You don’t need to have perfect penmanship to hand-letter beautiful designs. You also don’t need to carry pencils, pens, and paper to practice whenever inspiration strikes. Whether your style is blocky and bold or elegant and wavy, you can express your own style using Adobe Fresco.

Headshot of Kendall Plant

I’m Kendall Plant. I’m a creative director at Adobe. I like exploring new ways of expressing my creativity and helping others do the same.

A Little Background

Like many creatives, I’ve been drawing and doodling for as long as I can remember. Illustration isn’t my primary creative outlet these days, but I still find joy in sitting down for a stress-relieving sketch session—even if the end result isn’t share-worthy. For this project, I wanted to explore hand lettering in Adobe Fresco. I did this project on my iPad using an Apple Pencil. You can also use a Windows tablet that supports Fresco.

Woman sits on blue couch and draws on her iPad on a light wood coffee table with an orange candle and small plant

Step 1: Set Up for Success

To get started, open Fresco and start a new document. I chose the Custom size preset and entered the same dimensions for the height and width to create a square canvas. I planned to use pixel brushes because I like the variety, texture, and multicolor options they provide, so I tapped the three dots to the right of the bottom layer and chose Convert to Pixel Layer. Then I used the Paint Bucket to fill the canvas with black.

Paint bucket is highlighted to the left of a black canvas. Convert to pixel layer is selected from ellipsis icon on the right

Step 2: Follow the Rules

I drew a grid to use as a guide for my sketch on the top layer, and then chose a brush. I tapped the Pixel Brush icon, selected Pencil under the Sketching category, and set the color to white. To draw straight lines, tap the Ruler icon at the bottom right, use two fingers to rotate it, and then drag it into place. Lightly trace the edge of the ruler to add grid lines. When you’re done, you can tap the Ruler icon again to hide it.

Pixel brush is set to white, size 6; ruler is on canvas over a light white grid, layer above the black layer is highlighted

Step 3: Sketch It Out

Add another layer for a sketch. If you’re like me and plan to draw thick letters, it can be helpful to work with a larger brush. Tap on the brush size value and drag your finger or stylus to increase the size. Now roughly sketch your design using the grid as a guide. To undo as you work, tap with two fingers anywhere on your screen.

Brush is set to white and size 80, ‘Get Weird’ is written in cursive on the canvas, 3 layer thumbnails appear on the right

Step 4: Go Color Crazy

Here’s where you can have some fun mixing colors. Use the Color Picker to define your own, or choose from the color palettes. I liked the salmon and blue in the Fresco colors category.

Add an empty layer to experiment with creating a custom brush color. Hide the sketch and grid by tapping the layer first and then the eye icon. Select a brush (I chose the Ink brush Sumi) and increase the brush size. Choose the first color and paint a blob on the canvas. Pick a new color and add another blob to overlap the first. Choose the Eyedropper tool, tap the multicolor swatch, and drag the picker over the blobs. Switch back to the pixel brush and try out your new color. The multicolor option works with most pixel brushes. If you’re using a sketch or marker brush, you may need to choose another brush for this to work.

Left: Sumi brush from the Ink category; Right: Eyedropper & multicolor swatch selected, salmon & blue brush strokes on canvas

Different brushes have unique behaviors with a multicolor swatch. Experiment with different color combinations and brushes to find a look you like. You can find your new custom color in the Recents section of the color menu.

4 different multicolor brush stroke styles

Step 5: Brush Up on Your Cursive

If you don’t need the color swatch layer anymore, you can hide it. Tap your sketch layer and then the eye icon to make it visible. Tap the Layer properties icon and drag the opacity slider down to make the sketch lighter so it can serve as a guide for you to trace on.

Add a new layer above the sketch and use your colored brush to start drawing the design. To reduce jitter, you can tap the Smoothing icon and increase the value. Remember that you can tap with two fingers to undo at any point. You can also use the ruler to draw straight lines in your design.

Brush smoothing is set to 100, Opacity on Layer properties panel is set to 25, ‘Get Weird’ is now salmon and turquoise

Step 6: Drop in Some Shadows

Custom shadows can give your design an illusion of depth. Reduce the brush size and then pinch to zoom in to the area you want to customize. Tap and hold the touch shortcut as you brush. As you hold down this button, your brush works as an eraser while maintaining the brush texture. Release the touch shortcut to return to the brush. I used the custom eraser to make cutouts and to refine the shape of some of the letters.

Zoomed in view of lettering with touch shortcut icon and shadows added between the ‘e’ and ‘i’ in ‘Weird’

Step 7: Add a Touch of Retro

As a final touch, I chose the Starscape brush from the FX category. Add a new layer and brush to add some vintage-looking stars. Adjust the brush size to achieve a variety of starburst sizes.

Pixel brushes set to Starscape, salmon and turquoise starbursts appear behind the words ‘Get Weird’

Illustrate Your Style

Check out Martina Flor’s in-depth creative process for hand lettering. Be sure to share your own handmade letterforms with @AdobeCreate. We’d love to see your creations.

Salmon and turquoise brushed, hand lettering spells ‘Get Weird’ on an iPad on light-colored wood

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