Ok, so I know that a lot of you have asked me for awhile now to share the steps of how I digitize my work, and I’m sorry it has gotten so pushed to the side, but here it is now! I’m going to use a plain black and white piece of work so that you can see the gradient variations of the ink and how you can change them.

So first, you’ll want to scan in your piece of lettering at 300 dpi using a scanner. Once you’ve done this, open your lettering in Photoshop.




Second, you’ll see how the scan can give you a gross, discolored visual sometimes and we don’t want that.




So, we’re going to select Image > Adjustments > Levels or you can use the keyboard shortcut keys “Cmd + L.” Once this window opens you can manipulate the dark and light levels of the image using the arrows within “Input Levels.” The more contrast you have, the more precise and clear our lettering is going to be. So I usually up the lights a lot, and up the darks a lot as well. NOTE: When I’m working with lettering I know is going to be black on a white back ground, I make sure to be careful and not up the white levels to much so that it doesn’t take too much darkness out of the letters. Too little, or too much will take away it’s unique ink like characteristics.




Next, we’re going to select the Quick Selection tool ( which is highlighted here ) and click on a portion of the white background of the image. You can see I’ve done this here right next to the highlighted icon, which is the dotted circle line. Then, go to Select > Similar. This will select everything in the image that is white.




While your white background is selected, head over to your Layers panel. Double click on your layer. Another new layer box will pop up, just click “OK.” Now, hit the “Delete” key, and your background will disappear. Don’t freak out, its ok! Hit the keys “Cmd + D” on your keyboard. This will deselect everything for you. Your file should now look like the image below with a transparent background.




Next, go up to File > Save As and save your lettering out as a PNG file. (Make sure your File Mode is in RGB color format, or else you will not be able to save it out as a PNG.) You can do this under Image > Mode > RGB Color and you’ll be set!

TIP: You can always just duplicate this layer into a new document, but I always like to save out a copy of my lettering at this current step as a PNG file so that if I need it in the future and want to manipulate it in a different way, I already have this part done!

Next, create a new Photoshop document, and place in your saved PNG file you’ve made ( File > Place Embedded ) and size and proportion it to your liking.




If the darkness of your lettering is still a bit washed out, you can go into your Levels ( cmd + L ) and increase them so you get a nice contrasting dark while still letting your ink gradient characteristics come through.

AND that’s it, you’re done!!! Now you can add color and pattern overlays to your lettering, and background colors/designs etc. If you have any questions, feel free to comment below. I hope this was helpful for you guys!


7 comments on “DIGITIZING YOUR WORK”

  1. This is so helpful! I’d love to see how you color it. I have some lettering I’ve done using liquid watercolors and some blending that I’d love to digitize, but worry I will lose some of the texture or have to sacrifice color vibrancy. I’d love to letter in black watercolor/sumi ink and add color digitally. I wonder if it would look “realistic”?

  2. Thanks for the tutorial, it was very helpful!
    I’m wondering once I have the PNG, can I produce prints from this file or I must vectorize it in illustrator? Because my fonts are in a wash (similar to yours) and I want to keep that effect in the print. Thanks in advance!

    1. Alice, I’m so glad it was helpful, and to answer your question, YES! You can use this PNG file in Photoshop to make a produce your own prints. You DO NOT have to use Illustrator if you don’t want to. This same reason you mentioned here is why I don’t vectorize my lettering sometimes as well. I want to keep that gradient ink effect within my design, so I use Photoshop!

  3. I edit my lettering the same way. Like, almost to the T 🙂

    What scanner do you use? I feel silly asking this question…but I have yet to find a home scanner that I like, and wondering what kind you use. It seems to be the 1 piece of equipment hand lettering people don’t share 😉 Thanks!

    1. Hahaha! That is funny! I have a Canon! It has been pretty great actually. I don’t really have any complaints about it, I just wish I had room for a larger sized one!

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