Effectful negative lettering


60 min

What you need:

For this exercise we recommend the following selection of Faber-Castell products: Pitt Artist Pen in black or any of the 48 colors. Different nips sizes and forms allow special effects and unique results. Enjoy!

Negative space is the area around and between the subject of an image.

Exercises for Beginners

To create beautiful negative lettering, simply form the letter or phrase with designs around the shape of the letters, rather than outlining the letter itself, so that the blank space shows the letterform.

Step 1

Sketch the outlines of the letter(s). These outlines will help guide your illustrations and result in a clean impression.

Step 2

Begin to sketch your illustrations. Try using a tangling/doodling style of art and drawing with a darker (softer) lead pencil to achieve contrast.

Step 3

Fill out your design with the doodles or illustrations of your choice. When you're happy with the look, ink over the pencil and erase all the pencils marks. Negative lettering is an easy way to achieve beautiful impact.

Exercise for Advanced

Modern paper cutting has experienced resurgence among crafters and artisans, as well as corporate designers. This pretty project demonstrates some of the basics of paper cutting. Merci, which means “Thank You” in French, is illustrated in a flowing script that is connected to the positive space. The negative space is cut away, along with surrounding floral elements.

Step 1

Sketch your concept. Take the time to plan so you can prevent cutting mistakes. The whitespace of letters such as “e” will be cut out with the rest of your letter unless you open up the eye or connect your lettering to the positive space. This script font connects to the border design, which will enable you to keep the eye in your  “e” and the tittle on your “i.” . Fill the positive space with pencil while sketching so you can visualize what the final art will look like. Then copy over it with tracing paper so you have a clean, pencil-free outline.

Step 2

Trace or print your design onto the card stock of your choice.

Step 3

Begin cutting one shape  at a time, cutting just on the outer edge of your outline. Press firmly with the craft knife to cut completely through the paper. This can take some time, depending on how complex your design is, but just take it nice and slow.

Step 4

Cut out all of the shapes, and go back to clean up finer details that need more finessing.

Step 5

You can leave your paper-cut lettering as is, or you can add extra details to make the art really “pop.” Try placing different textured and colored papers behind the artwork. When you find a combination you like, flip the lettered piece over and apply adhesive.

Step 6

Adhere the lettered artwork to the backing paper and let dry. Back your artwork with a white pearl paper with beautiful swirling texture for added.

Step 7

Frame your artwork, or turn it into a pretty card like I did by gluing the finished art onto another folded piece of card stock.

More ideas

Great 3-D Effects
Discover the illusion of depth, as well as width and height.
Read more
Illuminated lettering
The term “illuminated” means “to be filled with light.”
Read more
Impressive shapes
Lettering freehand can lead to lovely art - try it!
Read more
Lively brush lettering
Start an approach to beautiful writing!
Read more
Excerpt from "The Joy of Lettering," published by Walter Foster Publishing, a division of Quarto Publishing Group USA Inc. All rights reserved. Walter Foster is a registered trademark. Artwork © Gabri Joy Kirkendall and Jaclyn Escalera. Visit www.quartoknows.com