Alejandro Solórzano discovered calligraphy two years ago and set aboutmastering his own style – with a little help from Photoshop
For me, the best fonts are those that are expressive and detailed,” says Alejandro Solórzano. “Typography is not a math problem with one correct answer; it will always vary!” Alejandro is a celebrated type artist online with thousands of followers, but he’s completely self-taught. So how did he reach the level he is today, and how does Photoshop help?
I started calligraphy two years ago. I bought a calligraphy marker with a square tip, then I downloaded some worksheets with basic exercises and strokes, which I started to practise every single day. Once I understood each letter structure and form, I changed the tool to a brush pen to start developing my own style. I didn’t study any graphic-design course, but I took some packaging, branding and calligraphy courses.
If you are interested in learning calligraphy, I highly recommend taking some customised courses; it’s always helpful to have a guide from the experts. Be patient and practise at least 15 minutes a day; that’s how you can improve your skills on a short-term basis. Look for inspiration – these days you can find a lot of calligraphy blogs to follow.
Photoshop has become my best friend when it comes to digitising my type work. I use it to import my files directly from the scanner; to isolate type and place it on different backgrounds with lots of colours; to add shadows and lights; and to make fixes. Most of the time I try to keep all the hand-written details to give a more precise look and feel. I love mixing analogue skills with our digital world. Photoshop is really helpful when the postproduction process starts. You can add letters, change forms, rotate text and do whatever you can imagine to create a good composition.
The tools I use the most are the Brush and the Pen tools, as these make the shadowing and editing process easier. I also use different blend modes depending the effect I’m looking for, in addition to the Quick Mask mode to isolate type from the sketch paper background. Talking of the Brush tool, it’s also important to mention that it allows you to create your own customised brushes with distinct features, which makes it easier to emulate a calligraphy broad-edged pen directly into Photoshop.
I often make the text stand out from its background by highlighting it, making a few colour adjustments and placing shadows between the letters. If you have a dark background you might want to use a light text; if you have a light background, try darker colours. It’s just as simple as that. It gets a little harder when you try to add a quote to a photo because of its colours and elements, so when it’s necessary, I add a black layer and then adjust the opacity so that the text can be clear and legible: that’s definitely a good tip for beginners!
After years of working with typography and calligraphy, I can say that everything boils down to practice and experimentation, both on paper and digitally. Buy lots of different tools, try new letters and watch the result. Be grateful for any positive comments and learn from negative feedback. Once you enjoy what you’re doing, it will be easier to share your passion with others, and you’ll instantly start to see the results. Believe in yourself!
Instagram! Instagram allows you to see exactly what inspires people, and how creativity is applied in their everyday lives. There are plenty of awesome designers out there to provide some creative inspiration, and many of them have bet on Instagram as a place to expose their portfolio and let people know what they’re capable of, and for me it’s an awesome way of sharing your creative process. It has become a great platform for connecting with other creatives and receiving feedback from some of your favourite artists.
I’m currently working on the development of an online lettering course in which I’ll be teaching the whole process from sketching through to digitising your works and uploading them to your favourite social design networks. Hopefully it will be available soon, so stay tuned. I’ll also continue to post on my personal blog, and start developing my own full calligraphy font, which is planned to be launched in March 2017.