July 17, 2006

Great lettering & happy accidents, inside Illustrator & out

Not long ago I came across the excellent hand lettering of Fiodor Sumkin. I love the intricacy with which he fits characters and shading to various shapes. [Via]
In particular, his drawing of these hands got me thinking about the enveloping functions in Illustrator. Click this image for a quick overview of how to fit type to shapes:
Text warping tutorial
Using these techniques, I set out to emulate Sumkin’s work. First I traced the outline of one of his hands in Illustrator, then blocked out a number of regions. The Pencil tool works well for this, as does a Wacom tablet. The result was a skeleton for the next steps:
Outline
Then, needing to turn each region into a solid object, I copied and pasted all the paths into Flash, broke things apart, and then used the paint bucket to block them in. I probably could have used the Illustrator Pathfinder tools and/or the new Live Paint features, but old habits die hard, and I knew I could get what I needed from Flash:
Colored in Flash

At that point I copied and pasted everything back into Illustrator, then picked a font that seemed likely to fill the shapes nicely–in this case Adobe’s 60′s-style Mojo. Using the text “Word Hypnotize” and the enveloping technique described above, I got… this (click for a larger version):
Hand
Hmmph–it’s nothing like Sumkin’s lettering, and were I to try harder to emulate it, I think I’d fit each chunk of text to an envelope mesh, then use the various mesh, path, and warp tools to deform it as necessary. But you know, I kind of like the sinuous, abstract quality that resulted–a bit as if Slim Goodbody dipped his hand in an inkwell.
So, there’s my little happy accident o’ the day. Software generally makes it pretty easy to repeat the same steps over and over, so I’m glad to experience a little serendipity & creative destruction now and then.
By the way, Sumkin’s lettering reminds me a touch of Marta Monteiro’s, and for more cool lettering, you might check out Rodney White (overview/gallery). Oh, and tangentially related (at best): the look of the hand I made slightly reminds me of WWI-era Cubist ship camouflage. [Via]

Posted by John Nack at 8:30 AM on July 17, 2006
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