Ian Barnard may need little introduction for most Design Cutters - he's not only an incredible lettering artist and social media sensation but also the co-host of our Honest Designers podcast! A friend of DC's for many years, we couldn't wait to have him back on for a session about expressive lettering in Procreate.

Understand Styles

There are mainly four different rough styles: Sans, Serif, Script, and Black Letter. Each of these styles has an emotion or a feeling. For example, Sans is friendly and easy. Serif is used formally. Script is gentle and puts out strong emotions. Black Letter can be used for anything old or vintage. It also works great with anything related to rock bands.

Choosing styles depends on how it makes a person feel. With lettering, you can simply convey any message or story you’re trying to portray. So, you can begin from something entirely plain to something that encapsulates what you're trying to illustrate.

Draw the Words

Use the Letter Builder and write ‘Fun’ using Sans block lettering style.

Alter the Words

The first step is altering the word. The word ‘fun’ depicts something spontaneous and impulsive. So to portray that, change the baseline, angle and alignment of the letters. Turn off the grid and use the Selection Tool. Select the letters and move them up and rotate them. Instantly notice that a small tweak of moving them from the baseline gives it a joyful and celebratory aesthetic.

All the words don’t need to be taken off the baseline. Come up with a list of things that come to your mind when you see the word.

Alter the Angle and Add External Effects

The second step is altering the angle, which is the external influence on the words. Change the color by grabbing an orange from the color palette of the Freestyler pack. Turn on Alpha Lock and click on that layer again. Select the color and fill the layer with orange.

In the panel, swipe to the left and duplicate the layer. Choose a darker orange and fill layer. Click on the Transform Tool and move it down to the left. Turn off the Alpha Lock and grab the Broken Arrow brush to fill the corners. Fill in the little triangle elements and join the edges of the letters. This will give it a quick 3D look by creating a bounce-off-the-page effect.

Add a new layer by clicking on the plus sign. Click on Clipping Mask and choose a darker shade. Fill the areas facing the bottom. Add a shadow by lifting it off the page. Duplicate the top layer and bring it to the bottom of the stack. Color it black and click on the layer again. Fill the layer and reduce the Opacity down. Click on the Transform Tool and move that down. This will give it dimension.

Add Internal Effects

Click on a new layer. Pick a white color and choose the Breadcrumbs brush. To give it inline lettering, draw circles with the brush on the letter “F”. Draw lines on the letter “N” and add a Pinboard pattern on the letter “U”.

Add a new layer and choose the Breadcrumbs brush and add dots around the word. Select stars by selecting a star pattern and add stars around the word “FUN”.

Pro tip: Use a lettering list to help you with tools at every stage.

Pro tip: As a four-step process, express the lettering by altering the baseline and angle of the letters, add external influences such as color and shadow, an outline around the outside of the letters, and lastly, internal effects, giving it an inline, dots, or a gradient.

Congratulations, your first example is ready.

Example:

Choose the Rock + Roller brush from the pack and use the grid to write the word ‘artist’.

Create a new layer and reduce the opacity. Turn off the Letter Builder and think of words that come to your mind when you see the word ‘artist’.

Pick a thin Monoline Brush and write on the letters using three to four strokes.

Use the Broken Arrow brush and add dripping details on the word. Smoothen the curves and the joints. Avoid refining the edges to make it look organic.

Add brush strokes on the letters to make them look uneven. Give it an imperfect painting aesthetic.

Select the letters separately and slightly rotate them. Avoid rotating all letters. For example, if R is on the baseline then rotate the next letter, which is T.

Add a blob of blue color in the background to give it an artistic aesthetic.

Pick any brush and add dots around the word ‘artist’. Choose the Breadcrumbs brush to add splats of paint.

Congratulations, your second example is complete.

Example:

Set the Letter Builder on the canvas and draw the words ‘magic’. Tap three fingers and swipe down on M, A, G, I and C separately.

Draw cards on top of the letters, as shown in the reference image below.

Pull the M on top of the card and color it in red.

Duplicate the cards multiple times. Select the background color, click on it and tap the fill layer to distinguish the cards.

Alternatively, add “A” on the next card and color it black. Draw “G” and color it red. Draw “I” and color it in black. Finally, draw “C” and color it in red.

Make sure to spread them out for legibility. Add sparkles by drawing tiny stars and dots with any brush.

Voila! You have successfully completed another expressive lettering piece. 

Example:

Draw ‘GIANT’ on a new layer with the help of a builder. Space the letters out.

Turn off the Letter Builder. A quick way to make the word look big is by grabbing the Selection Tool and stretching half of the letter and using the same brush to get rid of the letter width. Raise and reconvene using the Selection Tool. This transformation will help put out the essence of the word.

Example:

Write ‘ELECTRIC’ using the Letter Builder.

Grab the upper half of the letters with the Selection Tool and move it to the left or the right.

Add lightning strokes between the two halves of the letters.

Add pink to the letters. Choose a Monoline brush to give it a neon electric aesthetic by adding white lines in the center of the letters.

That’s it! You have finished yet another expressive lettering piece.

Congratulations, you have successfully learned to create expressive lettering pieces in Procreate.