Last month, I put together a free hand-lettering PDF guide to help you get started learning hand lettering. As I did with my last blog post on syncopating your lettering, I want to build on the basics from the guide and give some more valuable information to improve your lettering. Another important aspect of lettering is letter interactions.
You may be familiar with ligatures, where you try to find the opportunity to combine two or more neighboring letters into one character. Letter interactions include ligatures, but it encompasses much more that just ligatures – It’s also about finding interesting ways to unify your letters to make the lettering piece cohesive and fun to look at.
Finding Common Letter Interactions
Much of this post is dedicated to script lettering because it offers the easiest opportunities for interactions. However, there is plenty of crossover among the different styles.
The basics of letter interactions includes connecting different letters together. Rather than trying to memorize the common ligatures for your lettering, opportunities for letter interactions can be easily recognized by the following aspects in your letters: Crossbars, descenders, ascenders, and tittles.
The piece above is an example of the Y’s descender interacting with the L’s ascender.
Something to keep note of, is that some letters present consistent opportunities for letter interactions. Some letters that often work well for their crossbars are capital A, H, T, and lowercase F and T. The letters that work well for their ascenders and descenders are lowercase H, P, and Y. The tittles on a lowercase I and J can often be an opportunity to connect it to a crossbar or an ascender, as shown in the lettering piece below.
A couple tidbits on serif and sans serif styles: The capital T is great for tucking letters underneath the overhang of its arm, and the leg of the capital R can be used to interact with other letters.
Creating Interactions with Flow
The goal of creating letter interactions is to make the lettering piece more cohesive. Another way to do that without combining parts of letters together, is by making letters follow the same flow. The previous lettering piece has quite a bit of flow to it as well, but let me explain with a couple more pieces.
The beauty of letter interactions, is that you don’t need to have a bunch of them to really enhance a piece. The only real letter interactions happening in this piece happens to be in the word, “exactly.” Now, the crossbar of the T does interact with the ascender of the L, but the other part to consider is how it flows along the X. The crossbar doesn’t quite touch or interact with the X, but since it follows alongside the same curve as the X, the word looks more harmonious.
This piece has some flow to it as well. The X is hugging the T and they’re pointed up and to the right. The N and T also create the arrow in the T’s crossbar. These aspects create movement pointing and leaning to the right, which make the piece feel unified.
When trying to create a natural flow to your work, try not to twist or change directions too many times. I use a general rule of thumb, to imagine the letters to be living beings with spines; I don’t want to break their backs. So, I try to use soft natural curves where I can, and try not to change the directions more than twice with any single stroke.
Creating Your Own Interactions
When the letters you are lettering don’t seem to have any of the common interactions, you can impose certain forms on the letters to create your own opportunities.
Normally, the word “learn” might not seem to have any interaction possibilities that stand out. What I decided to do was to drop the L below the baseline so I would be able to play around with the bar of the L.
Then, I decided to drop the last part of the N below the baseline as well. I usually like to use small loops, like I did with the N, when I want to redirect the flow of a stroke. It works for redirecting almost any stroke, and it’s also great for signifying the beginning of a flourish. This way it won’t be confused as an actual letter.
With two parts of letters below the baseline, I knew that I could then decide how I would like them to interact, and it’s just a matter of playing around with it.
This piece, as well as the very first piece in this post, are great examples to cover because they encompass each of the previous aspects: common interactions, flow, and creating your own interactions.
I noticed the opportunity for the two ascenders of the W and H to interact, and I connected them. The H doesn’t have a descender, but I created my own, converting it into a part of the underline. The newly created descender of the H also serves as a way to enhance the directional flow of the piece; it doesn’t directly interact with any other letter, but it follows the flow of the baseline.
Letter interactions are a great way to make your lettering feel more unified, rather than merely a collection of letters. But, keep in mind that not everything needs to be interconnected with one another. It’s easy to get carried away with letter interactions, so try to keep it simple at first. And I’d encourage you to take this information and continue to experiment on top of it – You might discover some unique interactions.
Thanks for reading! If you haven’t received my FREE hand lettering PDF guide yet, click here to get it! :)
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