neon lettering and of a connected script. This means that all the letters are connected by a stroke. We can see here also that there are more or less following the same rhythm and angle. We can also find a certain slant for all the letters. Here we also find this relationship between the U and the N, these two mirrored shapes. We also have the M here, which is pretty much related to the U and an N. Also the strokes are always ending with this clear cut. However, its pretty interesting to see how this study of stroke is compensated by this ending strokes coming out from the end. They're more or less following the same shapes. Another example of a connected script, in this case is very evident how all the connections follow the same angle. It is very often the case in lettering where the letter shapes have to fit in a certain form. In this case, this lettering is crowning the entrance of the store. The letter shapes themselves are following a certain pattern or form. They are all sharing this rounded corners principle. However, I can also be critical with this lettering piece and say that I find this base here under the Y really wide in comparison with the spacing on the other letters. Another example of letters following a certain axis. This is an example of an inverted contrast letter. This means that the contrast is happening on the horizontal axis and most of the letters most of the times, we find the contrast sitting on the vertical axis and on this case is sitting on the horizontal axis. This is really consequent on all the letters. Look at how heavy is the stroke getting when coming down or up. This lettering is built through a certain material. In this case, it's this metal wire which is building each individual letter. The first thing we can notice is the relationship between the rounded shapes, in this case the E and the A and the D. Also, there is a relationship between the capitals. Look at the complexity and look at how wide they are and how tall they are. The same is happening here in relationship with the capitals. They more or less have the same complexity and the same volume. They mark the beginning of a word and this stop and starting of the new word. Here we can notice pretty clear how the stroke endings have a relationship with each other. The K stroke endings are similar to the stroke endings of the S's and the L. However, I have to be critical with this piece of lettering and say that I believe the spacing between the O and the two S's is too tied and that's why this area is pretty dark. We can also see here the stroke endings principle, where the K strokes are related to this stroke ending of the S and the stroke ending of the K. As well, the stroke of the K, the T, the M have this sharp cut on top, which is also used here in the S. This is a bit more detailed, but look at the relationship between this [inaudible] of the O and the dot of the I. They more or less have the same weight. By looking at the certain piece of lettering with a critical eye, we can actually find the relationships between the letter shapes themselves. We can actually realize why an A is the way it is in relationship with their endemicity, the next word. When doing our own lettering, when drawing our own letters, we will be looking at our drawing all the time and trying to find out what is the best solution for each of the letters in relationship with the letters that we already draw. In a certain letter we find that DNA for building the letter that comes next to it, and the next to it and the next to it. Observation is a critical tool to work when drawing letters and we'll be exercising this all the time. Now we're moving to find out the criteria behind the letter shapes. 6. Letter Design Basics: After training our typographic eye by looking at examples, I would like to show you some theoretical tips that combined with your observation will help you draw your letters a lot easier. When drawing letters or when working with letter design, we basically use three shapes or three basic shapes. Let me show you what I mean with this. I will quickly draw a word with a few letters in it. In this word, I have the three basic shapes that I'm going to work with when drawing my letters. I have the square or the rectangle. I have also a circle or the circular shapes, and I have the triangle. Under these three big groups, I can group most of my letters. The H is under the rectangular shapes group. I can also name the E, for instance. The L, I have it over there, but I will draw it again. I have the T, I have the I. Under the group of the rounded shapes, I have the Q as well. I have the O now. I have the Q. I have this C, for instance. For the group of the triangular shapes, I have the A, I have the V. I have the W. By identifying these groups, I can also find letters that use features from several groups. For instance, by having the information from the rectangular group and combining it with the information I get from the group of the circular shapes, I can, for instance, draw a D. I get the information from the stems that I find here on the square group. I get an idea of how the rounded shapes look like from this group. Here's my D information or DNA from the square and from the rounded shapes. The same happens, for instance, if I want to build a P or a B, or a G. For instance, if I combine DNA from this group with the triangular group, I can get information to build a K for instance. I know how the straight stems are from this group. I get that information from here. I can find out how these diagonal shapes look like from this group here. This is concerning the capital letters. The same happens with the lowercase for instance. I will quickly draw some basic shapes here. When working with lowercase letters, we basically have a couple of guidelines to guide our drawing. Here's the x-height. This is the line where all my letters will be reaching. I have also an ascender's line where letters like B or L or T sometimes will be reaching and I have my descender's line where letters like P or Q will be reaching. I will draw my basic shapes here. By having these three basic shapes or these three, let's say, key shapes from my alphabet, then I have a lot of information to build other letters. For instance, if I want to build a P I know how a stem looks from the N, so I will just use that stem for my P. I know how the rounded shapes look like from my O, so I will get that belly P from that. The same happens if I want to build a B, for instance. I have my stem again. The information is here. When I speak about information, it means how thick the stem is, whether it has a curve to it or not. All these details that I can obtain from what it's already in the drawing. I have a P, I have a B, and they are built from these key shapes that I have here. As well I can say, okay, I will build a K. I have again the information from the stems. I have some information from the V over there that I can use to build these diagonal shapes of my K. I have an idea of how a serif looks like, whether it's rounded, whether it's spiky, whether is splitted. Of course, this is not a mathematical way or it's not a formula to build the letters and construct them. There's, of course, a lot of features to it, to each of the letters. But basically, you can group letters that have to do and design them together when working on your lettering. The solution for your drawing is always on the drawing itself. The last concept I want to show you that will also be helpful for drawing your letters is the concept of spacing. Spacing is the space between your letters. There's a principle that says that the space within the letter should be similar to the space between the letters. This means that the space that I have over there, if this is water, I should be able to feed the same amount of water or a similar amount of water here in between. This means that the letter itself gives you a lot of information already of how far it has to sit from the next letter. This is another thing to look at when you're drawing your letters. With this principle, the thicker your letters will get, the less space you will have. If my whole letter is thicker, I will have a lot less counter space or inner space, and therefore a lot less space between the letters. With these basic theoretical concepts, you'll be able to draw your letters a lot better and a lot faster. I would like to show you now some calligraphic tools and how calligraphy influences lettering. 7. The role of calligraphy in letter design: I would like to show you now how some calligraphic tools work. We have seen before that layering is not calligraphy. However, since our alphabet comes from calligraphic chapters, knowing a little bit how the calligraphic tools work can help you a big time on drawing your letters. I just want to give you a quick overview, don't worry, we're not going to practice calligraphy now, but it's just to give you a quick overview of the tools. There's two big groups of calligraphic tools. The translation tools, they look like this. They're mainly those that have a broad tip or broad nib. For instance, this one is a broad nib. You also have the broad brush. There's the expansion tools, these are, for instance, the pointed pen or the pointed brush, like this one here has a point, the brush. I will show you quickly what's the logic behind these tools. I would take just two of them to exemplify how they work. The translation tools, as their name says, they work by translation. It works mainly by setting up the tool on the paper on a certain angle and moving your hand. The tool stays in the same angle or slant, and your hand moves to describe the letter. This way you get this contrast to your letter that is basically done by the location of the of the nib. The tool can be used in the way you want, you can use it in a bit more controlled way, always following the same principle and you can use it in a much more freestyle way. But the principle is always the same, the angle remains the same and what moves is my hand. The expansion tools, they work in a rather different way; they work by pressure. This means that when I go down I press my tool and I describe a thick stroke, when I go up I release the tool and I will describe a thin stroke. Down pressure, up release, down pressure, up release, up release, down pressure, up release, down pressure, up release, pressure, release, pressure, release. By using this principle, I also get a certain rhythm to my letters, and rhythm helps me define where each letter starts and ends, and this definitely helps me to read the word. This tool, I can also use it in many ways: I can use it in a more controlled way, always following the same principle. I can use it in a much more freestyle way. What's important is that you always keep the same principle; when you go down you press, when you go up you release. This is a very superficial overview of the tools. However, I encourage you to try to develop your hand for calligraphy. It doesn't mean that you have to become a master of calligraphy, but practicing yourself or taking an online class or going to a workshop will give you a better overview and a better grasp on how these tools work, and these will help you to develop your skills as a letterer. Now, we are moving forward to see the technique or the technique I use to sketch lettering. 8. Rough Sketches: So good. Now we're starting with our project, and before I would like to tell you a little bit about the tools that I use to work. It is not much actually, I use an automatic pencil, a mechanical pencil. I don't have a preference in the brand or anything. I just use mechanical pencils because you don't have to sharpen them all the time and it's not so messy. I have with me an eraser. I don't use it much you'll see. I also prefer to work with loose paper. Its the same if it's A4 or a letter format. I think this is a good size to work on the details and to move fast with my drawing. I also like to be independent from maintaining a sketchbook, it's too much pressure. I always have the feeling that I have to keep it nice and I have to do nice drawings over there. So I'd rather keep loose paper that I can throw away if I don't like it and I can keep whatever makes sense. The other material I use is tracing paper. This one. I usually buy 40 grams tracing paper and I like to buy it in a roll. So I can get this as much big as I want. So I will show you later how to use this tracing paper. To start with I will show you how to put down your ideas on paper. When starting a project, I don't start directly on the first sketch. I usually do small sketches and then I try out different compositions, different lettering styles, and this is a very fast process. It allows me to see in which direction I want to go and it allows me to move faster. So I'm going to do a postcard. We are going do a postcard or lettering for a postcard. So I'm going to send a postcard that says Berlin, to you guys. What I basically do is I make very small sketches like this small where I can get an idea of the format. I can say, I will use Roman type with some pearls and we'll see it like this on the paper. So very quickly I get an idea of how this will look. This could be a direction, another direction. This are just first ideas. When I move forward with my drawing, this will definitely change. The process itself would change shapes and composition. Let me try one with my handwriting. I use a lot my handwriting tool to create the skeletons that I can later use in my designs. So these are very small sketches that I did in around two minutes. It gives me an idea of different directions I can go with my drawing or with my design. What this allows me is to have first overview of how the structure could be, which lettering style I'm using, whether I'm using Roman non-connected style or I'm using my own handwriting to do my design. But in very few minutes, I can decide on a couple of directions and keep working on those further. So I will just take this to a bigger scale, either by copy or either by translating this into a bigger piece of paper. 9. Refining your sketch: Now what I did is basically replicating what I had here in my little drawing to a bigger size. You could also make a copy, as I said. On this base, I'm going to work on layers of improvement. The layers are these tracing paper that I talked to you about. We're just going to place a sheet of tracing paper. What is good from this technique is that by drawing with layers of tracing paper, you pick up whatever was good from the previous drawing, you can pick it up again, you can just copy it, and whatever was wrong, you can change it and improve it. You have the chance to actually improve your drawing without actually starting over and without destroying the drawing you did before. Which allows you to move a lot faster, to make all the changes you want to be less careful with your own drawing. What I like to do with my designs is to try different extreme changes. For instance, in this case I have these phases, but I could say, okay, what about this being super thick? In my next layer, I can try out how this whole design, using that as a basis could look a lot thicker. I usually work very fast in the beginning, I don't stop in the details, I just like to define the overall shapes, and move from general to particular, from the big picture to the details. I think in the beginning there's a lot more decision-making to make in the overall picture than in the details themselves. It happens a lot that in the beginning you find yourself working for an hour in an E, or drawing an N that you will later have to change because it doesn't work with your R or with your T or something. What I'm doing now is basically applying one decision to the whole design. I said, let's make everything thicker, so I'm just doing everything thicker. I'm using the information that I have underneath with my previous drawing. I'm using that as a basis so I'm not starting over. I have something that I can base myself on. But at the same time, I'm changing radically what's there on paper. Everything is getting a lot thicker now. Look, I'm working very fast, very rough. Another important thing when you draw is that you fill in the shape like that. Don't work with outlines only because when working with outlines, you don't get an idea of how heavy a letter is in comparison with the other. By using the shape field like this, even if it's really rough, you can get an idea of how thick, how heavy. What's the volume of a certain shape? This is the my second layer, that's my first, that's my second layer. This is my second layer. I have already something pretty different from what I had before. Can I continue doing decision-making changes stuff? Of course. You can. For instance, in my second layer, say, okay, I want my letters to be a lot more tall and I want some sharpness to them. I can make all my letters a lot taller, and I don't have to think much. I just have to change the feature I said I will change. This makes the word pretty easy and also the fact that you're not destroying your drawing, again is encouraging you to make changes. It's also good when you draw fast in the very beginning. Am drawing everything taller now. Drawing fast allows you to move across all the letters more or less at the same time. If you draw slow, it means that you are staying too long with each letter and you're losing attention on the rest. Here we are with my third layer. There's a lot of things to refine and to decide on. What I also do sometimes is to try out solutions on individual letters. For instance, not only the overall picture, but also like solutions to each letter. There's not just one way of drawing an R. There's not just one way of drawing an E. Sometimes I will just take a piece of paper and I will work on a certain letter. For instance, say okay, how this E will work like that? Would that work better than my other E or not? Should I changed the R too in their case? Besides changing the overall picture of your design, this technique is good to try out single solutions for letters. Remember that there's not just one way of drawing an E or an R or drawing a B. There is several solutions for each shape and it will be good if you explore it when drawing. I think it's always good to try it out when working with typography or when drawing letters, its always good to try it out. Don't plan, don't say, well if I move this to the right, it will look awkward or the E should move or whatever. Just try it out, that's why this technique is so useful for that, because you don't spend that much time on drawing something, you just try it out, if it doesn't work, then you can skip it. If it works, then it is a price and you don't need to plan so much on how or what you want to do, but you can just do it and try it out. What I wanted to show you with this technique is that with just a few operations that I did, I could walk away from my initial drawing. I think what it's interesting from this technique is first that you can move forward very fast. That you are not afraid to try out solutions because you're not destroying your drawing. That you can get to very extreme results if you look at the first drawing or the first sketch that I did and how this turned out. This is pretty far away, although it's speaking the same language or is using the same basic shapes. I think exploring a little bit in the beginning what your possibilities are allows you to say, "I want to go in this direction, or I want to go something a bit more extreme in this direction, or I want something a bit more control like this, or something that sits in-between those two in terms of weight." This first exploration gives you an overview of what are the possibilities of your design? In this case, I would choose one of these and I will then continue working in layers, but this time, trying to pay a bit more attention on the details on how those serifs are? If they're rounded, if they're really sharp, if the spacing between the letters fits or not? I would take this drawing here, I really like extreme fat designs, and I will continue further developing in layers. I will improve details, I will work a little bit slower, but I will get to a more neat and clean sketch. This is my final sketch, let's say. This will be the sketch that I will send to another actor in the case of a commercial commission. Probably I will just also submit a color scheme that I would like to use and write in text some clarifications on concept or overall idea of the design. It is really important that you tried to solve most of the problems in paper. You will see when we move to the digital drawing, that everything moves a lot slower. Having this technique on the analog sketch, allows you to try out stuff and to solve problems a lot easier than it will be in digital. Now we're moving forward to scan this drawing and take it to our computer. 10. From analog to digital: Now I will quickly show you how to scan your analog drawing or sketch. There is nothing really special about the way I scan, I bet you guys know already how to scan a certain image. However, I will show you how I do it. I like to keep a digital backup of all my hand sketches. I try to scan my drawings in a pretty high resolution. I use 600 DPI and I scan it in black and white because it's only pencil on paper. I usually save it in an images folder inside my project, I like to keep an images or a scans folder into my project folder, and I am going to call this Berlin and JPEG, it's a pretty reasonable format when we are using 600 DPI anyways. So I'm going to scan now. Good, so I have my hand sketch now and this is normally the stage where I will send this sketch to another director in the case of a commercial commission. In this case, we are not working with any other directors, so we are just moving directly to the digital drawing. 11. Techniques to draw letters in digital vectors I: We scan our drawing, we imported it to our file. Now I would like to show you a technique that is used to draw letters in vectors. Digitizing your drawing doesn't mean under any condition, using the function of automatic tracing in Illustrator or whatever digital software or vector software that you're using. This outer trace function, what we do is to turn your drawing into thousands of points that will imitate this handmade feel that it has from the analog sketch. If what we want is to get really nice and sharp shapes and curves to our letters, then we have to use the technique of the extrema points. This is a technique where you use as few points as you can. The less amount of points you use is the less amount of work and the faster you can move it with your digital drawing. In the beginning, it's pretty hard to understand the concept of extrema points, but it's actually after a while you will see that it will make your life a lot easier. To understand this concept, a very easy way to draw a circle in your vector drawing software. If you draw a circle, you will see that you will get four points. These points are the extrema points. From each point, you will have two handles. It will look more or less like this. This handles and the points are the ones who controls a certain curve. To modify this curve, to change the shape of this curve, then I will have to work with those two extrema points and with those two handles. This means that if I want this curve to be a bit more blunt, then I will just make my handles a little bit longer. My curve will become more blunt. If this was my initial curve, and I move these handles to the right and to the top and upwards. This will be the resulting curve. This simplifies a lot the work with curves. If I will have an extra point here, then I will have two more handles that I have to deal with. To modify this curve here, I will have to move this point, another point, a third point, and then 1, 2 and 3, 4 handles instead of the two handles that I have now. This translate into our drawing. If I have a no, for instance, you will always find your extrema points on the horizontal axis and vertical axis. If you draw vertical and horizontal lines, it will be a lot faster for you to find those points. Extrema points sit always in the intersection between these horizontal lines and the curve. Where the curve meets the horizontal line, you will find stronger so you can see it well. There's my extrema points. The location of the handles and the points is really important to get your drawing right. If you have a certain curve, you have to try to solve this curve. With the two extrema points and the two handles belonging to that extrema point, this means that the location of these points is pretty important. Ideally, your handles will be working on the curve or we would be making the same pressure on the curve. In this case, this handle, it's doing a lot more pressure on this to get this curve right, and this one is doing very less work. It is very important that the location of your points is correct and that your handles keep a certain balance, that there's not one doing all the work and the other one is just lazy not doing anything. You have to try to keep a balance between those. To keep a balance between those, the best is to try to find the best location for the extrema points and the best length for your handles. I will recommend you to start by locating the extrema points on your drawing first, I would do it with my drawing. I think it's pretty easy in the beginning just to try to find them, or it's much easier in the beginning to try to find them in your drawing on paper. Using this principle of the horizontals and verticals, I can find the extrema points a lot faster. I will draw some horizontals and verticals here. For my B, I found my extrema points over there, over there, over there, and over there, I have some others here and I have another one right there. You have noticed that I also have corners, the corners then I'm not describing any curves, so I just need a point where a line can go from that point to the next one. I don't need handles or anything else. The corners are just broken points. After locating your extrema point, you will find your handles as well. I recommend you to try to find the points on your analog drawing, on your sketch before drawing on your vector drawing software. Now that I found a couple of points in my drawing, I will move to Illustrator to actually locate those points. 12. Techniques to draw letters in digital vectors II: I already located my extrema points on my drawing for better understanding how to work with extrema points. Now we're going to draw in vectors with these extrema points. I'm going to start by locating the extrema points on the B, which is the one on paper. I'm going to take this tool here, the Pen Tool, and I'm going to start locating those extrema points. To keep your handles always straight, just click and drag, pressing shift, and that would always keep the extrema points on the vertical and horizontal lines. As you can see, I'm constantly arranging the handles so they can work together on the same curve. When writing these points where there is a corner, you can break the point by pressing out and turning that handle. In the corner is the place where I can break these points. I recommend you to separate the single letters into the several strokes that they have. For instance in this case, maybe it's composed by three strokes, stem, the first stroke, and the second stroke so I will just draw them individually. I can also edit them individually later. At this stem, I will keep the handles because I don't actually want to have straight lines on this shape. I actually want to have some curve to it. Whenever I want to have a curve, I need to have handles for it. I can turn it into black and deactivate the background layer. This is the first drawing, there's a lot of adjustment to do. The curves are not looking nice. But the first step to digitize your drawing is to actually place the points where they should be. I will continue placing those extrema points on the other letters. The best is to keep the letters independent and not connected. You can move the letters around when there is spacing problem, when there is a width problem. You can just work on that letter individually. Like in the analog drawing, remember to always turn the shape into black so you can actually see how heavy that letter is. What I mean by keeping the two letters individually or independent from each other is that I can actually say, I need a bit more space. I need this to be a bit closer, so I can actually move. I have some room to move the letters and edit them individually. I would just go on with the rest. As we said before, ideally, we will solve all the problems and we'll do most of the decision-making on paper because it moves faster than drawing with vectors. However, this doesn't mean that we cannot change or improve shapes when working with vectors. This is the design process and it should move forward all the time, on on paper as well as on the computer. We will notice issues that we didn't notice before. In this case, I can already see some issues going on here. There's too many thick parts, I'm going to I need some thin strokes on this area. If I compare the stroke over here with all the other letters, they all have this thin stroke to it. I would like to have some of that in these areas. I will try to add some thin stroke to this brush as well. The same is happening with the capital B. I think I will have to make all those thin parts a lot thinner than they actually are. If I compare it again with the thin parts of the lowercase, then these are rather thick. I will continue improving my drawing by moving those handles and placing those points. Also, I will try to make these curves really nice and small. I will try to identify the problems on these curves. For instance, I can already notice these bumps over here, and this is probably why because these handles are too close to each other. They're overworking right there. This is a handcraft work in a digital environment, so I continue refining my drawing now. This is the first digitalization that I do, and it's the first step on placing the extrema points and improving some shapes. Now, I would like to print. You will ideally print several times during your process. You can actually take some distance from your drawing, make some notes, decide which changes you want to make and come back to your digital drawing. I'm going to print now. I'm going to print in the size that it's actually meant for. This is both the current size. Let's see how it goes. 13. Printing and Correcting: When working with vectors, it's really important that you print out from time to time your drawings. Why is that? Because it's a way of taking a picture of a certain stage of the process and making notes, making corrections, identifying what's wrong, taking a little bit of distance of whatever you are doing in the computer, and deciding the next steps of your process. I printed my drawing here. Whatever I'm drawing on vectors in the computer and I'm going to make some notes and then I'm going to go change it in my drawing. I got my printout here. Initially, we are going to work just in black and white so we can actually see the shapes clearly and as sharp as we can. When printing out, I'm going to just take notes on these papers so I can have a plan to keep on working on the digital drawing and go and change the position of those vectors and move those handles. When criticizing your drawing, what you will basically be doing is what we did in the very beginning, where we were looking at already existing examples of typography and criticizing and finding the relationships between the shapes and finding also things that we'll change. In this case, the first things I'm going to be looking at is the same widths. I'm going to be comparing how all these stems are working within the letter and how thick they are in comparison to the others. The first thing I notice here is that my N stem over there is pretty thick in comparison, for instance, with the other end stroke. This is something I'm going to change next. I also noticed that the stem of the R is pretty thin. This could grow a little bit in thickness. I will also like to compare the rounded shapes here in the connections. I notice, for instance, that this E and this R have a lot to do and also this I is working the same way. I can see that my L curve is a lot sharper than the other curves over there. This is something I want to change in my next step. I also noticed that my R is sinking or my E is flying. When drawing a baseline, I can see that the E is not sitting on the same baseline, so probably this will have to go down a little bit. When looking at the curve I notice that the thin parts of my capital letter are rather thicker than the thick parts of my letters, which sometimes could work. Usually, the capitals are bigger letters and they have a bigger, more whitespace. You try to compensate this extra white space by doing the strokes slightly thicker everywhere. That's why the strokes of my B are so thick in comparison with the strokes of my lower-case letters. In this sense, I think that my stroke over here is rather thick. It's actually thicker than the capital letters. I think those two or those two strokes could have a relationship to each other, and they could share the same thickness. I'm going to try to make this whole stroke a little bit thinner in the next round. Concerning the stroke endings, for instance, that one here, that one here, that one here, and that one, I would try to even them up, try to work with the same shape within the letters. At last, I think this little detail over there on the condo shape of the N is rather rounded in comparison with other shapes that I'm using on my design. I think this could become maybe a sharper edge, so this connection could actually become sharper than it is. I'm not sure, it's just a solution. I'm going to try it out and see if it works better. Now I'm going to go to my digital drawings and work on those anchor points and vectors. I have my digital drawing and I'm going to start moving those anchor points according to the corrections I did on my printout. First, I'm going to duplicate the layer. This keeps a track of the different changes I am going to do to my digital drawing as well as I kept those layers in the analog sketch. I'm going to start doing those corrections. I'm going to save, remember to save your file. As you could see, I did a lot of changing during this process. The digital ground is also a place to do a lot of decision-making. The more striking decision was, for instance, changing the direction of the stroke, this understroke here, I think it works a lot better with this curved baseline where the letters are seating. I also changed the scale of the capital letter and I defined a little bit better the stroke endings. There is now a sharp edge and a rounded edge. Is there more place to keep changing stuff? Of course, there's always room to keep changing stuff. I will look at this drawing in one month and I would think of stuff that I would like to change. However, now I will stop here and now we'll move into adding color and texture to my lettering piece. 14. Color and Texture: I have improved my letter shapes with extrema points on my vector drawing software. Now I'm going to show you a couple of tricks that I use or my tricks to add color and texture to your drawing. Adding color and texture to your lettering is not necessarily the last step of your process, these are important parts of the design, so you will decide on this upfront or during the process of making your lettering piece. That's it, I would like to show you a couple of techniques that I use when it comes to adding color and texture to my designs. Choosing a color scheme can be hard. There's so many colors in the world, so I always look for inspiration. In this case, the inspiration can be really clear. I'm speaking about Berlin. I can get inspirations on photos from Berlin. In other cases, I will look inspiration on movie stills or images that remind me to a certain topic or concept. I will just go to Google and look for images from Berlin. I go to my image and just tap. Here I get an overview of very touristic images from Berlin, the Brandenburger Tor, some skyline pictures. However, since I live here, I can see that this one looks pretty much like Berlin, also the color scheme, the tendency to be a little bit gray, a little bit cloudy, and this iron decks over there are pretty bigger, also this brick construction. I would take this image, I think it has the atmosphere of Berlin. I will just take this picture and I will use it to get a color scheme that I could use. I will get this green from the decks. Also this brick color over there should be a brown color. This is something that I can adjust later. I will also get some of this light gray over there. I will leave this image on the side. I will duplicate my layer to keep track on my process, vector three color and texture, how we call it. So here I have my color scheme, and I will use this to add color to my drawing. Of course this color scheme is a starting point, it's just a way of finding a couple of colors that I could work with. I can change the tones, I can change the opacity. I can change a lot of stuff when having those colors as a base. I can also come up with any color scheme that I want, but this is of course an easier way or a faster way to find a color concept. I will keep this brown color to add details later. I would like to show you as well how to add texture to your design. The digital drawing tends to look very digital, so if we want our design to look a little bit more natural, a little bit less stiff, then we have a couple of tricks to add some texture to it. Throughout the time, I've built a library of different textures; photocopy textures, all papers textures, stains textures that I use in my designs often, and I keep producing every time. I have here for instance, an old paper texture. It's just an old paper scanned, and it helps me. I would just add this. It helps me add in a little bit of all feeling to my drawings. Let me open the transparency layer. I don't like to make so obvious that there is a texture on top of my drawing, I want the type to be or the letter forms to be still the star of the piece. I can define the opacity of it by moving this handle here, but this adds already a little bit of atmosphere to my drawing, that otherwise let me put this in another layer, that otherwise will look much more digital. Let me show you another picture that I have. I will go to Place, it's called noise. It's just a noise layer. Of course this will totally cover my design, but if I use it in a very low opacity, then it's just adding a little bit of noise, so the difference is pretty subtle, but a trained eye could notice when the texture is applied or not. This is something I rather have in my designs. You can decide whether you want to have it in your design or not. If you want your design to look very digital, then perhaps this is not something you should use. I also like to have some shadow to my letters, and by saying shadow, I mean a very very subtle shadow just to make the background of the letters a little bit darker, so they can shine a little bit more. I would go to very low values. Here we go. It's really subtle, it's really soft, but it adds a little bit of contrast to my drawing. For adding color and texture to your lettering piece, I will continue adding details, I would like to use this brown to add some decorative elements to my drawing, so I hope you continue improving your drawing as well. 15. Take The Ultimate Lettering Quiz: The ultimate lettering quiz. Find out just how much you really know about letters by taking the quiz for free on Enjoy. 16. Conclusion: Good. We are done with our project. We have learned how to sketch our own lettering piece from scratch using layers of refinement. We have also learned how to draw letter shapes on digital vectors, and we have digitized our lettering piece, and we have learned how to add color and texture to our final art. Most important, we haven't done this by copying any other already existing model, but by understanding the logic behind letters and drawing our own shapes. My last tip for you will be practice. Practice a lot. This is the only way to actually get better. It doesn't matter if this time your final art doesn't look perfect. I assure you that next time you do a lettering piece, it will look a lot better. Hopefully this class has given you a set of tools to guide your own development as a letterer afterward, and helped train your eyes to criticize [inaudible] and work with it. I'm looking forward to see what you did. I hope you will post your final project in the Final Project page, and don't forget to send your postcard to the person you designed this postcard too. I'm going to send you guys the postcard I did.