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Brush Lettering: Putting Together a Finished Piece

Lesson 2 of 7

Understand the Elements of Lettering Composition

Laura Worthington

Brush Lettering: Putting Together a Finished Piece

Laura Worthington

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Lesson Info

2. Understand the Elements of Lettering Composition


  Class Trailer
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1 Class Introduction Duration:04:03
3 Create Thumbnails Duration:17:49
4 Move to a Pencil Skeleton Duration:13:38
7 Student Review and Critique Duration:07:45

Lesson Info

Understand the Elements of Lettering Composition

So here's some tips and here's some things that I want you to consider and we have everybody in the audience has chosen some of their phrases that they're going to be working with and so go ahead and feel free to take notes while you're doing this and be thinking about you know how this relates to the phrase that you're going to be working on s o force the first step is to really interpret the quote now I'm gonna be using and I'll flipped it real quickly I did this as you know my example project this is creative lives new expression there, their tag line, their slogan whatever you want to call it there is a creator and all of us and I thought that is just a really powerful statement and I really, really liked it it was some something that was brought up to me and well, you could use this but maybe you wanted to do something and I said, no, no, no stop the press let's use there is creator and all this is fabulous. So when I was working on this here's, you know one thing that I had to re...

ally consider, you know, interpreting the quote what does this mean there's a creator and all of us, while we can take the word creator and we can think of like what does this word creator mean that is the one word that has one of the most power the most powerful out of all of that and you know we can look at the word creator say for example is being omnipotence on missions is that the type of creator that we're looking at are we looking at creator as far as you know inspiration and liveliness and you know fanciful you know there's so many different ways that we can approach it so really interpreting your quote you know think of it word by word what do each of these words mean are these powerful words are they important words are they support words are the words that are just you know kind of like to bring the phrase together do your research you know take a look at what's been done before as far as you know how other people have approached maybe similar phrases their expressions on what you want to really convey you know start to compile a little bit of like a visual library we have a resource guide that's provided in one of your bonuses that shows all of the different I have tons of different websites that you can take a look at where you can look at really excellent design composition and start to compile that you know start tio pulled together a library of images and compositions and anything that you can think of that help support your phrase determine hierarchy so now when I was thinking about there's a creator and all of us you know I started making a list I said I'm going to work with this and thirds primary to secondary and tertiary and importance of hierarchy what is my most important word creator I was kind of an obvious one test but then I also thought to myself the word all it's also a really powerful word you know there's a creator in all of us and really emphasizing the fact that we all have an element of creativity ongoing the other words you know that you know there's a you know in in us you know those air more of like my tertiary words so I thought of it in two ways I thought I could deal with this phrase in three parts you know my primary word being you know their creator my secondary words being all and then the third you know the tertiary part is you know all of those other words or I could break this into two parts and I thought maybe I'll work with this as creative being the primary word and all and I'll give them equal importance now you know in terms of hierarchy is something that I want you to think about is that you know and as you're separating this out you probably don't want to go with more than like five levels of importance to is kind of the minimum you know if you have like one level then it's kind of like it's kind of like going teo you know watching a play and you don't have a standout actor everybody has equal rules you can't hear anybody it's just a bunch of noise in the room but as soon as you have that one person who stands up and speak you can hear what they have to say and then you have the supporting actress and then you have the rest of the cast this is how it's a really good way for you to start thinking about determining hierarchy and in the words that you're dealing with so some composition tips I love to start out with you know once I've got a lot of this stuff put together I like to create a color palette so on the very first things that I like to dio so you know you can go online and there's tons of different aps and different ways that you can get together a color palette people have pre made many of them that you can just simply download but color you know starting to figure out what that color is going to be throughout your composition is a really good way to help really you know bring together you know all of the stuff and it starts to help you think through the next steps sketch thumbnails and we'll be doing this in this course I can't even begin to tell you how important thumbnails are and the one thing I'd like to really in part with using thumbnails sketching them out is to make them quick to make them small they don't have to be perfect really honestly quantity is more important than quality in the beginning you look at it it's like it's a brainstorm nothing is wrong you're just dumping your brain all of its gray matter you're pulling it out of your ear and letting it pile up on the table like it's you know bit of intestine you're getting it all out you know you're not judging anything and you know as you start working later through the thumbnail process you can start to kind of scale back and start teo you know get rid of some things that aren't working but this is really the opportunity with thumbnails to just really fully explore a concept to its fullest extent you know some other things that you can try try working with it in a container shape or frame this becomes very critical if you're working with a piece of paper that you say you're going to be creating an original piece and someone has actually given you like this gorgeous piece of paper it's a square piece of watercolor paper it's supposed to go on probably good for you to start working within a square but you know you could also think to yourself well maybe I want to do something really in tripping and make this thumbnail the shape of an oval and said everything inside of a noble or you know if your kids see a heart you know maybe you start to draw frames with within you know like so you have your box and you start to draw frames and lines within that box where all the words they're going to set start exploring with how the letters interact with each other so this is kind of taking another set past the thumbnail process it could be part of the thumbnail process although I usually recommend it being a secondary step start to sketch out those letters in the in the layout that you're that you're leaning towards and see how they interact with each other do we have letters that could turn into ligatures do we have a place with some of those letters that maybe could have some flourishes axis structural element you know how did these letters work together you'll start to see a lot more possibilities come to life as you start exploring letter forms consider paring contrast ing lettering styles you know we we want tio you know take a look at more than just one style may be what we're doing is working with a sand saref that's really narrowing condensed with there really broad wide open script there's a lot of different possibilities and one thing that I really want to drive home with this is that you either want letter forms and styles to be identical to one another or you want them to vastly contrast but if they're too similar in there to close it just kind of starts look like a mistake so really be thinking in terms of strong contrast if you're struggling with what to dio go with the theme you know maybe the theme is a fairy tale or the theme is french bakery or either there's tons of different things that you can go with that really right they're starting out with the theme kind of makes everything easy because it sort of sets the stage it's like if I'm going to go with french bakery then I already know kind of what the lettering is going to look like I know what the you know the elements will be the colors you know all of this stuff has sort of been somewhat pre decided for us it really makes the job a little easier it's nice little shortcut eso consider the flow of the design and its cohesiveness so making sure that you know if you have design elements and there you're repeating them throughout so that there's a sense of cohesion within the divine choosing a focal point this goes back to hierarchy what is your primary word going to be that is that is the word maybe that you want to start working around and that you want people to really poland to remember the analogy of being an actor on the stage we need to know who is the primary actor who do we pay attention to first and who do we look at second third s o go beyond the letters you can design complementary illustrations are icons and repeat them throughout parts of different stuff that you can do with this to just really bring a composition together so with all of these things you know be thinking about this and how this is going to affect your design so now we're going to work on kind of setting the stage so getting started and so we talked about this determined hierarchy tone and style so we have some of the different expressions that we're going to be working with I got a list from everybody in this class and I'd like to talk about these a little bit you know and how we can think about this in terms of hierarchy tone and style so I like this one you can do anything but not everything so you know to me I look at that and I say we have a situation where to me I would look at this in terms of hierarchy and say there's two main pieces here anything and everything and those to me would need to play about the same role s o you know you can do anything but not everything and so we really just have to levels there that I would work with and tone you know I think that you know really bringing across the words anything and everything those air naturally really powerful words because their absolutes you know they're they're always and never anything and everything and you know this there's just really strong and there's a lot that you can draw from that style wanting to leave that up to john that's his call I'm not going to give away too much okay so everything you can imagine israel so I'm looking at that you know that's this is kind of a tough one because we really have three main words that we could work with everything imagine and real and so I think what's really going to be interesting about this is you know how you're going to want to actually play that out you know which one is going to be the most important to you imagine can really kind of lead the show is what this is going to look like you know really can also be you know something that leads it in a different direction lay all has if not now when and this is a nice and short one and to me you know when has a question mark after that so you know it's something that we forget about sometimes of punctuation and how punctuation can really play an important role in the design and the elements at this and so to me you know if not now when question mark I think that question mark to me would actually have a really important role in that let's see have a grateful heart always so this is interesting it's got the word heart in it and I love heart girly girl like that so you we could actually consider you know like maybe making this into like a heart shape you know have a grateful heart always and using something that kind of plays into that word c to imagine you matt to imagine you imagining me this is my salvation that's lovely to imagine you imagining me so this is going to be interesting because you know having two words imagine and imagining I think it's farce composition goes you want to actually put some separation between those two so they don't start really you know conflicting with each other but you know but the repetition part is good and to me this means that maybe might want to consider some repetitive elements that go in that to make that work to write is express is to express your highest and brightest smile right on so this's one that's there's kind of like two different sections you know we have to write us to express your highest and brightest smile pause it's almost like another phrase or another sentence right on and so I look at that right on that's a totally different element and that could also be that could kind of be designed is like its own little like design element in there you know what's interesting one on and then kenneth which is really great and I actually started singing this I'm sorry that you all missed that I know you're just absolutely devastated to miss hearing me saying viva la vida so you know what this is another one where you know we have repetition within the words vita vita and then we have the two you know exclamation points and so you know there's a lot that you can do with that you know making the exclamation points into a really important design element within that

Class Description

Be sure to check out our other Brush Lettering classes on Brush Lettering Basics and Flourishes & Ornamentation.  

Lay out and create different brush-lettered words, and combine them into a cohesive, attractive whole. You’ll explore different layout variations for your compositions, and begin to practice your letter with an eye to creating compositions. In this class, type designer Laura Worthington will cover:

  • How to plan the layout and create thumbnails
  • The pencil skeleton as a basis for lettering in a composition
  • Reworking and refinning your final piece
At the end of this class, you will learn how to put together a composition of words in a variety of shapes and styles. Create polished compositions that you can add to your portfolio or hang on a wall.  



I was fortunate to be in this class live and I am so glad I own it! I have gone on to buy more brush pens and continue to practice (relax :) ) on my own. She is thorough and engaging. I feel like I learn a new gem each time I watch it!.


Laura Worthington is one of the best calligraphers I follow. She is an excellent teacher and I enjoyed this class very much. It allowed me to know her "in person". She teacher her tallets and allow students to follow their own style.