From sketch to finished product: a hand-lettered invitation

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design projects

hand lettering process

I’ve just finished work on a new wedding save-the-date design featuring a hand-lettered element, and thought I’d share a bit about how I got from idea to end result. What I really love about drawing my own lettering is that I have complete control over the whole thing and I can add little style elements and flourishes as they take my fancy.

The aim for the lettering was a retro style script. I wanted my final design to be at an angle so I drew the guidelines on a slight diagonal from the start. I sketched out the letter outlines in pencil, adding curvy swashes on the Gs and the D.

Next step: lots of erasing, re-drawing, squinting at the design.

When I was happy with my pencil drawing, it was time to ink it in. Two tools I used for this job: the Uni Pin Drawing Pen to precisely outline each letter, and a Staedtler Triplus Colour Pen in black to fill in.

The whole process up to this point took about five hours. Those were five happy hours, though. When I’m drawing letters, I can be so immersed in it for hours at a time that I forget to eat. And I really like food.

So once the design was inked it was time to digitise it. I use a scanner to transfer the image to the computer at about 300dpi and open it in Photoshop to clean up any blobs and obvious irregularities, and increase the blackness of the letters. I then open it up in Illustrator and tinker with it for another few hours – first vectorising the image and then using the pen tool to smooth out the curves, adjust imbalances and generally pretty it up.

When I was finally happy with the vector image I was then ready to use it in a design. I felt like the retro feel of the lettering needed a simple layout so I set up an off-white background with my hand-lettered design taking centre stage. I tried a few fonts and settled on the beautiful Neutra, which has a clean, understated retro feel that sits nicely with my bold hand-lettering. I also added a small red heart for a little colour.

And here’s the finished result: a simple, retro save-the-date to announce a happy event.

vintage save the date hand-lettered

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