How To Digitize Your Hand Lettering and Create Stunning Images combining Photography and Textures Using Analog Tools and Photoshop.

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This one’s real quick and easy! This is a method I love using to create visually strong images by mixing hand lettering and photography. I see this technique being used more and more in advertising campaigns, retail, spot editorial illustrations and album covers.

I’m excited to share with you how to create this effect and I how you can apply it to your next client project. Below are a few examples from myself and other designers to give you an idea of how we are using this method in real life projects.

WILD ALBUM COVER FOR TROYE SIVAN.  BY: GEMMA O’ BRIEN

WILD ALBUM COVER FOR TROYE SIVAN.  BY: GEMMA O’ BRIEN

CHALLENGE YOURSELF FOR CHARITY WATER. BY:  JOSEPH ALESSIO

CHALLENGE YOURSELF FOR CHARITY WATER. BY:  JOSEPH ALESSIO

BBGS SERIES FOR HALLMARK. BY: AMBER GOODVIN

BBGS SERIES FOR HALLMARK. BY: AMBER GOODVIN

LEARNING HAND LETTERING. BY: IAN BARNARD

LEARNING HAND LETTERING. BY: IAN BARNARD

DON'T LET DREAMS BE DREAMS FOR STATE BICYCLE CO. BY: ADAM GONZALEZ

DON'T LET DREAMS BE DREAMS FOR STATE BICYCLE CO. BY: ADAM GONZALEZ

GRATITUDE IS THE MEMORY OF THE HEART. BY: LEO GOMEZ  

GRATITUDE IS THE MEMORY OF THE HEART. BY: LEO GOMEZ

 

Materials and Tools

  • Pencil and Paper
  • Tracing Paper
  • Black Ink Marker – I recommend Micron
  • Your Phone Camera – I’m using an iPhone 6
  • Adobe Photoshop
  • Optional: Ink (To create ink splatters)

Step 1: Drawing your Lettering

We’re going to kick things off on paper. For this tutorial we are going to use my phrase “Lost in the Clouds,” but it’s entirely up to you to decide what your phrase should say. You are more than welcome to use the same phrase as me!

Grab a clean sheet of paper and your favorite pencil.  Start out by quickly sketching out ideas and exploring the letterforms in your word or phrase. Play around with different lettering styles, flourishes and ligatures. Once you have a pretty good direction, revisit your sketches and draw your design at a bigger scale this time. We’ll be using this sketch as the foundation.

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Once you’ve got the large-scale lettering, we are going to use it to make decisions and improve your design. Be prepared to refine, refine and refine your work using layers of tracing paper. 

Hint: Tracing paper allows you to draw over your initial sketch without having to start over from scratch each time you make adjustments.

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Place a new sheet of tracing paper over your foundation sketch and redraw your lettering. Take time to refine your letterforms and make adjustments. Once you feel your sketch is refined, it’s time to grab some ink pens and fine-tune your design.

Grab a clean sheet of tracing paper, place it over your pencil sketch and start tracing your lettering with the ink marker. Make sure to go slowly and keep it true to your original design. We will be using this inked sketch to create your final image.

Step 2: Preparing Your Lettering for Isolation

In this next part we are only going to use digital tools. We will go over some techniques to digitize your hand lettering, so fire up your machine and open Adobe Photoshop. 

1. Using the camera on your phone, take an overhead shot of your inked sketch. I recommend placing a clean sheet of paper underneath to create black and white contrast. I usually shoot on Grayscale or if you are using an iPhone, it’s the Noir filter on your camera. This helps your lettering to really stand out from the paper.

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2 Upload your shot to your computer.

3. Open the shot of your lettering with Photoshop. Go to Image > Adjustments > Levels and pull in your whites and blacks, so you can really see your lettering. Essentially what we are doing here is isolating your type from the background as far as black and white is concerned. By adjusting your levels, you are trying to make the paper be as white as possible and your lettering black.

Hint: We are going to end up with a one-color design to work with. Everything that is white will be transparent and everything that is black is going to be solid pixels. Check out the before and after image below to compare.

BEFORE ADJUSTING LEVELS

BEFORE ADJUSTING LEVELS

AFTER ADJUSTING LEVELS

AFTER ADJUSTING LEVELS

Step 3: Isolating Your Lettering

Once you are at this stage and you’re happy with how our lettering is looking, It’s time to isolate your lettering completely from the white background.

1. Combine your lettering and levels layer into one by clicking on both layers and pressing Command E. 

Merge-layers.png

2.  Press Command A or Go to Select > All to select everything.

3. Press Command C or Edit > Copy to copy what the artwork is on this layer. This is very important, make sure you have copied the artwork before you move to the next step.

4. Press command D or Select > Deselect to deselect.

5. Create a new blank layer

6.  Delete your type layer. You should be left with just the blank layer.

Now, the next step is the key or magic to isolating our lettering. Let’s make sure we do it slowly and get it done right :)

7.  Press (Q) or click Quick Mask in your tools menu or go to Select > Edit in Quick Mask

8. Press Command V or Edit> Paste to Paste. As you can see here, you’re your lettering is paste in a red shaded color. Your white background is gone and you’re left with just the type.

9. Press (Q) again or Go to Select > Edit in Quick Mask to exit Quick Mask mode and now you are left with your selection.

Selection

10.  Now, we want to inverse our selection, so press Command+Shift +I or Go to to Select > Inverse and fill your selection with white color pixels.

11.  Use Command D Select > Deselect to deselect and head over to Trim to get rid of the unnecessary pixels around your lettering.

12.  Hit Save As and give your PSD a name. I chose to name mine “Lost in Clouds Lettering”.

Drumroll...Your lettering is completely isolated! Woot woot!!!

Step 4: Creating Your Image

In this step, we’re going to combine your lettering with photography, textures and colors to create the final image.

Let’s start by creating a new document. The size and resolution of your document should be kept in mind based on your output. Whether it’s for print or web, make sure you are working with the canvas size and resolution. For this tutorial we’re going to focus on creating an image for an Instagram post. We’ll keep our canvas small and resolution at 72.

1. Create a new PSD. Mine is set up at 1000px 1000px, with a resolution of 72, RGB color mode and white background.

 

2. Go to File> Place Embedded and place the photo you wish to use here. If you don’t have a photo, you can find and download amazing photography from websites like Unsplash or Pexels, they are always free to use on personal and commercial projects! I found this photo by Pascal Wiemers on Pexels. Thanks dude!! Crop and adjust your photo as necessary.

3. Create a new layer and fill it with black. Go to you layers panel and select Multiply as your blending mode. Lower the opacity to anywhere between 20%-30%. This will darken your photo and allow your lettering to show really well.

4.  Looking good! All that’s left to do is place your lettering. Go to File> Place Embedded and place the lettering file we worked on the previous step. Adjust the size and align as necessary. 

Note: I ended up drawing a new letter C to help with the flow of my design and repeating the digitizing process.

Nice work guys! So far it looks great! If you are happy with how it looks, consider yourself done. I’m going to be adding some texture to my image and you can too! Just follow the next step to learn how to do this.

Step 4: Adding Texture

If you are like me you know that adding texture to your lettering work can create some great results. In this step, Im going to show you how I created ink splatters to make some textures and create an even more unique look to my work.

1.   Grab a piece of tracing paper and some ink. You can use Indian ink or black ink from an old marker. Create some splatters, go crazy, and have fun!

2.   Repeat step 2, 3 and 4 to combine the texture with your final image.

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Apply-Texture.png

Step 5: Finishing Up

Now that you have completed this tutorial, let’s not forget about saving. Save PSD file in case you want to reference it in the future. If you are ready to post on Instagram, go to File> Save for Web and save your image as a JPG. Download it to your phone and that’s it. Congrats! Happy sharing!

I personally love creating and sharing these type of posts. It makes my grid look very lively and colorful and my followers also love seeing these posts while scrolling through their feeds. 

You’re Done!

Great work! I’m really happy with how my image turned out. What about you? As always I love hearing from you, so post any questions or comments below. If you found this tutorial helpful, share it around with the share buttons below. Thanks so much for joining me, keep a look-out for more tutorials and teachings. Remember that you can apply this technique to your next client or personal project!

Cheers, 

Leo

Check out some of the other images I've created for Instagram using this method! Follow me!

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