Quick Tips for Digitizing Your Hand-lettered Sketches

Quick Tips for Digitizing Your Hand-lettered Sketches
January 11, 2017 Daniel Palacios

Are you intimidated by the thought of digitizing your hand-lettered sketches?

If so, you’re not alone.

There are two ways to go about this in Adobe Illustrator:

  1. Live Trace
  2. Pen Tool

The Live Trace feature is great if you want to retain that handmade look and those rough textured-edges. It’s quick and automatic for the most part.

Alternatively, the Pen Tool is what you want to use if you’re looking to precisely trace your lettering. There’s a lot more that goes into mastering the Pen Tool, but once you do, you can end up with some beautiful curves and clean edges.

Sure there are plenty of different ways to approach this process, just do a quick search on YouTube and you’ll see for yourself.

To kickstart this process for you, I’ve put together a list of tips to keep in mind as you’re precisely digitizing your hand-lettered sketches:

  • Start with a refined sketch
  • Place your anchor points on areas where your sketch touches the roof, wall and floor (imagine a box around it)
  • Click and drag while holding shift to constrain movements to 90° for smoother curves
  • Place a new anchor point where there’s a change in the direction of the curve
  • Use few points to get natural-looking curves
  • Trace your letters individually so you can make spacing adjustments later if you need to
  • Use guides for consistency
  • Use layers to separate your sketch, guidelines and vector
  • Make copies of your work­ (don’t work on the original)
  • Don’t cross streams (directional handles)
  • Don’t make one point do all of the work

Being able to digitize and convert your sketch into a vector graphic with precision is a valuable skill to have. With a digital version, you could scale your lettering up without ever losing detail or sharpness.

If none of the above is making any sense, I suggest experimenting in Illustrator or take a workshop (I’m actually teaching one on this topic next month).