This saved me SO MUCH TIME on my lettering...

lettering procreate Oct 14, 2019

If you're into lettering, you've probably dabbled in the modern calligraphy side of hand lettering, which is an incredibly rewarding art form. I've also had a ton of questions about composition. I also-also know that many have had the desire to branch out of pretty bounces and get into a structured composition, letting the layout be “the fancy.” If you fit into any of those desires, read on, friend.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve stopped a lettering piece long before it actually takes off due to either not knowing how to (or not having the patience to) properly lay out a guideline that would act as a composition. Well NO LONGER. I’ve stumbled into a happy place of #letteringallthethings thanks to this Grid Builder (remember when I mentioned DesignCuts a while ago? It’s a GEM of a place)!

I’m talking NO MORE GUESSING or struggling with where to put what. I’m going to walk you through this easy-as-pie (I don’t think pie is actually easy to make so that phrase needs to GO) method of building a lettering composition.

While I’ll be using Procreate on the iPad for this tutorial, know that the Grid Builder comes packed with compatibility and can be used with not only Procreate, but also Photoshop, Illustrator, and so on… Without further ado, let’s jump in.



Step 1: Select your phrase

The number one most important part of building your lettering composition is first choosing WHAT you’ll be lettering. Once you’re set on the perfect message to create with your art, pay attention to the following:

  • Number of words
  • Words that should be the focus
  • Words that can be bunched together

I’m using a phrase that I based my Skillshare Talk on: Nothing will help you build your confidence like owning your journey.

According to the bullet points of what to focus on, I know I have quite a few words in this phrase. I also know that I want Nothing, confidence, and owning your journey as my main focal words. Lastly, as I begin building my grid and have laid out where my larger focal words will be, I can see that the words will help you and your (before confidence) and like (after confidence) can be wrapped into the word. I’ll walk through my process because visuals are always sooo much easier to understand!



Step Two: Build your layout

Open your brush panel after importing your new Grid Builder brushes. You’ll see previews of each brush.

Select a brush (stamp), adjust the sizing if you need to, and touch your stylus down to the screen. INSTANT GRID! This is the best thing that’s ever happened to iPad lettering. If you don’t want to read on and you’re already sold because whoa that was easy and you’re ready to get your lettering on, grab the Grid Builder here!


Sketch your quote lightly on a new layer (You can create a new layer in the layers panel on the top right). I use the iPad’s built in brush “HB Pencil” in the Sketching brush set.


Pro Tip: To ensure even spacing of your letters in your word, count the amount of letters a word has. For example, nothing has 7 words. This means that the h would go in the center of the grid since it’s the middle letter, leaving three letters on either side. I placed the first letter, n, and the last letter, g, next. From there, I was able to eyeball the spacing and fill in the rest!


Step Three: Create a rough design

This is where you get to explore. Now that I know how much room my letters and word take up, I can decide which style suits them best.

 In my quote, I used the following styles:
  • Serifs on nothing and confidence
  • Sans serif with even thickness on the words will help you, your, like, and your
  • Modern calligraphy in build and owning
  • and I’ll be a little more creative with journey


Step Four: Time to polish your letters

First, I’m turning down the opacity of my sketch layer so I can see my new layer better. Next, I’m creating an additional new layer on top of the sketch layers. It’s now time to carefully trace over your work with a solid brush (or whatever brush you’d like your final piece to be in).

I’m using The Pigeon Letters Monoline Brush (which is free in the Evergrowing Garden of Resources).


After you’ve traced your letters, you can toggle your grids and sketch layer(s) of by going to your layers panel on the top right and unchecking that layer. This provides a visual of what your composition looks like without all the rough draft mess.


Step Five: Add a drop shadow

Now that you’ve got your composition glorious enough to be a full page spread in a freakin’ magazine, let’s bring those letters to life. Creating a drop shadow is as easy as duplicating a layer (see, that makes more sense than “easy as pie”) – because that’s literally what we’re doing! Go to your layers panel, swipe your finished letters layer to the left and select Duplicate.

Now you want to change the color of the back layer. You can do this by dragging the color from the top right onto the letters. Be sure your Colordrop Threshold is all the way up to 100% so it covers everything on that layer. This can be accomplished after dragging the color into the letters and while continuing to hold it down, drag it to the right all the way. (You’ll see me doing this in the video at the bottom of this post.)

Step Six: Time to play with color

This is my favorite part. Playing with color really sets the mood of a piece. For my message, I want to create a bold message while still keeping a soft vibe to it.

I’ve chosen to change my background color to a loud blue with an undertone of periwinkle, softening the overall feel. I changed my lettering to white and my lettering’s drop shadow to a bright salmon.


Step Eight: Make those letters POP

Remember that drop shadow we just made? We’re gonna do it again. This time, we’re going to do it not just to accent our letters, but to create some depth behind them.

Just as you duplicated your lettering layer before, do so again. You’ll need to move it to the bottom of your other lettering layers. Fill this layer with black.

Here’s where the shadow play comes in. Once the new lettering layer is placed and at the bottom of the rest of the layers, go to Adjustments and select Gaussian Blur. Drag your stylus across the the screen to the right to increase the effect. You’ll notice that the black begins to blur. For a drop shadow effect, select the entire layer and move it down and to the right.



Last step: Texture!

While you certainly could be done with your piece after the last step, I’m personally a texture gal and love adding little oomphs of grit here and there. Since I’m adding my texture to the background, I want to make sure I’m applying it to a new layer that is just above the background layer.

I’m using a brush called Dense Splatter from The Pigeon Letters Grit Brush Set in a slightly lighter color than the blue background.


Once you’ve added your desired texture, you’re done! These are just some fun effects that you can produce while lettering on the iPad and there are many more to play with.

Most importantly, it was SO easy to build this composition and saved me SO MUCH TIME. I can’t recommend the Grid Builder enough. If you’re sold like me, grab it NOW.

Download the Grid Builder Here