If you’ve given hand-lettering a try for the first time you’ll know that it is definitely harder than it looks. Mastering the craft takes years of practice and studying the different type classifications and letterforms. Who has years though right? Luckily for you, I’ve developed a method that will save you a ton of time and allow you to hand-letter any font like a master!
1. Font Selection
To get started you will need to fire up Illustrator or Photoshop and type out your desired lettering. Any font will work for this process so it’s really up to your personal preference. Add lines or flourished for extra character.
2. Format Type
Once you have your desired layout, lower the opacity to 10-20%. You also need to make that the letters are at least an inch high. The larger the type, the easier it will be to draw, but beware, if you print it too large you will be doing a lot of shading later.
Print that baby off and get your pens ready. I personally prefer Copic Multi Liner pens and use a 0.8mm tip for detail and a thicker brush pen or Sharpie for filling in large areas.
4. Outline Lettering
This is the fun part. Take your thin pen and outline the lettering. Don’t worry about following the lines perfectly; the loose look is what we’re after.
5. Fill And Detail
Once you’ve finished outlining, grab your thick pen and start filling in the letters. This is the stage where you can really add some character. Create in-line strokes, scribble or fill in solid depending on how rough of a look you’re after. You can also add details on the outside of your letters like my example.
6. Scan Artwork
Take your finished drawing and scan/photograph and upload the sucker to your computer. Just make sure that you get a straight on shot of the type and the resolution is at least 300dpi.
7. Clean Scan
Depending on the quality of your scan you may need to take it into Photoshop and adjust the levels. The key is to have a strong contrast between the type and your white background.
8. Live Trace
Bring your cleaned-up scan into Illustrator and click Live Trace. You’ll probably need to tinker with the settings to get everything just right, but I’ve found the following works very well.
Click your traced artwork and go to Object > Expand. Your lettering will convert to editable paths and voila, your artwork is now ready to use. You can now change the colours, orientation and other attributes just like any other vector shape.
Not only does this process work great for lettering, but it’s also awesome for illustration as well. Follow the same steps and you’ll have scalable artwork with a hand-drawn look.
I hope you’ve enjoyed the tutorial! Feel free to leave a comment below if you have any questions or suggestions for future posts.