Last updated on November 23rd, 2022
The art of hand lettering is flourishing since many clients find it useful in marketing their brand with a substantial impact. But the letterers find it challenging to start in this field. Once they have mastered the art, they confront issues associated with building a business out of their skills. They need proper guidance not only to start developing their skills but also to turn it into a livelihood.
Hand lettering is an art that we can spot everywhere on a wide range of things, such as greeting cards and walls. The lettering is all about illustrating letters just like you illustrate an object. Although there are no strict rules in this art to follow, you should still ensure that the letters are readable after you illustrate them. The elements of balance, structure, and composition are also considered in hand lettering.
You can notice the right amount of space between the letters in hand lettering. This space gives freedom to the letterer to illustrate it. While hand lettering seems to be an easy art, it requires proper training, education, and practice to master. You have to start by learning the basics and then gradually move up the ladder to ultimately become a master of the craft.
To guide the hand lettering artists on several aspects of creating unique lettering works and selling them, PrintShop by Designhill organized an AMA (Ask Me Anything) session on October 10, 2019, to address the issue.
The guest speaker was hand lettering expert from Italy — Nicola Canarecci. He has over 10 years of experience in creating graffiti, calligraphy, typography, and lettering. He also works as a freelance graphic designer.
Here Are The Tips He Shared, Responding To The Queries From The Community
Q1. What is your process of designing a piece?
I like to experiment with what I like about calligraphy and typography. I never thought of writing a book or doing a workshop. Instead, when there is a piece of work that is interesting and inspiring, I work on it and include those color combinations and other elements in my work as well. I have a list of words on my phone. Whenever I wish to do a lettering work on a piece of paper, I choose a word from the list.
Q2. How did you start selling your artwork?
First, let me clarify that I do not like to sell my original hand lettering artworks or graphic design services, as they are entirely personal. After all, I choose the words, colors, etc., and put them on the paper. But some clients ask me to do a particular piece of work for them. For example, they want me to create something for their birthdays or marriages. So, in that case, the letters, numbers, colors, etc. are their choice, and I only design.
As far as selling my own work and building a business is concerned, I try to sell its copies instead. Another reason for not selling the original work is that it is very costly for clients as I put a lot of time into it. Therefore, selling a copy of the work is a better alternative.
Q3. Which platform do you prefer to sell artwork?
I find Instagram a better platform for me to sell my piece of artwork. When it comes to adopting a trick to sell from this social platform, the first thing to keep in mind is to not to think of selling. I create art for my pleasure and not from the selling point of view.
I just display my artwork on Instagram. When some client sees those works, they think that I can do their logo work or other such designs well. So, the only tip I can give is to create exciting and unique art. You should try to create art in varying styles so that more clients can come to you for work.
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Q4. What are the professional tools to create lettering?
Well, the basic hand lettering tools are a pencil and an eraser. You should use brushes then. I use a wide range of brushes, including flat and round brushes. When it comes to using paints, I use everything, including acrylic. Recently, I started using washout paints as well, which are specially made for sign painting. For black and white lettering works, I use simple pens. For calligraphy, I use special pens to create a Gothic style of lettering.
Also, I do not use iPads for lettering. I think an iPad should be used for the lettering only after you have mastered the art on paper.
Q5. What would you suggest to beginners in this industry?
I know that the little bit of graphic designing and calligraphy that I did in my initial years helps me a lot today in building a business. This is because, especially in calligraphy, when you design a letter or write it using a letter template, you must know the size, space, black and white, the negative space, and such other aspects of the letter. These are the base of the letters in my works.
Therefore, if someone wants to enter this world of designing letters for building a business, then a little bit of knowledge of calligraphy is a must. It helps in knowing the structure of the letter, the difference between upper case and lower case, and so on.
Q6. How to improve lettering design?
I think you will improve lettering as you gain more experience over the years. First, start designing letters in a simple way. Then, work on its aspects such as shadows, etc. gradually. You should be practicing a lot to remove the flaws that you spot with the experience.
Q7. How does a font matter for an artwork?
In the beginning, you should start creating simple letters. You should understand the fine points of designing a letter. With the experience, you can elaborate on a letter. When I design a letter, I work on its inside and outside areas.
So, I may put a shadow outside of the letter and some elements inside for impression. If the font has no space between the letters, it is impossible to work in a tiny space. So, it is better to choose fonts that are simple and big, with enough space between the letters. Then, you can add colors, shades, shadows, etc. to the letters.
Q8. How to choose colors for your artwork?
I will say that beginners should start with simple letters in black and white. After that, you can do complicated sketches. As far as colors are concerned, I still make mistakes when choosing a color combination despite so much experience. Sometimes, the contrast is not a good one. I shop for color papers and then use some software to find out which colors are the best.
For example, if I want to work on a yellow background, then the color of choice should not be white or any other lighter color. It must be a darker one. But sometimes, I chose the background color while working on letters. In that case, I try to make letters appear clearly despite the colors of letters and background being almost the same. Note that colors are important for any design work, including logo design.
Q9. How should one proceed when starting a business in this industry?
In today’s era of digital and social media, the best option that I can choose is to prepare a portfolio with different artworks and styles to building a business. Since you would like to work with various clients, include all types of lettering styles in your portfolio. The more you give out to your social media followers and build a brand identity, the more are chances of getting the work from clients.
Q10. Is good handwriting essential for calligraphy?
My handwriting is one of the worst. It is such worst that even I cannot understand what I wrote when I want to read it after a few days. But I do calligraphy as well. So, I disagree with this notion that you should have good handwriting to become a great calligraphy artist.
When you write something in a hurry, your handwriting may not be clear. But at the time of creating a piece of design — typography or calligraphy — you are focused on the job.
Q11. What are the upcoming trends in typography and lettering?
I think that there are no trends in this kind of art or work. This is because when you do artwork, you like to do it. The only thing I can say about the trend is that you may choose the subject of the work and listen to what is going around regarding the work in that period.
For example, sometime back, a picture of an egg on Instagram was trending. I also was inspired by that picture, thinking about how social media creates such trends. I tried to create something from that inspiration, though it was not worth noting.
So, all you can do in the field of lettering and typography to building a business is just to take note of what is popular on social media from hashtags and events. You can be inspired by them and use those popular designs or any art in your work. Make your mind crystal clear that there are no trends in this area, as are in graphic design.
Q12. What is your favorite and least favorite letter to draw?
I don’t have any favorite letters that I love to do. But there are a couple of letters that I draw a lot because they are the first letter of my name that is ‘N,’ and the street, that is ‘C.’ Generally, I like to draw much-complicated letters like — ‘r,’ ‘w,’ and ‘m.’ I also want to design ‘&’ as it has some curves and rounds.
These are the suggestions that Nicola Canarecci gave to the letterers community. Pay heed to the tips he shared for the steady growth of your career in this field.
Lettering is an art of giving the letters a unique and impressive shape and look. But many letterers do not know how to start well in this field of art and building a business to turn it into a lucrative career. Nicola Cannarecci shared his experience while answering the queries of the letterers community. He emphasized on practicing the art a lot and then using social media and other platforms to acquire more work.