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Isabel Urbina Peña

Designer & Letterer



New York


For this project I thought that hand-lettering the name of the city, town or neighborhood, would be fun and it could eventually decorate your own wall or product (if you get really pumped, like myself!!). 


The first thing I do is analyze the project: make a list of the possible words I can work with, what are the ideas that come to mind and make a selection. I usually try to write ALL the ideas that come to mind first no matter how “silly” or obvious they might sound and then I clean up that list.


I really love the feel of the baseball ephemera from the 20s-50s, all the lettering attached to it… and New York was wonderful at that time, So I think I’d like to focus on that style for this exercise and keep a little bit of that vintage flair... 


What I’ll do next is find some references as a starting point, just gather things that catch your eye, and you think are interesting in one way or another


I like that they decided to put the type at an angle, that seems to happen a lot in this period, like on these other two references...




In this YOGI BERRA lettering below, I really loved how we can almost feel the brush that made this letters, and again we have the angled baseline.


I wrote out the main characteristics / variants I'd like to explore, this serves me as a guide when drawing. 



I tried to incorporate some of the characteristics from the references and experiment with some of the variables like baseline, slope, contrast.


I’ll usually sketch until I have something that I really like or has potential, sometimes it takes me a couple of drawings and sometimes it takes multiple sheets of paper to get it right.




I like to keep the drawings as loose as possible and later on I’ll refine one and ink it.


I selected a sketch and started by drawing a rough skeleton at the final size




I used tracing paper and worked in layers: added weight to the letters, worked on the spacing and width of each character and took my final drawing to be inked. 


With my final sketch, I'll move on to final inking. I chose to ink this piece with microns and sharpies. I like this method because I get a really quick result and dark blacks great for scanning. If I was going to deliver this piece to a client I could also use acrylics / gouache so I get a really even permanent black, vs sharpies which are not archival, and their ink will fade. 


Once I finished inking, I scanned the piece, and tried a couple color combos in Photoshop! Feel free to give this a shot. 




Find good references and letter models, the more you learn from well constructed lettering, typefaces and calligraphy the easier it will be for you to understand the logic behind letterforms and this will make your work feel strong because it will be well-informed.

PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE, no one gets better without it. Building muscle memory is crucial to get better at this. When I became really interested in lettering, I found it was helpful to have little side projects that compelled me into drawing more often, so I started a hand-lettered zine… Some people make it their goal to upload one piece daily into a tumblr or instagram… Whatever your motivation, it’s all just an excuse to do more, practice and get better at this.


Don't forget to take a look at the handout I prepared with some other tips and tricks and upload your process and questions! Looking forward to seeing what you come up with!


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