Designing Type: Custom Lettering

I always like tutorials on how people do things. So, for fun I decided to make this little tutorial piece on commercial lettering.


1. Scharff 3000 Fine Line Red Sable pointed brush size 3/0.

2. Borden and Riley Parchment Paper (tracing paper for the smooth surface). This comes on a roll and is cheaper than buying it in pads. I get this from an art store in Seattle.

3. Moon Palace Sumi Ink.

4. Communion Cups for holding ink (optional). Free from local churches.

5. Stir sticks (popsicle sticks bought at dollar store package of 100).


Step 1

First I start out by getting the ink to the right consistency by diluting with water in my communion cup. ( have not tried 1-shot in these so I cannot recommend them for enamels).


Step 2

brushThe brush I am using is one of the nicest pointed brushes I have used. I highly recommend these. The one I used on these lettering samples was barbered and I cut the tip off to make the brush into a quasi chisel – pointed brush.

The picture on the left is the brush dry and the other one is the brush palleted. You can see the hair comes to a cropped point. I like this as it really produces some nice effects when starting and pulling strokes. The Sables do not need to be oiled like quills.


Step 3

Next I tear off a piece of the tracing paper and start lettering. When doing commercial lettering I like to letter the word or phrase multiple times and then cut up the best pieces. Some people can knock stuff out in one shot but I am not one of those people. It usually takes me a couple of times to get it right.

I hold the pointed brush like a pencil. The stroke width is determined by how much of the tip and side is used. If you want a broad stroke then more of the side of the brush is used. Sometimes I hold it vertically on certain strokes. The sable is a little more stiffer than a quill (a little more forgiving than a quill).



Step 4

After cutting apart my letters I scan them into Photoshop and compile the word. Here is a picture of the word “Interests”:



Step 5

Next I bring it into Illustrator and redraw it in vector format. It is better to give a customer a vectorized artwork as opposed to a bitmap if you can help it. Notice I changed the T’s. I figured the looped t was a bit much. Here is the finished artwork in Illustrator:



Here is the finished artwork ready to present to the customer:

If anyone is interested in trying their hand at pointed brush, I suggest buying a Tombow brush pen. They are a lot of fun knocking out scripts with and are a good introduction to the pointed brush as the same angle is used.


Here are some additional examples of lettering using this technique:


grandfather finished lettering
Toallofyou  MerryChristmas