Designing Monograms


Lesson Info

Background & Samples for Monograms

So we're going to start with this drop cap style and I'm just going to create a new document here by coming up to File and choosing New. And what you enter here, it depends on what you're planning to do with this I suppose, but I tend to just sort of do everything in the 5 by 5 inch world. And because we're going to be working with Type, much of what we're going to be doing will be scalable because it will be vector. So we don't have to worry too much, but I'm just going to make a document that's 5 by 5 inches with 300 pixels per inch, and we'll go ahead and create that. And we have this nice blank canvas now. So I'm going to grab my Type Tool and I'm going to click to just place a single line of type, and I'll just put a character out here, maybe C, and now I'm going to look through my fonts. And in this case when I was building this, I was looking for something with serifs. So that is the little feet that some typefaces have, little feet on the ends, those are called serif typefaces.

And I was looking for something that would be sort of old-fashioned looking. Here's another example of serifs. And I ended up choosing for this little project a font called Odalisque, Odalisque, I'm not sure how you pronounce it. And I think this may be a free font, so I link to this in the course guide. Let's do an A maybe. So it has these nice serifs and it just looks very regal, I guess. And we can scale it to any size because it is a typeface, so we're working with vector information. So something like this and then I grabbed this Floral Bundle or some design assets that I picked up from Creative Market. If you're not familiar with them, they have a lot of great stuff. And as we were talking about the other day, they make Mondays great because they have freebie downloads on Mondays. So you can build your collection pretty easily, starting with those. So we look through here and find some floral pieces that I want to add to this corner of the A over here. So maybe something like this one. Maybe this. I might just pick like a little bundle of...what did I do the other day? There were some fun ones down here like this guy. So I'm going to open these, and they come on transparent backgrounds so that makes it easy, and I'm just going to copy them and paste them in over here, and they end up being just the right size. Now, you'll notice when I pasted this in that it was large. So it's good that it's too big, because you can scale it down. But we wouldn't want to drag it the other way. If it was too small, we'd want to find something else. So I'm just going to layer all these in here and do some rearranging. This is where you get to be a bit of a floral designer. It's kind of fun. When I'm positioning these on the letters, I'm being careful about where I place them so that we can still read the letter. So on some letters if it was like...let's change this to let's say a D. That's kind of a funny D. If I were to put these where I'm blocking parts of the stem on the letters, then it might be hard to read it. If I put this here, this almost looks like a... I don't know, a P or something. So you want to be careful that you're, one, choosing a typeface that's going to lend itself to this, but also the placement of any design elements that you add, you want to make sure you're not detracting from the readability of the letter, obviously. And these then, these flowers that we put in here, they are not going to be vector. So whatever this piece is, we wouldn't be able to scale this up now with the illustrations for a large print use. But I don't know that there's a lot that you would monogram that would be much bigger. So I think we would be fine. We always have to keep that kind of stuff in mind. Then, of course, if we wanted to have some fun with the colors in this, maybe we sample a color from this background from the flower, and maybe we change this up like this. And that could be something fun that you use on a product somewhere or you could put that on your desktop wallpaper or that could be an e-mail signature. It could be your logo or your little avatar icon on Facebook for your business or whatever. And that's super quick and easy. The thing that you want to consider if you were going to try to use something like this, like a logo for example, this would not translate necessarily very well to a logo. Because when you're building a logo, you want to make sure it can easily be reproduced in a lot of different formats, one of which would need to be a black and white, for example. And the flowers here, of course, have color, and you could make them grayscale, but they're going to have a lot of shades and gradients in them. So if you were going to try to do something like this to be a logo, you'd probably want... I think I have a sample here. You'd probably want to do something more like this, where the flowers are just a solid black instead of something with gradients. And that way, it could be reproduced cleaner even in just black and white. Let's take a peek at this other example where we're going to... Let's see. We can just hide all this stuff, I guess. We'll keep this around in case we...I'm going to group all those files. And we'll put this in here in case we have questions that we can come back to that later. So let's take a look at building this reflected part with the double letters, because I think that one was especially fun and visually interesting. So what I was thinking about, how am I going to create this for a person's initials? It really depends. The fonts that you would choose are really going to depend on the initials that you're working with. So when I was trying to come up with what to do here, I happened to have this particular font open in my...with Bernal, it's called Bernal Sans, and I happened to have it open in my Glyphs panel here. So it was open and I was scrolling through it looking at the different letters for some sort of inspiration. You can find inspiration online, of course. Pinterest is full of inspiration. And looking at places like Creative Market and stuff. But a lot of times, too, when you go that route, you're really looking like, "What has everyone done so that I can do something really different?" And in this case, when I'm looking for Type inspiration, sometimes I just open my Glyphs panel, which you can find in Photoshop by going to Window, Glyphs, and I just scroll around through fonts and I'm just looking at different characters. And it can feel like a bit of a crapshoot because, I mean, I have a lot of fonts and it's not like I'm going to sit and scroll through every character of every font to make sure I'm finding the coolest W or M or whatever. But I just happened to have it open and I was scrolling through here, and I saw this W. And first some reason, I noticed it and I liked how the center here, I thought, "That's kind of unique. You don't really see that in Ws very often. And of course, if you mirror a W, if you flip it vertically, then you get an M. And I thought, "Oh, perfect. Well, let's make something for Michelle Williams and we can use an M and a W." So in my case, I got to just do makeup for a fictitious person and play around with whatever I found. But if you, obviously, are making something for yourself, then you have at least a little more direction to know what your initials are and you can look specifically for those characters in different fonts. And if you are using a font manager, for example, I have a font manager called Font Explorer. And it would allow me to go into my fonts and type the characters that I want to see, and then I could see those characters in a bunch of different fonts at once. So a font manager helps you organize your fonts, it helps you manage your fonts. Because once you get into fonts, you might sort of have an explosion in your collection and it can be huge. And so it's tricky when I come over here and I think, "Well, I'm just going to scroll fonts." If I come up here, this list is unusabley long. And really I need to go through and clean this out. This is my cleaned up version right now. So you can see it's kind of... There's a cat font that I have there, look at that. But there is a lot in here and so when I'm trying to find something, one, it's hard to find what I'm looking for and it's just a little overwhelming, So using a font manager can allow you to group your fonts and you can deactivate ones that you don't need and keep this list shorter. It's like having a closet where you have in-season clothes and you can swap your clothes so that you don't have it all in your closet at once, it's sort of that same thing. But it does also make it easier to look for certain characters, and you can make different groups of favorites and that kind of stuff. So that can be really helpful particularly for something like this. But you can also, if you don't have that, you can use your Glyphs panel a little bit to help you find what you're looking for. So I'll go back to this typeface here and we have that W, which I think was...yeah, this is a lower case W. So if I am going to add it to my document, I'm going to click to insert my cursor and I'm just going to double-click the character here to add it. So this is sort of like a virtual keyboard, you can click from here to type into your document, but you do have to have your type active and ready to go. So here we have our W, and then if I duplicate this by pressing CMD/CTRL+J, I'm going to get a copy. And of course, we don't see that yet because it's directly on top of itself. So if I hold SHIFT, I can drag it up. I mean, you could do something cool like this. There's so much fun you can have with this. But I'm going to flip this vertically, so I'll press CMD/CTRL+T, and that's going to put the transformation box around it. And then if I right-click or CTRL+CLICK, I can choose Flip Vertical. Now I get this. So I'll zoom in so we can line this up, and I'm just using my arrow keys to move this around. And I think that looks pretty good. It seems like I need to do a smidge, maybe almost like distort it a smidge, just to make that line up just right. So there we go. Now we have this double diamond situation where these characters are right on top of themselves, but they're still just type. So if I wanted to add color or anything in here, it's not going to be easy to do just yet. So what I would probably do to keep this editable and make it simple is I'm going to select both of the type layers over here. So I'm going to click one and then SHIFT+CLICK or CMD/CTRL+CLICK another so that they're both highlighted. And I'll press CMD/CTRL+J to make a copy of both of them, and then I'm just going to hide two. So I'm going to keep two of them here as my source in case I mess something up or if I'm like, "I need to redo something," or if I decide to scale this and I need to do something like that, I'm going to want to go back to my vector information here. But then I'm going to take these two as they are and I'm going to merge them together by pressing CMD/CTRL+E. And now I've lost the vectorness of them, so now they're just pixels. So if I grabbed my eraser, for example, they're just pixels, they're not vector anymore. But now I can grab my Magic Wand Tool and come in here and just click and I have this space that I can fill with a color. So maybe I come up to my Swatches panel and grab like a turquoise color here, and I'll add this to... What happened to the bottom of my Layers panel? There it is. Add this to a new blank layer. The keyboard shortcut for this by the way, this is a command that I use all the time, so you might find it handy as well, but whenever you're trying to fill something with one of your active foreground or background colors, there's a keyboard shortcut associated with that. And it's so handy so you don't have to come up here and choose Edit, Fill, Foreground/Background. So on a Mac, it's really easy because the keys are in the same order. So to fill with the foreground color here, it's the OPTION key and then DELETE. And to fill with the background color, its CMD+DELETE. On a PC, it's the reverse. So this is always really confusing when I try to say this out loud. But you can always find it in your menu up here. And if you just hit the wrong one, you just hit the other one and you'll get it right. So on a PC, the CTRL key is going to do your foreground, CTRL+DELETE does your foreground, I believe, and then ALT+DELETE does your background. If not, just flip flop what I said, but I'm pretty sure. When I teach on a PC, I always have to stop and think before I do that, but that's a really handy keyboard shortcut. And maybe we put another color over here on this right-hand side. And I'll get this yellow color, and then in the middle, I think I had kind of an orange here. Or red maybe? Awesome. So we have this nice little logo that we just made that's made out of initials. So we'll move this up so we can put some text underneath. And you could use this, too, by itself just as its own design. So I think in that example I showed with the email, I didn't put the signature underneath. I just used the graphic itself. But it can also work really well with a signature underneath. So I'm going to grab the Type Tool and I'll get black. And in this case, we're going to you a typeface called Medina, Medina Script. And I wrote out Michelle Williams. Scale this down. And here's where we get to have some fun with Glyphs again. So this is a typeface that...what's really cool when you buy professionally made fonts is that a lot of times, especially something like this that's very script-y, you get alternate characters, they're called stylistic alternates. So in this case, for example, if I highlight, not the M, the H, we see that we have a couple of different variations of Hs that we could use here. And I think I'm just going to stick with the one that's here. We only have one H in her whole name, so I'm not worried about trying to mismatch them a little bit. Because if we're going for a handwritten look, it's nice to mix up the letters. So for example, we have two double Ls in her name. Maybe I should have changed her name to Maria or something, but her name is Michelle so now we're going with it. But I would want to change this so that I don't have two perfectly identical Ls right next to each other twice. So maybe I make this first L a little smaller by switching it with an alternate character right there. Same with these Es. Do something like that and then maybe I reverse that with these Ls. So maybe we'll put the big L first and then we'll do the little l second. And that just helps mix it up a little bit. Maybe we do some kind of a different S there. And the reason that I chose a Brush Script font for this is to contrast with the geometric nature of the monogram itself up here. So this is very geometric, very crisp and sharp and angular, and then this is more of an organic lines, and it makes a nice complement. So you could use that in a number of different ways.

It's hard to come up with a logo when looking at a blank slate. Using your initials as a starting point is a great solution! This is called a monogram. 

Whether it’s for personal or professional use, this class will teach you how to create a monogram that involves letters, shapes, and flourishes. She will then show you how to code it into your email signature (the modern-day letterhead), and give recommendations for other branding use cases. 

Using Photoshop, Khara will cover three styles of monograms in this beginner-friendly class. Previous Photoshop experience not required.

Software Used: Adobe Photoshop CC 2017.0.1



  • I love this teacher! She is funny, her classes are easy to follow and this one is no exception. In this class, the teacher present 4 different monograms and we are then invited to create our own using these techniques. The steps are easy to follow and give awesome results!
  • The teacher was very clear and funny. She made the class very enjoyable.
  • Very informative and there is always something new to learn from Khara. She's awesome and she explains things and deliver information in a simplistic way. I really recommend this class and any class that Khara teaches.