My Top 5 Books on Hand Lettering
I'm always asked what books I would recommend for people wanting to learn hand lettering. Here is a list of my top 5 favourite books that I would reach for when needing help with my hand lettering.
1. ABC of Custom Lettering by Ivan Castro
Ivan is a graphic designer and typography teacher who takes the reader through a range of step by step techniques to hand draw a variety of styles. One of the best examples is brush script where he details how to achieve the harmony between the thick downstrokes and thin upstrokes, how to copy a model sheet and it gives you connecting letters together and general tips and tricks of how to get this style nailed. He uses that same formula to look at serif letters and the legibility of that, how to construct them and how to mix it up with different variations. He also does that with sans serif and a suggests tips on how to draw the infamous letter “S”. He looks at formal script and the areas where you can greatly improve your letterforms. He touches on rhythm and structure, from sketch to final logo design as well as an overview of black letter and variations of that. Finally, he focuses on connecting and interlocking type and composition and hierarchy of how to combine different styles, what a poster should look like, and ideas on how angles should look.
2. The Logo Font and Lettering Bible by Leslie Barger
The author takes us through the history of lettering and logos and initially you might think this is a book on vintage type. It touches on Pierre Bezier, the inventor of the Bezier curve. If you ever use the pen tool in Illustrator or Affinity Designer you will be aware of the Bezier curve.
It mentions analogue techniques but most of the book is taken up with digital drawing; how to construct letters, optical variants and how to make letters look weighted correctly. It also covers adobe illustrator basics which can be used for other programmes too. There is a whole section for people who are frustrated with the Bezier Curve and it details how to achieve those curves. There are tweaks to assist you in making the curves more rounded. There is a vast array of information in this book which for a visual person is quite challenging but there are plenty of pictures to aid you.
The book then focuses on other effects with your type such as drop shadows, 3d lettering as well as effects for inside the type, type on a path and how to manually manipulate your type to achieve a curved baseline. There is also a guide about how to make your own typefaces. It uses a programme called Fontographer. The book closes with a business section but be mindful that this book is 14 years old!
3. The Golden Secrets of Lettering by Martina Flor
Martina is an incredibly talented designer and illustrator who is great at breaking down her process into easy to understand instructions and guidelines. She begins by examining the difference between typography and type design click feed lettering which is useful to know. There are several pages dedicated to terminology and the different parts of the letter including basic shapes, optical adjustments, spacing, weight and contrast. It’s not recommended to be read all at once as there is a huge amount of information to be consumed.
She uses the title of the book to demonstrate the process starting with hierarchy and structure, moving to sketch, working with layers, working with tracing paper to refine lettering and then digitally drawing letters on the computer. The author offers useful tips about working with the Bezier curve and also adding colour.
The final section of the book is focused on becoming a professional lettering designer from a business perspective; pricing, creative briefs, promotion, receiving feedback and all the information that you need to consider before starting your lettering business.
Martina also teaches on skillshare:
4. The speedball Textbooks – A Comprehensive Guide to pen and brush lettering (24th Edition) Numerous authors
These books are ideal as they are notebook size, they are easily transported if you want to work remotely. Each of the editions starts with a section on history and tools, Speedball have their own click free tools so these are mentioned. There is a double-page spread on how to perfect certain styles such as black letter, gothic, Italic, copulates script, sans script, brush script. It then looks at spacing, layout design, reproducing your work, envelopes and invitations, greetings cards and business cards to name a few.
The books can often be found in second-hand bookstores.
5. Lettering tips for artists, graphic designers, and calligraphers by Bill Gray
This book is 40 years old but still particularly useful for learning lettering.
It begins with the makeup of each letter and then goes into spacing, tools and construction. The foundation of this book is Roman Capitals and the geometric drawings of those capitals. The book then details formal script and how to create those difficult letters and common errors that people often make. There is a section on decorating letters if that is your interest. The most useful part is sans serif construction, how to draw certain letters and how other letters are made. The design section is not that contemporary now due to the age of the book but is still interesting. One downside is that the book is written in italics and its quite difficult to read in chunks.
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