In a day dedicated to lettering in Procreate, we were looking forward to welcoming back typeface designer and lettering artist Debi Sementelli. As someone who "loves playing with ink, paint, pens and brushes to come up with different alphabets that will eventually turn into type designs", Debi was the perfect person to talk to for anything letter related. In this session, she showed us how to create strong lettering compositions in Procreate. Make sure to follow along with these freebies!

Pick a Grid

The basic concept of composition is to start by keeping the end design in mind. Have a strong idea or an image of something that you want to create.

Work on a grid from the Slayout Lettering Masterclass to understand how your words can fit in the composition.

There are three grids that are ready to be used for four to six words, six to eight words and seven to ten words. If you are a newbie and are struggling to set things up, then this comes in handy.

Pick the first grid. The center line will help to determine the balance and structure of the words. Next, determine the hierarchy of the words. Pick the ‘start’ and ‘end’ as the primary words and maintain a balance throughout.

Outline around the words and find the negative space. These shapes will help in determining the fillers. Cover the blank spaces with dimensions, ornaments and flourishes. 

Add Ornaments

After establishing a balance, add ornaments to fill the negative spaces. Pick any three of the same shape for a design concept. Add one on the lower left, one in the middle and one on the right side.

Put swashes, fill in the shapes. Lastly, add dimension to the words to give it a 3D effect. Then, take away the structure to see how they all fit.

Pro tip: All this can be done in 10 minutes, ie. dimension, swashes and ornaments, to fill out the composition, forming a hierarchy in the beginning and making sure it is balanced. This method saves a lot of confusion and can easily be done once everything is in place.

For example:

Jacki and Dorenda’s compositions, using florals and frames, have strong colors used in their composition, whereas Shamini and Shradhs use the opposite framework, using light backgrounds with the same wording. They’ve also used botanicals to create a frame that surrounds the wording. See the images below for reference.

Similarly, Shradhs takes the, ‘now is the new later’, and does a totally different thing than Martine does, adding a lot of dimension.

Janet used black as a background to create a strong composition like Shamini, by taking the black color with the white lettering and then adding the color for the punch up.

Neeta used stamps and Karen made her composition colorful, using a partial frame and some botanicals.

Elena used fonts and warped them in the word 'permission'. She also created shadows. Lynn made this lovely piece, with a unique color combination. She also used a different style in her words.

Pro tip: You don't have to be a master lettering artist. When you have good composition, it makes up for any flaws in your lettering.

Make a Plan

Open up the template and make a plan. Use thumbnail sketches. Click on the step and find an S. There is a little space that says thumbnails. Unclick on thumbnail ideas and write down on that layer to begin your sketches.

Choose a Color

Step two is to choose a color for the floral part of the frame. Click on the freebie kit and select the lightest color. Add a Mixed Frame and turn off the directions. Click on the brush settings and choose 49%. Lastly, pick a black shadow color and duplicate the frame.

In order to recolor, click on alpha lock and then click again to fill the layer. Go to adjustments, down to motion blur and click on the layer. Move your finger or your pen to about 23%. This will add dimension.

Switch back to the mixed frame layer and color in. Pick a pink color for the inner circle and red color for the next circle. Different color values add the lightness or darkness of a color and helps to create a dimension. Color the branches and tree stems. Pick the lightest green for this.

Add the Reverse Botanical

Step three is to add the reverse botanical. Pick a light pink color and grab a botanical. Create dual sets of negative and positive. Outline the botanical and line it up by turning it to the right. Create an off-screen effect by making it slightly larger.

You can see as compared to the other flowers that you’ve already created some great dimension by adding a stamp. Duplicate this and line it up with all the other flowers.

Go back to step two and change the color to black. In the freebie pack, pick the Mixed Frame 16 and make sure that the brush is set to 31%. Turn it on and stamp it. Move it between the large pink circle and the second circle. This will give the illusion that there is a hole there and a highlight the second circle. This makes it look dimensional.

Pro tip: Use stamps to create depth and interest in a composition.

Add Lettering 

Use the guidelines from Jimbo’s kit. After you've done the rough sketch, make sure that it's more accurate and use the guidelines to center the composition. Turn off the guidelines and add the lettering.

Add Shadows

Add shadows to the lettering. Add a third shadow with less opacity. Then duplicate the original and change the color to a dark blue. Click on alpha lock and fill the layer. Undo alpha lock and move over to adjustments. Hit motion blur and click on the layer. Move your pencil or finger around. Duplicate the layer five times and pinch these together or use merge.

On the green layer, lower the opacity to 51% to add depth.

Add Inlays, Shading and Texture

The last thing to do is add inlays, shading and texture. Pick the Curved Inlay from the freebie set and choose a pink color. Add a second inlay and turn it up to make it look like a flower. The long inlay 13 and 14 work best together. Add a mix of inlays and blue color in the small places.

The next thing is the lettering shading. Change the color to the green and choose the Splatter Brush. Use this for shading and texturing in the composition template. In the smaller joints, put the darkest shading and keep that slightly lighter in the center. Use the Smudge Tool to blend.

When you move to a place where there is an edge, define that area and edge. If you want to do some highlights, even on the shadows, you can go back to the lighter green. Put a layer and change it to overlay. Go back to the Splatter Brush and brighten it up. Use the Debby Brush Eraser and to erase.

Add texture in the background behind the lettering. Fill in that circle that says ‘is’, and choose the red color. Color it in the lettering. Take the black circle, duplicate it and make it smaller. Place it just behind the circle. Fill in the background with some texture using a darker color. Add dimension by putting a darker edge. This will create a highlight on the final edge.

Play around with different colors and see which ones you like the best. Go back to the shading and texture above the frame, and add a dark color. For final touches, add overlays to create highlights.

Congratulations, you’ve successfully created a strong lettering composition in Procreate.