Vintage custom typeface tutorial



This tutorial gives you some quick steps and techniques to transform that notebook sketch into a stunning piece of custom typography. This is the perfect technique for a vintage / retro poster, an editorial illustration or a creative logo. This tutorial uses Adobe Illustrator to create the design and Photoshop to give in a vintage look and feel.


Step One

Make a quick sketch of your typeface design, it doesn't need to be perfect, it will just be a guide. Once you are happy, scan it in and place it into a new illustrator document. Size doesn't matter, as it will be easily scalable once vectorised! Double click on the layer and tick "Dim images to 50%" and click OK. Lock the layer, make a new layer and you are all set to get tracing.


Step Two

Select the pen tool and trace over the design. Take your time to make edges smooth and try duplicating similar letters as guides, to create a consistently spaced and aligned lettering. Alternatively, your design may be less structures and more "funky" - whatever look you want. It is best to make all letters as separate paths, even if they are joined up. This will allow you to edit them individually later without trouble. Grouping elements of the design on separate layers will also help, especially in a complex design. Move the letters around until they are evenly spaced and legible.

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Step Three

It's time to style your type by using the brushes. In the brush toolbox, create a new calligraphic brush to get your text looking perfect. In the options you can adjust the angle, roundness and the diameter of the brush. You can play around to find the right style for your type, and adjust individual letters. For example, a gothic style can be a diagonal angle and low roundness percentage and a funky, playful style can be achieved by a bulky, rounded brush. Adjust until the type looks neat, and its a good idea to keep decorative shapes lighter in weight to make the words stand out. Here, I used a medium rounded calligraphic brush for the lettering and for the decorative swirls I opted for a basic brush and selected a swollen variable width style from the drop-down menu. This gives an even line that trails of to thin points. Use the Smooth Tool to help make curves even, by swiping the tool over the path to adjust the curves. Refine your designs by adding extra serifs, ligatures and shapes. Try using the pen tool to add shapes that smooth of edges and add detail. It helps to select each completed element and select "Object" » "Expand/Expand Appearance" to aid you are you perfect each shape. Adding details and refining edges and joints will achieve a more hand rendered look. Doubling up lines, specifically on capital letters adds a sweet detail.


Step Four

Once you are happy with the design, make sure you select your work and select Object » Expand/Expand Appearance before you scale your vector drawing, or the line weights will muck up your hard work. Try dragging your design in layers into a photoshop document to add some texture and adjust the colours. In my design, I have made my design white and placed on an Attitude red background. Then duplicating the design in an under layer I added a dark red drop shadow. I found a neat distressed texture brush which I used with the eraser tool to give the design a chalk/faded paintwork effect. The possibility is endless, but a great tip is to add texture to some of the design and use clean "digital" colour for others. This creates a brilliant contrast by keeping both a digital and traditional feel.

Before & After



Have fun and show us what you create! Written by Matt Wisner - Graphic Designer at Attitude Design.


Brilliant tutorial!