Advice for designing brush- or hand-lettering

shockomotive's picture

Howdy folks!
I have over the past few years tried my hand at brush-lettering or hand-lettering or whatever name this kind of style goes by. I have attached a few images for clarification. I am currently involved in another project that uses a similar style and whom better to ask than the typophiles:

In designing hand-lettering, what must one always be aware of to make it… you know… work?

The things I have so far struggled with a lot are:

  • Angles and incline
  • Stroke width
  • Connections

Regarding the incline:
I find it challenging to measure an angle on geometric lettershapes, but downright impossible to do so on something as organic as brush-lettering. Sure, you can eyeball some kind of "optical axis", but what good is that if you need precision? It does not work too well for me, at any rate.
How do you guys do it? Come to think of it, how do you measure angles at all? I create a line at the desired incline, paste it into the mask-layer (I am a Fontlab-guy) and duplicate the around any letter I need the angle checked on. Is that beginner's stuff?

To deal with stroke width, I tend to use what Leslie Cabarga calls "gauge balls", which are simply circles that you position inside your outlines to see whether they have the right amount of thickness.
Also, duplicating similar curves from other letters for comparison has helped me out of a few tight spots.
I also try to be mindful of how the tool the was used for lettering would have spread its marks on the paper, for example the drag that a brush would experience when moving through a curve, but I have yet to fing a hands on guide on where to place the apex of such a curve.

Connections are some of the hardest things to get right, because they should look convincingly real, should give the letters distinct and recognizable shapes and, usually at least, maintain a certain sense of order and yet not be too identical. Delicate balance to meet there.

Please feel free to share any kind of reference, links to former threads, I really looked but found next to nothing, or your own wisdom. I am immensely curious to hear how you guys approach this problem!

Ryan Maelhorn's picture

There's a lot of public domain books available about brush lettering. They're pretty old, but some things never change.

Traditionally the connections are done last on brush lettering, after everything else has been completed. It's not like cursive hand writing where you make the connections as you're writing the word.

It wouldn't hurt to head over to myfonts and check out Sudtipos work

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