This is the Design Challenge featured in Volume 4 of Lettering Adventures, teaching students how to create their very own card design in vintage 70's script lettering.
Pick a quote and write out your phrase on a new sheet of paper in pencil and underline the words you want to highlight to make bigger and bolder in your piece. By choosing your keywords first, you’re able to create a more dynamic lettering piece v.s. keeping all your words the same size, style, and weight.
I want you to include at least one spot illustration in your card that can give the words in your phrase more meaning. In order to help you think of different kinds of visuals, write a list of 10 different mood words that you think would best represent your phrase.
These words can be ideas for things to draw or feeler words that help you decide on the style for your piece. For my card, I choose “I love you, to the moon and back” so my list of mood words looks like this.
Moon, Night, Stars, Feminine, Mandala, Bold, Vintage, Jewels, and Diamonds.
Now that you have some inspiration, you can jump right into drawing some rough thumbnails so you can play with different layouts for your piece. Try to come up with 5-10 ideas that include just your own hand writing along with some messy doodles. This way, you can focus more on the ideas of your piece than the structure.
Decide on whether you want your card to be portrait or landscape first, then draw out that same art board shape in your thumbs. By looking at my thumbnails, you can see I started with just a basic idea of where I would place the moon and words. Then, through experimentation, I found ways to incorporate more details in the piece to help fill the space more evenly.
PREP & SKELTON
Pick your favorite thumbnail and start drawing on a new sheet of paper. If you’re working 100% traditional with no computer assistance, then I would recommend taking a piece of printer paper and folding it in half to begin working on the cover. You will be redrawing this design several times, so just use the cheap stuff for now. Save the thicker card stock for the final piece.
If you’re using Photoshop like me, and want to have your card professionally printed through Redbubble, then I’d recommend setting your document to 4’x6’ at 300 DPI. I choose to go the Redbubble route so I could send my mom something higher quality while also having my design available to buy in my shop. Two birds, one stone people!
Begin your rough draft by giving yourself at least a half inch margin so you can keep your artwork well within the art board and away from the edges.
Then draw containers for your lettering to go inside of, while also including the basic shapes of any big illustrations you want to add. By thinking of your words as shapes first, you figure out the layout so your artwork can all fit together nicely without worrying about running out of room on your paper.
Then you can begin to add the skeleton of your lettering by drawing lightly with your pencil to get an idea of how each word will fit into each other. Just be mindful to put some extra space between each letter since 70s script is such a wide and thick style.
You might notice that I changed my phrase to include the word “Mom” since the thumbnail phase. This is pretty common when you have a hard time laying out your phrase, so you can slightly change it to give yourself more options in terms of composition. So if you need to make a little adjustment to your phrase to make it easier to work with, then feel free to just go for it.
For my skeleton I choose to use all script where I would use 70’s script for my keywords “Love”, “Mom”, and “Moon” and then use a smaller and simpler monoweight script for the supporting words. For your own piece, I would recommend using 70’s script for your main keywords and another, simpler style of script for the rest, like a basic sans serif, or monoweight script for the rest.
Just like the worksheets, you can begin to add weight to your 70’s script by drawing each letter step by step. Depending on how much room you gave yourself between your letters, you may need to redraw this sketch a few times using a light pad or tracing paper to get it just right.
If you’re working in Photoshop, you can easily scan in your artwork and use the lasso tool to cut out each of your letters for better placement. Then you can print out your design to redraw and fix from there in order to save some time.
Personally, I had to redraw this piece a few times to get my spacing just right. This included having to redraw my guides so all my letters could be on the same axis. I also had to give more breathing room in between my lines so this piece wouldn’t be so cluttered, which made me shave off some weight from my moon in order to make room for all my changes.
Once I had my lettering dialed in, it was time to work on my moon illustration. First, I needed a way to help fill up some of the negative space I had in my piece, so I decided to add some dangly jewelry from my moon to make my card more feminine.
Then I went with a mandala theme for my moon since my mom has this kind of pattern all over the house I grew up in. So when creating your own spot illustration, make
sure that it’s not taking away from your lettering and that you are filling the space evenly on your card.
Also, it’s important to remember this piece is for your mom, not you, so keep her style and interests in mind to make this card extra special for her.
I could have stopped here, but I’m the kind of illustrator that likes to fill every nook and cranny with doodles to give it that wow factor. So I went ahead and added stars, jewels, and dots into the background of my card to really make this piece shine.
If you decide to add these elements to your card, start with the biggest accents first and then add the smaller elements later. Make sure that your elements are evenly spaced in the background so they don’t look random or create any huge eyesores for your design.
You should have your rough draft complete and ready to move to the inking phase. If you’re working traditionally, I would recommend using a nice thick white or cream card stock that you can pick up from your local craft store.
Then, using a ruler, write in little dash marks to indicate where the center of your page is so you can easily fold your card in half. You can score the edge (making it easier to fold) by dragging a sharp edge along the fold line, or you can simply fold your card in half.
You can use a light pad or well lit window to trace your design in ink by placing your card stock over your rough draft. You may want to tape the corners with masking tape to keep it in place, especially if you’re tracing on a window. If you plan to do a lot of this kind of work, I would highly recommend getting yourself a large light pad like the Light Master by US Art Supply I use in my studio.
When inking, take your time and always try to draw towards yourself for more control of the pen. You should work with a fine tip pen for the outline and then use a thicker pen or marker to fill in your letters. Even though you’re tracing, don’t just draw the outside of your letters. In order to keep your lines crisp and your corners sharp continue to ink each letter shape by shape. Then you can fill it in to cover up any crossover lines.
Personally, I drew my piece with an iPad Pro and Apple Pencil using an app called Astropad to screen mirror Photoshop to my tablet to create my card. So I created all my inline graphics and drop shadows digitally at the very end after I had inked my piece.
If you have a tablet, I would recommend doing the same. But, if you’re working traditionally then I would include those elements in your rough draft to then ink on your final card.
I’ve posted my artwork to RedBubble and after just a few days have made over 20 greeting card sales. So please, consider selling your design online in marketplaces like RedBubble and Society6 to make a few bucks off your awesome 70’s style card. I’m excited to see what you make.