Design process: Typographic wall art: Blessing for the home: Part 1

There are several customary versions, some more religious than others, with some variations in the wishes. I found a convenient collection of the versions here:
I chose one I liked best, and started thinking about layout.
This turned out to be a long process, that is still on-going. For some reason, it is not going quickly or smoothly. Here is a break-down of my process.

Please forgive the quality of the photos, the lighting wasn’t optimal, but I thought it preferable to have imperfect photos than none at all.

Initial stage: Getting familiar with my text

First of all, I wrote down my text, looking at important words I want to highlight. and sketched some ideas for the layout.
I started out thinking I want a banner with the title “Birkat Habait” (Blessing for the home in Hebrew), and have the full text behind or around it.

 Testing out layout options

I didn’t like the look of those, and moved on. I thought I’d make the text in some shape, so that the text itself will create the shape. I wasn’t yet sure which shape. I tried leaves first, and a flower, my obvious go-tos. I’m deliberately making the text start at the “root”, the meeting point of the petals, since I want it to branch out, not curl in (Hebrew is right to left), and more importantly, the way the blessing is written, the main words are at the end of each sentence, so this way I can make them larger, emphasizing them.

I investigated the flower petals idea further. I tried a Magnolia flower, as a small sketch first, and then in larger scale, more detailed.
While I was sketching and scribbling, I experimented with the title, and got a fancy one full of flourishes that I really liked. I taped it to the magnolia sketch, thinking this is the layout I’m going with.

I guess I wasn’t 100% sold on this design, as the next day when I took the train had some time to kill, I kept playing with it. I found in my notebook a very rough sketch of Ginkgo leaves, and tried fitting my words into them. On the way back, I did a flower with rounder petals.

Another day passes, and in my mind I’m imagining the text in the shape of a house, or having the text fill out the background around a house shape. This was getting frustrating. I couldn’t settle on a layout and it started feeling like it was taking too long. I was making all these tests, and had no a-ha! moment.

As I was pondering the shape of the house, I had the idea of making it sit on a hill, this already appealed to me. I pretty much went along with this initial idea, without much development.

A rapid development ensued: I drew the design on a new sheet of paper, debated tracing it to watercolour paper, but inked it in anyways. I was itching to advance with this after the long conceptual stage.

Oh, by the way, looking at most of the photos above, you can see I do everything in pencil first, using lots of lines and experimentation, then tracing the “best” ones in pen, so I don’t get confused.

I stumbled upon another junction when I finished this delightful inking (The Sakura Pigma Micron was sooo smooth on the legal pad – a sheer delight!).
I was, still am, expecting to transfer this to watercolour paper at some point, for the real artwork, but I simply cannot make up my mind about the colors. Am I staying true to natural colors – i.e. blue sky in background, brown or green hill, green trees? or do I create a fantastic color scheme, such as purple hill, orange text? Do I color in the letters, or perhaps let them have only a light, transparent fill, so that the background splashes I envision can be seen whithin them?

Maybe because this project is for my best friend, the weight of the decisions is heavier, and I’m having a harder time with this design.

Digital try-outs: Photoshop & illustrator

Since I have my inked letters, I thought I’d scan them and test out all these possibilities in Photoshop. Then, when I find something I like, I can create that on the watercolor paper. My first experiments in Photoshop are pretty horrific, it’s the dark side of design we usually don’t see, but I’m pretty sure it exists, not only in my work! Are you ready for it?

I was none the smarter yet! Nothing seems to be “it”. I delay the important decisions some more, by deciding to trace my text in Illustrator.
I always bring in my scan (or a re-work of a scan) from Photoshop, put it in a locked layer at the bottom, with some transparency, and build my shapes in other layers. This time I also created a shape for the hill, to keep my letter in line (haha). You can see I like working in an orderly fashion and group elements together and name my layers  – Everything may be fresh in your head now, but if you have to re-visit a layered file several months later, you have no idea if layer 12 copy 3 made it to the final design or not. Trying to make sense of it is an unnecessary headache in my view. I place my unused layers under the background layer (in PS), and try to name them all.

My tracing is done, and I’m back to experimenting in Photoshop.

Mid-process conclusions

So this is where I’m at now. I have a beautiful clean trace of the letters, and some very rough ideas of where I go next. I have 2 options:

  • One major possibility is not making a full design on paper, but rather creating the different parts and assembling them in Photoshop.
  • I can print out my delightful trace and transfer it to the watercolour paper and go manually from there. This could entail several attempts..!

I envision a splashy background, and the letters coloring could be semi transparent, showing those splashes. I also still need to tackle the title, and I’m still thinking about that banner, at the bottom of the hill.
I think I will go with the first option and assemble the piece digitally this time. As to colors, I think I like the brown hill with orangy text on it. If I do it digitally, I can paint my background in one color, and If I don’t like it, I’ll be able to manipulate and change the colors in PS. I’ll let you know how it’s going soon enough!

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