How Dina Rodriguez created a hand lettered shirt design from scratch using the new Bamboo Folio

I’m Dina, a hand lettering artist in Portland, OR that specializes in commercial illustration and branding for creative businesses. Being a full-time hand lettering artist this past year at Letter Shoppe has been a dream come true for me. I do what I love everyday in my humble studio in while making enough work to pay the bills. But with so many projects to do and not enough time in my day to feed my shiny object syndrome, I’m always on the lookout for new tools and apps to help speed up my process so I can make even more cool new things.

Dina Rodriguez of Letter Shoppe live on Twitch with the Bamboo Folio.
Dina Rodriguez of Letter Shoppe live on Twitch with the Bamboo Folio.

Introducing the Bamboo Folio
Wacom reached out to me when they first moved their headquarters from sleepy Vanvouver, WA to the the hipster town of Portland, OR. They liked admired my style and wanted to give me the opportunity to try out their newest Bamboo smartpad that allows you to instantly digitize anything your draw using their smart notepad and ink pen.

Coming from someone who is constantly jotting down ideas for new designs and goes through a ton of paper refining my lettering, I was interested.

The brainstorm process for creating a new design can be long and daunting, so having the right tools at your fingertips can make all the difference. Using the Bamboo Folio during the beginning stages of my hand lettering process completely eliminated the need for scanning so I could focus more on getting the project done.

In this article I’m going to walk you through my process of creating a hand lettered shirt design from scratch using the Bamboo Folio along with my other everyday tools. All in all this project took over 40 hours to complete where over 20 hours were recorded live on Twitch. Check out my channel here.

Quick sketch from Dina of Letter Shoppe on the Bamboo Folio.
Quick sketch from Dina of Letter Shoppe on the Bamboo Folio.

Creating thumbnails with ease
I started my shirt design process by busting out my Bamboo Folio for the first time to write out my phrase so I could visualize which words I wanted to give more emphasis to. Jotting down your phase simply in your own handwriting can be a helpful way of figuring out the visual hierarchy of your piece making the initial thumbnail stage go much smoother.

For this piece I decided that words like “Today” and “Jealous” (with a double underline) will be the biggest and boldest while words like “Awesome” (with a single underline) will have a secondary focus.

When creating my first small thumbnails I first drew out a the shape I wanted my letters to fit inside knowing that I wanted my words to be stacked while filling up as much real estate on the front of the shirt as possible. Then I started to letter in my words giving myself the opportunity to play with different compositions and containers for my lettering while sticking to my established hierarchy.

After a few drafts, and a vote taken from the viewers in the Twitch chat, I circled my favorite composition and simply clicked the button on my Bamboo Folio to save the sketch in order to move on to the next stage.

Rough Sketch part 2 for a t-shirt design from Letter Shoppe made with the Bamboo Folio.
Rough Sketch part 2 for a t-shirt design from Letter Shoppe made with the Bamboo Folio.

First drafts with hassle free refinement
The above messy collection of doodles and letters is my very first draft of this shirt design. As you can see it’s messy and I even ran out of room drawing half of my words but it was a great start. I had starting to see my thumbnail composition come to life as well as type styles for my letters with a few added details.

T-shirt design coming in hot from Dina of Letter Shoppe. She started the design with the Bamboo Folio, and is now using Adobe Photoshop to turn her work into a polished piece.
T-shirt design coming in hot from Dina of Letter Shoppe. She started the design with the Bamboo Folio, and is now using Adobe Photoshop to turn her work into a polished piece.

With a click of a button I saved my sketch where it instantly got stored on my iMac so I could shart to refine it in Adobe Photoshop to prepare for round 2.

Dina's t-shirt design, now in Adobe Photoshop.
Dina’s t-shirt design, now in Adobe Photoshop.

As you can see this Photoshopped sketch is much less hectic and is starting to make more sense. I lasso tooled out some letters and skewed and rotated them to be more in line with the rest of the letters. Then to make up for the missing letters I just duplicated other letters and morphed them to make sense in the composition. Notice how the “W” in “Awesome” makes for a decent “M” in a pinch.

I printed out my fixed rough sketch and traced it making subtle refinements as I went giving the words more body, weight and balance. Since I knew I was just going to lasso tool out most of my letters anyway during the next round, I easily saved different layers of my piece so I could be more organized during the next step of refinement.

Dina starting to color her T-shirt design in using the Wacom Intuos.
Dina starting to color her T-shirt design in using the Wacom Intuos.

Inking in Adobe Photoshop
I uploaded my final sketch from my Bamboo Folio and one last time tweaking things out in Adobe Photoshop getting this piece ready for the final digital ink. I even drew out notes in a red liner directly on my document making it easy to redraw and get one step closer to letter perfection.

I inked this piece using the sexy letter liner brush from the The Hand Lettering Toolkit from Retro Supply Co because it’s rough edges look just like if I had traditional inked it. I had to bust out my Wacom Intuos in order to get that clean digital line while still giving this piece a traditional handmade look.

Dots, dots and more dots
At this point I could have just colored this piece and called it a day but I tend to be an overachiever when it comes to the products I create for my RedBubble and Society6 shop. So I went above and beyond and decided to shade this entire piece with dots by stippling this piece from top to bottom.

Luckily I had my awesome viewers on Twitch to keep me company as I dotted it up. As you can see each style of lettering has it’s own unique way of being shaded where “Today” is mostly dark with a metal like highlight coming from the center and “Awesome” is only half shaded with some subtle dots for fun.

The final design of the t-shirt from LetterShoppe using Wacom and Bamboo tools.
The final design of the t-shirt from LetterShoppe using Wacom and Bamboo tools.

The Final Reveal
With a sore hand and a new piece of awesome lettering I look back knowing that without the Bamboo Folio this piece wouldn’t have the foundation needed to make this piece great. By streamlining my process with the Bamboo Folio I was able to keep up with all the ideas swirling in my head and put them down on paper.

For more information or to contact Dina at Lettershoppe, click here: http://lettershoppe.com/

To watch Dina on Twitch, click here.
To shop Dina’s designs, including the shirt designd here, click here or here.