Joanna Muñoz is an art director by day and a freelance lettering artist by night based in Los Angeles. Our friendship started through small interactions in the comment section of each other’s posts on Instagram.
I’ve been following Joanna’s work since 2014 and have seen her skills grow. I invited her to share some of her lettering process because I admire her attention to detail and dedication to learn.
(Other than the questions, everything is written by Joanna.)
What inspired you to start lettering?
In 2013, I had gotten engaged and thought it’d be fun to create our invitations and all of the signage for our wedding. I’ve always been artistic and figured it would be a piece of cake (boy, was I wrong…).
I began by learning calligraphy through Skillshare and in-person workshops so that I could address our wedding envelopes. From there, it kind of snowballed – I found lettering feeds and work online that inspired me to try my hand at it. The more confident I grew, the more I fell in love with it. By the time we got married a year later, I had found a way to incorporate both lettering and calligraphy into our wedding for a more personal touch. The rest is history!
What does your lettering process look like?
I always start my pieces with really loose sketches, often using just a mechanical pencil (I prefer the 0.5mm Draft-Matic) and dot grid paper. Sketching is always my favorite part of the process because I can explore layouts and styles without feeling restricted or getting caught up in refining minute details. Once I have a layout locked down, I continue building the shapes further with my pencil.
If I’m having a “good” brush pen day, I’ll trace over my sketches next using a lightbox, layout bond paper and my trusty Tombow Fudenosuke soft tip brush pen. I get the general flow of the piece down and refine the edges with a Micron pen.
If I’m having a “bad” brush pen day where I can’t draw a straight line to save my life (and this happens often), I’ll skip the brush pen entirely and use a Micron when I trace. Small, quick strokes are best when my hand isn’t steady enough to create long, smooth lines.
Once I’ve refined the piece, and depending on what the lettering is for, I might snap a pic and share that piece online, scan it in and make additional refinements in Photoshop or vectorize everything in Illustrator.
Does it ever change or is it always the same?
The initial sketching stage is always the same for me. I love working with a pencil. From there, I either go through the same kind of process I just described or wing it on my iPad Pro if I want to head straight into digital work. I do what feels right for me that day and never try to force the creativity.
Sketching is always my favorite part of the process because I can explore layouts and styles without feeling restricted or getting caught up in refining minute details.
You have traditional pointed-pen calligraphy experience, can you share how that has influenced your lettering work? Or not?
While I don’t devote enough time to the craft as I should, calligraphy has really helped me understand the importance of letterforms, consistency and patience. Learning what I have so far has vastly improved my lettering pieces overall – I can now see the flaws that I probably would’ve never noticed. It’s that attention to detail that helps elevate the work.
Do you have any specific tips for lettering artists who are struggling to find their process?
Have patience with yourself and with the craft. Everyone’s process is different, so take the time to figure out what works best for YOU. The great thing about being an artist is that there is no right or wrong when it comes to creativity, so don’t be afraid of failing and trying something new.
This blog post is part of an on-going series. If you enjoyed it, you might also like some of the past interviews.