You're getting ready to leave for a birthday party and suddenly realize, d'oh! You still need a card! You've got two options: You can run to the store and grab the first non-terrible card you see, or you can grab some paper and produce one yourself.
Which option is more fun, more personal and much more likely to make it into the keepsake box? You guessed it. But if you want your card to look like you put some love into it, you'll need great-looking lettering — which you can do in minutes once you learn how.
In fact, block letters are among the simplest feats of artistic wizardry you'll ever pull off. If you can draw lines and letters, then you pretty much already know how to draw block letters (if you don't, learn here!) . Depending on your aesthetic, you can design block letters in different ways: stylized and freehand, or precise and typographically consistent. Here's a quick lesson on each to get you blockin'.
The Freehand Method
This is a simple way to create block letters that showcase your own handwriting.
1. Sketch Your Words
Using a pencil, sketch a few letters or a phrase — or better yet, your own name. Make the letters a little shorter than you'd like the final height to be, and leave some extra space around the letters so that you have room to block-ify each one. You can make the letters upper or lowercase, whichever you prefer.
2. "Insulate" the Letters
Using the lines of each letter as a guide, create a block shape around it as if you're insulating it. You can make the edges blunt (true block letters), or give them a more rounded shape if you're a fan of the block letter's cousin, the bubble letter.
3. Trace with Ink
Now your pencil sketch is done. Do what you would with any other pencil sketch: Add ink, color the shapes in with paint, or whatever you like.
The Tracing Method
If the freehand style makes you go "Whoa," no worries. It can be tricky at first. Meanwhile, there's another way of learning how to make block letters: tracing them.
1. Choose Your Typeface
Find a font with bold, thick letters. Type in the phrase you want to render in block letters, and choose the case (upper or lower) and the spacing you want. Print out the phrase in the size you'd like to trace.
2. Trace and Transfer
Using tracing paper, trace over the letters, but only their outlines. Just like that, you've got easy and precise block letters. You can transfer the letters to your finished piece using transfer paper.
If you decide you really love a font, keep a printout of every letter of that typeface handy so that you can trace individual letters on the go.
If the letters you're using are fairly large, you can even create cutouts of each letter so that you can trace them as needed.
Add Block Letters to Your Art
Now that you've got the basic idea, let's talk about how to draw block letters using a technique that lets you apply them directly to a piece of artwork.
1. Determine Placement
Choose where you'll put the lettering, and where you want the letters to expand to. It helps to determine where the center point is and work out from there.
2. Plan on Scrap Paper
Write the word or phrase on a piece of scrap paper to help figure out its sizing and placement. Count how many characters the word or phrase has, including spaces if applicable. Find the exact midpoint. For instance, on the word "awesome," which has seven letters, the fourth letter ("s") is the midpoint.
3. Sketch from the Midpoint
Sketch the central character of your drawing exactly where you'd like the center of the text to be. Work outward on either side, filling in the letters of the text to the right and left of the middle. Your word or phrase should be perfectly centered now. Alternatively, if you're tracing, you can just put the image where you'd like it to be.
4. Pick a Method from Above
Make your letters by picking one of the two methods described above — insulating or tracing.
5. Trace with a Pen
Trace your artwork and block letters with a pen or marker, then erase any excess pencil lines that show through.
6. Add Color!
Proceed with your piece of art and get ready to impress your birthday buddy with your killer block-letter skills!
Photos and illustrations via CakeSpy