From sketch to screen: a peek into Jess’ lettering process

From sketch to screen: a peek into Jess’ lettering processfeatured

Hello! My name’s Jess, and today the lovely ladies at The Makers Society have asked me to write a guest post. How exciting! My very first contribution is for the graphic designers and typography lovers out there: I have made a pretty (and hopefully inspiring!) typographic wallpaper for you to download, and will be showing you my creation process from sketch to screen.

Let’s get started!

1. Sketching

From sketch to screen - lettering typography

First, I begin with a simple and fairly rough pencil sketch. I prefer to keep this as a single line when sketching so I can spend more time fleshing it out on the computer later. The sketching process can be very quick, or can take a lot of time, depending on how clear I am on the direction I want to go in. For this piece, I was thinking: stacked words, loose curls, and round shapes, to create a sophisticated but flowy script. I probably did 8-9 sketches before I created one I was happy with.

At this stage I try not to worry too much about things like spacing or consistent angles — this will be fixed later.

2. Importing the sketch and and setting up guides

From sketch to screen - lettering typography

Now it’s time to get this baby onto the computer! Some people might prefer to scan this, however I generally find a dodgy phone picture to be sufficient. If the picture is super unclear, I might bring it into Photoshop to adjust the levels and contrast. Otherwise, it’s straight into Adobe Illustrator.

Once imported, I lock the layer and create a new one for the actual artwork. Then, I set up my grid by using the line tool to draw multiple vertical slanted lines, and horizontal lines for the baseline and x-height of the top word. I then duplicate the horizontal strokes for the bottom word to ensure all my letters will have the same height.

Once my lines are drawn, I convert them to guides by hitting Command + 5, or View > Guides > Make Guides.

3. The Skeleton

From sketch to screen - lettering typography

Now the fun begins! I use the pen tool to trace my sketch, creating a single-stroke ‘skeleton’. This is where I start to tidy things up, adjusting spacing, drawing my letters at consistent heights and making sure they slant at consistent angles. As you can see in the screengrab above, my original sketch was all over the place!

4. Fleshing out

From sketch to screen - lettering typography

Now that I am happy with my skeleton, I can turn my sketch layer off. I have also changed the colour of my guides to a light grey so they aren’t too distracting.

This is where I start fleshing out everything out, extending my single lines into outlines of solid letters. I want an elegant, almost calligraphic look for this piece, so I make sure the variation in thin and thick areas is quite dramatic. While outlining my letters I will often hit Shift + X to switch the fill and stroke, allowing me to see what the letters will look like as solid shapes.

5. Refining

From sketch to screen - lettering typography

Finally, all my outlines are complete! Now I can hit Shift + X  to swap the stroke and fill colour, and see the solid filled version of my lettering.

From sketch to screen - lettering typography

At this point, I will usually leave my piece filled in with black and continue refining the letters. However, I have suddenly decided that after all that, I am not feeling a clean, sophisticated script anymore. Let’s try something more casual and vintage inspired!

6. Restyling

From sketch to screen - lettering typography

The new look I am after is little rough and worn. To achieve this, I first break up my letters so it looks like the joins (such as where the arches of the M join the stems) have worn away. I also do this to parts of letters that cross under others (such as the loop on the k). Then, I roughen up the shapes by going over their edges with the pencil tool. Finally, I need to increase the spacing between letters now that they aren’t joined together.

The final piece

From sketch to screen - lettering typography

Boom! Our lettering is now finished. For an extra vintage-y effect, I have applied a subtle texture overlay in photoshop.

Getting my lettering from sketch to screen is something I get asked about a lot, so I hope this insight into my process has been enjoyable and helpful for some of you! It’s always interesting to see how other designers and creatives work, as everyone has different processes. For those who aren’t graphic designers or illustrators, this post might not have made a lot of sense. But at least you can still download the pretty wallpaper below!

Download Free Desktop Background

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