Friday, July 22, 2011

The Artist's Hand: Lettering Part 5

The following continues where this post left off as I finish this exploration of lettering for my blog series "The Artist's Hand."  

Once you've gotten to the point where you can comfortably and quickly write out the alphabet in your regular handwriting, you have an excellent starting point for developing your own fonts.  By beginning with your own handwriting (I call this your "Personal Baseline Alphabet" or "PBA"), you are already starting with structures that you know backwards and forwards.  Now it's time to find your inner font.

To create simple line fonts, the things you can do to your PBA fall into a couple of categories: Alterations or Additions.

Alterations include changes to the basic shape of the letterform, spacing, and/or structure of your PBA.  These alterations are generally done as you are writing out the letters.

For example, you can make your letters extra straight and tall or conversely, make them short and fat.  Or try making your letters extra-rounded.  Alternately, try to create an extra-angular alphabet.  Another idea is to alter the placement of the letters' midline.  The dotted line on these children's lettering pads shows you where the midline normally falls.  As an experiment, raise or lower the midline and see how it changes the look of the letters.

Another method of altering letters is to simply change the spacing.  Note in my sample how cramming the letters together or spacing them out changes the mood the letters convey.  Jumbling up the letters by using different heights and positioning creates a playful, energetic look.

Finally, you can also alter the case: write in all lowercase, all uppercase, or use a bit of both.  Again, all these options for altering your PBA generally happen as you are writing out the letters so at first it may feel a bit awkward.  If you develop something you like, practice it until it becomes more comfortable.

Additions are the second way of changing your PBA.  These are embellishments to your letters that are most often added after you print out the letters.

Serifs are the little flourishes at the ends of letters.  Try adding simple dots, stars, hearts, flowers, buttons, loops or dashes.  Serifs, depending on how they are used, can make letters more playful or more formal.  Another idea for additions is to include simple structures such as stitches, wiggles, dots, shadows, thick or thin lines and so on.  Play attention to how each alteration and addition changes the emotion of your alphabet.  If you figure out what makes the letters silly, girly, busy, or serious, you will be able to match your titles and small bits of journaling to the mood of your content.

I hope all my readers are exploring their handwriting with a little more confidence and a broader sense of adventure!  As an extra little treat (it is my birthday month after all), I'll mail out 4 copies (winners chosen at random) of the little pamphlet I wrote for my follow-up lettering class called "Find Your Inner Fancy Font."  * Thank you for your comments; all pamphlets are spoken for. * Once I got students through the creation of simple line lettering, we would move on to block letters.  The handout just served to provide a printed supplement to the things I demo'd in class.

Happy lettering!


Photocat said...

Very nice entry about fonts. Well written and easy to understand. Thank you !

Photocat said...

Thanks for your clear lesson about fonts. Love it!

Barbara Hagerty said...

This is great! I've done entire pieces of art using lettering only. I'm a super lover of fonts and type, and collect fonts and books about fonts, etc. I really appreciate your post!

Oh! Bama said...

This has been an interesting series on playing with our journal lettering. I had no idea how locked in I am to my cursive or all upper case printing. I shall experiment a little with these easy artful changes. Thanks, Michelle for this gift.

Jenn said...

Wow! What a FANTASTIC giveaway!!! I'm dying to check out that pamphlet!! I always find it so difficult to alter my own handwriting, but you just made it look so simple. This series of posts has come at just the right time for me- I've been really trying to work on my lettering!


Emie58 said...

Great tutorial and tips. I've been practicing printing and it can be meditative.
Thanks, Emie

jan b. said...

I like to practice different PBAs and this gives me more methods to try. I'll be reading back through your previous posts to follow this series. thanks for sharing your exploration of lettering.

Andria said...

I get a little uptight about my handwriting, and have been wanting to learn some interesting lettering techniques. But so many I see feel so forced and difficult. I really like how you use our own handwriting as a "baseline", and provide fairly simple alterations or additions to turn it into something entirely different. Thanks so much for this post! It will be of great help to me.

Karyl said...

Oh, wow! I just discovered your blog and I love it and your ideas! Thanks for sharing so generously! Yes, I would love to be considered for one of your booklets and Happy Birthday!

kimmie said...

I love your tutorial .... But can't see the pictures at all!!! All I see is a little blue box with a question mark where a picture would be .... Boo hoo!

( sent here from Terri Kahrs at Pringle Hill )

sharon said...

Love your tut's Michelle! I need to go over them again as I missed one I think, but this is fabulous stuff!

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