I was nine years old, and it was the school holidays. I must have been pretty bored, because I decided to write an essay to show my teacher when I got back to school. It was entitled, "How Origami is Like Life". It described a principle which has come back again and again in my life, reaffirming its truth at the most inopportune moments. In this essay, I likened the importance of the first few origami folds to the first, formative years of life.
How they set everything up for future success or failure. How, if the first steps are a bit wonky, the resulting paper crane or human is likely to turn out worse than their well-creased counterparts.
The same is true with hand lettering - the hidden steps, the ones which you erase so they're not seen in the final product, are by far the most important. By far! They determine now only how well the piece will turn out, but how easy or difficult it is to complete it.
So I want to show you how to make it as full of ease and beauty as possible.
Hand lettering is first about communication - the message is everything! The aesthetics of a piece should always serve the message, not the other way round. So the first step in making a hand lettering piece is writing the words out! In your normal handwriting, write the message you're going to hand letter.
And once you've written the words out, think about the person who will be viewing this message. How do you want them to read it? Which words do you want them to focus on? Which are unimportant? Use different coloured pens, or circling and underlining, to identify different categories. These distinctions will help you in the next step!
Now you know which words you are going to make stand out, it's time to make some practice sketches.
Take your time here, experimenting with different layouts.
How to make thumbnail sketches:
Until you find a layout you love, use your normal handwriting or plain uppercase letters for the thumbnail sketches. After that you can refine the styles. If you do it beforehand, you'll use unnecessary time and energy thinking about the styles, which could be better spent thinking about the layout.
Once you're ready to refine a thumbnail sketch, decide on the styles based on which words you decided were important and unimportant. Maybe you letter all the 'unimportant' words (and, the) in the same style, etc.
A very important, and easily overlooked step in the hand lettering process, is ruling guidelines. It can be easy to get overexcited and want to jump straight into drawing letters - resist the urge! I've found that the more time I spend on this stage, the more focused and relaxed I can be when drawing in the letters - because I don't have to guess or estimate anything. It eliminates all the niggling doubts, like:
Where to rule lines:
This step will save you so much time and heartache. Honestly, I sometimes skip this step because I doubt its importance. And every time I skip it, I regret it. Give it a go, and experience the freedom that comes with knowing where each letter is going to go.
Here's how you do it:
Now you're ready to put the letters in! Your initial folds are complete, and you're ready to make the rest of your origami crane! In next week's article, I'm going to show you the second stage of making a hand lettering piece, and share with you the secret of making your hand lettering stand out.
If you enjoy seeing more behind-the-scenes posts, you can add me on Snapchat - lettersbyc. Talk with you soon!