How to Digitize Hand-Lettering in Adobe Illustrator

Do you love hand-lettering? Well, me too! But what happens when you want to make multiple copies of your pieces, change the colors, or fix those little mistakes? A simple solution to all these issues is to digitize your pieces in Adobe Illustrator! In this tutorial, I am going to show you the simple steps to transfer your beautiful work to the computer!

1. Create your hand-lettered piece

This is where you get to show off your beautiful lettering skills! Create your piece and ink it with a high-contrast pen. The high contrast will help the program to determine what to extract from the design.

Hand-lettering and photos by Rebekah Dothager

2. Scan your image

Scan your image onto the computer or take a picture of the work directly over the piece. Scanning the image is ideal, but if you do not have access to a scanner (like me), then a well-taken photo will work.

3. Place the image into a new Illustrator file

Open a new document in Adobe Illustrator. File, place, select the image in the browser, open it, and it will appear in your document.

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4. Image Trace

When the image is selected, there is a button along the top tool bar that says “Image Trace.” Click that button, and it will create a black and white trace of your image.

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5. Expand the Image

After the image is traced, the top tool bar will have a button that say “Expand.” Click that button and it will create individual shapes from your image.

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6. Ungroup the shapes

This is what your image will look like after you expand the image. Select the image, then ungroup the shapes from each other. When you expand the image, it automatically groups all of the shapes together, so you must ungroup them to manipulate each separate shape.

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7. Clean it up

Now that you can manipulate each shape, delete each of the background shapes or aspects that you no longer want in your design. The image tracer detected some of my graph paper in this design, so I deleted each of the background specks.

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8. Double check!

I always place a background color to my file to make sure I cleaned everything up! A frequent mistake is not deleting the centers of letters. It is important to make sure you got everything out of the design that you do not want to be there!

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9. Adjust your shapes

At this stage, you can basically just fix aspects of your design! I tend to have issues with centering, so I always make sure that I have everything centered how I want! I also use this time to make sure all my letters are the same size. In this piece, my “MARC JACOBS” was not spaced evenly, nor were all my letters the same size, so I used guides to fix this issue.

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10. Finishing touches!

To put the finishing touches on your piece, you can change the shape color, add a background image, or basically whatever you want to finalize your work! This is where you can have fun with it and make it your own!

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Save your piece as an .ai, .jpg, .pdf, etc. You now have your very own piece that you can share with the world! Create invitations, prints, cards, the sky’s the limit! Have fun and keep drawing!!!


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