November 13, 2018

Tips and tricks for vectorizing your lettering

Digitizing your type is something that shouldn't be neglected or done half heartedly.

Creating vector handles and adjusting them over and over may look like a boring and tedious task but it is not, you will find joy and satisfaction when your piece slowly comes together.

The success of digitizing lettering depends only on two things, where you place your anchor points and how you place your vector handles, below are some of the most helpful tips and tricks that I discovered along my journey of vectorizing type.

Extremum points

Extremum or Beziers points are points that are either vertical or horizontal. Try to always create your points at the extreme of your curves, naturally they will be either horizontal or vertical, this technique gives you a lot of control over your curves.

Note that some complex curves can't be drawn by a succession of horizontal and vertical handles, you have to break the rule in that context.


Beziers handles

Less points

If you can delete an anchor point and manage to maintain the same curve, that point is not essential, therefore you should delete it.

Keeping only the essential points is a must to have greater control over your curves.

Left: Only the essential points. Right: More points that are not essential.

Use Open Corners

A good trick that will save you a lot of time and hassle is to work with open corners, you will have more control over your curves and those tricky points that make the intersection of two shapes will be created easily and naturally.

Why use open corners and how to use them.

Be patient

Be patient, digitizing a piece of type takes a lot of time and energy, you will certainly make a lot of adjustments after digitizing your sketch. Don't rush the process, you don't want to come back to your published work and finally notice many inconsistencies. Take your time, go back and forth on your draft, and refine it until it's polished, make your work age like a fine wine.

It is all about making things look right

When making adjustments, always make to sure that what you have at the end looks right. You will find many optical illusions and you will need to optically adjust them in order to accomplish the right look.

What you see on your paper will not look the same as on your screen, be prepared to make the right refinements.


There isn't a better way of learning than practicing, you will learn more by trial and error, experiment, try all the possibilities and see where it leads you, don't be too rigid, rules are only good when applied in the appropriate context.

Play the Beziers Game and the Shape Type Game

Relevant Readings

November 12, 2018

Typography Secrets

Optical balance

When you start designing letterforms without any typographical knowledge, the obvious to way to go about things is to align everything the same way, make everything "perfect", but then you end up with something that is not balanced.

The example below summarize this perfectly, every element that you introduces into your design is different, this new element will influence the overall design and will also change your perception on the existing elements.

The square and circle have different forms, the difference between them is that the circle leaves more white space thus it makes the circle looks smaller compared to the square if not adjusted optically

Mathematically adjusted shapes

Optically adjusted shapes


The space within letters should be equal to the space between the letters

Spacing is one of the most important things in typography, you can have the most beautiful letters in the world but if they are poorly spaced, your design will look very amateurish.

Spacing shares the same principle of optical balance, instead of making things right you need to make things look right. Spacing your type mathematically will give you poor results, instead space optically which means making the space within letters the same as the space between letters.

Tip: When you space letters, instead of thinking about the space between the letters, think about the volume between them and make it equal (imagine there is air or water between the letters).


Geomtric type is not geometric

While geometric typefaces are called geometric, if you dig a little deeper you will find that they are not perfectly geometric, and this is fine because if they were they would not look bad.

Below are two circles, a perfect one, and an adjusted one, the one on the left looks better because of optical adjustments altough it is not a perfect circle, this is due to an optical illusion.

When you have two bars, one horizontal and the other one vertical with the same weight, the horizontal one will look heavier compared to the vertical one.



Left: Adjusted circle. Right: Perfect circle.

When you have two bars, one horizontal and the other one vertical with the same weight, the horizontal one will look heavier compared to the vertical one. Think of people who are tall and fat, they are still fat but they look less fat than people who are short and fat.

There is another illusion, if two strokes intersect they will create a surplus of black, thus you have to make one stroke a bit thinner than the other to balance everything out.


Left: The strokes have the same thickness. Right: Adjusted horizontal stroke.

Anatomy of typography

Letters are just like humans, they have an anatomy, knowing the anatomy of typography will help you understand how each letter is built and how each part influence your design, you can then play with these small elements to create a whole letter.

More detailed article can be found here: The Anatomy of Typography 


Italics are not perfectly slanted

Longer forms need to slant less than short forms in order to give the appearance of a consistent slant.

True italics give the appearance of having the same slant, this is what is not recommended to slant a regular font, the slant angle of letters will appear inconsistent, even though it is.

The letters 'f' and 'd' have less slant than the other short letterforms.

It's all black and white

In the end of the day, typography is all about black and white space, you have a white canvas and you paint with black.

You decide how much you add and how much substract, your negative space will influence your positive space and vice versa. It is that simple and this what will make or break your design.

Tip: Work in black and white first, it will help you criticize your work and will keep you focused on the form of your design.



October 13, 2017

Lettering, Calligraphy and Typography. What’s the difference?

Imagine you want a potato but you ask for a tomato, how would you feel? Lettering, Calligraphy, and Typography. These terms are usually used interchangeably, but if you look closer they are not the same, whether you are a designer or not it's very important to understand the subtleties of each term.

Calligraphy is the art of writing by hand, the calligrapher has to develop this skill through constant practice to develop muscle memory and this usually takes a lot of discipline, practice and time.

Since we are visual creatures, here is a beautiful video by Matthew Vergotis where he is creating amazing calligraphy pieces.

Lettering is the art of drawing, the letterer creates custom artwork that is intended for one configuration only, either a word or a piece. The main focus is only on this one composition of letters, the letterer can either start from scratch using a pencil or using different tools (pens, brushes etc.) to start with then, later on, tweak or redraw the artwork depending on his needs.

Lettering by Tyrsa

By Tyrsa "Alexis Taïeb"

Lettering by Tyrsa, Doyald Young, Jessica Hische

By Tyrsa "Alexis Taïeb", Doyald Young and Jessica Hische.

Typography is the art of arranging and laying out type, it's what you see now and every day on your screen.
Designing type is very time-consuming, type designers work in a system where there is a lot of constraints and a ton of refinements to do, some typefaces take years before being released commercially.
Another thing to know, type designers create typography, while graphic designers use that typography in their design work.


In a nutshell
It's important to know the differences between lettering, calligraphy, and typography. You have to know what you are talking about when interacting with other people and share the knowledge if there is a confusion.
Calligraphy is "writing".
Lettering is "drawing".
Typography is setting type.

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