Hi, ya’ll! It’s been a while since I’ve had a chance to post a new blog post here, but LOTS has been happening BTS! I had a baby last June, and he turned one last month! And I can’t forget that… I’m on the Tombow USA 2019 Design Team! It has been such an amazing experience, and has made me love the company even more! (Is that possible??) Anyway, on to the point of this post: compositions.
One of my favorite ways to gauge my progress is to recreate an old piece. This can be really hard if you don’t know where to start though! So here are 5 steps to creating better compositions and improving your lettering.
Please note, this post contains affiliate links. If you click on them and make a purchase, I may make a small commission, at no additional cost to you. You know, so I can buy more art supplies and paper and stuff!
STEP 1: THUMBNAILS
First, DO NOT look at your old piece. Write down the words somewhere in regular handwriting and start by quickly sketching out thumbnails. Think of this as gesture drawing for lettering, and quickly draw several small, loose sketches. I try to create at least four thumbnails of a new piece. This helps me to push past my initial idea and find some really creative compositions.
sTEP 2: FULL SIZE SKETCHES
Once you choose a thumbnail, it’s time to draw it to scale. I use a plain ole college ruled notebook and my Tombow MONO Graph Mechanical Pencil. The lined notebook helps you to keep the letters aligned and to scale. Plus, it’s a really inexpensive material! During this step you should focus on just enlarging the thumbnail and getting everything to scale.
Step 3: Pencil Trace and Trace Again
Next, take tracing paper and lay it over your full scale composition. Still using your pencil, work and re-work the piece on tracing paper until you are happy with each of the following composition elements:
- Letter spacing
- Downstroke angle
- Letter style
- Flourishing position
STEP 4: INK TRACE
Once you’re happy with the bones of your composition, it’s finally time to pick up that fudenosuke! Add another layer of tracing paper over your final pencil composition and use your fudenosuke brush pen to trace over it. Using the brush pen adds a thickness to the letters, and as a result, you may need to repeat this step several times and adjust spacing as needed.
Pro Tip: To add the color shadow using the Tombow Fudenosuke Brush Pen Colors, I lettered “Rainbow” in black first, and then added the color drop shadow one stroke at a time. After each colored stroke, I used a scratch piece of paper to scribble off any black the pen may have picked up. This makes sure you have a clean color with each stroke!
STEP 5: FINAL COPY
Finally, lay your final inked composition on a light pad and lay a piece of smooth paper over it. Turn the light pad on a trace your final composition on last time to transfer your design onto a good quality paper. And that’s it!
If you use these steps to create better lettering compositions, be sure to tag me @graceannestudio on social media so I can cheer you on! For more lettering tips, check out my post 5 P’s of Brush Calligraphy and Hand Lettering over on Tombow USA’s blog. I cover all the basics you need to get started!