Hand Lettering Process

In this posting, I would love to share a process of hand lettering. This recently finished piece called, Alive & Active is a verse from the Bible;  

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 


the word of God is
alive and active

Basic steps

1. Rough/thumnail sketch

2. Develop the idea

3. Scan the sketch

4. Enlarge it to the actual size

5. Print it out 

6. Trace on Vellum sheet

7. Scan the artwork

8. Edit it with Photoshop


Bond paper, Vellum sheet, 

Pencil/Lead, Eraser, Pen, Ruler, 

Scaner, Laser printer

Rough Sketching

Rough (or thumbnail)sketching is literary done roughly and quickly in a small scale. During this sketching phase, I do sketch many different ideas as quickly as they comes up in mind and do not polish them. I add color with rich black pen to make it solid and pop up if only I want to take that idea further. I usually use Pigma Micron from Sakura for taking outlines of each letters and use Faber-Castell (brush tip) for filling them up.

Developing Idea

After pick one idea to go with, I redraw it with considerations of its based typefaces, angles and flows. For this particular design, I added drop shadows, decorative lines and flourishes. 


After developing the idea, I scan the image to enlarge its scale in actual size or large enough to draw details—consider about how pencil dust can smudged on vellum paper. Then print the sketch out and ready to tracing it. 

H, HB, 2B Pencils

I use pencil H to draw guidelines very lightly on a sheet of vellum layered on top of the printed image. I also use it to draw fine lines and sharp edges. I Fill in the letters with pencil HB or bolder leads, but won't go farther than 2B. Pencils are various in softness. H is for hard and B is for bold, so HB is in the middle and generally used for both writing and drawing. F is for fine point, and I figured it is somewhat between HB and H. 

Filling in the Letters

Even though the final artwork will be in light color or no colors, at this sketch phase, the letters are better be filled with black. It helps to see the relationship and spacing of each letters. It also creates great contrast that helps to see entire composition clearly.




I photograph the process often not only because of recording them but also refreshing my eyes. I often times noticed some flaws to fix by looking at the artwork in small scale through a smart phone display or a camera display. 

Editing Artwork

As finishing up drawing tightly, I scan the artwork in high resolution as 300dpi. Then open up the image to Adobe Photoshop to edit. I adjust its level to maximize its contrast and erase guidelines and dirts. Also fix some flaws, touch up details and adjust letter spaces. For this artwork, I straightened and aligned the "E" at the end of "Alive" with "I" of "Active."