From Paper to Pixel

It’s true, we use a fair amount of script text in our artwork. The most common question that we get is “What font is that?” More often than not, the answer is: “It’s not a font.”

Sometimes, we’ll get lucky and find a typeface that suits the look we’re going for. Most of the time, however, we find that the look we’re shooting for isn’t attainable with an off-the-shelf typeface. So, here’s what our process looks like for creating script from scratch...

We start with the basics: For this example, a marker (sometimes paint and brush) and a very coarse watercolor paper. You can use pretty much anything. For Amazing Grace we used paint, which gave us a much smoother result. So use some different materials, and your imagination.

First, we get a bunch of variations of the word(s) on a sheet of paper. Don’t settle for just a few... get a dozen or two. We’ve done as many as 60 or more sometimes. The reason is simple: you’ll never get the best on one take. You’ll probably end up piecing together a few of them to get the “right look” for your design.

Select a few that you think are close to what you need... look for individual characters, or character pairings. Sometimes, you might even find most of the word in one piece. We almost always cut a few attempts together to find the winner.

Once you’ve made your selections, get them into Photoshop either by grabbing a pic with your phone, or scanning. Once you’ve got it into these, the fun begins. If you’ve selected a few pieces, it’s time to fit them together into the word(s).

This is also a good time to and tweaks or patches done. We’ve composited them into one word, and done a few nips, tucks and other modifications.

We adjust the overall contrast to get the art to a point that we can start outlining. This is purely a matter of preference. In our case, we like that “rough” or “distressed” look, so we’ll adjust the threshold accordingly. Lastly, suck the color out. Make it black and white (or a very contrasty grayscale).

Next, we jump into Illustrator to start dropping points. Now, there’s a couple of ways you could go here... you could auto trace, or go and manually trace. We prefer the latter. There’s something about making choices along the way as opposed to trying to clean up an auto trace after the fact. Again, it’s a preference... there really isn’t a right or wrong way to go.

Patience is key here. After you’ve got the paths complete, take a hard look at it. Does it “need” anything? Is there something still bothering your eye?

We noticed that the “l” needed a loop, so we added one. Bam. That really helped it.

And here’s the final “before and after.

That’s really about it. It’s not rocket science... you can do this! Hit us up with any questions in the comments!

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Greg Vennerholm
Design Director
Venny serves as the Design Director for Church on the Move. He brings his passion for crisp, clear design to everything he works on at COTM, which includes interactive and print projects. His 25 years in the agency world did not, however, prepare him for the ridiculously fast pace of Church on the Move.