Ever wonder how letterers compose their designs? Some lettering artists appear to have a knack for composing their words and letters right on the page. My process is totally not like that. If I knew that I was trying to compose a lettering piece right there on that page, I’d clam up and probably never get started.
I’m going to share a special sneak into my process.
Jot down the phrase I want to letter
Get warmed up
Most times I will start with a simple alphabet to get the brush arm going. I use scrap paper for this so I don’t get hung up on wasting supplies.
One word per page
I letter each word separately and multiple times. Some could argue that it’s the art equivalent of “spray-and-pray” but it keeps me from locking up from perfectionism. When I know that I have another chance to write out a word, I end up performing a lot better. It’s all part of knowing myself!
Let my papers dry
Luckily I have a spare bedroom where I can spread out the papers on the floor and they won’t be disturbed.
I use a ScanSnap iX500to scan as 600dpi in grayscale. This is the highest possible resolution of my scanner so that print quality will ultimately be fabulous. After scanning, the painted originals go in the recycling.
Turning each word into transparent PNG files
This part is quite lengthly, and consists of the following steps:
Select the best version of each word and crop it away from the rejects.
Adjust the blackness of the text using levels.
Create transparency around and within the lettering.
Clean up any digital noise that came in through the scan.
Adjust any wobbly edges in the letters.
Save the file as a PNG.
Putting the words together
I start by opening an 8×10 file since I’m aiming for that to be my final print size. I bring in all my PNG files and resize to fit.
Here’s where I’ll rearrange and decide where I want my words to be.
I use guides to help me stay centered and when I like my design, I’ll merge all my word layers.
If I liked the black text, I could leave it there, but I love color! I add a new solid color layer using the layers menu and check the option for a clipping mask.
Saving as a JPEG
And that’s how I get to my final piece!
The process I use has a lot of steps to it, but I find it useful for being able to easily manipulate the composition of a lettering piece. It can give me a lot of flexibility for creating multiple orientations of the same sets of words.
And for sticking around til the end, you can download this print for free! Just pop your email address in the box below, and the download link will appear afterwards.
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