Tips on drawings?

I am an ameteur type designer, and I have, thus far, been designing straight into the computer. I want to change that, especially because I am starting a serif font. I have terrible drawing skills. Do any of you have good, actionable tips for getting better at drawing letterforms?


  • Chris LozosChris Lozos Posts: 1,458
    Practice is the only cure
  • do basic calligraphy studies with a broad nib pen or brush. This is essential for getting a feeling about letterforms (classical Latin in particular).
  • John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 2,974
    Use methods that build up letter shapes, rather than trying to draw outlines. For example, draw a skeletal structure, and then incrementally add weight to it to build up the modulated strokes. Or try the sketching method taught by Gerrit Noordzij, in which letters are built up from hatching that follows the angle of a writing tool, than then outlined:
  • jeremy tribbyjeremy tribby Posts: 215
    edited July 2023
    Erik van Blokland has a good video about the method John is describing -

    “The origin of the serif” by Catich is a good book to look at. Plenty of people disagree with his thesis on, well, the origin of the serif, but he breaks down Roman capitals into a few modular brushstrokes that I think are  instructive for drawing Latin 
    if you don’t have much experience drawing in general, I would recommend a beginners figure drawing class. Drawing what you see is good practice for drawing what you imagine 
  • John ButlerJohn Butler Posts: 245
    edited July 2023
    To this day, one of my favorite references remains David Harris’The Art of Calligraphy. It is very well illustrated, it organizes the scripts roughly chronologically, and I’ve honestly found nothing approaching its quality since.
    Also dig Stan Knight’s Historical Scripts for deeper detail and finer distinctions within genres.
    I also recommend calligraphy instruction books by Julius de Goede, with the caveat that they tend to be available only in German or Dutch.
    You can go nuts buying different kinds of pens. A few Pilot Parallel Pens for the broad-nib stuff are money well spent. Speedball dip pens for the copperplate stuff are good to have too.
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 2,145
    When you say you are “designing straight into the computer” you are in fact drawing lines. Drawing is not just pen or pencil on paper, but also manipulating bezier paths.

    This equivalence is more apparent when the interface tool is a stylus and tablet, rather than a trackpad or mouse.


    I recommend finding a piece of old typography, printed from foundry type, and attempting to make a digital facsimile of it—drawing straight into the computer. 

  • [Off topic]
    Plenty of people disagree with [Catich’s} thesis on, well, the origin of the serif
    Still? I thought brush derived terminals in Roman capitals was now generally accepted as the most convincing explanation.
    not to put him on the spot but I believe I most recently heard this from @Dave Crossland :smile:
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