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.

Purple marker sketch on white dot-grid paper. The text is a mix of script and a stylized Western/Didot-inspired all-caps. It reads, "You're not the end of me."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.

When 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.

Closeup view of the letters "yo" in cursive. The anchor points and handles from vectoring the letters are visible to show placement and technique.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

White lettered text on a purple and pink watercolor texture background. Text reads, "You're not the end of me." Black textured and embellished text on a white background. Text reads, "You're not the end of me."

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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