How to Digitise Hand Lettering – A step-by-step guide

How to Digitise Hand Lettering - A step-by-step guide! | Written by Brittany Design Boutique

Hand Lettering is a really great way to create personalised designs. Lettering gives your designs an interesting and unique design point that cannot be recreated by anyone else. More often than not these days, designs are perfected on the computer before they are reproduced. It can be difficult to get your hand lettered designs onto the computer, however, I will show you some simple step by step instructions on how to get your hand lettered designs onto the computer ready for you to create beautiful invitations, printables, blog images or anything else your heart so desires! Follow the step-by-step guide on how to digitise hand lettering below!

STEP ONE: TAKE A PHOTO OR SCAN YOUR HAND LETTERING

Start by taking a photo with your phone, or scanning your design on to your computer. Things to remember when photographing or scanning your image:

  • Make sure your image is not blurry or fuzzy
  • Make sure the lighting is relatively even
  • Make sure there are no obvious shadows

Haven’t created any hand lettering designs yet? Then check out my tutorial to create fake calligraphy here!

STEP TWO: OPEN THE IMAGE ON GIMP

GIMP is free photo editing software that you can use to edit images in a very similar way to photoshop. You can download it here for free! It is a great program and has a wide range of uses, and whilst it isn’t crucial for this step, I would recommend downloading it.

STEP THREE: INCREASE THE CONTRAST

In the top menu select Colors >> Brightness-Contast.

When the popup tool opens drag the contrast slider to the right to increase the number. You should notice the gray of the paper turning more white, and the inks turning a darker black. When you are happy with that, press OK.

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STEP FOUR: CROP THE IMAGE

Now we want to isolate the word that we want to digitise, use the rectangular select tool, located at the top of the right hand menu/toolbox. Now draw a rectangle around your word. You should see a dancing rectangle.

Now head to the top menu and press Image >> Crop to Selection.

The image should crop to the shape of the rectangle.

Now we want to copy the image. Once again head to the top menu and press Edit >> Copy.

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STEP FIVE: OPEN THE IMAGE IN INKSCAPE

Inkscape is another free program that is much like Adobe Illustrator. Download it here. Open up Inkscape, head to the top menu and press Edit >> Paste.

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STEP SIX: TRACE BITMAP

Head to the top menu and press Path >> Trace Bitmap.

When the popup box opens be sure to tick on Remove Background and Live Preview. Depending on your image this part can take a little bit of time. You need to play around with the settings until you get a relatively smooth word without to many juts and cuts. Select Options at the top of the popup box, and play around with Suppress Speckles, Smooth Corners and Optimise Paths. Once you are happy click OK.

Drag the traced image – which is now called a vector – away from the original image, and delete the original we no longer need it.

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STEP SEVEN: FIXING THE TRACE

The trace bitmap stage works well in some situations and will require little editing from you, however in some cases no matter what settings you use, the trace bitmap will leave you with a fuzzy word that needs a lot of editing to fix it up and make it look nice. I will show you how to do a little bit of editing now.

You want to start by selecting the Edit Paths tool from the left hand menu bar. When you click on it all these little grey squares should appear on the outline of your writing – don’t freak out. These are called nodes, and they are basically all the little ‘corners’ that the lines of your writing are joined to. Editing out nodes smooths our lines but also loses the shape and hand-writing ‘feel’ of the writing. To delete nodes we click on a grey square, it will then turn red, then hit delete on your keyboard. This will remove the node and the nodes either side of it will now be joined.

Play around with deleting and moving nodes to create different curves, lines, shapes and effects. Practice make perfect with this. You can do as little, or as much editing at this stage as you like, depending on how you want the final product to turn out.

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STEP EIGHT: RESIZE AND COLOUR

Now is the fun part. Your word is in the computer and you can now do with it however you please! Make a pretty blog graphic, design a lovely birthday card, add some personalisation to invitations! Go crazy, experiment and see how hand lettering can beautify almost everything you add it too!

cheers