From Analog to Digital to Analog

By Terri Stone

Create Magazine is an Adobe publication, so you think we’d be digital digital digital all the time. Nope—we love analog. There’s nothing like the feel of paper, the smell of ink, and the look of letters you drew yourself. That desire for a unique, tactile experience drove designer and hand-letterer Christine Herrin to create things by hand. But to earn money from her creations, she digitized her work, and now thousands of admirers buy her stamp sets—to make things like travel journals, planners, and postcards by hand.

Christine often begins this analog-to-digital-to-analog process by grabbing a Tombow Dual Brush or Pentel Kuretake brush pen and writing in a sketchbook she carries everywhere. Often, she’s happy with her first attempt, though she insists that she’s not a natural at the art. “It took me two years to write something that quickly that looks that good,” she says.

She honed her lettering skills with self-imposed projects. For the first of these projects in 2014, she hand-lettered inspirational quotations and her own thoughts for 30 days. (“I’m one of those cheesy people who loves hand-lettered Pinterest quotes,” she says. “If I had a cubicle, it would be covered in motivational quotes.”) She posted the results on her Instagram feed.

Christine Herrin, an Adobe Creative Resident, honed her hand-lettering skills with practice. These examples are from a 30-day challenge she posted to her Instagram feed.

In just 30 days of daily practice (Day 1 on the left, Day 30 on the right), Christine Herrin’s lettering changed significantly.

Those early attempts make her cringe today. “You’re not going to be good when you start,” she notes. “It’s easy to get discouraged because you’re like, ‘This sucks.’ That’s how I felt for the first 15 days, but I already told people I was going to do it, so I had to go ahead.”

By choosing quotations instead of the alphabet, Herrin gave herself an additional challenge. She wasn’t just practicing on individual letters or words—the entire sentence had to be a visually pleasing whole. “You have to figure out how it all flows. That took me several tries for each quote.”

In 2015, she began a more ambitious project: Lettering 100 postcards and again posting the results on Instagram. Even though she stopped a little more than halfway through, making the work public was a smart move. Art directors who came across it began to hire her specifically for hand-lettering jobs. “I realized I’d rather do that than design someone’s logo,” she says.

You can see all of the postcards Herrin completed by searching Instagram on the hashtag #100PostcardsByCH.


After Herrin puts pen to paper, she digitizes the lettering by photographing and processing it with her phone and one of two apps. When she wants the art in vector form, she’ll use Adobe Capture CC, which has the added benefit of auto-syncing the vector file to her Creative Cloud Library so it’s immediately accessible in other Adobe mobile and desktop apps. When she wants to preserve her brush strokes’ texture, she saves the file in bitmap format using Scanner Pro.

Herrin often turns her lettering into stamp sets. While a clear-stamp manufacturer handles her orders, she recommends the more traditional rubber stamps when you’re making them for personal use. “Rubber stamps are less expensive—you don’t have to order hundreds at a time.” To manufacture her rubber stamps, Herrin likes local shops and the online vendors and Lumi

Herrin designed this stamp set for VidCon, an event for creators (and fans) of online video. On the left is her layout in Adobe Illustrator CC, which she sent to the stamp manufacturer. On the right is the finished product. Each clear stamp peels off the base, and you stick it onto a block that's also clear. 

Herrin sells her stamps on her online shop and in partnership with a few other companies, such as Kelly Purkey. Herrin warns prospective creators that it’s not a get-rich-quick scheme: “Your income is proportional to your hustle.”

She followed a simple strategy to maximize her chances of success. “You figure out what’s not out there and where you can fit yourself in. People who buy stamps really like the travel theme, and I love travel, too. But a lot of other travel stamps use fonts, so my hand lettering stands out.”

Many people who buy Herrin’s stamps post their creations on Instagram and tag her. It’s grown into a supportive community that is a real-world example of those “cheesy” inspirational quotations Herrin loves.

Herrin’s stamps appear in fans’ planners, travel journals, and modern scrapbooks. 

Herrin’s ambitions reach far beyond stamps: One goal is to develop a line of paper products. She’s taking advantage of her time as an Adobe Creative Resident to refine her ideas by visiting stationery shows and shops in several countries. But she stresses that you don’t have to go far to do the same: Inspiration can be right around the corner—literally. “Just try it!” she says.

Christine Herrin was one of many creative luminaries who spoke at 2016’s Adobe MAX. Visit the MAX website to watch recorded keynote presentations and conference sessions.

August 18, 2016