In this session, we were joined by Stefan Kunz, letterer, designer, and illustrator who brings his imagination to life through typography and digital design.
Having collaborated with clients such as Asics, Adobe, Apple, Coca-Cola, Bombay Sapphire, Nokia, Hallmark and Microsoft, to name a few, it's no surprise that Stefan is at the top of his game. He has also published “The Art of Lettering” and “You Are God’s Masterpiece”, focused on typographical design. We were delighted that this is where the focus of Stefan's session lied: showing us 3 easy ways to create stunning lettering.
Wonder what it takes to create lettering compositions with beautiful layouts and consistency in letterforms? This article by the talented Stefan shows you a step-by-step process for mastering this skill. Let’s dive straight in!
Choose a Quote
Begin by choosing a good quote. Pinterest is a great place to source it. For this article, Stefan chose, “STOP DREAMING, START DOING”. Write it on the canvas.
Determine the Hierarchy & Lettering Styles
Start by creating boxes to demonstrate the importance of the word in the quote where you would like the attention to go. Line up those boxes on the centre-axis. For example, the bigger the box, the bigger the word would be. This is one simple trick to get you started.
Next, sketch a few ideas to determine what looks the best. Sketching is the visual representation of what you have in your head. So the more you practice, the easier it will get to draw a beautiful composition without needing to sketch it multiple times.
Key things to remember to define the hierarchy of words:
- The message needs to be clear.
- The message needs to be focused.
- The reader should be able to read it quickly and easily.
For instance, initially it seemed that “DREAMING” should have the emphasis, but in reality the focus should be on “START DOING”. You might have to go back and forth a few times to understand which words need the most attention and focus.
So place the less important words on the smaller scale and the more important word on the bigger scale. "DREAMING: is less important in this case. Add an upward slant and add "STOP: in a curved shape above it; you can choose different styles and explore different options.
Notice that you're actually creating space here on the right, left and bottom of the word "STOP", similarly with "DREAMING". That’s the trick about composition, to deal with those spaces and create symmetry with all these elements.
Now, for the main words “START DOING”, try to create a symmetry in reverse. For instance, a slant/curve and use the space below "DREAMING" to do that (as shown below).
After exploring different options, in the image below, “START DOING” really catches the eye and “STOP DREAMING” isn’t as focused in design.
Combine Different Lettering Styles
Break down different styles between words themselves.
For example, you could write "START DOING" into script style because it flows better. It comes down to readability and legibility. Readability is about whether you can read the word and legibility is about how fast you can read it. So, having "DREAMING" in the image above in a script font gives it a dreamy vibe which also reflects the meaning of the word better as compared to words that might have hard cornered letters. It looks visually appealing this way.
Here’s an example that explains it better:
You can see the symmetry of the words, symmetry of the styles and the rounded feature on top. Plus, the 3D effect combines it all together without too many styles. There are not more than three styles in this design.
Begin the Design
Copy and paste the chosen artwork onto a new layer, scale it up to fit the canvas size and change the color. In the new layer, get the Grid Builder and begin with the word “START” since this is the focus word in the quote.
Change the inclination of the word “START” by taping onto the grid. This is a game changing way to create art on Procreate. When you use the Grid Builder, it creates the red outlines.
The Grid Builder is a fun way to speed up the process, instead of creating text in certain shapes.
Use the Letter Builder and Fill Color
To complement this Grid Builder tool, use the Letter Builder which exists as a font and makes color filling super quick. Here’s how to use the Letter Builder as a font: add text from the top left menu, type the word, choose The Letter Builder Font. You can use this with any tool such as Procreate, Adobe etc.
Pick a brush and start filling colors in the letters. Here, Stefan uses his own creative paint brush. At this stage, you don’t have to try to make perfect lines since the goal is to create a watercolor effect which looks great with imperfect lines and gives it a marker style look. Start with black & white before using other colours. The Letter Builder gives a nice clear guideline like a ruler to draw the letters as seen in the image below.
The Letter Builder is a great tool to use to your advantage. It makes the process super quick and easy, and improves your skills as an artist. That being said, if you feel it restricts your creativity, it’s a good idea to draw things without using it now and then, and use the Letter Builder on projects for time-saving purposes.
Make the Letter Placement Visually Appealing
Once we have the letters filled with color, place the letters in a way that makes them look visually appealing. Move the individual words or letters around. For that, change the settings to Freeform and turn off the Magnetics. Now you can move around the words and see where it looks the best.
Following a similar method for "DREAMING", cut that out by making a circle around it and choose Paste from the menu. This places the word "DREAMING" onto a different layer too.
Once you are happy with the placement of the words, you can start coloring the words and adding tones. For example, using a white on the black letters gives it a really cool and edgy look.
The final look after the white color tones are added:
Use A Gradient Map
Now, go to Gradient Map in the Adjustments menu and tap on Layer.
At the bottom, it gives you different color options. Let’s say you choose the orange shades, it gives the letters an orange effect.
Now, tap on the blocks on the palette and choose a different color to try different textures. Click on Done.
Choose a different palette to explore more variations. Go to individual palettes to make further variations. Here are a few examples:
Another artwork created using the Gradient Map technique:
And voila, you are ready to create lettering compositions with ease!