Revise and Refine with a Pencil Skeleton


Brush Lettering: Flourishes & Ornamentation


Lesson Info

Revise and Refine with a Pencil Skeleton

So what I want you to dio is go ahead and take a new piece of paper and I want you to start out with a real basic pencil skeleton and let me show you kind of what this is here so you're you're all kind of going what the heck is a pencil skeleton so you could do a couple of just quick little thumbnails, you know, to kind of just sketch out different ideas for your flourishes but here's what I did remember how well, you know, I decided to use my last name because there's a lot more stuff going on with worthington than there is with laura so here's my basic, you know, pencil skeleton of worthington just done and it's it's basic body and then I tried a couple different things with it and, you know, I would recommend doing this on all one sheet of paper you don't necessarily have to use a bunch of different sheets. I just simply went through and said, ok, you know, like, you know, it goes from here tio like, oh, I could add some flourishes in here and you should concede I tried toe out I tr...

ied to repeat some of these design elements that has a little bit more of a cohesive look when you do that, so I just went with simple little, you know, curves this one is even more simplistic but she can feel like the length and the size of that squash that I created in the h how's a similar size and style to that in a g this I really went to town really went crazy so this right we're going to be doing with it the purpose of these pencil skeletons is I want youto letter these at about the same size as the way that you would use your brush lettering so when you're drawing your pencil skeleton make it about the same size is your brush lettering size you typically make your brush waterings you know your letters about an inch I do the same thing with pencil skeleton because what you're going to do is go over the top of this with your brush and make sure this is absolutely critical when you're planning and you're doing a pencil skeleton is that you really want to make sure that you have plenty of room between those letters it should feel like an uncomfortable amount and then you know you're doing it right because the brush is much much much thicker in the pencil and here's something I find that happens is that people write it really close together and then they run out of space so really like push yourself and go you know beat kind of thinking to yourself how thicker those brush strokes going to be I'm going to need a lot of room here and in fact the way that I even drew this pencil skeleton I probably didn't draw them far apart enough but it's it's a good way for you to plan and get started you know with working in these flourishes rather than me just saying it just dropped straight up but go ahead and feel free to do both you know use this pencil skeleton and then absolutely feel free teo you know to go ahead and just do a free form one so letter your name and of course we would love to see some of the stuff come through online and while you're doing that I'm going to talk to a little bit about revising and refining your work you know where coming a little bit closer here so you know there's several different ways that we can do this you can take tracing paper over the top of your lettering and you know kind of copy those forms shift the tracing paper if you start to run out of room and that really gives you a chance to correct and refine your lettering I'm gonna come around here and see how everyone is doing when we've got some cool stuff to put up on the board here yes I just go around swiping everyone's were oh oh look at this that looks awesome doesn't love it see yes that is a really good size for a pencil skeleton that's perfect actually can I show that one real quick I want to give you guys an idea of how how big you really need to go this is actually pretty good size for a pencil skeleton and she'll have a pretty easy time lettering that one up very nice so I'm actually wondering if you could show us sort of from start to finish whether it's with worthington or another name how you do do the pencil sketched the pencil skeleton I know we saw it upon the keynote but like for example I start and then I'm not sure like way actually teo you want to show us through the way walk through the process here in great need full oh here you can use my thank you that I had when I probably d'oh it's hidden underneath all the pieces paper up here this desk looks like my messy desk at home o c look yeah all right I give this one back tio thank you people ask me that all the time you know like how messy it your desk at home and it's like well it goes your faces fortunately I'm organized enough that I can clean up a complete disaster within a matter of minutes but while I'm working everything is everywhere all right so let's dio and it was emily had that had the really good question wasn't it I'm going to do emily its name because I really like her already just good questions all right so you know what I'm doing this I tend to dio you know I just want to do this kind of the sketchy a thing and I highly recommend you guys give us a try you know it's funny my very first art director that I worked with her name was molly and she used to sketch this way and it used to try me crazy because she was so messy you know and and and I had a thing about being really neat and clean but she explained to me you know she's like well I'm trying to really get the shapes and the forms correct you know what what I really want to do is you know when I sit down and do this you know I wanted tio look right so the purpose of you know going over this time and time again is decides developing muscle memory this also gives you a chance to make decisions you know so I want to like maybe you know make this part a little bit rounder and bigger maybe I wantto actually come down here make this part a little bit larger so I can't really messy with us and that's totally fine then I'm gonna start coming over here so one thing I really recommend is not to be too precious with your pencil skeletons your your thumbnails these are things we're going to get must stop so don't devote too much time and energy I mean this you know going over it you know time and time again that time well spent but trying to really not like go through and clean it up in a race stuff just don't even bother start here because now I can decide now have some and this is another reason for drawing this you know drawing this out just the bodies of the words is that I can look at how these letters start to interact with one another you know I can say like ok so we've got this ellen this why that's kind of interesting I mean what can I do here you know and I've got this really gracious huge you know maybe I can take this emily I'm in a match like this curve to that part of the curve here so the nice cohesive look uncle do something up above like this may be you know across this l over and there maybe even come down like this we have kind of an interesting arc maybe all you know let's start up a little bit there I like that and then again you know first of embellishments maybe I'll add kind of another stroke that comes down this way maybe add a little bit in there and well actually extend out this e so it kind of has a similar sort of mimic to the rest of this stuff that's going on all right so now that I've got that we'll show teo you get you all out here take a look at what I've done now I'm gonna actually letter this bad boy and so when I go to first letter the pencil skeleton I'm not expecting it to be awesome unusually actually gonna use this was the basis to put another piece of paper on the top of that and then doing even better chop of flattering but let's go ahead into this and you know it's funny it's like you're still making decisions even as you're doing something that's just a little bit different here she couldn't see I decided to make that a little bit smaller thanks there we go and this is now a good opportunity for me to put a sheet of paper over it you can use on you know a lot of paper is light enough that you can just you know use whatever you want you can use light boxes to do this tracing paper so this is going to be you know how I'm going to revise this I'm just gonna go ahead and use this paper here and I got a lot of ink all over my hands this is why we're a lot of black you know one thing that's really nice about this pen tell inking about sumi ink in general that I found don't quote me on this but I found that the majority of it does not stay in your clothes and does not stick on material and I actually had a tragic experience with having sumi ink explode all over my suitcase when I was traveling to do a workshop the entire everything was clean my entire suitcase got clean all my clothes I was yeah but you know you can count on me to lives dropped break spill forget just about anything all right so back to this is my little idea of revising and refining so I could actually go over this this lettering with you know I could actually trace it with pencil toe really tightly revise it and refine it or just do it one more time with brush teo get a little bit better at it I am going to use it with brush but I recommends we have some tracing paper over on that table over there so if you guys want to revise your lettering by just simply is in tracing paper go for it I'm actually gonna skip a little part this a top part of this for now because still wet just gonna do this finished oh you bet sorry since I start lettering it's like you get into the flakes and like mode all right so here we go with my you know I'm just about finished with this practice of emily and kind of going through my revising and refining I actually recommend that you spend quite a bit of time on this process right here I mean if this if this were me lettering this for you know professional project I would actually do this several times and one way that I would probably handle it is I would probably letter it maybe ten to twenty times and I would either oh yeah over and over again and then and here's a little tricky thing if it doesn't have to be an original piece which is unusual we don't always have to have originals what I'll do a lot of times is take like I'll take and scan in all twenty of those pages and then with my last so tool and photo shop I will like go over and find the perfect like you were the perfect m you were the perfect l and then I merge all of those together and put them into one piece and printed on that I've got the perfect looking lettering and you know I used to think that that was kind of cheating and then when I got into more commercial lettering and talk to other lettering artist I found but that is incredibly common I mean in fact a lot of them will actually you know instead of doing the scanning it in and piecing it together and photo shop another option that you can dio is you can actually take tracing paper and you know light box and take out you know little scissors we have some scissors and paste over here and you could cut out your favorite letters pasted together on one she you know and you could you know like scan that sheet in or photocopy that sheet you know go through and clean it up like a pigment marker of course you can clean up things in photo shop you know with the brush in a racer tool you can also that after this in illustrator you could just draw directly over the paths and so there's a lot of different options of what you can do to revise and refine your work and that's what really to me makes the whole thing just just very interesting that it never really has to be perfect the first time around and I think that for any of you who you know think that that's how it should be get over it unless you're incredibly experiencing fifty years of experience and lettering it's not gonna happen perfectly the first time it's going to take a lot you know a lot of it orations and here it's going to be unusual for you to have one perfect thing you might have you know like three or twenty different lettering samples you'll find the perfect combination tio monkey together and no one will know your secrets except for me because I told it to you anyway so any questions so far about revising and refining and doing your letters in your words we do have some some pieces that people are submitting from home so we want to see how far so we're just going to take a look at them but how beautiful that people are playing around that's really what it's all about and going through and seeing flourishing the word flourish thiss beautiful wonderful wonderful example of a really consistently done flourish style you know we have the flourishes that she's made they've got the same weight on the strokes there are about the right proportion to the rest of letters they blend in with style you know all of those three different tips that I gave for good lettering this is fabulous you know couple tiny little tweaks that she could make you know kind of opening up the space right here between the eller or the l and o but why should such a minor thing at that point I think it's fabulous yeah let's see if there's another one harding oh that this is a really interesting idea this is kind of an idea of a ligature so she made a ligature between the g and this d n a ligature is a combination of two or more letters that are connected to one another that's really cool definitely

Class Description

Be sure to check out our other Brush Lettering classes on Brush Lettering Basics and Putting Together a Final Piece.  

Lend grace and beauty to your words. Flourishes are an opportunity to loosen your grip and add a bit of personal style to your brush lettering. Join type designer Laura Worthington for this class, and you'll learn:

  • Different styles of flourishes per letter
  • Ligatures as flourishes and how to letter flourishes
  • Adding in ornamentation (similar to flourishes, but not attached to the letters)
Enhance your brush lettering practice, and draw extra attention to your work!  


April S.

I am watching the Brush Lettering courses live. I did quite a bit of lettering years ago and have wanted to start again. It was serendipitous that Laura's classes were being re-broadcast now. I have them playing while I'm at work so I'm not fully focused but I stop and look when something catches my attention. I really like Laura's straightforward, uncomplicated method of teaching. She doesn't hem and haw, her voice is friendly, she speaks and moves confidently and I really just enjoyed listening to the course even when I couldn't watch. I did watch enough to catch some important examples and tips. I would definitely recommend Laura's brush lettering courses for beginners, and I think those with some experience will also get some tips and motivation from the courses.


I think the last time someone said something positive about any piece of "art" I produced, including my handwriting which was a school subject in the 1950's, was about 1962. It has been pretty much downhill from there. Since retiring I have made a commitment to practice these "worthless" skills since I have ignored them my whole life. Watching these classes on Brush Lettering is giving me hope I can actually do this and Laura seems to be an extremely patient instructor who actually loves her work. I've ordered the brushed and paper and such and I'll be purchasing the series of classes as soon as the supplies arrive. I love it, look for me to post my work in the student session when I get an acceptable product completed.

a Creativelive Student

love Laura and the class! Learning so much! Perfect for me to write my own word then scan it into Illustrator and go from there! Excellent!