In this session, we were joined by the energetic and colorful Belinda Kou. As a hand lettering artist and illustrator, Belinda is a creative storyteller often drawing inspiration from food and beverages. The outcome of this session is no different.

Belinda showed us how to spice up our lettering with illustration, taking us step by step through the process for integrating illustrative elements into lettering compositions in Procreate. We were hungry to learn and hope you are too.

Create Lettering or Illustration

When you start a piece with any kind of lettering and illustration, the first thing to do is write out your phrase. Make sure that the phrase is final. For this particular piece that you see below, start by writing down these simple letters in your own handwriting, “Who’s the hungriest of them all”. Now, go through and identify your primary words, secondary words, and tertiary words. This will help you figure out the priorities of how you start to shape your composition. So, for this phrase in particular, ‘hungriest’ is the primary word. ‘Who’s’ and ‘them all’ are secondary words and ‘the’ and ‘of’ are tertiary words. So, now you have your priorities identified.

Integrate your Illustrations

Step two would be to start thinking about how you’re going to integrate your illustrations. It is recommended to start at the concept phase with your illustrations so that when you get to that final part of your composition, you already have an idea of what embellishments you would want to add. For this piece, make a quick list of what elements you would use for snow white and food that you can draw in this composition. For example, apples, apple pie, apple tarts, apple cider, crown, hair tie, little bird, mirror, etc. As you create the composition for the layout, this list will inform you on how you would want to create your compositions. Prioritize these by marking a star in front of them, to use these as embellishments later.

Set the Layout

When you're looking at your letters and you've identified your priorities, start by creating a composition. A fun trick to make the composition easier is to see each of your words as blocks than actual letters. So, now you're working with shapes instead of words. Go through and box around the remaining words that you’ve identified and separate them into six boxes. For example, do a layout that's more symmetrical and stacked. ‘Who's the’ is a smaller word. ‘Hungriest’ is the biggest. A great way to highlight your primary word is by playing with the scale or weight or style of that word. Do the same with the other letters as well. Try and stick with 3-5 ideas for this.

Now, for example, when you look back at your list, you see that the mirror is an important embellishment to integrate. Inspired by the curves of the mirror, start to curve your letters around it, instead of having a straight-lined box. Create an arc for this. For ‘hungriest’, create a cylindrical arch. With the ‘of’ and ‘them all’ you can create a similar arch for those words as well. 

Add Illustrations

When you see that your layout is starting to take some shape, add your illustrations. Keep sketching roughly and messily, allowing your ideas to show up on paper or on a screen visually, and then start to build up from there. Let’s start with ‘who's the’, and stack them together. ‘Hungriest’ comes in the center, ‘of’ below that and then ‘them all’ in the last box. 

Now when you look at your list, think of some interesting ways to integrate a mirror into this composition and a fun way to do apples. Make the mirror your central element to the composition and start by drawing the mirror around your composition. Throw some apples around it and do an explosion of food just to give it some energy. Apple slices could be a fun way to vary that shape if you want the pie. Ground the apple pie at the bottom of that mirror. To make the mirror look royal, put a crown right on top of the mirror. 

Draw a bird on top of the crown and add some ribbons too. Keep in mind to balance out the illustrations. Every illustration that you choose should either be symbolic or throw out a message. Now, draw in some flowers and leaves along with the apples (this is symbolic of apple trees and blossoms)

Pull a royal aspect into this illustration by giving the boxes more texture. Convert them into ribbons, so they look like banners, giving it some depth. 

Draw in the Canvas

Set up your canvas at 8 inches by 10 inches at 300 DPI, the size of a regular picture frame.

Sketch your work out on the canvas. Work in layers and waves to make your sketch look smooth. 

Turn down the opacity manually or use a shortcut by taking two fingers and tapping to pull up your opacity slider and then slide on your screen to turn that down. Add a new layer and start to refine your composition in a finessed way. Use Grid Builder Brushes and ShoutBAM's Layout Brushes. Go over and draw your letters. Stick to the black and white colors for now.

For this specific lettering, combine modern letterings with vintage storybook lettering. 

Pro tip: Before you move into coloring, zoom out, and look at your overall composition in small to see how it’s balancing. You can even turn it upside down to check all your shapes and see how it is balanced.

Pro tip: The new 5X feature allows you to see your composition in real-time, even if you’ve zoomed in on your composition separately. 

Add Color

Turn down the opacity of the sketch layer and on a new layer, add a bunch of refined elements like the fluttering. Fill in the background color first with a purple color. To add color swatches on top, pick the main color from the background, and then pick a complementary color as an accent, to highlight some words. Pick a secondary accent color of the reds, inspired by the apples (as they are a big focus for this illustration). Add darker purples to go with the background and include some illustrations without overpowering the lettering.

Start by coloring ‘hungriest’ first by choosing yellow, as it is the main focus. Pick white for your other lettering. Turn on Alpha Lock for this layer as this makes it easy for you to switch colors. You can also access that by tapping on your layer and hitting Alpha lock, or you can take two fingers and swipe right on it to do so. 

Add Dimensions

Add dimensions to ‘hungriest’ by duplicating the layer. Then fill it with another color and move it down a little bit. Scale it down and make sure it’s centered. Connect the corners to create a dimension.

For banners, use the Symmetry Tool by going to actions. Turn on the drawing guide, go into edit and click on options. There is Vertical Symmetry, Horizontal, Quadrant and Radial. Try Radial to doodle. 

Choose Vertical Symmetry and hit done. Change your guidelines and set them to white. Rotate the canvas, which is another strategy you can use to create smoother lines. Use the Ink Bleed Brush because it has a nice rough texture to it. 

Take a darker color and on a new layer, draw a shape behind in that woven part of your banner to give it a 3D look. To do this, tap on the layer and click Drawing Assist, and that will also be symmetrical. So if you do one side of the banner, it gets reflected on both sides. 

Pro tip: If you’re ever struggling with colors, you can choose to work with just two colors. 

To incorporate the apple into your lettering, use a word as short as ‘of’, where it's just two letters. It’s a prime opportunity to put it in an apple so that way your apple is in the middle of your composition. It's the main food element that you think of when you're thinking of snow-white, without fighting with your letters. 

Pro tip: Force yourself to start with a rough sketch. Don't just start in a blank Procreate board and immediately begin with this masterpiece of lettering. Work in different waves and the sketch will really help you to figure out that composition and where all your lettering elements and illustration elements are going to be placed. This way everything is thought out and intentional and not like an afterthought. 

Add Framework

Add the framework to the mirror by using ShouBAM's Rough & Raw brush pack. Use the Monoline Stamp. Turn off the lettering layers and put them all in a group, so it'll be easy for you to turn those on and off. Take the Monoline Stamp and create the frame around the mirror. Give it an antique look by drawing some curls. 

So we have the mirror and the lettering now. Turn the lettering back on to see how it's interacting with those flourishes in the back. Turn on the crown as well. Turn on a few more layers just so that you can see how the color is dispersing. Go back in and add some little thorns that are coming out in different ways so that it doesn't look like it's perfectly symmetrical because sometimes when everything is too perfect, it looks more computerized and less hand made. 

Add the bird and the bow. Turn off the sketch layer so you can see the true colors.

Pro Tip: If you're adding dimension to your hand lettering, use Clipping Masks. You can also use the Alpha Lock, but Clipping Masks are great because you can move them around later. 

Add Final Touches

To add some shadows to the red dimension part of ‘hungriest’, on the Clipping Mask pick a texture brush from the Gouache Shader Brush Pack. Pick a brush that has rough line textures. Since it's on a Clipping Mask, you don't have to be too perfect with where it's going. Understand where the light source is and add where the shadows would be. Use Pencil Texture brush and form hard edges around.

Another way is by creating a background shadow. You can do this by duplicating the lettering again, or that object that you're trying to shade, and fill it with the darker color. Remove the Alpha Lock to blur this a little bit. Go to adjustments, click Gaussian Blue. Then click on the layer. 

Do the same for the banner to add shadows with a darker color. Erase edges wherever needed. Adjust the opacity on clipping masks to make it look subtle. Keep layering and add more color, giving the apple a bit more gradient with the Gouache Shader Brush Pack. Go through every object and add shadows to give it more dimension. Add highlight to give it depth. 

Lastly, remove the drawing guides to remove the lines. To give it a more subtle depth, take an airbrush and increase the size. On the very bottom layer, blur out the mirror as required. You can also set it to Overlay to add a pink effect. That would essentially wrap up your piece!