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  • How do you guys do your hand lettering.. was wanting to give it a try.. do you draw it out on paper and scan or do you just do it free hand in illustrator with a pen tablet? any tips and pointers?


  • I've done both. I have a tablet and just can't seem to get a handle on it. I use good old fashioned tracing paper a lot since I started Minted! I'll work and re-work until I get it right and then bring it in to illustrator and re-work again.

  • thanks Loree.. i just know the times ive tried it it doesnt look as good and smooth as some ive seen didnt know if there was a trick to it all..

  • I have a Wacom tablet as well, but for lettering, I like to use good old pen and paper -- yep, no pencil! I just "doodle" until I'm happy with what I've made, scan it, and pen tool it out :)


  • Hey Stephanie! I draw my lettering in with pencil and paper. First i quickly sketch ideas to get the overall look and balance of the letters. Then I draw a good version.  I scan them at a high resolution, then play around with the contrast in photoshop to get them as clean as possible, then I use the stamp tool(under Filter menu- Sketch- stamp) to make them more streamlined. Then I live trace them in illustrator, and continue to tweak them until I'm happy with them. I have a wacom tablet, but I haven't had time to get used to it, so I use my scanner a lot! Hope this helps : )

  • Hey Stephanie! I was just playing with some hand lettering last night too! I have tried before but I found it really challenging - I guess I was struggling with how to go about the process. Drawing with the tablet didn't feel like I had enough control, but drawing with the pencil made me go crazy. But finally, I played with my watercolors yesterday, and found that lettering free-style with the brush was really freeing. If you load the brush up with enough paint and get a good flow going, it helps create those clean lines and does some of the guess work for you on stroke weights. Afterwords I scanned it in and retraced it in illustrator - but if I had scanned it at a higher res, I really wouldn't have had to do as much. This is what works for me of course - but moral of the story, keep trying till you find what works for you!!

  • Thanks Ladies!! I'm def gonna try those.. maybe ill take my sketch pad to work tonight.. I love seeing the hand lettering hope i can get the right techniques down to be able to do it a lot more.. You guys are the best!!

  • i did both! i used to draw it with pen and paper.. but found it very time consuming to scan, photoshop and tweak or retrace in AI. (i'm just not that patient i guess looking at the same thing over and over.. LOL) So, I've tried drawing it with wacom. It was quite fun... and always found new technique.. However, you always need a 'skecth' before u draw it with wacom. Personally, I found drawing with wacom has the free feeling thing.. and i am happy whenever i draw with wacom, it already in vectors! so i can tweak them easier.. :D

  • Thanks for starting this thread Stephanie!! I had the same questions so this is super helpful!!

  • Thanks Chocomocacino.. I'm gonna try that too..

    No Prob Peaceable... I have been way too curious and itching to try another new technique

  • I second Hailey! Sometimes lettering works best when you have the "right pen or marker." I know I've said this on here before, but I think tracing paper is a miracle. You can draw and redraw certain letters etc until you have it perfect....then bring it into the computer like everyone has been saying above. Lettering takes lots of practice. I interviewed Ray Fenwick a while back and he said he filled sketchbooks full of letters before he felt confident in his lettering.

  • So I just came across this thread and have been wondering the same thing. A few days ago I posted a design with my first attempt at hand lettering. Would someone be willing to give me some feedback? Please be honest... I can take it :). I'm happy to do the same for anyone else!

    It's called "Let's Celebrate" by sweet ollie designs and it's in the current challenge. Thanks ladies! Loving this community so much.

    Monica :)

  • I actually just started to experiment too. I've been using sketchbook pro and a stylus on my iPad. Then I email the layeredpsd to myself, place in ai, live trace it and fuss with it from there. I remove a lot of points and play withthe curves to get it just right.
  • i've done hand lettering once so far and i definitely have a long way to go. i'm hoping to get a wacom tablet at some point but until then i'll have to get some tracing paper!

  • Like everyone else, I like tracing paper and pencil and will scan the sketch and live trace after cleaning up in Photoshop. Sometimes I use my Wacom tablet to do it directly on the computer. I will scan a sketch then draw/trace it manually using the pen tool in Illustrator, or I'll create brushes in Illustrator and use the brush tool.

    I worked in the lettering department at Hallmark aeons ago and learned lots of great stuff. Here are some of the tools I use for hand-lettering:

    A pointed nib dip pen with Higgins eternal ink

    I don't know if they're still around, but ruling pens filled with ink and then used as a brush make a great tool for lettering.

    Various sized brushes dipped in ink

    Various pens/markers/brush markers

    Calligraphy dip pen nibs and calligraphy markers

    Sketching a layout then transfer the sketch to WC paper with a light box and painting with watercolors

    I find that Canson's Pro Layout Marker paper is a nice surface for all of those tools and transparent enough to put a sketch underneath. I will fill a page with lettering then scan it in at a high resolution and "cut and paste" in Photoshop—choosing various letters or word combinations I like the best. I do a little clean up in Photoshop, save as a tif, then bring into Illustrator to LiveTrace and then arrange a final layout.

    I LOVE hearing about the processes everyone uses in their workflow!

  • Thanks Ladies!! for all the great tips an info im finding it very useful!!

  • so i was trying some hand lettering today.. im not so good at this... i think it looks horrible.. lol

  • ha, ha! I bet it's not that bad! my best hand lettering is unfortunately on the shower door every morning. If only I could capture the magic!

  • I hear that Carol...lol

    I will be practicing a lot!!

  • Another good way for practice is to print out the letters/words in typefaces you like and practice tracing them with tracing paper. This way you get the feel for the letters and also can add your own flair. Even if you are just tracing the typeface directly it still gives it a totally different look and feel then if it was done with the computer.

    I use my scanner a ton, too! Experiment with different tools. If you are using black ink, you can change it to grayscale and then make it into a duotone or monotone in photoshop to get different colors.

  • Thank you Krista for the advice i will def try them

  • This was an awesome discussion, thanks for posting!  

  • : ) no prob

  • @Krista.. That was actually a good advice.. Never thought of that! Will give it a try for sure!

  • As far as scanning goes, a former employer of mine had us scan all of our line art at 1200 dpi to be sure and capture all of the details.