I miss teaching!! So, I made this quick tutorial about digitizing hand lettering and adding textures.
Here's a video of my process and below are written instructions and screen shots:
I start with some quick sketches. When I fuss over things too much, it never turns out good. But, I’m a fusser, so I’ve been trying to train my perfectionist brain into just making a decision and going with it. It isn’t until later steps that I figure out what’s working and what’s not. So, I try to go with the idea that feels right and know I can make changes later, cause it’s my thing I’m making for me, and I can do whatever I want dammit (if I’m making it for someone else, it’s going to go through lots of changes anyway, so best to just get the thing started).
When I’ve (un-fussily) decided on a design I draw it out in pencil on computer paper. Then I use a light box to trace the drawing in ink. For a textured line use paper with tooth, for a cleaner line use smooth paper. The trick here is to make sure the tracing line is solid or it will be a pain in Illustrator. I use micron pens or a brush and ink, sharpies work well too. Just be sure that all the lines connect and they are not broken up. Something I always forget to do is to make little connectors in the o’s and a’s, this is a huge time saver.
Connectors are circled in grey:
There are a lot of textures you can get for free or buy on the internet, but I like to make my own. I use mostly brush and ink on watercolor paper. The texture can end up being really subtle but I think it adds a lot to digital art. I have one texture I use constantly that I made by dripping rubbing alcohol on a sheet of wet ink wash then dumping some salt onto the wet ink and letting it dry. The salt soaks up the ink and when it’s cleaned off the paper, it looks really cool.
For this project, I used a pretty dry ink to get a brushy look and and then a toothbrush dipped in ink to create splatters (this can get messy, use your thumb to spray the ink-filled bristles). For hand lettering, I think it looks good to have at least one texture that is specific to the design, that follows the forms of the letters, it makes the work more unique.
On to the computer. I scan everything (outline and textures) at 600 dpi in black and white. Bring the outline drawing into Illustrator and do an Image Trace.
When opening an image in Illustrator, an “Image Trace” button will appear on the control panel (under top menu bar) with an arrow next to it for some built in options. I like to use the Image Trace window though: in the top menu bar, click Window and check Image Trace. Now there are a bunch more controls and it’s a good idea to just test things out to see what works for you (when you figure out a good setting, save it!). Here’s what mine looks like:
If all looks good, hit Expand. Then right click and Ungroup.
The lines are going to be doubled up, so you want to select (with the direct selection tool (white arrow)) and delete the inner lines, while doing this the letters should fill up with the fill color (usually black).
If you haven’t drawn connectors, this is where you’ll have a problem, it’s often easier to just re-scan the outline with connectors in it. Also, if your lines are broken up, go back to the drawing and make them heavier or play around with the Image Trace settings.
Now, you have a vector image that can be resized without getting pixelated.
Pick colors in Illustrator. The color will change when texture is added so this becomes a trial and error thing. If I have a specific color I want I’ll add that color to the design in Illustrator and then use it as a reference when I’m adding textures in Photoshop.
I realized my design was missing something during this step, so I added the tree. I separated the trunk and branches because I wanted them to be different colors and it makes for an easier image trace.
Copying and pasting the vector image from Illustrator to Photoshop as a Smart Object will preserve the clean outline. Each word should have a separate layer. I made my logo and text all one layer because I want them to match, then did the tree as a separate layer. If you have a lot of layers, take a look at this tutorial on pasting in place, it’s a HUGE time saver:
Use simple Clipping Masks layered on top of each other to create the textures. Open up the texture scan, copy and paste it into your document, lower the opacity of the new layer so you can move it around to get it in the right spot. Also, NAME your layers, good habits! I like to use Color Balance to get the texture looking good (Image > Adjustments > Color Balance (make sure to adjust the shadows, midtones AND highlights)). Everything is set up and looking good.
MAKE CLIPPING MASK
In Layer panel, make sure the texture layer is on TOP of vector layer, hold the cursor on the line separating the two layers, hold the option key and the cursor will change, click and MAGIC! Now the texture is cleanly inside your vector outline, you can stack texture layers on top and keep adding clipping masks this way. Mess with the opacity, color, and move things around to getting it looking the way you want it.
SAVE the Photoshop file so you can go back to make changes to the layers.
I like to have two copies, one with a transparent background and a flat JPEG. For the transparent background, merge layers (Layer > Merge Visible) and save: File > Export as PNG.
Then, save as a JPEG. When you close Photoshop DON’T save the flattened file. You should have the PSD file saved with all the layers in it. If you did not do this, go back in the History window to before you merged layers and save the PSD file with all the layers.