July 25, 2013

Calligraphy to Vector

I had been quite unsatisfied with having to trace over the calligraphy work I had been doing, so I decided to sit down today and figure out an way to use Live Trace but still keep it looking good.  Here's what I came up with and wanted to share it with you!  These instructions are written for an intermediate beginner.  I tried to explain things I thought weren't obvious to everyone, so sorry for the over explanation for you professionals.  Let me know if you have an questions about this tutorial.  It was written using CS6.  It seems as though Adobe changed some minor things around so hopefully you can figure it out if you are using CS5 or below.

SIDE NOTE:  This isn't for the lazy person.  There is no one-button to press to make your calligraphy perfectly vectorized without imperfection.  You have to work for what you want.

  • You should erase all pencil work from the page before scanning it in to keep it as clean as possible. The image should be scanned in at least 300dpi, preferably at grayscale, and make sure no adjustments are made to the contrast or brightness.

    • Make an adjustment layer for Levels. It's the little half black/half transparent icon at the bottom of your layers window. Now, drag the black notch to the right so they ink starts to look a solid black, then drag the white notch to the left so the paper texture disappears and turns white.

    Left: Original image.  Right: Image with Adjustment Layer: Levels

    merge all your layers.
    • Clean up any imperfections on your document with a white solid brush.
    I do this next step to make the edges of the calligraphy slightly smoother and to make it a teensy bit thicker so when I take it into Illustrator it turns into less clean up.
    • Click the Magic Wand tool, set your Tolerance to 5 and have the Contiguous unchecked. Select everything that isn't an ink stroke. Zoom in to make sure you are selecting everything you want. Get as close to the stroke as possible, then inverse the selection (Shift + Command + I) and hit Refine Edge. Change Smooth to 1 and Shift Edge to -30. Hit OK. Create a new layer and fill it with black. Now you'll want a solid white layer directly underneath that.
    • Merge all layers and save. Do not save over your original scan just in case you want to go back.


    select image
    • In the top bar you'll notice an Image Trace option appears. Click that. Then the top bar options will change. Click the little icon to the left of View. Once that window pops up, choose Sketched Art from the Preset drop-down. Play with the numbers in the Threshold. I have found I always go up from the default number. Sometimes you will need to go pretty high, other times the default looks just fine. It's okay if everything looks squiggly. The next steps will clean everything up.
    hit Expand then ungroup everything
    • Click & drag the black arrow over the edge of your artboard so you select the unfilled background. Then go to Select > Same > Fill Color. Delete everything that has been selected.
    • I typically do this next step one word at a time. If you do decide to try multiple words at once, make sure they are the same style. Zoom into the word that you want to clean up so it almost fills your screen. Go to Object > Path > Simplify and change the Curve Precision to 99% and make sure the Preview box is checked so you can see the progress. Hit OK.
    • You can do the Simplify trick a few more times until everything starts looking smoother. You'll notice that where lines overlap there's a undesirable shape forming, then sometimes in the counters these little "nuggets" appear. Don't worry about those yet, just focus on smoothing out the curves.

    This is a before & after GIF of the Simplify tool. You can see the nuggets appearing. I use the hollow arrow tool and the pen minus tool to get rid of those.
    • Once you are happy with that, it's time to do the tedious stuff. Let's clean up the crossed lines. Select the word, your arrow tool, and zoom in. When you hover over the path, a little plus sign appears next to the pen. Click on the path with the plus sign then hit Option (without moving your pen) and click down on that new point. This will get rid of the curve and turn it into a nice sharp angle. You'll have to use the hollow arrow tool to move the point around and sometimes you'll notice Simplify doesn't get rid of every point you didn't need so use the pen minus tool to get rid of those.

    All of these steps might seem overwhelming at first, but once you get the hang of them it should take you a few minutes for each major step. I was able to take my original scans and turn them into this poster in less than two hours.

    July 23, 2013

    Everything I need

    I wanted to share a few things that I've been working on over the past few weeks. I have some other calligraphy things but they are for clients so I cannot share them until they go live to the public. I feel like I'm still a bit shaky on my up-strokes and I still lack consistency but sometimes I like it. To try to get better I have been writing out quotes. Since I am obsessed with quotes, I have quite the personal library to choose from. When approaching a quote in calligraphy, I try not to worry about symmetry in the composition because I can scan it in and fix it in Photoshop. Another thing that is bugging me is my scanner. I feel like my scans are so high contrast and it makes the edges of the type rougher than they actually are. I have access to two more scanners in this house (the joy of living in a house filled with graphic designers!), so I'm going to try those out.

    Also, since I last posted something on here I have drastically updated my work space. Check out my Instagram to see the amazing things I found at Salvation Army like an old calligraphy chest, a little worn down wooden shelf perfect for fitting envelopes and cards, and I also finished my collection of Thank You cards thanks to finding a Paper Source right down the street from my house! I think I will change them out with Congratulations, Happy Birthday, Merry Christmas, etc. cards every once-in-awhile. Plus, I finally put up my Ikea shelf to display my vintage cameras and Bill Clinton nesting doll set (another thrifted find)!

    Hope all is well. Not sure how many people are actually reading this now that I'm not posting pictures of my outfits, but I hope sharing my process/progress helps someone out there! Below I posted some things I've been working on, so check them out.

    Thank You card for the future shop! A variation of this typography was originally done for my Save-The-Date.

    This Thank You card is a work in progress for a friend.

    Did this to practice my calligraphy. Now I just need to figure out how to make my scanner not awful.

    July 7, 2013


    A few weeks back I was contacted by someone at Mujjo asking if they could send me an item from their site. I of course said yes and they sent over this laptop sleeve (Macbook Pro Retina, to be exact). It is perfect for me. Two pockets in the sleeve so I can put my laptop in one and business cards and sketches in the other. I always end up using other sleeves to store papers in but I always forget then cram my laptop in there and crumple up whatever was in there. Here's to hoping they start making bags! Because I would definitely buy one!

    Make sure to check out their site.

    July 5, 2013

    books & pens

    Since I don't really feel like there are resources out there for what to buy, I wanted to share what I recently purchased from Paper & Ink Arts. I'm still in the process of learning Calligraphy so that's why I bought these books, and just skimming through the first few pages I've already learned a lot.

    The titles of the books are American Cursive Handwriting & Ames Compendium & Tamblyn's Home Instructor. Each of these books teaches you the basics like how to hold your pen and how to sit, and all have exercises to teach you consistency and movement.

    I also bought a few different types of calligraphy pens: an oblique pen, two plastic pen holders that came with a pack of Speedball C nibs, two fancier holders, B nibs, a parallel pen, gouache to make custom inks, containers for those inks, Higgins ink, and materials for hand-lettering like a water pen, Micron pens, smaller paint brushes, brush pens, and a few Sharpies.

    July 1, 2013

    grey backgrounds & red borders

    Sorry if you have been visiting my page and saw the wreckage of me attempting to change the layout and design 10 times over the past 24 hours. I seem to have a direction down that I'm happy with and will be only be adding graphics from this point on.  I'm excited to start sharing my process with you!

    June 30, 2013

    The Design Blog

    Photo of calligraphy I drew at Molly Jaques' workshop.

    I have been thinking about creating a blog for my design work and its process.  Since my design studio is called A Bevy Of, that meant changing this fashion blog into my design blog.  Don't worry!  I've saved every post I ever wrote, so if I ever decide to show off any of my outfits from the past I can click a couple of buttons and it will appear once again!  Until then, I hope you enjoy what I'll be posting here. I'm in the process of learning calligraphy and refining my hand-lettering skills, I'm excited to show you what I will be working on!