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Filtering by Tag: process


Jee Kim

Click the image to purchase this artwork

Click the image to purchase this artwork

Each lettering artists have their own process. In this post, I would love to share my process of lettering. 

1. Quick Sketching

Thumbnail sketch is quick idea sketch that scratched on the paper with a pencil in small size like "thumbnail." It dose not have to be accurate or showing details, but it is good if it was enough to deliver what is the main idea behind the sketch. The "editing" part does not include in this phase of process. Instead of using eraser to fix the details, drawing some different ideas that is hovering in the head. 

Thumbnail sketch

Thumbnail sketch

2. Developing the Idea

Take one idea out of those several sketches, and drawing out with more detail. Draw some guides and lines with an angle (usually in between 55˚ to 70˚) that will be the stress of the script letters like "a Pure Heart" of the sketch. I would not too much worry about adjusting letter space and leading. Instead of doing that, in this particular phase, I would note with simple pencil marks where I need to fix later on. 


3. Utilizing Based Typeface

Most of time in drawing letters, there should be "based typeface" which could be those typical essential typefaces like Helvetica, Caslon, Garamond, Clarendon and so on. It could be wood type letters or black letters. Personally I like to draw script which is letters that were written in copperplate calligraphy. This time, I also got some letters from my previous design recently done based on "Modern typefaces"—Bodoni and Didon. I put them on my sketch with adjusting size and letter space using Adobe Photoshop. 

4. Tracing

Print the edited image out and tracing it on new piece of paper or translucent paper. This time I would love to be super detail oriented. Try be more accurate to draw perfect curves and lines. Be consistent with weights of the letters. Draw lightly first with bold leads which is more soft and smoother when the number goes up. I usually use 2B for coloring the letters and use harder leads to draw sharp edges and curves. 

5. Editing with Photoshop

I had posted about editing the sketch with Adobe Photoshop. (See Lettering Process 3)

Follow me on Instagram and twitter to see other process shots of lettering.

Lettering Process 3: Digitizing

Jee Kim

There are a few different ways of digitizing the hand-lettered design.  At this article, I'd love to go over about vectorizing with "pen tool." This is only way I would suggest for super refined  outcome for print with high definition. This method may take a lot of time and effort, but once it is done vectorizing, it can be reproduced in various ways like letterprinting or printing in large format with high definition. 

1. Converting to JPEG or TIFF

The first step is digitizing the pencil sketch into jpeg or tiff format by scanning or taking photo. If the sketch was scanned in high resolution, it is good enough to print in small size like 8.5"x11" (Standard US Letter) with intensionally remaining "hand-drawing" quality. 

Open the scanned artwork from Adobe Photoshop then adjust level (Command+L) to maximize the contrast. Then work on the details. Adjusting composition, letter spacing, changing sizes and omitting or adding components may be included in this phase. 

2. Vectorizing the artwork

The second step is vectorizing. Usually I use Adobe Illustrator and sometimes Fontlab. Never vectorizing the artwork with "image tracing" if the outcome has to be printed in scale and show its details. Like I mentioned at the beginning, "image tracing" may lose details of the sketch and the quality of fine curves that took so much time and effort to draw. I highly recommend this method when the lettering was designed with script style like the example image. 

I "place" the image that saved from the first step on to the background layer—make the opacity of the image low as 50%. Lock the layer so it is not moving around by accident. Then I make new layer on top of it to re-draw the artwork with the "pen tool" over the image.

Scanned and edited image of the artwork

Scanned and edited image of the artwork

Vectorized artwork with Adobe Illustrator

Vectorized artwork with Adobe Illustrator

Click the image to purchase this artwork

Click the image to purchase this artwork

Lettering Process 2: Tightening and getting ready to digitize

Jee Kim


Tightening the sketch

With consideration of the weight of the letters, color the letters with dark and crisp. Adjust the letter spaces and width of each letters. Correct the angles of letters with following the oblique grid which is 55 degree. See details and redraw if it needs.  

Scanning the sketch

Scan the sketch with high resolution—I usually go up to 300dpi and save the image as tiff. Then adjust contrast with editing tool. It allows to show flaws clearly where need to be corrected. This step is also for digitizing the lettering. There are two different versions of digitizing the lettering. One is quick and easier way to convert the artwork into digital file with high resolution. This way remains sketchy and hand-done feel to it. The other way is vectorizing the artwork with Illustrator or FontLab. 

Next post will be about the quick way of digitizing the artwork.

Lettering Process 1 : Tools and Rough sketch

Jee Kim

Drawing tools


Before I started, I need a few tools for drawing tight sketch. Simple as that: a pencil, erasers and a ruler with protractor. For the erasers, I prefer to have two kinds: one for erasing large area and the other for adjusting details. 

QUICK Sketches

It is always good idea to have several thumbnail sketches before jump into drawing perfect lettering. But for this article, since quite a lot of people liked this hand lettering—Psalms 27:14 Day 1/30, I decided to make it tighter. I want to show the process of executing the loose hand lettering tighter. "Tight" meansthat drawing the sketch with considering many principles of typography. 

Day 1 verse of #30daysofbiblelettering

Day 1 verse of #30daysofbiblelettering


With a ruler, draw guidelines like the vertical line and horizontal lines: baseline, cap heigh and x-heigh. Cap heigh from the baseline is the size of the capital letters and x-heigh from the baseline is size of lowercase letters. In this sketch, I drew the x-heigh as half of capital letters, but it does not have to be half size. Draw the baselines and cap heigh with considering the spaces between two lines, so that descenders and ascenders are not touching each others. Also, draw a few 55º lines which is for the angle of the letters. 

Drawing Letters

Now start drawing the letters, but never start with full pressures on the pencil. Start gently with light and soft lines and curves. Make sure to follow the guidelines and angles. Draw entire letters first to see if they sit on right place to keep balances of the entire sketch. Then give more pressure on the pencil to make the letters be more specific and clear. Keep adding pencil lines to make the each letter have certain weight. For this design, I meant to the letters in single weight (or mono weight); no thicks and thins on letterform. 

This is it for now, and for the next post, I will write about the next step which is tightening the sketch. Also I am planning to write about typographic terms.