I use a lot of hand lettering both in my design work and on my blog.
It’s easier to control the mood when you DIY it, rather than trying to scour the web for hours looking for the perfect hand drawn typeface. Plus, I just can’t keep up with all the copyright options and when I can and can’t use a font for private versus public use… etc etc…….
And it takes way too much time to formally translate your handwriting to a useable font – one that you can type with in Illustrator or Photoshop.
SO, I have this quick and dirty method which I’ll share with you here! First, you should have a rough idea of the wording you want:
Looks terrible! I know! But at least I have an idea of what I want to say.
Now break out the iPad or other tablet, stylus ($10 – awesome investment) and a drawing program. I use neu.Draw, but I’m sure there are a lot of great options out there. You’re going to want a program that can save a vector drawing or pdf. If you don’t have a tablet, you can use your smart phone! If you don’t have either, then you may be able to get away with the brush tool in Ai, but it’s not going to be as easy.
Here’s the fun part: Start writing out your text and repeating letters over and over until you think you’ve got one or two of each character that will look good. It looks weird – like how a ghost talks. “Disssplaaayyyyy!”
Now export that file as a pdf and get it over onto your computer and into Adobe Illustrator.
Hello Ai! In Illustrator you can see all of the points that make up your vectors. These are very easily manipulated which can be fun, but mostly I just want to smooth out my lines a little bit.
See how many anchor points there are? Neu.Draw does this for some reason.
Let’s simplify! From the top menu bar: Object > Path > Simplify
You’ll come up with a couple of sliders, and you can push the curve precision to 98 or 99% and still cut the number of anchor point to about one third of the original.
Those steps are optional. I just prefer the way that the smooth lines look and with fewer points, it will be easy to make small corrections in curves.
So now that we have nice looking single letters, making words is as simple as dragging the letters together! I kern by eye as I go – nothing special, just whatever looks right.
*Note that at this point that letters are probably made from more than one line, and each line is an individual object. To get the lines to bond together, select each linein the letter (“E” is made from 4 separate objects) and group them with the shortcut ⌘ + G.
The word “JEWELRY” has two “E”s in it, so I used the same character twice. The shortcut to do that is hold Shift+Alt and then click and drag. That will make a copy and pull it over, keeping it in line with the rest.
Ta da! I didn’t bother normalizing the text sizes because I actually like the way it looks!
With this next one, we’ll even out the sizing. Here, I used hand drawn bubble text. It can be really difficult to maintain consistent line widths in bubble text. Here’s the cheat: In neu.Draw, first draw out your letters. As you can see, I’ve been using a thin and elongated alphabet. Next group the objects and lock the layer. Now you can trace the outside of the letters and when you’re done, delete the locked layer!
Back to it! Here all the letters have been dragged roughly into place:
Looks sloppy, doesn’t it?
You can resize by eye, but you’ll likely end up with graduated sizes, either getting smaller or larger as you approach the end. Bad bad! Instead, drag down two guidelines to use as the upper and lower bounds for your letters.
To pull a guide line, click on the ruler at the top of the window in illustrator and drag your mouse down. A thin cyan line will appear. It’s perfectly straight and can be locked, unlocked and cleared in the “View” menu. If you don’t have rulers at the top and left of your screen, ⌘ + R should do the trick!
If you want to get fancy, switch the settings to “Snap to point” in the “View” menu and then stretch or shrink your objects one by one until they click into the guides.
Or you can eyeball it… I did this one freehand.
Looking better! The beauty in hand lettering is that it is implicitly imperfect, so you don’t have to fuss over the flaws. They add character!
When everything is resized, get rid of the guides, and voila!
Awesome handmade typography for any project!
Of course you can always do an entire alphabet so you have it on hand to use in the future, but I rarely think that far ahead…
At this point, if I’m using the lettering over a photo, I drag the vector into Photoshop and continue there. Add some stars, a few curvy things and you’ll end up with something like this:
For my Facebook logo, I used hand drawn 3D bubble lettering. Whoaaa… This is advanced stuff!
And here’s a sign that I made for my SoWa booth last summer:
That’s all! If anything needs clarifying, or you have any questions, leave me a comment!
*This hand drawn typography lesson comes from an actual DIY Jewelry Display post on my blog that you can see here.