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 laying it all out

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We’ve been working on a lot of technique, and now we are going to start the process of putting everything together. If you find yourself struggling to create a completed piece of lettering, follow these steps to assist you in laying out your word or phrase.

1. Make a few sketches

Loosely sketch out some variations of a design in pencil. Don’t worry about making them perfect; just get your ideas down on paper.

Tip: Choose a shape as a loose guideline. Picking a square, circle, banner, or other shape for your letters to fit into can help you create a more visually appealing piece. People are attracted to artwork that looks good from a distance, so the shape of your piece will attract people even before they read it.

Tip: Draw the standout words first. Are there certain words in your layout that need to stand out more than others? Draw those first, and then add the other text around it. This ensures that the standout word(s) really pop and make a statement.


2. Pick the winner

After choosing the best design, re-sketch it again in pencil. Take time to consider how the words are going to fill the composition. Look for opportunities to add flourishes and ornamental elements to your design.

Tip: Wait to add your flourishes until after you’ve finished laying out your lettering. Adding the flourishes last gives you a chance to fill open spaces, choose where the flourishes will extend, and make a more balanced piece. If you’ve chosen standout words, you can add flourishes to those first before finishing your piece if you want.


3. Add weight to your letters

Go over your sketch again, adding weight to your letters, making them thicker on the downstrokes. Adjust the spacing and flourishes as needed.


4. Finalize with pen

Using your brush or ink pen, finalize your drawing. This is where the small nylon tip of your pen comes in handy for making everything look crisp and precise.

Tip: Use tracing paper. If you’re really struggling with laying out your lettering, draw your words individually on tracing paper. Then cut out the words and practice arranging them. This will help you see where you need to make edits, change the sizing, extend letters, or add more spacing.


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