Starting 15th of November 2021: DHL Ecommerce shipping option will be changed to Asendia Postal Service.

5 Ways to Add Dimension to Your Lettering


There’s always a way to take your lettering to the next level. As lettering artists, we should always challenge ourselves to go one step further to improve our designs.

This tutorial will guide you in adding depth and dimension to your lettering, bringing your work to life.  

Depth and dimension can be easily accomplished by adding shadows.

It may seem difficult, but it’s a pretty simple way of making your lettering look more dynamic and intricate.

To get started, we need to prepare the materials we’ll be using.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  1. Pencil and Eraser
  2. Ruler
  3. Blank Paper (or a grid/dotted paper and tracing paper)
  4. Colored pens or markers
  5. Letter Ruler (optional)

If you’re doing this digitally, all you’ll need is your tablet and stylus.

In this tutorial, I’ll share with you 5 different techniques to add depth and dimension to your lettering. These are:

  1. Drop Shadow
  2. Line Shadow
  3. 3D Effect
  4. One-point Perspective
  5. Overlapping Shadow

But before we start creating, there are a few things we should know.

What is a Shadow?

When an object blocks a light source, the result is a dark shape called a shadow. 

Just like when we step outside on a sunny day, we can see a shadow taking the shape of our body when we block the sunlight. 

In the case of lettering, our letters will be the ones blocking the light source.

Now, the question is, “where do you put the light source?” 

Source of Light 

This is completely up to you! 

Always remember that the shadow is cast on the opposite side of your light source.

For this tutorial, I’ll be placing the light source at the top right corner.

This means the shadow will be at the bottom left side of the letter.

I’ll be using the same block letter for all the examples, but it’s important that you practice with other letters to familiarize yourself with the dimension techniques. 

We’ll be using the Letter Ruler to create both the letter and the guide for the shadow. 

If you don’t have a Letter Ruler, I recommend using dot or grid paper, which will give you the same effect. You can also use tracing paper to make the sketching process easier. 

Drop Shadow

    One of the most straightforward ways to give your lettering dimension is to use a drop shadow.

    This is accomplished by replicating the letter slightly below and beside the original letter to create a shadow.

    This gives the illusion that the letters are floating above the page.

    Step 1: Draw your letter and identify where your light source is.

    Step 2: Draw your letter again at a distance opposite your light source. In this case, the lower left, since my light source is at the top right.

    Step 3: Color your shadow with a lighter color.

    And that’s it! You have a drop shadow.

    Note: The farther the distance of your shadow, the higher the floating effect will look.

    Line Shadow

    The simplest way to add dimension to your lettering is to draw line shadows.

    This is done by drawing lines around the letter’s margins where the shadow should be, leaving enough space in between the letter and the shadow.

    For the best results, avoid adding too much space in between the letter and the shadow line.

    Step 1: Draw your letter and identify where your light source is.

    Step 2: Draw your letter again at a short distance opposite your light source.

    Step 3: Ink only the left and bottom edges of the shadow guide.

    3D Effect

    Turn your flat letter into a solid object by adding a 3D effect. This makes your text boldly stand out.

    This technique is frequently used in advertisements and signs.

    Step 1: Draw your letter and duplicate it at a distance towards the lower-left direction.

    Step 2: Connect the edges of your letter and its duplicate.

    Step 3: Place the light source at the top left corner. This highlights the left faces of the 3D effect and leaves a shadow on the bottom faces. 

    Step 4: Color your letter and 3D effect in three different shades. Use a lighter color for the highlight.

    Try this! 

    Instead of coloring in the 3D effect with a solid color, try stippling the highlights and shadows. This will add a very interesting texture to your 3D letter. 

    Stippling is made by adding dots to color an area. The denser the dots are, the darker the area will be. So add fewer dots on the highlights and add more dots on the shadows.

    One-point Perspective

    This technique is similar to the previous technique (3D effect), but instead of following the shape of the letter, the focus is on a single point (“vanishing point”). 

    This gives your letter a 3D effect that appears smaller and as the body goes further away. This is perfect for emphasizing the important words of your lettering compositions.

    Step 1: Draw your letter and position your vanishing point. Then connect the edges of your letter to the vanishing point. If you have more than one letter or word, they must have the same vanishing point.

    Step 2: Draw the edges of the 3D projection following the shape of the letter.

    Step 3: Place the light source at the top left corner. This highlights the left faces of the 3D effect and leaves a shadow on the bottom faces. 

    Step 4: Color your letter and 3D perspective effect in three different shades. Use a lighter color for the highlight.

    Try this!

    One creative way to add the one-point perspective effect to your lettering is by smudging the ink. 

    Instead of coloring the 3D effect with a solid color. Smudge the wet ink towards the vanishing point. This will give your letters a fading 3D effect. Just be careful not to smudge in ink in your main letter.

    Overlapping Shadow

    Shadows don’t always have to be outside your letter. Adding them inside the letter can also be a great way to add dimension to your lettering.

    An overlapping shadow can be applied between two strokes/segments of your letter. This creates the illusion that the strokes/segments are stacked on top of each other.

    Step 1: Draw your letter.

    Step 2: Divide your letter into sections or segments.

    Step 3: Identify which segments are on the top and bottom.

    Step 4: Shade shadows to the bottom layers where the segments meet.

    Note: Blend your shadow smoothly like creating a gradient (the darker side starts from the point where your segments meet.

    Conclusion

    This concludes the 5 different techniques for adding depth and dimension to your block lettering.

    Now that you have learned these techniques, it’s time for you to get creative!

    Here’s my challenge for you. Try any of these techniques on your next lettering. But don’t just share the finished work. Take a picture of your lettering before and after applying dimension to it. It’s very interesting to see how much of a difference one more step makes.

    Tag me at @nicong.co when you share your work. I would love to check out your progress and offer you feedback!


    Leave a comment


    Please note, comments must be approved before they are published