Komfor is a 2-member band that plays mostly acoustic, ambiental music (you can listen to them on SoundCloud). Their music is very authentic, and not overproduced as modern music tends to be. Nature is an important influence in their music and texts. These are all the qualities I wanted the logo to portray in appearance, but also in execution, so I decided to make a hand-lettered logo using traditional tools.
The first round of roughs was pretty far off. I got carried away with the pointy sharp swirls, and there was not enough natural elements in it. The overall look was too gothic. I realized right away that these are not what we’re going for, but I still decided to show them to the clients. They loved the tree detail on the second one, so that was a confirmation that it’s the direction I should take.
First round of logo drafts — not quite there.
I decided to take that tree detail and make it even more organic. This led me to the second round rough that I sent them. They loved this one immediately, and I was very happy because this meant the process was (sort of) near the end. The style was good, but I was bothered by the imbalance of the right and left side. The letter K was weighing too much emphasis, and the logo got thinner toward the right, so I had to find the way to balance the two sides.
Second round — almost there
In the final version I decided to emphasize the letter F, because that was the only letter that I could work on — a small R couldn’t handle so much ornamentation. This is the rough sketch I started with.
My sketchbook is full of stuff like this. Quite shocking, I know.
Lettering process breakdown
In each round my workflow was more or less the same, the only difference being that in the first few rounds I got to step 4, and I inked directly over the sketch and guidelines. Here is the entire process of designing the final proposal which was accepted.
1. Sketching characteristic letter shapes
First step is roughly exploring the letter forms and how they might be turned into a tree-like shape. Quick, messy and full of flaws, as it should be.
2. Sketching the text
First I draw parallel lines with a red mechanical pencil. I use red lead for guidelines for several reasons: regular mechanical pencil stands out better against the colored lines, the red lead is more resistant to erasing so the guidelines stay in place while I work, and red is easy to remove in Photoshop.
I sketched the letter shapes, trying to keep them about the same width, and maintain the style throughout the whole word.
When I was satisfied with the final design sketch, I took a thicker paper (160gsm) and traced the shapes lightly on the clean sheet. I used the “poor man’s light table”, aka a window for tracing.
3. Inking with a brush pen
Lately I’ve been using brush pen more than any other inking tool. It’s very convenient, clean, and can be used anywhere, so I carry it with me always. For this design I used Pentel brush pen (fine). This particular brush pen has non-waterproof ink, so I don’t use it as much as my other, Pentel Pocket brush pen which is waterproof, has better ink flow, but also a thicker brush tip. In any case, I can recommend both tools wholeheartedly if you don’t mind having to buy the original Pentel ink cartridges. They do last reasonably long for me.
Inking digitally straight from a sketch would in this case probably take far less time, but I decided not to skip the traditional inking step to make the best out of brush and ink as a medium. Although I use a drawing tablet, traditional tools are still more precise when it comes to calligraphy.
4. Scanning and cleaning up
After the ink had dried completely, I erased the pencils and scanned the design at 600dpi. Although the scanner software provides settings in the scanning dialog, I prefer to do all my image editing in Photoshop, so I used it to fix the levels and contrast until I got a pretty clean image.
5. Vectorizing and final tweaking
I took the cleaned up scan into Inkscape so I can turn it into vector format. You might wonder why do this when I said how important it was to have a traditional look? Why going through all that effort of drawing traditionally if I’ll just vectorize it and clean it up in the end?
To insure the widest possible use of the logo, it must be in vector format — resizable to any dimension without loss of quality. Giving the logo in a raster format would be unprofessional so this step couldn’t have been avoided.
Automatic tracing results in a path with thousands of nodes (top picture), so I manually deleted all extra nodes, which resulted in 10 or maybe even 20 times less nodes, I haven’t counted (bottom picture)
Inkscape has a pretty good tracing engine, however it’s not so perfect that it does not require manual editing. No matter how clean and sharp your inking is, when you look at it up close (scanned at 600dpi for example), it will have tiny irregularities that the tracing engine will pick up on and even emphasize. For this reason it took a lot of manual effort to get it really neat and clean, and as close as possible to original drawing. Inkscape Simplify function wasn’t helpful at all in this case.
Both original drawing (grey) and vector logo (red) are visible in this picture as I worked on fine-tuning every detail
To insure the logo is as close as possible to original drawing, I placed the original drawing on the bottom layer with 50% opacity, and the vector on the top layer in red color, also in 50% opacity. I preserved the majority of original design, though I did make a couple of lines a bit thicker than they were originally, to insure visibility and legibility when the logo is placed on a textured background.
Are you thinking about having your logo designed? Check out my Logo design & branding services for more info on how I can help you do that!
Interested in seeing more of my logo design processes? Here are a few:
- Case Study: Rikon Logo Design Process
- Case study: Wild Moon Spirit logo design process
- inObscuro logo design process
I also share more of my hand lettering sketches in my post Sketchbook Adventures: Summer Lettering Fun.
Tips for inking
Want to do your own inked lettering, but you’re not that good at inking? Here are some tips I can share:
- Most mistakes happen when I smudge ink with my hand, so the top priority is to make sure ink is dry before you place your hand or eraser over it. You can lightly press an edge of a paper scrap against the ink to see if it will catch it or remain clean. After using your materials for a while you’ll learn how much certain ink takes to dry in certain conditions.
Use the tool that is appropriate for the look you want. I you want a neat, clean and uniform line, use a fine-liner. If you want a fluid and expressive line, use a brush or a brush pen. If you’re somewhere in the middle, use a dip pen and bottled ink, or a fountain pen with a flexible nib.
With bottled ink and brush or nib there is always a chance you’ll sprinkle your drawing with ink, so watch out for that (it happens to me).
- You’re better at pulling a line with your hand in one direction than others, so use that to your advantage. For example if you’re right-handed, from top-left to lower-right is probably easier for you than vice-versa. Don’t bother keeping the paper straight if rotating the paper so you can always drag the line in the most comfortable way will give you better results.
- Swift strokes are cleaner, but you may be a bit off compared to your sketch, which may or may not matter. If you drag the brush slowly, your line may end up a bit wobbly. Try to find the sweet spot — fast enough to give a confident, clean line, and slow enough so you don’t totally botch the drawing. You’ll improve with a lot of practice.
- Keep your back straight as much as you can, trust me it really makes a difference in your stroke quality, plus your back won’t hurt later.
- What you consider a mistake might not look like that in other people’s eyes, so don’t worry if you don’t follow the sketch in detail, or if you mess up something. Look at it the next day with fresh eyes, and it might actually look good even though it’s not what you’ve planned!
I hope this helps!
Feel free to share your own tips in the comments.
About Nela Dunato
Artist, brand designer, teacher, and writer. Author of the book “The Human Centered Brand”. Owner of a boutique branding & design consultancy that helps experienced service-based businesses impress their dream clients.
On this blog I write about art, design, creativity, business, productivity and marketing, and share my creative process and tips. Read more about me...
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