My lettering Process - Sketching

Today I thought I'd share a look into my lettering process. I am still figuring out my ideal workflow, but this is a look at how I created my most recent piece for Valentine's Day.

Keywords and thumbnail sketches.

Keywords and thumbnail sketches.

After choosing a phrase, I brainstorm a list of words, anything from colors and style, to objects that are related to the phrase. After looking over my list, I narrow down my inspiration and choose the words that I want to focus on. For this piece, I decided that I wanted it to be really focused on the lettering without additional illustrations, so most of the things I circled are related to the colors and style.

Next step, thumbnails. I've always struggled with thumbnails, they feel so boring, but every time I skip them I regret it! It's so important to figure out a general layout before you start sketching. Things I explored this time were making the card horizontal vs. vertical, single or double-sided, angled vs. horizontal baselines, punctuation and the use of a heart in place of the word love.

Grid paper taped on light box.

Grid paper taped on light box.

After deciding on a layout, I set up guidelines. I tape my grid paper on my light box and then place my paper on top of that (I just use regular printer paper, nothing fancy). I should note that this whole process can be done without a light box using tracing paper. I do that a lot as well, but I prefer drawing on regular paper. After drawing a 5x7 rectangle, the size of my card, I draw in margins and guides for my baseline, x-height and ascenders. This is still a big trial and error process for me so there is a lot of erasing!

Sketching on light box.

Sketching on light box.

Now on to the fun stuff! I start by lightly and loosely sketching out the phrase. I made the mistake of sketching directly onto my sheet with guidelines this time, don't do that! I should have placed a new sheet of paper on top of the guidelines sheet so I could quickly and easily erase without ruining the guides. I felt fairly confident in the style I was going for so I did a lot of erasing and redrawing on this same piece of paper. Usually I am less confident (remember how I hate thumbnails?) and end up wanting to make big changes. In that case, I just throw a new piece of paper on top and redraw it using the last version underneath as a guide. This is a great technique because it allows you to constantly have a guide to work off of and going back to a previous version is no problem.

Final scanned sketch.

Final scanned sketch.

After getting my sketch to a pretty good place. I put a fresh sheet of paper on top and draw my "final" sketch, moving my paper when necessary to increase or decrease the spaces between letters. This time I wanted the "O's" to be more cohesive so I traced over the same "O" twice. This final sheet is then scanned and brought into Illustrator for the digital part of the process. In order to keep these short, I'll be talking about the rest of the process in my next post.

In the near future, I'd like to get an iPad Pro and try doing this whole process digitally. I think it could really help speed up my process and keep my desk clear of so many loose sheets of paper! I'm interested to see if I will like it and how it will change my workflow.

Let me know if you have any other questions about my process!