There was no one better to teach us about lettering (better yet - experimental lettering) than Jimbo Bernaus. Jimbo has a creative mind like no other, constantly pushing the boundaries of design and creating lettering resources that would make anyone's jaw drop. He's a self-professed lettering fanatic and in this session he shared his passion with us by guiding us through a tutorial on experimental lettering in Procreate.

Sketch the Letters

Add a canvas and set it to 20 x 30 centimeters at 300 or 400 dpi. Begin by sketching the letters. For this session, Jimbo chose to sketch the words ‘FUNGHI’. With a free hand, draw the same letters. Make sure to not worry about the legibility.

To use an alternate method to sketch the letters, type any letter, for example, S. Choose a dark brush or a pencil. Reduce the opacity of the S. Use any mushroom image for reference. You could also import an image from Google. Experiment and draw a rough shape around the S. Add a top mushroom head to the letter.

Add details to the letter to replicate the letter S. Draw some lines and create another mushroom head. Have fun and draw the details with a free hand.

Turn off the layer and see if the drawing replicates the letter. Make sure that the shape’s essence is captured without worrying about legibility. This will form the sketch.

Refine the Sketch

Refine the sketch by adding details such as lines, dots, and circles. Have fun by adding patterns and shadows to the letters. Make sure that the direction of the shadows is on the top left corner. Study and add depth to the words. Make them darker by adding dimensions.

Add Color for Reference

Pick a dark blue color and add it to the background.

Pick a color palette and add colors to the words. Keep in mind to pick three to four main colors. For this composition pick green, dark blue, and light blue. When you pick these colors, make sure each color has a lighter tone as well as a darker tone for the light and shadows respectively.

Randomly assign colors to each of the letters. Make sure the colors are well placed and it looks colorful.

Add curved arrows pointing up to add more contrast to the piece.

Add Color to the Words

Once the composition is colored, resize it and make it smaller. Add it to the top left of the window and use it as a reference.

Select an Inker from the brushes and outline the letters as shown in the image below.

Drop and fill the color and clean it up by using an eraser. Set it to Multiply and bring the opacity of the sketch down.

On a new layer, pick a dark blue color and add the second color on the U. Make sure to first create outlines and then drop the color. Similarly, add colors to all the letters and the details.

Pro tip: To make groups, go into layers, swipe left, and tap on them. 

Add Shadows and Light

To add shadow to the U, click on all the layers of the U in the panel. Add another layer and set it as a clipping mask. Select a dark green and pick a texture from the set. Choose the Cloudy Sponge texture and use a big-sized brush. Add a clipping mask and make a stroke.

Once the texture is added, pick a brush to add the shadows. Move inwards and draw shadows of the letter U while considering that the light is coming from the upper left corner. Don’t worry about the perfections of the texture. Make it messy to give it an organic texture.

Add another clipping mask and turn the composition upside down. Add shadows in the corners of the upside-down U and highlight the details.

Similarly, add shadows to all the letters to give them dimension. Make sure to multiply all the shadows at the end. Add lights on by using an Overlay mode.

Pro tip: Always add lights on top of the shadows.

Gently brush some light on the U. Use the Cloudy Sponge Brush, pick a white color, and gently tap on the U. See the image below for reference. Add some light in the corners as well to make it look realistic.

Pro tip: Add an Overlay or duplicate multiple times to get the depth of the lettering.

Add Patterns

Use hand-drawn patterns from the brush set. Pick any pattern and change the settings as required. Tap on the brush and play with the settings.

To add the pattern on the lettering, simply brush all over the letter as shown in the image below.

In the settings panel, click on the pattern and tap on the overlay. Click on the transform tool and tap on warp. This will show you 9 squares and 4 handles in each corner. Switch to the bottom menu and tap on the advanced mesh. This will automatically give you 16 handles. With these 16 handles, start warping on the letter.

For example, when you wrap a cloth around a balloon, the pattern in the front would be big and as it goes behind, it would get smaller. This will form a distorted pattern from your point of view. Similarly, wrap the letters with these patterns in the same manner and add a perspective to them.

Make sure to add an overlay after adding the pattern to a perspective. You can also change the color as per your preference.

Add Highlights

Choose the Inker from the set and add soft highlights on the edges of the letters.

Choose between the Cloudy or Charcoal Sponge and draw on the thin mushroom lines. Add a shadow by placing it upside down and drawing a line with a gap. Adjust in the settings panel and play with it.

Similarly, add patterns and highlights to all the other letters as well.

Add Elements

Add white dots in between the letter spaces to cover the negative spaces.

Add hand-drawn cloud and rain patterns in the background or play with any other pattern by bringing the opacity down.

Add soft Grain and Cardboard texture on top of the background.

Voila! You have successfully learned how to experiment with lettering.