I do a lot of custom typography and lettering in my graphic design and personal calligraphy work. I aspire to create vector images that are clean, crisp, and intuitively drawn so as to make the job easier for the next designer who has to touch my work. As I continue to read and watch tutorials from experts in the business, like Jessica Hische and Sean McCabe, I’m really enjoying pushing myself to adopt best practices and really hone my craft.
I really enjoyed this tutorial quite a bit.
Last night, I sketched and then lettered a line from Meghan Tonjes‘ powerful song, “Oh, Father.” I sketched and erased and sketched and erased until I was sure I had the letterforms and layout about how I wanted it.
When I’m doing a conceptual sketch like this, I’m not very fussed about getting everything perfect. I know I’ll be going in and vectoring soon thereafter, and I’m more concerned with expressing an emotion than I am with perfection of form.
So today over my lunch break, I cleaned up the image in Photoshop, then took it into Illustrator and ran the dreaded lazy Live Trace on the image. I’ve taken to doing this with a lot of my lettering, because it gives me a rough vectored outline of all the shapes I’ll be working with, so I can move things around a little bit and get my layout nailed down, then focus on perfecting the letterforms themselves.
I’ve been really interested in seeing how typographers and letterers I admire vector their artwork, and so this evening, I’ve been trying to incorporate their practices into this round of vectoring. Namely: using as few anchor points as possible and making sure my handles are all at 90 degree angles to really fully utilize the power of bezier curves in typography.
It took me an embarrassingly long time to really understand how powerful bezier curves are. My first light-bulb moment came in my computer illustration class in college, while watching my classmate use the pen tool for a few moments. I suddenly realized it was exactly like what I had learned in pre-calculus the year before. (Oh, to be young and understand math again!) But for far too long after that, I was quite prone to using too many anchor points and under-utilizing my handles. As I’ve grown as a designer, I’ve been moving towards simplicity in my vector images, particularly as I work more and more with custom typography and vectoring my own lettering work.
While frustrating at first, I’m finding that it really is producing much more natural and graceful curves, even if I have to work a little harder at them. I’m really thrilled with the result so far, and can’t wait to continue and then show the final piece.
Update: July 29, 2015
Final pieces! I’m really pleased with how this turned out. So clean and clear while still retaining the personality of the original inking. I created a one-color version for T-shirts and other products, and a full-color version for prints. All available here!
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