by Daniel Neuman
Hi, I’m Daniel Neuman, the Art Director here at Agency 877. Hand lettering is one of my favorite aspects of being a designer. It allows me to make something completely custom for whatever project I may be working on. I’ve had the privilege of working with clients from all over the globe to create custom lettering pieces that speak to their audience.
I attended college at Metropolitan Community College for graphic design. One of the first times I attempted hand lettering was for a class project. I was scrolling through font sites trying to find that perfect font to represent what I wanted but I just couldn’t find it. I decided hand lettering the words would represent what I wanted to convey the best. I spent the next few days practicing different lettering styles for the project and I came up with three hand lettered concepts that I loved. From that moment I realized hand lettering was something I was really interested in and a way to create something unique for any project I was working on.
After college I continued to practice my hand lettering skills, making motivational quotes and designing logos for some of my friends’ bands. I started posting my hand lettering on my Instagram and began gaining a following. I soon realized this was something I could pursue as more than just a hobby. I spent countless nights lettering random words and phrases to develop my style. I consistently followed artists I liked on Instagram and learned from them when they would post tutorials or time lapses of their work. YouTube and SkillShare became a routine source of education as well.
One of the first hand lettering logos I created was for a photographer in Kansas City, Stephanie Nachtrab. Another photographer Brett Brooner contacted me shortly after I created the first and it started to snowball from there. I was creating hand lettered shirt designs and logos for companies all over the world within a few years.
Hand lettering has been a creative outlet for me to express myself in ways that were different than the digital art I was used to creating as a graphic designer. I prefer the analog process of sketching on paper rather than creating something digital. I always feel limited by fonts, but when I hand letter something the only limit is my own imagination.
Tools of the Trade:
- 0.7mm mechanical pencil
- 0.5 mm mechanical pencil
- Various notebooks with grids, transparency paper, thicker finishing paper
- Micron pens
I always start with rough sketches in my grid notebooks. This allows me to be quick with sketches and get as many ideas down as possible. I try to explore a multitude of styles to give myself options when I move onto refining a final piece. When I feel like I have a solid idea from the sketches, I will refine the sketch a bit more and make sure I am happy with the layout and structure of the letters.
I’ll then lay out a grid (if necessary) and start filling in the letters. I pay close attention to the angle of the letters as well as the X height, baseline, descender and ascender lines to make sure the lettering is consistent and feels sturdy. If the letters don’t follow the framework they can feel wobbly and disproportionate. Sometimes that’s the style you’re going for, though – it’s all about experimenting to see what you like best. I’ll then continue to build up the letters and add weight.
Once the composition feels complete, I’ll play around with possible ligatures or flourishes to see if there are any final details I can add to finish out the piece. Once I’m happy with the layout I’ll finalize it by inking everything with a Micron pen.
Spend time practicing with lettering sheets (you can download these online) and studying letterforms. There are some basic rules to follow, but breaking the rules is encouraged with creating fun lettering. Find inspiration from artists you enjoy while figuring out how you can take your designs to the next level and develop your own personal style. It takes lots of practice to get familiar with different styles, brushes and pens. I’ve done hand lettering for years and I still have so much to learn. You’ll never get to a point where you feel like you’ve learned everything there is to know. Keep practicing and, in the meantime, follow me on Instagram!