Lauren Schroer
Graphic Designer

An archive of my blog.

How To Digitize Hand Lettering

Ever wonder how to get hand lettering from your sketchbook onto your computer? Today I'm going to show you how! It's really quite a simple process and once you get the hang of it, it only takes a few minutes to do!


Once you've done your lettering, take a photo of your page (in the best light you can, if possible), and open it up in Adobe Photoshop. You can even take the photo on your phone and it'll work! Try to crop any unnecessary backgrounds (i.e. your desk, the spine of your sketchbook) so all you see is your lettering with a blank background.

Next, going into the Adjustments panel, create a Levels adjustment layer. In the Levels panel that opens up, click on the white eyedropper. Using the white eyedropper, click anywhere in your background to make the background of your lettering white.

Once your background is white, click on the black eyedropper tool in the Levels panel. Using the black eyedropper, click anywhere within your lettering to make it black. Once you're happy with the colours in your image, copy and paste it into Adobe Illustrator.

Once you've copied and pasted your image into Adobe Illustrator, open up the Image Trace panel (Window > Image Trace). With your image selected, click on "Black and White Logo" from the Presets drop down list in the Image Trace panel. I find that this preset usually works well with lettering, but you can play around with and adjust the settings in the Image Trace window until you're happy with the outline. Make sure you have the Preview box checked at the bottom of the panel so you can see the adjustments you're making!

Then, click the Expand button in the top tool bar to convert your image to points. After expanding, Ungroup (Object > Ungroup or Shift+Command+G) the objects in your image. You'll then want to delete all of the white blocks from your traced lettering. Click on the background and the spots within the letters where any white space is, and hit Delete on your keyboard. This should leave just your lettering left on the art board!

Next, to clean up the edges and lines on your lettering, click on the Smooth tool (it's next to the Pencil in your toolbar on the left). Zoom in on your lettering, and drag the smooth tool along your lines to clean them up. Be sure to click on the lettering with the Selection Tool (V on your keyboard) each time you clean up a different line. Remember that your lines don't have to be too perfect or smooth though, because you still want it to look hand done!

Once your lines are smoothed out, you're done! You can now use your lettering in any vector graphics you want to make! If you have any questions I'd be happy to answer them below! Or if there are any other Photoshop or Illustrator tutorials you'd like to see from me, leave me some suggestions!

Have you ever done hand lettering? What are your favourite tools to lettering with? I'd love some recommendations!