Last updated on February 18th, 2021
Independent artists are taking up lettering as a promising field to chalk out a career out of it. The demand for beautifully crafted letters as visuals for brand promotion is increasing fast. However, with many artists creating amazing lettering works, they must be well prepared with the right basics. An AMA with lettering expert Peggy Dean helps you understand the nuances of this art form.
Lettering is all about making an alphabet appear beautiful. The artists use decoration skills to give a unique shape to the otherwise ordinary-looking letter. In this way, the letters become an attractive visual so that some inspirational quotes or a promotional statement catches the attention.
But the field of lettering has become extremely competitive due to the entry of hundreds of artists. Most of them are exceptional talent and produce fabulous works. For a budding lettering artist, making a name amid such competition is not easy. However, some fundamentals of creating letters using a letter template design and focusing on art do help new artists stay on the right track and move ahead with confidence.
To help lettering artists, PrintShop by Designhill, the leading creative marketplace, organized an AMA with lettering expert Peggy Dean on 30th March 2020. The AMA was part of the WTF’20, a successful event for artists, that Designhill conducted from 30th March to 1st April.
Peggy Dean is from Portland and she is the best selling author and freelance artist. As the AMA guest speaker, she answered many questions to address most of the issues that worry about new lettering artists. She advised on how to excel in social media and make your content stand out and gave tips on how to keep a consistent design style and get inspiration, etc.
Here Is The Video of The AMA Session With Peggy Dean
Here Is What Peggy Dean Has To Say On Some Crucial Lettering Issues That Worry About The New Artists
Designhill: What advice would you give to the people who are starting their careers in lettering?
Peggy: Having a niche is essential in lettering. But, the niche is not necessarily about style. You can cover many different techniques when you are into lettering, and it will not hurt you as a letterer. But it will hurt if you regurgitate everything else that exists on Instagram, etc. platforms. Googling short quotes to put up is not going to take you anywhere.
So, when you can hone in on something specific, it will significantly impact people following you. For example, sometimes people will focus on a particular subject, niche, or value to build their audience. This is because they insert a bit of organic personality into what they do or say. At the beginning of my career, I googled quotes, and I was trying to find inspirational things to practice. While that is great, it should be considered for practice only. I don’t think it should represent yourself. This is because it will stifle your growth.
Designhill: How can you stand out among so many lettering artists on Instagram?
Peggy: You should hone your skills on what is specific to your bottom line. For example, you have probably seen people who are lettering Bible verses. So, they hone in on that specific area. They build an audience based on that specific area and skill. While their audience might not skyrocket at first, but it demands engagement because people can relate to it. They are following them not just to see pretty lettering but also to see the content behind it.
Social media engagement is way more important than your follower account, considering today’s algorithm. I have such low engagement now because I blew up in the beginning. Therefore, I have to try extra hard to reach people and to have some engagement. But I am also an educator and bounced all over the place. But when you have that niche audience, you can reach them a lot quicker, easier, and directly.
Designhill: How to create relatable work that followers can appreciate?
Peggy: I think anything we say should be genuine and not regurgitated, and it is then relatable. Many people are activists. For instance, I am passionate about animal activism to keep animals free from cruelty. So, I would find a creative way to get that message across in a thought-provoking and educational way. You can put an image online, give a caption, and ask prompting questions.
It would be great if you get answers and engagement due to your questions. But even when you do not get the response, think of your question going out into the universe. It will still make people think, and they will resonate with it or come back later to respond and engage. It happens that when you put out products there online, people do not take action immediately.
First, they see something multiple times and then maybe at some point in time, maybe nighttime, that they feel like they are in this space. They want to connect genuinely, and that is what we are missing so much in the world. So, we should create engaging content.
Designhill: Should we post in a particular style or theme on social media?
Peggy: Many people like to work tangibly and on paper. But people like to see what happens behind the scenes. So, when you take a picture of what you are working on, and your hand happens to be in it or maybe there’s a weird shadow on the top left, people like to see it. If you take a picture and you put it on your Internet, it’s inevitably going to get lost among what you might consider a beautiful color palette. But I have seen people do those as they are finicky about this. That is fine because their feed is gorgeous.
You might have a color palette that you love. Let’s say you have four primary colors, and you have eight accent colors to work with that. So, you have a total of like 30 colors that are like your go-to colors. You can do those in chunks, and then you have to say 12 photos with the undertones of seafoam green and a bright poppy red. Then, it gradually goes into a different color palette. As you move through it by weaving those colors in and out, it will create more of a consistent feed.
Know Your Target Audience
Peggy: But I don’t think that it is important to think like this square is going to be complementary to this square because of this square doing this. That’s my personal preference. The important consideration is who you are targeting here. Are you trying to target other artists who are going to judge you on what your feed looks like in the end? Or, are you trying to target a customer who’s going to be able to keep you in your creative field and then you know, by actually hiring you or purchasing something or supporting you in that way? So that’s why behind the scenes it is cool to see.
Show Your Creative Process
One of the reasons for people liking behind the scenes more is that they connect with it. Also, it shows your talent behind a pretty graphic. But have you ever noticed that when you see those many layers of drafts that somebody has on tracing paper, or the grid layouts, you thought that how much went into creating that final product? Somehow, I like the drafts better because it just shows how much they were into it. It’s like old school animation for Disney when you see the flip-through of them moving, but you see all their face circles, noses, etc. But, I am obsessed with them.
So, whatever you choose, keep that style consistent. If you want to show behind the scenes or multiple colors, then there are ways to formulate it to make sense. And you can thread through them.
Designhill: Where do you find inspiration so that you do not see the same stuff?
Peggy: I will say look inside of yourself. You can sit there and like to do a mind map, like creating your mission statement; this is something I have my members do on my website. When making your mission statement, think of your five core values and intertwine them with X, Y, and Z. For example, I love animals a lot. So, what are the five main reasons that pulled me into that? And, in your case, you might like flowers.
You could do a whole bunch of lettering around quotes on flowers and do flowers. But write down what it is that you love about flowers? What emotions does it evoke? What vibe do you feel when you see them? What may be their meaning matters to you as it may be that you are a total science geek, and you love the flower as per their kingdom, phylum, class, order family genus species?
Do What You Are Interested In
When I first started lettering, the first thing that I did outside of just lettering is I did a whole series of lettering on the flowers. Then, I listed flowers by region, state, country, kingdom, scientific classification, because it was interesting to me and fun. This my effort got me featured on tombs, 25 letters, letters to follow, and somewhere. I went from 1000 up to 4000 followers in a week because I was doing something of my interest.
Breaking down things you care about, and I say this with such passion, where else do you find inspiration? Everyone is looking at Pinterest, the stores, color palettes. While these are excellent sources of inspiration, those are other people’s ideas that you are just regurgitating. Therefore, that is not something that we stretch and resonate for the long run. That is not coming from us. So we don’t have anything to back it until we continue following and looking outside of ourselves.
Designhill: What would say about the best ways to build your audience on Instagram?
Peggy: Use Hashtags
I will say that hashtags are your goldmine. You can use hashtags all day long, and they might get lost in the shuffle. That’s because they’re considered general hashtags. So you have general hashtags. Then you have key phrases that are very topic-oriented hashtags. It is vital to use them if you think they are hideous and don’t want them clogging your feed.
But Instagram will collapse your caption after, like three lines or something. So, do some line breaks, and you don’t have to worry about it cluttering your caption. Or, you can do it in a comment and do your captions after you post, and that is fine too. And It will hide that. But you want to include hashtags.
If you’re doing lettering, you don’t just want hashtag lettering. For example, if you do brush lettering, sign lettering, yes, those are great hashtags to have because they’re going to show up, and people can follow hashtags just like they can follow you. So, that will boost your exposure. Also, it will show up on the Explore feed. I spent a lot of time on explorer feed because of the algorithm, and I see the same things over and over. Not that
If you go to Bitly slash so bit.ly slash WTF Peggy Dean, it will take you directly to a 40-page ebook that I am providing for you guys plus worksheets and the worksheets are broken down into exactly how to find hashtags that are meant for you specifically.
Designhill: How to get out of this artist’s block or a creative slow down?
Peggy: Keep On Learning Something
I happen to love the artist’s block because it brings me back to basics. The artist’s block’s issue goes across any form of art, be it watercolor, drawing, and lettering. What I do is to go to skillshare.com, you can take classes on special effects or things like that, something that you might not know. And even when you do take classes on things that you think there is always something to learn. And I love learning little techniques or even just like something to increase productivity in your workflow. So you might find a little trick here and there.
The second thing I do to tackle the artist’s block is swatching, which can be with watercolor and paint. Doing stuff like that makes sense because you are sitting there and swatching. You could pick two colors and see how they blend and then change the shape of your swatch. It’s just putting it on paper. So, my favorite way to do this with lettering is to go down the alphabet with names.
I would start with the first name that popped in my head with each letter of the alphabet, and I would letter it like Abigail, Bobby, Christina, Deidre, Elizabeth, Frank, whatever came up first. I also found myself challenged because there were like capitals that I didn’t necessarily practice too much. So, when I got stuck, and I didn’t like it, I was able to revisit that.
Do Some Thumbnail Sketching
One of my favorite things to do when I am stuck is thumbnail sketching because I am impatient. But thumbnail sketching is so good that I recently did a live workshop. Just draw out on a piece of paper and do four to six different rectangles, and then inside of it, think of a short phrase. It might look stupid, but that is for practice. You can google shorter-phrase, or get more creative.
For instance, everyone is doing all these posts about washing your hands. But when I washed my hands this morning, I thought I was focused on the backs of my hands like I go as if it’s lotion. So, I thought, what about lettering something that says, wash your fingers? Well, I know you need to wash your hands and not just your fingers. But my point is people also need to focus on their fingers.
Coming back to thumbnail sketches, if you were to write the letter’ wash your fingers’, and you did it all evenly, then that might look great. But what if you want to draw attention to one or two words so that you could have fingers as the focus? So, I say you should draw because the lettering is drawing, not writing your main word. Then the others accompany it. Do that a couple of times and see how things start changing on your thumbnail sketches on each block. And you don’t have to make this fancy. This is just with a pencil and a sketch to see how it lays out.
Then, you might surprise yourself. But such thumbnail sketching pushes you to get a little more creative with a phrase that you thought was just kind of annoying. So, it is a bit creative block exercise there.
These are the crucial pieces of advice that Peggy Dean has to share with the lettering community. With these basics but essential tips in mind, you can surely boost your lettering career.
The lettering artists can start practicing their art right away with the above tips. They should also consider starting their shop on PrintShop, a creative platform owned by Designhill. You can create letters and sell them at attractive prices to earn decent money regularly.
Lettering and typography are exciting creative fields, but you need to keep in mind some crucial tips to be on the right track. The lettering expert Peggy Dean advises to know the target audience and show your creative process. She says that you should look inside to get inspiration, use hashtags carefully, and keep on learning something new in this field.