Vintage-Inspired Lettering: Design Bold Geometric Type in Adobe Illustrator | Nick Misani | Skillshare

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Vintage-Inspired Lettering: Design Bold Geometric Type in Adobe Illustrator

teacher avatar Nick Misani, Designer & 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.



    • 2.

      What is Art Deco?


    • 3.

      Principles of Art Deco Lettering


    • 4.

      Finding Inspiration in Your City


    • 5.

      Drawing Letterforms


    • 6.

      Drawing Geometric Type


    • 7.

      Customizing Letters


    • 8.

      Drawing Ornamental Type


    • 9.

      Sketching Your Postcard


    • 10.

      Digitizing Your Sketch


    • 11.

      Adding Detail in Illustrator


    • 12.

      Creating Color Palettes


    • 13.

      Adding Texture in Photoshop


    • 14.

      Final Thoughts


    • 15.

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About This Class

Want to design with the eye-popping glamour of the Great Gatsby era? Discover the secrets of historic typography with a modern twist—perfect for logos, posters and more!  

Travel back to the roaring 20’s with designer and letterer Nick Misani! You’ll join Nick in the studio for an inviting, accessible course in Art Deco typography that combines the best of old and new to create a bold, unexpected style that’s truly timeless. Blending hand lettering with Adobe Illustrator, Nick reveals a unique approach perfect for letterers of all levels, one you’ll be able to return to again and again regardless of the project or time period.

Through step-by-step lessons and custom-designed worksheets, you’ll learn how to:

  • Find historical inspiration in your own city (and hit the streets of New York with Nick!)
  • Draw geometric letterforms that ooze luxury and drama
  • Personalize your letters with vintage-inspired ornament
  • Combine Illustrator and Photoshop to customize your designs
  • Easily pull color palettes from photos or primary sources

Plus, you’ll master two distinct styles of Art Deco hand lettering in preparation for your final project: a postcard inspired by your city and ready to share. 

Whether you’re drawing your first letterform, adding a new style to your repertoire or looking for a hands-on weekend project, Nick’s method will open the door to a whole new world of creation. Follow along and in 90 minutes you’ll unlock your imagination, expand your skillset and learn how to capture the drama of Art Deco in anything you design!

Meet Your Teacher

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Nick Misani

Designer & Letterer


Nick Misani is a Paris-based designer and letterer with a passion for finely-crafted ornament and bespoke typography. He has worked for clients including Apple, Target, Airbnb, Pepsi and more. 

Born in Milan into a family of jewelry designers, he started my formal training by studying architecture and industrial design at the Liceo Artistico Bruno Munari in Crema, Italy. After a brief period living in Japan, he relocated to New York City and obtained an MFA in Communications Design from the Pratt Institute.

Prior to going freelance, he worked at Mucca Design, Penguin Random House, and, most recently, as the senior designer at Louise Fili Ltd.  

Last year, he started a passion project called Fauxsaics—a series of travel-inspir... See full profile

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1. Introduction: I think what I like about working with typography is that there's actually so much really interesting feeling and emotion you can imbue in letter-form. Hi, I'm Nick Misani. I am a designer and letterer based in Paris. I specialize in historically inspired [inaudible] typography. In today's class, we are going to talk about Art Deco lettering with a modern twist. So what we call Art Deco is a time period or a style in design and art history. Really defined by a desire for art and design to look modern and dynamic. By combining old and new, you actually get something that is a little bit fresher and more appropriate within today's design landscape. Today, we're going to be creating an Art Deco style postcard of your town or city. We're going to start by covering what is Art Deco and the principles that govern this style. We're going to head out and look for some inspiration around the city. Then I'll talk you through the process step-by-step. From sketching to vectorizing your letter-forms and finally to finishing and coloring. I created a whole bunch of useful resources to help you as you're working on this class and you can find them and download them all on the class resources. I'd really love to see what you're working on. So as you're following along, please share projects or questions on the project gallery. I'm really excited you decided to join this class and I can't wait to see what you do. Let's get started. 2. What is Art Deco?: I've worked in an Art Deco style for quite a bit now, clients come to me oftentimes nowadays asking for this style specifically. As you can see from my own work, there's really all types of Art Deco lettering, and once you know the basics you can really run with it and make it your own. So you're probably wondering, what is Art Deco? I'll give you a really brief overview of the time period, but if you want to learn more feel free to check some of the links I put into the class resources. Art Deco is a period in design and art history that reached its peak between World War I and World War II. The whole point of Art Deco was to really create a modern movement appropriate for the modern age. That said, it really drew inspiration from a lot of historical sources as well like Egyptian, Mayan and Greek influences, that was also combined with some other contemporary art movements happening at the time like fauvism, constructivism, and cubism. This resulted in a highly eclectic and dynamic visual language that combines motifs like zigzags, chevrons, fans, highly stylized in geometric photos. I think because Art Deco was a very modern style back then which really was only concerned with looking modern, it still looks current today. Because Art Deco is based on geometry, it's really great for beginning letterers or even people who have no lettering experience at all but it can easily be scaled up, so even if you're a professional letterer, this will be super useful to you. In the end, it's a great style to add to your design toolkit and apply to future projects. The final project is a postcard of your town or city, I love looking for Art Deco architecture and signage and ornament in the cities I've visited, so I thought this would be a great way to put all that into a small format where you can apply all this stuff you've learned today. Of course it doesn't have to be the name of a city, you can letter whatever you want, and you don't have to go out and look for inspiration if that's not your thing, that's why we have the internet. But before actually diving into the postcard, we'll just take a step back and see what actually makes Art Deco, Art Deco. We'll then find inspiration either in the real world, or online, we'll then cover two distinct but related styles of Art Deco lettering, one geometric and one more ornamental. We'll then move on to the sketching phase where we're going to take all the inspiration we've found and create a custom design with it, this will provide a framework for the final design that will then digitize on Adobe Illustrator. I'll walk you through the steps of vectorizing both your lettering and your ornament, we'll then move on to coloring, I'll show you how to grab color pallets from photos or color palettes inspired by our walk around the city. Then for the final step, we'll jump over to Adobe Photoshop and add just a little bit of shading, you'll end up with a really great Art Deco style, custom postcard that's ready to be mailed. For this class, all you'll really need is a pencil and an eraser, you'll also need some paper but alternatively you can print out the PDF diagrams that I've prepared for you, and you can find those in the class resources. You'll need a way to get your sketch into the computer, so you can use a scanner, but I really just use my smart phone and snap a picture. Software-wise, we'll primarily be working in Adobe Illustrator and a little bit of Photoshop right at the end to add some texture, but you can definitely still follow along even if you're working purely analogue. Art Deco is my favorite period in design history, and my goal for this aside of course from having you learn two styles of Art Deco lettering, is that you come out of this class loving this period too. Next up, we'll dive into the principles of Art Deco. 3. Principles of Art Deco Lettering: Over my years of working with this style, I found that there's three main principles that define Art Deco typography; contrast, geometry, and drama. Now you might not necessarily find these three principles in an art history book in so many words, but I've found them to be really useful in creating dynamic layouts and typography. This is one of my favorite books about Art Deco design and lettering. So when I was first learning about Art Deco, it was really Louise Fili, who is the co-author of this book and also my former boss who transmitted her love of Art Deco design to me. This is a great book also because it covers a variety of samples. It has a lot of great posters, but also some isolated types to really provide a ton of inspiration regardless of the project. So the first thing we're going to talk about is geometry, because it's really the most important of the three as it defines structurally what our letter forms are going to look like. In the sample, that's really easy to see with the letter C for example. As you can see, it's based on a perfect circle. So if we were to close this letter, that just forms a circle right there. Now, in traditional typography, Os, and Cs, and Qs are not ever perfect circles, they are generally squished just a tiny bit. A perfect circle would just be way too wide. But in Art Deco lettering, because it is based on perfect geometry since it's referencing machines and industry, we really want to use those perfect shapes. Now, for letters like Cs, and Os, and Qs, and Gs that's easy to see. But when I say that letters are based on geometry, that also includes letters like the D and the R. So as you can see, if I were to remove this half of the D, the second part, the curved part is really just another perfect circle, and the same goes with the R. All of these pieces that make up the lettering are really based on these perfect geometric shapes. That also includes the ornament and the illustration. Now, this sample here has an illustration. As you can see, the hand here is very simplified, this circular element here is also perfectly geometric. Next up, we'll talk about contrast which is another really important principle of Art Deco lettering. So by contrast, really, all I mean is the difference between opposites, so something really thick as opposed to something really thin or something really heavy as opposed to something really light. So in this sample here, which is an old Italian soap label from 1936, you can see several different expressions of contrast. You'll notice that this is a high contrast style of lettering. So the thins are pretty thin and the thicks are pretty thick. So just within the letter form itself, there is a lot of contrast. Also, you can see contrast in the width of each letter form. So as we talked about in the section on geometry, the Os here are still based on perfect circles, so they're extremely wide. But look at how narrow the U and the N are, they're both super, super, super narrow. If this were a traditional lettering style, we wouldn't have so much contrast in width between the letter forms. The N would be much, much wider. Another example of contrast here is how bold overall this primary lettering is and how thin the lettering above and below is. If you look at it altogether, all of these different expressions of contrast create a really dynamic composition that's hierarchically super-strong. Finally, we have drama, which is probably the hardest to define, but it's also essential when creating compositions that look very Art Deco. So layout-wise, here, we're looking at Spanish posters from late '30s, and you can see how the compositions are usually at an angle and super, super, super dynamic. For example, you see the type is on one angle but there's this really strong opposite diagonal created by the illustration. Letters, ligatures, and decorative elements tend to be fairly stylized and exaggerated. For example, you see that in this LA ligature. So a book like this is really a great place to find a whole bunch of awesome inspiration, but really it's not the only place where you can find great source material. So websites like Pinterest are a great place to start looking for inspiration online. There's really a lot of great stuff on there for any style, but there's a lot of awesome reference material for Art Deco as well. Google Images works also, but anytime you're looking for reference material online just make sure you're looking at authentic historical source material. As the trend of doing vintage topography grows, a lot of people are doing work inspired by vintage type, and you want to make sure you're drawing your inspiration from authentic historical material and not from someone else's work. That said, my favorite place to look for inspiration is out on the street. So now that we have a good solid grasp of the principles of Art Deco lettering, let's head outside and see what we can find. 4. Finding Inspiration in Your City: I love finding art deco inspiration in the wild, in the cities I visit. Right now, I'm visiting New York City. I'm super lucky because there's a ton of art deco architecture and design, and ornament here, but you don't have to live in New York City to find amazing art deco examples. A lot of major cities also have art deco societies that organize Art Deco architecture walk. So my favorite way of doing this is just walking around, seeing what I can find, and of course snapping a few photos for inspiration. So let's go. So check out how awesome that type is. This is just the name of the building out here and the detail on it is really, really, really amazing. It's super high contrast, super inspiring. But right next door, there's some newer art deco inspired type that is not original. It's cool how businesses are increasingly using art deco type to fit in with the historical period of the building but also because it just looks cool. But you should always have your reference be inspired by the older type as opposed to the newer type. It's not necessarily that the new type is bad, it's just that you should always look to primary sources for inspiration. So stuff like this is actually really cool because it might not look like much on first glance, like especially compared to the really beautiful ornament we saw at the top of the building. But buildings like these are just hovered in ornament. Little borders like these can actually be very useful when you're working them into a design, like using it around the border of something or even within the typography that we're working with. So the building across the street that I actually stumbled upon, looks super art deco and is exactly what we're looking for. So it has these really smooth blackstone facade and this metallic ornament. Now a lot of our art deco, traditional art deco, buildings will use metallic elements, metallic geometric elements especially. This building really has it all. Yes. So I really love this ornament right above the door, especially these really cool geometric-like fan elements. Also, just take a look at those light fixtures on the side. I can really see how possibly those corner elements could be a part of- the post guards even the top of that is super cool. Buildings like these are just covered in ornament everywhere, from the curly pattern down here which I am going to snap a picture of because it looks awesome. Even this here, this metallic detail is really beautiful. The door especially is stunning. It has this floral pattern here that is so representative of how patterns work in art deco. So even botanical pattern is still very geometric. These curly elements are super geometric and based on perfect circles as are these flowers here. Even down there, there's like really cool half-moon pattern. If you look at the top of the door, it's stunning. It has this fountain which is very, very, very typical of art deco ornaments. Even in an element like the fountain, you can see how it's super geometric and the way it waves a little bit at the end is just stunning. So this is probably one of my favorite art deco moments in the city. You can really see the beautiful wrought iron work which is typical of art deco buildings. You can even see the detail in the fountain element, how the iron is ripply right at the bottom, the juxtaposition of the black and gold. It's super art deco as well. This is just really a gorgeous building. So here, we have the Chrysler Building which was actually one of the most famous and one of the most beautiful examples of art deco architecture and ornaments in the city, I loved those zigzaggy ornaments on the side. The different patterns in the glass are really, really, really cool. Obviously, the topography is pretty awesome as well. So that was fun. We found a lot of great, great stuff. I took a ton of photos. I won't be using all of them. In fact, I should mention that it's probably best to choose one main photo that's going to be your core inspiration for this project. So I really love these photos that we took at the Chrysler Building. There's a lot of great stuff here. Obviously, there's some type but I love these different patterns in the glass. I might be able to bring that in with some texture later. There's the zigzag elements that I think are really interesting and dynamic. So that could be a good option. The border down here's great, so I could possibly use that as an element along the bottom of the postcard. I love this curl pattern that we found at the bottom of the Madison Belmont building. I'm not sure I want to use that as a main decorative border because it might be a little bit too big but it could make for a cool detail inside the type. This light fixture that we found has a really cool geometric layout that I could see very well being like expanded, its formed a border of a piece. So as difficult as this is, let's choose one that we're going to use as the structure and the basis of our postcard. As much as I love all of these samples, I was really drawn by how dynamic the entrance of the Chrysler Building is. There's something about these triangular shapes and these diagonal lines that just feels so incredibly art deco but also so New York City at the same time. I love this photo. So I think I'm going to go with this sample in particular for my postcard. So take a little time to go through your photos and pick one main photo that you want to use for your inspiration. But while you're at it also, choose a few additional photos to work in as secondary inspiration for the ornaments or the pattern. So next up, we'll actually get into drawing our first style which is a geometric sans serif that you can use in your postcard. 5. Drawing Letterforms: In this lesson, we're finally going to put pencil to paper and tackle the first Art Deco lettering style that we'll be learning together. This is going to be a geometric sans serif style. So by sans serif I just mean a style that has no serifs, serifs being the little decorative elements that are part of traditional typography. This style and the next style that we'll be learning are really two core styles that are part of the Art Deco typographic tradition. It's really important for us to spend a little bit of time really getting familiar with this style of lettering before moving forward to designing our postcard. So we're going to start now with drawing the actual letter form from scratch. Here I'm using this practice sheet that I've prepared which you can download in the class resources, but you're welcome to use our regular sheet out plain paper as well. I like to start by drawing the structure of the letter form or the skeleton of the letter form. So if I'm drawing an R for example and disregard the fact that I hold my pencil like a 10-year-old, I usually just start by drawing really a hair line structure, and then from here I build it out in solid shapes. As I'm going I'm adjusting the width and making sure that the width is consistent. Now, I work this way because if you were to draw from the outline in like this, it's much harder to get a well proportion letter form. You see how this area here is quite a bit thinner than this area here. If I wanted to adjust that to keep that consistent, I would have to erase and then try again until I finally get something that feels proportioned. So another reason for drawing letter forms from this skeleton shape, if for some reason I draw a B that feels a little bit unproportioned. So this bottom bowl is looking way too big compared to the top bowl, I can very easily just erase and correct, and then of course bulk it out. So the width right now it doesn't really matter. These are both the same width, but you can definitely do sort of a more hairline type of width which would mean bulking it out just a tiny bit. Or something much heavier which would require bulking out considerably. Even though the style we're learning is a sans serif style, within your career as a letter, you'll be working with a lot of different styles including serif styles. This technique of drawing letter forms applies to serifs styles as well. Serifs are actually just ornaments really that are applied to letter forms. So they should never be part of the structure of the letter form, which is why drawing letter forms this way from the outline in can create very awkward shapes. I'm not really sure if this serif is exactly the same as this serif which might not be exactly the same as this serif. But if you start from skeleton first, then bulk that up a bit, and add the serifs at the very end, you'll be able to control those serifs much more. So now that you're comfortable drawing individual letters, let's move on to whole words. Because it's very important to think of the word as a whole as you're setting up your lettering composition. So if I want to draw the word NYC, I tend to like drawing everything at once and then bulking it up later. So just like when you were drawing individual letter forms where you were being careful about making the width in the individual part of the letter form the same, you also want width to stay consistent throughout all of the letter forms in your word. Consistency is really the key in creating professional-looking lettering. I like to work from the structure of the word first before adding width because it makes adjusting spacing much easier. For example, if I were writing the word Miami and just bulking up the letters as I go, you'll notice that already the spacing is looking off. That's because I kept the first two letters fairly tight and I wasn't prepared for this big space between the I and the A. Now, if I wanted to adjust this I would probably move the M out a bit to create a little bit more space here, but that of course means erasing the whole letter that I've now spent time bulking up and adjusting to make sure it's the same width as everything else instead of just simply erasing a hairline sketch and adjusting accordingly. So oftentimes in my classes, I have noticed that when I talk about consistency, people's tendency is to think, well, if a good well proportioned M is this thick, then to keep it consistent, I have to use this thickness for every single letter form in my word. So if I'm drawing the word Mexico that is what an E would look like. The X looks okay, I guess I could try to put this stuff on the I to make it that wide, and then we have a C and an O that are looking a little bit narrow compared to the M, and the E of course is ridiculously wide. So what I mean by consistency is really creating a feeling of sameness even though the letters themselves aren't necessarily the same width. So for a word like Mexico, the widths look more like that. So there's consistency, but that doesn't mean that everything is exactly the same. Another common mistake is inconsistent crossbar height. I drew the word Harlem and you'll notice that I followed all of the rules I mentioned, the width or the thickness of each letter form is consistent with the letter form following it. I also varied the widths of the actual letter forms so that they're appropriate for the letters themselves as spacing looks pretty good. However, there's inconsistency in the crossbars. So what I mean by that is that the crossbar of the H which is this middle bar connecting the two stems, is quite high, whereas the crossbar on the E is very low. Ideally, you want all of these cross bars on the same height. If you're using my practice sheet, I included three little dots on either side. You can grab a ruler to connect two of these dots and create a perfectly parallel crossbar height. So you can also connect the bottom dots to create a really low crossbar which is actually fairly typical of Art Deco lettering or a really high crossbar as well. I know this might seem like a lot, but once you have these rules internalize it will really feel like second nature. But in the meantime, we'll include a little cheat sheet in the class resources. 6. Drawing Geometric Type: So now that we've covered the basics and some of the common mistakes, we'll dive right in and start learning about the specific style in Art Deco lettering. I'm going to draw the word Portland now to help demonstrate proportion, contrast, and geometry. Now, already with just the P, you'll notice how this half of the P is based on a perfect circle. So I can easily complete this if I wanted to. But of course, I don't need the whole circle, so I'm going to cut it in half and add the stem. The O is another perfect circle, and one tip to draw this is to start by drawing a square. Separate the square into quadrants, and then draw each one individually. This will help you create a really well proportioned O. The R is similar in structure to the P, but now while we're at it let's draw a cross bar line. I'm going to use the bottom of the three dots, just to make sure that the bowl of the R stays consistent with the bowl of the P. [MUSIC] Once you have this structure down, if you're happy with the spacing, then you can proceed to bulking it up. Now, if you look carefully you'll notice that as I'm bulking up the top of the P, I'm not going beyond the cap height, the stop line here. So I'm bulking starting from the hairline above working down. As I reach the bottom, I'm bulking up both sides above and below the cross bar height. So as you can see from this sample, most of the letters follow pretty strict rules in their construction, but there are some letters that are trickier than others, and among them is the S, which is probably the hardest letter to draw for any letter. So this is a trick I actually learned from a friend who also has a skill share class Lauren Ham, I definitely recommend checking her out. It's an excellent way to get perfect well proportioned Ss every time, especially when you're first starting. Once you have the structure in mind, you'll be able to create Ss without all these intermediate steps. The first step is to draw two circles, one on top of the other. You want the bottom circle to be slightly larger than the top, and you want the two circles to not touch each other. Now once you've done that, now slice the circles in half, and I put red horizontal lines here to guide you, and connect this top left point to this bottom right point, by following the shape of the circles. So that creates a wavy line in the middle that you can then link up to the bottom half of the bottom circle, and the top half of the top circle. Now, as you can see, this creates a really well proportioned simple S, that you can then customize however you want. So to recap, when I draw two circles, one on top of the other with the bottom one being slightly larger than the top, and remember to leave a little bit of space between the two circles. Slice them in half, you can erase the center part a little bit if it helps you, but make sure you can still see the half of the circles that you erased, then you connect this top left point to this bottom right point by using a wavy line that contours there circles underneath. Then go ahead and thicken up the bottom half of the bottom circle and the top half of the top circle, and there you have it. So go ahead and do a few practice words to really familiarize yourself with this style. If you need help with certain letters that may be a little bit more tricky than others, the whole alphabet is available in the class resources. So feel free to refer to this. As I mentioned before, consistency is really important. So even as you're referring to this template, for example notice that the K and the R have different styles of legs. If you're using a straight leg, like I'm using here for the K, you want to do the same thing for the R, and if you're using a curved leg like I'm using for the R, you want to do the same thing for the K. So now that you're comfortable with this style, we'll move on to ways to make it your own by using ligatures, alternates, and width variations. 7. Customizing Letters: One of the things that makes a style really fun to work with is that it's super conducive to alternates and as the name suggests, alternates are just alternate versions of a specific letter form. I listed the most common alternates at the bottom of the style, one lettering guide that you can find in your class resources. But really, feel free to experiment with these letter forms, play around with the shapes to create some alternates that are all your own. For example, I wrote the word San Diego four times here. As you can see, each version has a very different field. So let's tackle them one at a time. On top, I drew the word pretty much exactly like I've already shown you. So the second version of this word starts getting a little bit more exciting. For starters, I'm using a slanted S. A slanted S is a very particular style of S that was used a ton in the 20's and 30's, and it really helps give that art deco vibe. I'm also incorporating a slant in this N, which is a fairly common and very art deco variation of an N. The D stays the same. The E has an extended crossbar, which of course, because consistency is super important, I repeated on the left side of the A, and I'm using a smaller o with a line underneath it. Again, a very art deco detail. This was used a lot because o, since they're based on perfect circles, are very, very wide. So to save space oftentimes, it remains smaller. The line below it serves two purposes. It's decorative, so it looks cool, but also it reinforces the baseline to prevent a huge space underneath the o from forming. The fourth and last sample uses circular crossbars. Decorated crossbars are a really fun way to add interests this style of lettering. Now they can be circles, they can be extended, they can also be triangular looking something like that. But of course again, because consistency is super important, if you're using a circular or triangular crossbar on the A, make sure the crossbar matches on the E and maybe put a dot on the I just for good measure. Another way to customize this lettering style is by including ligatures, which is where alternates become really, really useful. So ligatures are really just the combination of two or more glyphs or the letter forms. There are two main types of ligatures I want to talk to you about. The first one is stacking ligatures, which are really the bread and butter of ligatures. I use them all the time in my own work. So a stacking ligature as the name suggests, is really a ligature where two letters are stacked on top of each other. So for example, I'm writing the word little rock right now and I nestled that I inside the space created by the L. Though not strictly a stacking ligature, you can also merge two T's together. I'm going to repeat what I did for the first L. Extend it slightly and nest the E on top of that. A common mistake when creating stacking ligatures is to think that the letter form has to extend all the way to cover the letter form that goes below it. That's actually not necessary and creates a really unbalanced letter form. It's okay if for example, the two sides of the T are not perfectly symmetrical, but you want it to be as close as possible. If combining a letter form with an O, about halfway across the O works pretty well. If however, you are combining it with an I because it's such a narrow letter, it's fine for it to extend and completely cover the letter form. The next style of ligature I want to talk to you about is interlacing ligatures. These are really fun. You have to use them just a little bit more sparingly, but they can create some really cool effects in your lettering. So for this example, I am writing the word London. So here, you'll notice this is another stacking ligature. O and N, how about we add an alternate N to fill that negative space underneath the O a little bit. Again, we have a semicircular D. Here's where the interlacing ligature is going to come in. So we're literally interlacing the D and the O. Now, I know I made a big deal about consistency, so you would think that a slanted N and regular N probably shouldn't go together in the same word. But in this case, I think they probably looks fine since here the slant serves a very specific purpose. But if you don't like this mismatched look, you can definitely slant this one as well. Now, even if your city doesn't seem like it's super conducive to ligatures, I would really challenge you to try to find ways to interlace letters together, even if it's just one instance of a ligature per word. Unexpected ligatures between letters that don't seem like they could really match up, sometimes make for the most interesting compositions. So once you're comfortable with the structure of the letter forms, you're familiar with alternates, you've experimented with fun crossbars and ligatures, there are other more advanced ways you can use to customize this type style. In the class resources, you'll find a few examples of possible customizations. So you'll see that I experimented with really thin letter weight all the way, ta really, really thick. I also tried out a filled style, a two tone style, and a stencil style. You can really have fun with playing around with these variations to make this style your own. Now, that means that you might have to figure out what an X looks like in this stencil style. There's no right answer here. Take a look at your reference material, do some research online, and just play around with it. In the next lesson, we'll be pushing the style even further with an ornamented high-contrast alphabet. 8. Drawing Ornamental Type: In this lesson, we're going talk about how to add weight on both simple and more complex letter forms and also how to really make the style your own by adding ornamental fills. To show you that this style is really structurally based on the style we learned earlier, and that these two styles build on each other, I'm going to use the same sample I worked on before. Because I'm going to be using a little bit more weight on the letter forms, I'm going to space them out slightly. So now that I have the entire word drawn, I'm going to start adding some weight. I'm going to go a lot more extreme than I did before and only make certain strokes thicker. Of course, consistency is always extremely important, so the thicks has to be the same width throughout. So you might be wondering why I chose to make certain strokes thick while leaving others thin. Well, as it turns out, there are very specific rules that govern this decision. Generally, the vertical stroke is the thick stroke. So for letters like Es, Fs, Hs, anything like that, the vertical stroke is thick and the horizontal strokes are thin. That also goes for letters like Os that don't really have any right angles. It's still this vertical wedge that's jammed in here. Because this is a lot to take in, I made another sample alphabet like I did for the first style for you to refer to. Now, in this sample, you can see what makes this style of lettering so particular. Of course, there's very high contrast between thicks and thins, but also the transition between thick and thin is nonexistent. So if you look at this C for example, it goes from really thick to really thin with no transition. In traditional lettering, we would transition that slightly. But for art deco, because it's all about modernity and harsh lines, we don't really transition at all and we just end it directly. So as you can see, there's a lot of room for experimentation within this style as long as you keep consistency front and center as well as the principles of art deco lettering as a whole in mind. So there's a couple of ways you can go about adding ornament your letter forms. You can either pull from inspiration you found walking around town or online, or I've prepared this sheet of ornaments and borders you can download from the class resources. I'm especially drawn to this one because it's one we actually found while we were walking around town earlier. I'm just going to keep this one right here so I can refer to it as I'm applying it to the main lettering. So you may be wondering how we go from the shaded version that we learned before to something empty that is ready to be ornamented. The answer is pretty much you just erase the fill and then you're ready to add some ornament. Now, when adding ornament, there really is no right or wrong. I like here how the middle line is a little bit darker, so I might darken that slightly. I don't necessarily need to go all the way up. This could be enough and then maybe I can do something different for the top half. Like, I'm thinking it might be nice to open this center part out and maybe create a fan pattern on top. Things sometimes get a little bit tricky when diagonal letters come into play. So in this case, the best solution is probably just to put the ornament at an angle and do something like that. However, if your ornament is made up of diagonal lines, putting it at an angle might look a little bit funny. So in this case, I would probably just keep the angle of the diagonals the same. Again, you really want to make whatever decision feels appropriate for the letter you're filling. All right, now that you know how this style works, go ahead and play around with it yourself. Feel free to build up one of the words you worked on for the first style and really have fun playing around with ornament. There are no rules. Just keep the principles of art deco in mind. Next up, we're going to put this all together and design your postcard. 9. Sketching Your Postcard: So now we're going to put everything we've learned together to create your very own custom Art Deco postcard. The first step is to choose a word. I'm going to do New York, but you can do whatever city or town you want, or it doesn't even really have to be a city. These postcards that I designed with Louise Fili, are a great example of how even a single word can be really fun and dynamic to play around with. So I'm just going to hang on to these and keep them around my work space because I love to be surrounded by a reference material that's relevant to the project I'm working on. The first thing you're going to need is the image that you're primarily going to be referencing. So I chose a photo of the entrance to the Chrysler Building, so I'm just going to keep that right here to remind myself. So the best way I've found to approach this is to work with thumbnails. Now in the class resources, I put a series of nine thumbnails for an A6 size postcard, which is pretty much the standard size. There's a few styles of layouts that feel especially Art Deco. So one and the most simple one is just to keep everything horizontal. Now, when you're doing these thumbnails you don't really have to be super precise with your lettering. This is not really a time where you need to be drawing diagrams, to create your essays, or be measuring the width of your [inaudible]. This is really just to solidify some ideas as they form. So this layout is pretty simple so I might want to take a look at my reference material, and maybe add in some diagonal elements that feel like they match the reference, or maybe some zigzag elements up there, maybe some horizontal element. Something that maybe references this structural decorative element down here. So I'm not too worried about adding too much detail, this is really just a sketch to fix an idea. So this is just the very simple horizontal layout, but in true Art Deco-style we, might want to try to add a little bit of dynamism, so a lot of Art Deco layouts are on angles. So let's try one here. Now, I'm sketching in a little bit of weight here, so I know that I want that second style that we learned. Then because I want to add some Chrysler Building style, on a map, I might pick up this zigzagging line here perhaps, maybe add some extra lines up here. Another very popular layout type is based on circles. So here, I might have the word New on a circle, and then York on another one. Working with thumbnails like this is really useful because you immediately see the areas of negative space that you might want to fill with additional ornament. So I'm going to keep playing around with this for a little while to see if I can settle on a layout that I like. You can stop at five, or four, or three, or fill the whole page, but I've gotten to a point where I can already tell I'm drawn to this one, I like that the word New York are stacked. That way, I really like this triangular shape. I think it's super dynamic and super Art Deco. This area's looking a little bit empty, but I might put a little elements up here, but otherwise, yeah, I think I'm going to move forward with this one. So once you've chosen a thumbnail that you like, the next step is to blow it up to full size. I provided another PDF in the class resources that has a full-size A6 postcard that you can use to draw on. I'm going to keep my thumbnail sketch close by so I can keep referring to it. Now that we're drawing lettering at a slightly larger size, we have to be a little bit more careful about things like consistency, making the height of each row of letters the same. So I'm drawing in cap height and a baseline for both lines of text. I think I'm going to put some horizontal lines here just to separate. The words are tiny a bit, and it like these overlapping triangles on the reference, so I might just hint at them by putting some triangular details on either side. I did like in this sketch how I nestled the word city underneath, so I think I'm going to do that here too, but I'm going to use that first style we learned. So the one that has uniform thickness both in the horizontal and the verticals. It's looking pretty good, but I still feel like there's something missing up here. Remember from our walk around town, I saw, I think it was the lighting fixture that had an interesting crown element on top, so I might try to work that in somehow appear. I like that it also looks like the crown on the Statue of Liberty, so it's like inspired by the city as well. So I think this is looking pretty good, and for my process, this is a pretty good amount of detail to give me an idea of what I want to do once I move on to the computer. So to do this, you could scan it in if you have access to a scanner, but honestly, I just usually take a picture and send it to my computer. Now, I'll go ahead and sketch out a few different thumbnails, find one that you're really excited about, blow it up to actual size, and then get it onto your computer. Next up vectorizing in Adobe Illustrator. 10. Digitizing Your Sketch: The first step in actually creating what's going to be our final postcard is to open up Adobe Illustrator, create a new art board, and import our pencil sketch. So I'm going to go ahead and click on Create New and go ahead and click on Print. So I chose an A6 format because it's a pretty standard postcard format, and that's a 148 millimeters by a 105 millimeters. So I'm going to go ahead and select millimeters as my unit of measurement and type those values in, and then go ahead and click Create. So once I have my art board created, I am going to drag my sketch in. I need to make sure that the size of the red box around my sketch is the same size as the art board. So I'm going to center it, I'm going to scale it down by pressing shift and option. Now that it's not the right size, I want to put it on a separate layer so that I don't mess around with this sketch while I'm drawing my lettering. So I'm going to go ahead and click the layers tab, create a new layer, call it sketch, select my sketch, and you'll notice how there's this little blue box, I'm going drag the box up so that's going to move it to the top layer. Now make sure that your sketch is selected and go on the properties tab and bring the opacity down. You want it to be light enough so that you can barely see it. Once you've done that, go back to the layers tab and lock the sketch tab. Now anything I do down here is not going to influence the sketch. The very first thing you want to do once your art board is set, is to create some guides for yourself. To create guides, I am going to show the rulers. So first make sure your art layer is selected, and then drag down a guide. I'm going drag down a second guide to represent the cap height. Now I could do the same to create guides down here, but I really want to make sure that the height of the type is absolutely consistent. So I'm going to undo and draw a square right here. I'm going to give it a random color, doesn't really matter and then drag the square down, and now I'll draw guides on top and bottom of this square. This ensures that the rows of letters will be drawn at the same height. I'm also going to draw the baseline and the cap height for the smaller word at the bottom. Now I'm ready to start drawing some vector lettering. I like to use vector lettering because a client sent a request more often than not, it gives you a lot of freedom to play around with shapes, also working with vectors is particularly appropriate for Art Deco lettering because we are working with really geometric perfect shapes. So let's start drawing our letter forms. I generally like to choose one sample letter forms to work with, that's really going to be the model for the other letter forms as far as widths are concerned. So I'm going to take this E first. I'm going to draw the thick portion of the letter form first by just creating a rectangle and making it black for now. You'll notice that because we put the sketch on the top layer, the sketch is still visible even though we are putting shapes on our art board. For the thin strokes, I am going to use strokes instead of solid shapes. I do this because it's going to be so much easier to work with strokes when we're creating a circular letter forms, like the Os and the Rs. The bottom stroke of the E is usually the longest and the middle stroke is usually the shortest. Now because of the way on an N is on that middle stroke, I'm going to use strokes to create the thin strokes, like I did before. I'm just duplicating the vertical strokes here. I'm also going to duplicate this fixed stroke by holding down option and dragging it over, and I'll push R to rotate it to form the middle stroke of the N. Just so it's easier to see, I'm going to make this a different color, and you'll notice how I've aligned it down here but it doesn't align up here. So I'm going to rotate it by pressing R, then I'm going to click on the point that's already aligned, and then click and drag to rotate it down until the top point also aligns. Now I'm just going to draw white shapes to mask the areas that I want to hide. I don't want to merge this letter just yet, just in case I want to make any changes later. Now I'll show you how to draw a round letter form like an O. So I'm going to click and hold the rectangle tool until I get an ellipse tool, go approximately to the middle of the O, click and drag while holding down shift option and like go when he gets to approximately the right size and scale it down. I clicked the bottoms joke of the E before drawing the O, that ensures that the settings used on the stroke E also apply to the O. The R is structurally fairly similar to the E, so I'm going to just select the thick part of the E and also the top two thin sections, then hold down option to drag and duplicate down. I'm going to shorten these slightly, this automatically ensures that the crossbar high of my R matches the one on my E. Now because we discussed that everything is based on geometry, I need this section of the E to be a perfect circle. So I'm going to draw a circle here, use the scissors tool, and cut the circle in half vertically. Delete that section, and join these two points by pressing command J. To create the tail of the R, we're just going to use the pen tool. Start with a bowl of the R joins this down and pull a horizontal base E curve, by pressing and holding shift. Now go to where the bottom of the tail of your R is and do the same thing, and then finish up the tail of your R. It's looking okay but not quite perfect, so I'm going to zoom in a bit and adjust those points until the curve looks a little bit more elegant. So as you can see, it's kind of a trial and error process, so I'll continue working on the rest of these letters. 11. Adding Detail in Illustrator: So I went ahead and finished drawing the lettering, cleaned up a little bit, and what we're left with is a really clean New York City lettering that's ready to be ornamented. The first step would be to merge your letter forms. So I always like to duplicate the art board when I do that, just so I have a sample of the unmerged letter forms on the side and it's safe and I don't feel scared to merge these letter forms here. So I'm going to start with the E. I'm going to go to object, path, outline stroke. Then over to pathfinder, I'm going to merge. So this creates a clean single shape. Once I've done that, I'm going to turn into outline and click on strokes to bring up the stroke options. I want to make sure that I align the stroke to the inside, and I'll make it just a little bit thicker. Now that gives us a nice canvas on the inside of this E to ornament. I'm going to go ahead and do that to all the other letters. Although it's worth noting that with letters that have white boxes to cover problem areas, you don't want to go directly to unite, you actually want to go to divide which is a command that's not immediately available in the main menu. So you push on the ellipsis down here. It's the one all the way to the left. Divide basically separates every single shape but doesn't merge the colors. So I'm going to double-click the end now to bring it in isolation mode, select a black area, then go over to Select Same Fill Color. At this point, you can unite. With your shapes selected, hold down shift, and select the entire letter form. That's going to select everything else that's not the original shape and I'm going to press "Delete" to get rid of that. I'm going to go through the same process of turning it into an outline. So now that all my letters are ready, we can start filling with ornaments. So there's really no hard and fast rules here. I remember really liking the vertical elements in the reference from the Chrysler Building I found. So I'm going to use those as the basis for vertical inspired linear ornaments. So I'm just going to start by creating a shape right in the middle, and then maybe another shape inside it. I don't really want to worry too much about color just yet. So I'm just going to make it A medium gray. I'm adjusting the width by holding down option and dragging one of the two sides. Holding down option really just ensures that the two sides move at the same time. I also think I'm going to drag this all the way up to create a slightly more interesting fill to this letter form. It's looking good but I want to add something a little bit more dynamic still, maybe a highlight. So I'll just draw a stroke right in the middle. I'm holding down shift to make sure it stays perfectly vertical. I'm going to make that stroke white. I'm going to go just a little bit thicker, and I'm going to adjust the profile of the stroke. So I'm going to click on the word stroke to bring up the stroke options and right down here where it says profile, I'm going to bring down that drop-down menu and click just this simple width profile one. So that gives it a nice taper on the top and bottom. It's looking pretty good. I think it's almost there. I'm thinking I want to add a little bit of that nice grainy gradient that is so typical in art deco posters. So I'm going to go ahead and draw a rectangle over the area that's white because that's where I want my gradient to be, and click on gradient over here on the taskbar, make it a linear gradient, and then drag it vertically. To open up the gradient preferences, click on the ellipsis at the bottom right. I'm going to invert it down here because I want the dark part to be at the bottom. You'll noticed that the side of the gradient that's transparent, the opacity is set to zero. I'm going to click this and drag and copy it over to the other side. So I'm pretty happy with how the ornament is looking on this letter E. So I'm going to go ahead and apply it to the rest of the letter forms, rotating it, and adjusting it as necessary. So I finished working on the ornament for all of the lettering and I think it's time to start working on the rest of the postcard. All right. So I'm going to use the visual language I established for the ornament of the letter forms, coupled with the reference material that I photographed from the Chrysler Building to create this ornamental triangular zigzaggy pattern around the lettering. I'll start by drawing a rectangle to define the edges of my arts. I'll set the fill to nothing and the stroke to black for now. So these diagonals are really the strongest shapes I have in my composition. So I'm going to start with those, and make this just a little bit thicker. Don't really worry about the edges of the line going beyond the border. I'll take care of that a little bit later. Now that I'm pretty happy with how this looks, I'm going to start drawing the zigzag pattern on the inside. You'll notice that the style of zigzag I'm using is pretty different than what's on my reference but that's totally okay. The whole point is to be inspired by your reference but not be copying it completely. I also like the little triangles I put in my sketch here. I think it fills up that negative space nicely and it could give me an opportunity to fill that with a different color backgrounds later. So I'm just going to add those in. One thing I like about that Chrysler reference is that a section of the zigzag its thick while the other one is thin. So I'm going to try to emulate that by creating an extra stroke on top of the section that I want thick, just making it a tiny bit thicker. I'll do the same with all the parallel lines that I want thick. This is still looking a little bit flat and I like this little highlight I put here on the inside of the letter forms. So I want to do something similar for this area. I'll just draw a stroke at the center of that thick diagonal stroke. If your stroke didn't come out white, just go back to properties and adjust the stroke color. I'll do the same for these other parallel diagonals. Now, select all of them, increase the fill slightly. Two I think is a little bit too much. So I might do 1.5 and then adjust the profile again. I think that's much more interesting and dynamic and gives this metallic shimmer that I like. While I'm at it, I might do the same for this main stroke here. Since I like what I did with this corner element, I can just group it, drag and duplicate, and then reflect. Now I have it on both sides. So I'll continue to drawing some ornaments. Of course, this is a trial and error process. There could be a couple wrong turns but that's just part of the fun. So I got this to our plan. I'm pretty happy with it. There's really no way of knowing when you're done. You just stop when it feels right. In addition to creating this crown element that reminds me of the Statue of Liberty, I added a few more gradients, a little bit on the top and a little bit on the bottom, to mimic what's happening in the type and fill out the rest of the composition. So using what you've learned, go ahead and build out your letters and start experimenting with ornaments on Illustrator. So now that you have a design that you're happy with and that's fully vectorized, it's time to get into coloring and finishing your postcard. 12. Creating Color Palettes: In this section, we'll be coloring and finishing your postcard. So Art Deco color palettes tend to be bright and vibrant, so think dual tones, think also metallic, and stuff like that. For the purposes of this class, we'll be sticking to about three to four colors in our postcard. So one place to draw inspiration is the actual city that your postcard is representing. So I found this photo of New York online and I really love how we get the gray of the pavement and the concrete, but with little subtle pops of color throughout. So I'm going to use this as the basis of a color palette. Now, when I create color palettes, I usually like to have one really dark color, and I'm selecting the Eyedropper tool here to grab this dark blue here. I also like to have one medium tone, and I think the pavement is a good place to grab this because they definitely want the grays or the concrete look as well. Then I want a light tone, which I usually split up into two: One that's slightly lighter and one that's slightly darker. So I like this peachy color on this building, that's the kind of compliments the sky, in the back, on the horizon. So I'm going to grab a dark peach from here, and a lighter piece from the horizon. Then I'm going to leave the highlight pure white. So I like how this color palette so communicates New York City, but it's not just the standard black and white. Now, of course, from the same photo, you could easily grab another color palette. For example, by making the middle tone bright yellow or possibly by making the dark tone, this dark plum color. So I did this with the photo, but you can of course do this with actual primary reference like I found this really great Martini Art Deco poster that uses black, white, and red color palette, which is probably as Art Deco as it gets, and I use that same process to create a color palette based on this poster. So you have your darkest color, which in this case is just pure black. I hit up right here and those two shades of the lighter color that I grabbed from the bottles. This is the poster by Depero, who is a really amazing futurist Art Deco designer from Italy, and I created this color palette based on it, that I could easily see how a secondary color palette could come from the same sample by bringing in that yellow. Then, finally, I wanted to try color palette that uses some really bright colors. So here is another poster by Depero that I really love, especially because it uses these like teal colors right in the middle and contrast them with this bright like jewel-tone yellow. So now that I have a handful of color palettes I like to use, I can start testing them out on my postcard. To do that, I am just going to select artboard and click and drag while holding down option to duplicate. I'm just going to do that under every color palette. Next up, I'm just going to choose the color palette that I want to use. Drag it underneath for convenience. Select all of you are including the color swatches at the bottom. Go over to Edit, Edit Colors and Recolor Artwork. So this brings up a panel that shows us all the colors in our swatches as well as the colors in our actual artwork. By default, recolor artwork excludes white and black, but I do not want to exclude black since I want to make this black color blue. I'm going to click on this line, then double-click this space here to add it to the current color harmony. Because I want to make what looks black on my art blue, I'm going to grab the blue color and drag it over to the black. Now, the lighter color in the background I want it to be this light peach color, and the darker color in the background can be this slightly darker peach color. So I like how this looks. So I'm just going to click "Okay." If I want to keep playing around with the same color palette, I can just duplicate the art artwork again, select it all, and go back to Edit, Edit Colors, Recolor Artwork. You can randomly change the color order by continuing to click and still you find something that you like. I like how this one looks, but I'm going to keep going for a second. This one's not bad. I like how subtle it is. I'm just going to leave it here in case I want to go back to it later. So we can repeat this process with all of the color palettes until we find what we want to use to move forward. So I have a few options here that I like. I like the subtlety of the one at the bottom and I like how vibrant the one on the right is, but I am most drawn to the first one we worked on together. I think it's subtle enough to look elegant, but it still represents New York in my mind. Now, go ahead and create some color palettes of your own by going through your own reference material, either what you found outside or online and play around with those color palettes in your own postcard. So now that I've settled on a color palette that I love, I'm going to do just a little bit of shading and Photoshop to add a tiny bit of Art Deco texture. 13. Adding Texture in Photoshop: A lot of Art Deco poster uses a very specific type of grading gradient that's really hard to recreate in Illustrator. So as much as I would love to keep this completely in vector in an ideal world, Photoshop really provides the best and most authentic looking Art Deco gradient. Because I want to add these gradients back in Photoshop, I need to remove them from Illustrator before exporting. So I'm just going to use the direct selection tool and erase them. Remember, they were just there to give me an idea of what I wanted to do, they were never going to be final. So now that I've removed all those placeholder gradients, I can go ahead and export my postcard. So first, you want to know what Artboard you're working with, go ahead and click the Artboard command and make a note of the number you see at the top left. So that's Artboard 2. Now go to "File", "Export", "Export as." Just going to go ahead and save this in desktop, call this New York. Save it as a JPEG, or as a TIFF, whatever you prefer. Go ahead and select Use Artboards, select Range, and here's where we want to type, the Artboard number, which in my case, is Number 2. Then go ahead and click, "Export." If you're printing, you might want to leave your settings to CMYK, or crank up the quality all the way up to 10. You want to make sure your resolution is set to 300 dpi, since you'll be printing this out. Finally, click "Okay." Here it is, right on our desktop. Now, go ahead and drag this over to Photoshop. The first thing we want to do is create a new layer that's going to hold the areas that need a gradient. I'm going to go ahead and select the magic wand tool and click on all the spaces that I want filled with a gradient, and holding down Shift as I'm clicking, so that everything stays selected. Right now, I'm just focusing on the type. I'm not really worrying about those gradient areas on top and bottom. Once all the gradient areas in my type are selected, I want to create a mask. So make sure you're layer one is selected, and then click on the Mask command at the bottom. So if I press option to show the mask, you'll see that only the areas that need a gradient in them are selected. That said, because we need to use a fairly large brush, I also want to select the individual letter forms as I'm working. So using the marquee tool, I selected the first letter, the n, and now I'm going to click on My Brush. Make sure it's fairly large. I have it on 400, and that looks about right. Also make sure the hardness is set to zero. Now, simply paint in your gradients by clicking lightly. Now, this might look exactly the same as the gradient we had in Illustrator, but there's one more step we have to take for the magic to happen. For the w, I'm selecting the two-halves individually, because if I didn't, I would just unintentionally paint the entire letter. Once all the gradients are painted in, we are going to add that grain texture. First, make sure your layer with the gradients is selected, then go up to the blending mode drop down where it says Normal and select Dissolve. That automatically creates the perfect Art Deco grainy gradients. Now, I'm going to go ahead and repeat this step for the other areas of the postcard that require gradients. So I'm actually pretty happy with how this is looking. So I think I'm going to stop now. I like the gradient. I think it gives it a little bit of extra texture and makes the look Art Deco, but it's not super, super referential, so I'm really into that. At this point, since I'm done, and because I'm working in raster, I'll I have to do is save and send it off to print. I'll go ahead and add a grainy gradient to give it that extra Art Deco flare. Once you're happy with your postcard, you can go ahead and post it. You can print it, you can upload it to the project's gallery, so I can take a look. If you're printing it and mailing it, don't forget to include a back. You can either design your own or use the one that I've designed for you, which you can find in the class resources. 14. Final Thoughts: So congratulations for making it to the end of the class. If you've been following along, by now you should have created a great Art Deco style postcard of a city you live in or you visited. To recap, we started by learning the principles of Art Deco lettering, then we went out and found some inspiration around New York City. We then use that inspiration to sketch out our postcard, and imported it into Adobe Illustrator, where we vectored lettering and the ornaments. We learned how to grab color palettes from photos or from reference material, and then apply them to your vectorized design. Finally, we moved over to Photoshop to add some Art Deco style grainy gradients. I hope this introduction to Art Deco lettering inspires your work and allows you to inject a little bit of Jazz Age player in your designs. Please upload your finished postcards or even your progress in the projects gallery because I really want to see what you've created. Thanks again for taking this class. I'm really excited to see what you make, and don't forget to mail out your postcard. 15. Explore More Classes on Skillshare: