After you learn some of the basic strokes, airbrush lettering is one of the next things you should study, especially if you plan to take customized orders from customers who might prefer a name or message written on whichever canvas you are selling to them. It’s essential that you first learn the basics so you’re familiar with dots, lines, and dagger strokes, and so you get a handle on controlling the airbrush.
Take some time to learn a few of the airbrush lettering styles mentioned in this guide so you have a good repertoire to offer your customers, and then experiment to create your own unique style. Being innovative and recognizable is one of the best ways to grow as an airbrush artist and to market your work, and creating your own unique lettering style is one way to move closer to achieving those goals.
A common style of lettering, it features thin, embellished characters. The result is an elegant style that’s very versatile. The artist will make the downward strokes thicker by releasing more color. With this lettering style the artist can write a message in one pass.
Do an Internet search for elegant script fonts for sample alphabets, and pick one you like best. There are several websites dedicated to offering fonts for the computer. These come with samples, so check out what they have to offer. If you’re a beginner, check out www.wikipedia.org/wiki/script_(typefaces) for samples of some basic script styles.
This style is like the single-stroke, but the downward strokes are gone over again to make them wider. If you’re a beginner, the double-stroke script lettering can be useful. Many beginners struggle to make downward strokes thicker on a single pass, so going over again is usually helpful. The downward strokes are usually wider than those with single-stroke script lettering.
See above for information about finding script styles. The Wikipedia resource mentioned is an excellent way to get started if you’re a beginner. You’ll find some basic script styles to get you off on the right path.
Single-Stroke Simple Print
Use a single stroke to create very basic, thin print letters. This might seem too elementary and unlikely to attract many customers, but it may be preferred for companies or businesses that hire airbrush artists to create t-shirts or signs. Companies might prefer a simple print lettering style that’s easy for potential customers to read. Use sharp corners or round them out a bit; just remember that the purpose of this lettering style is to be simple and effortlessly legible.
Bold lettering appears similar to the double-stroke style, but print letters are used instead of script, and you can make the style appear a bit cartoony. Create letters that are thick and impactful, but not exactly rigid like some styles of block lettering discussed below. The bold style is often wide at the top and gets a little thinner towards the bottom.
Bubble lettering is cartoony. Characters will overlap with each other, and are puffy like bubbles to give off a feeling of airiness. Edges are very rounded, appearing like balloons that have been inflated. The holes in the letters (like in A’s, B’s, etc.) appear like a pinpoint. This is one of the original airbrush lettering styles, and it was widely used when airbrushing was first popular in the 1980s.
Block lettering overlaps, too, and is similar to bubble lettering but with edges that are not as rounded. The lines do not have to be extremely rigid, though, so experiment to develop your own unique style of block letters. Some customers may prefer the rigid block style, however. The holes in each character (like in A’s, B’s, etc.) can appear similar to a pinpoint, or you can open them up to reflect a more rigid style.
Airbrush graffiti is one of the more popular lettering styles. Use block or bubble lettering and add a drop shadow to give your lettering a graffiti feel. Add color to the bottom of the letters, fading into a new color towards the top. Some will incorporate dagger strokes to the end of their letters. Add some drip lines under the letters, or be creative and add your own unique style or design around your lettering. Develop your own airbrush lettering style through practice and experimentation.
A graffiti tag is an artist’s mark or signature, and is one of the simplest forms of graffiti in that it is typically done using only one color. Some use block letters as a signature, while others use a distinct style in which the letters overlap and can be difficult to decipher to those unfamiliar with the style.
The tagging style can be popular for some wishing to have their name or a particular message written on a t-shirt, hat, or other object. Airbrush graffiti and tagging is seen as representative of the counterculture movement to some, while others see it as a unique art form. Either way, it’s become quite popular as a means of expression.
The first step in creating 3D lettering is to sketch block or bubble letters. Figure out in which direction you’d like the letters to face, and work in the lines to give the letters their 3D effect. Keep in mind your perspective as you do this. Lines should go in a diagonal direction from each corner or edge. Your lines should go in the same direction for each letter. Connect each diagonal to achieve the 3D look.
Next figure out from where your light source will come. Color the letters appropriately with the areas that the light hits directly lighter than those not hit by the light. To hit a curve in the middle, start with darker colors at the top and bottom of the curve, and gradually get lighter as you reach the point at which the light hits it; this point should be left white, or with very little color.
The gothic lettering style might draw from Old English styles, utilizing bold lines to create the basic shape of the letter and thinner, decorative lines. Gothic writing may also resemble thin, single-stroke designs with sharp dagger stroke points. Some might include drip lines, especially if written in the color, red, creating the illusion of blood. Some might include flames coming off of the lettering, or write in such a way that the flames form letters to spell out a name or message.
Don’t confuse this with the use of foreign characters. Write in English, but use strokes that appear similar to those used in many stylized versions of foreign characters. Usually thicker at the top or at the beginning of each stroke, dagger strokes are widely used in this style to create a thinner point at the end of each stroke. Letters that use just one stroke are often created wider in the middle with the ends more pointed using the dagger stroke.
Rock ‘n’ Roll
Rock ‘n’ roll can be conveyed in so many airbrush lettering styles, but we’ll talk about one specific style often associated with the music genre. Curves are not used; instead, straight lines connect with each other to form each letter. Letters that end in a straight line at the bottom are modified to include a downward-pointing arrow at the base of those lines. This lettering is inspired by that used by the band AC/DC in their band’s logo.
Don’t be afraid to create your own style of lettering, too. Alter the styles mentioned above, or create a style from scratch that’s unique and you can call your own distinct style.
Just be sure to practice whatever style of lettering you choose before you start airbrushing your cake. Go through the alphabet on a scrap paper a few times, and then practice writing your message on a piece of scrap. If you’re not quite where you want to be, continue to practice until you get it where you want. It will take some practice to get there, so do not be discouraged if you cannot get there right away.
Add drop shadows to your lettering to give it a little dimension. It’s easy. Just move your airbrush a little farther from the canvas, and outline the lettering on one side where you want the drop shadow to appear. Be sure to keep the drop shadow on the same side for each letter to achieve uniformity. The drop shadows can give the lettering perspective as well as a 3D feel. We’ll talk more about 3D lettering below.
A starburst is simply a star, depicted by a dot in many cases, surrounded by light rays. It is a typical design included in many airbrush lettering projects because it can add color to the project and make the design appear busier. Some might even use the starburst to dot an ‘i’ or ‘j’.
A drip line makes it appear as though paint is dripping from the lettering. In some cases, drip lines may be used when using red lettering to make it appear as though the message is written in blood; this is especially popular for Halloween themes or various gothic and scary themes. Airbrush graffiti styles may incorporate drip lines to give the design a more authentic feel, making it appear as though the graffiti was quickly applied.
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