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Letters and Fonts and Capitals, OH MY!

Guest Author - Paula Devore

Painting on all these barn boards has caused me to have to face one of my major phobias:

LETTERING!!

Oh, the horrors! The trauma! The ... well, enough drama. I have always had a problem facing any job that involved lettering. Keeping the letters all in one font, making sure I use lower case letters instead of just smaller capitals, keeping the letters all the same size, the list that terrifies me about lettering goes on and on. But signs are "in" and I knew I had to face this and somehow defeat it.

May as well tackle the biggest obstacle while I'm fresh and alert. I do many shows and package my all natural soaps, creams and lotions for sale, so labels, signs and notes are always the order of the day. A good design and printing program is a must for this type of operation. So I went right to my computer and fired up the Printmaster program. I use it constantly for all the signs, labels, business cards and on and on that one needs for a a business of this sort. You should be able to make similar pages in any publishing program.

I opened a fresh blank page and told it I wanted to make a "headline". I put on the caps lock and entered each letter in the alphabet in all caps. The next step was to search through the 200 or 300 fonts (not sure how many there are, just plenty to choose from). The program shows what each font looks like in a preview window as it scrolls through, so choosing one is fairly easy. When a suitable font presented itself, I just applied it to the letters in caps. You may also have it show a shadow coming from any direction you want, if you like. I use this feature to help me place highlights or shadows on my letters. Repeat the procedure above for a box with lower case letters and then a box with numbers 0 - 9. Now just print out a page with all three boxes and you have a complete font ready to use.

At this point, you should save the page under the name of the font so you can find it again. Don't close the page; just leave it up and begin again. You double click on the box with all caps and start scrolling through the fonts again. When you find one you like, just follow the original instructions to apply it to the caps, lower case letters and numbers. Be sure to "Save As" (under file) with the name of the new font. You may repeat this for as many fonts as you like.

I printed out about 10 complete fonts and have been able to get along just fine with all the signs I have been painting. It's a good idea to put them into page protectors and keep them in a notebook for easy reference.

The next problem is getting the letters onto a board in a pleasing arrangement without any letters running off the end of the board. First, decide where you want it to go. I kind of go with instinct for placement, working it around wherever the object(s) is/are going. There are no rules cast in stone for this.

Once you know where you want the lettering to go, use a straight edge to lightly sketch on a line in chalk. Then go above the first line and put a top line for the capitals, adding another line about halfway between for the tops of the lower case ones. Of course, if you want a arch or circle, you can scribe those with something round or oval.

Write out what you are going to put on your work with pencil and paper, checking for spelling. Now count the letters and spaces for the first line. Be sure to count spaces between words as well as each letter! (Ex: "Hi Friends" has 10 spaces; 9 for letters and 1 for the space between the words.) Mark the center letter or space (falls between the i & e in the example above). Mark the center of the line on the board with a dot in chalk and place the center letter or space there. Next, lightly sketch on each letter with your chalk, working from the center spot and using your printed font sets for a guide. Having the printed page in front of you makes it much easier.

From this point, it is merely using an appropriate brush to do the strokework and form the letters. Your paint must be of a thin consistency to flow out of the brush. This is a place where I make good use of the basic strokes I learned from Priscilla Hauser about 34 years ago. The letters can always be broken down into strokes I learned at the very beginning of my Tole and Decorative Painting training. It just makes forming them so easy and graceful.

If you haven't learned those basic strokes, you might want to consider doing so. They make lots of painting tasks much easier. The link to Priscilla's book I would recommend is at the end of this article. I also recommend Printmaster for setting up the font pages and have included a link for that also.

A few words about colors for your font now. Of course, many signs are done in black, but being an artist makes me want to get a little more dramatic. Consider using a color you have used in the painting. That helps to pull the composition together and is pleasing to the eye. And watch out for using a font too close in color or value to the background or to the object if it falls across one. A light colored font against a dark background or a dark font against a light background is always good.

In closing, you should remember that the lettering will be seen as a major part of the composition and should fit in with it. The style of the font and the color will contribute to your work and add a great accent.

Please visit our forum (link below) and let us know how you use lettering and perhaps where you get ideas for phrases to use on your signs. Have you lettered any walls??????

Paula Devore
Painting Editor

If you would like to get a very good basic book written by Priscilla, I would recommend this one found on Amazon:
Priscilla Hauser's Book of Decorative Painting

And if you are wanting to get started marketing your artwork, you should definitely read this one:Art Marketing E-Book
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Content copyright © 2014 by Paula Devore. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Paula Devore. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Christine Sharbrough for details.

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