Cleaner bezier curves in typography.

Cleaner bezier curves in typography.

I do a lot of cus­tom typog­ra­phy and let­ter­ing in my graph­ic design and per­son­al cal­lig­ra­phy work. I aspire to cre­ate vec­tor images that are clean, crisp, and intu­itive­ly drawn so as to make the job eas­i­er for the next design­er who has to touch my work. As I con­tin­ue to read and watch tuto­ri­als from experts in the busi­ness, like Jes­si­ca His­che and Sean McCabe, I’m real­ly enjoy­ing push­ing myself to adopt best prac­tices and real­ly hone my craft.

I real­ly enjoyed this tuto­r­i­al quite a bit.

Last night, I sketched and then let­tered a line from Meghan Ton­jes’ pow­er­ful song, “Oh, Father.” I sketched and erased and sketched and erased until I was sure I had the let­ter­forms and lay­out about how I want­ed it.

2015-07-01 20.34.32 HDR-1When I’m doing a con­cep­tu­al sketch like this, I’m not very fussed about get­ting every­thing per­fect. I know I’ll be going in and vec­tor­ing soon there­after, and I’m more con­cerned with express­ing an emo­tion than I am with per­fec­tion of form.

So today over my lunch break, I cleaned up the image in Pho­to­shop, then took it into Illus­tra­tor and ran the dread­ed lazy Live Trace on the image. I’ve tak­en to doing this with a lot of my let­ter­ing, because it gives me a rough vec­tored out­line of all the shapes I’ll be work­ing with, so I can move things around a lit­tle bit and get my lay­out nailed down, then focus on per­fect­ing the let­ter­forms them­selves.

I’ve been real­ly inter­est­ed in see­ing how typog­ra­phers and let­ter­ers I admire vec­tor their art­work, and so this evening, I’ve been try­ing to incor­po­rate their prac­tices into this round of vec­tor­ing. Name­ly: using as few anchor points as pos­si­ble and mak­ing sure my han­dles are all at 90 degree angles to real­ly ful­ly uti­lize the pow­er of bezi­er curves in typog­ra­phy.

It took me an embar­rass­ing­ly long time to real­ly under­stand how pow­er­ful bezi­er curves are. My first light-bulb moment came in my com­put­er illus­tra­tion class in col­lege, while watch­ing my class­mate use the pen tool for a few moments. I sud­den­ly real­ized it was exact­ly like what I had learned in pre-cal­cu­lus the year before. (Oh, to be young and under­stand math again!) But for far too long after that, I was quite prone to using too many anchor points and under-uti­liz­ing my han­dles. As I’ve grown as a design­er, I’ve been mov­ing towards sim­plic­i­ty in my vec­tor images, par­tic­u­lar­ly as I work more and more with cus­tom typog­ra­phy and vec­tor­ing my own let­ter­ing work.

While frus­trat­ing at first, I’m find­ing that it real­ly is pro­duc­ing much more nat­ur­al and grace­ful curves, even if I have to work a lit­tle hard­er at them. I’m real­ly thrilled with the result so far, and can’t wait to con­tin­ue and then show the final piece.

Update: July 29, 2015

Final pieces! I’m real­ly pleased with how this turned out. So clean and clear while still retain­ing the per­son­al­i­ty of the orig­i­nal ink­ing. I cre­at­ed a one-col­or ver­sion for T-shirts and oth­er prod­ucts, and a full-col­or ver­sion for prints. All avail­able here!

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