My Lettering Workflow from Sketch to Vector

My Lettering Workflow from Sketch to Vector
June 1, 2016 Daniel Palacios
lettering workflow

This isn’t going to be the typical 500-words you’re used to. Instead, I want to give you an overview of what my lettering workflow looks like from sketch to vector.

I also want to point out that I go through several iterations before arriving to a final sketch. I use copy paper from my inkjet printer and lots of tracing paper for revisions. If you want the full list of tools I use, go here or check out my resource page.

Here’s the outline of my script lettering workflow:

Phase 1

1. Trace Brush Pen Sketch

  • Adjust with tracing paper
  • Fill sketch with pencil (inking takes long and I find it unnecessary)

2. Scan Into Computer

  • 300 dpi

3. Make Adjustments in Adobe Photoshop

  • Desaturate color
  • Adjust Input Levels for contrast
  • Add guides
  • Copy Background layer
  • Use Layer Masks or Polygonal Lasso Tool to select and adjust letter-spacing
  • Save as JPG or take screenshot

4. Print Out Revised Sketch

  • Use a black or gray color
  • Print at 50%

Phase 2

1. Trace Printout

  • Check letter-spacing, consistency, slant, curves, weight, dark spots, etc.
  • Make adjustments

2. Scan Printout

  • 300 dpi
  • 600 dpi if Live Tracing

Phase 3

1. Vector in Adobe Illustrator

  • Name Layers (Sketch layer, Vector layer and Guideline layer)
  • Set Sketch layer to Template
  • Copy original Vector layer if making changes/revisions
  • Break up letters into individual shapes, entry/exit strokes, etc. (helpful when adjusting letter-spacing)
  • Use Pathfinder to Unite paths when done editing

2. Print Out Vector

  • Check at different sizes for scalability
  • Write notes on printout

Phase 4

1. Trace Printout (Optional)

  • Make any last-minute adjustments

2. Add Color

  • Specific styling effects, etc.
  • Last-minute tweaks/adjustments

Frequent Breaks

As you can see, it’s a meticulous process. I frequently take breaks in between. If I’m working for more than a 2-3 hours straight, I step away and do something else (watch a show, eat a snack or go outside). This is important to my creativity and helps prevent burnout. It also allows me to see clearly with a fresh set of eyes and spot things I may have missed.

If the above isn’t working, then I’ll come back the next day after a full night’s rest.

What’s your Workflow?

I hope you got something out of this overview of my script lettering process. I know this doesn’t explain every step in detail, but I’m going to elaborate in a series of posts on this particular topic.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear about your lettering workflow.