Zero Tolerance hand lettering

Sketching out the hand lettering

I started with a pencil and paper to sketch out the lettering. I did more iterations than shown below, but you could go on an on. In each variation there were elements I was happy with.

zero tolerance hand lettering pencil sketches
Some of the initial pencil-sketched hand-lettering

Turning the hand lettering in to vector artwork

I used these pencil sketches as a base to recreate it in Illustrator. I could have inked over the sketches, scanned them in and traced them to create vector shapes but as I need to use elements from each, I thought it was best to start from scratch using the pen tool and a graphics tablet.

After I had the paths in place, I tidied up the points, smoothed some curves and made the heights and spacing more uniform. I then experimented by applying various artistic brush styles to the paths. It turned out simplest was best and so I settled for a 5pt oval brush.

Applying a photographic texture to the vector shapes

After making a compound path from the individual paths, I moved them over to Photoshop as a shape layer ready to apply some texture. I chose Photoshop for this as the layer masks allow for a non-destructive way of applying textures.

the original photo used for the texture

Separately, I opened a photo to use as the texture. I used the threshold adjustments to set a level that would give a little texture. Initially I set the level too high and, once the texture was applied, the type was not legible enough (remember, that the black parts of the texture will be the parts of the type that will appear ‘eroded’ when applied).

adjusting the threshold levels in photoshop
adjusting the threshold levels

Once I had set the threshold at a suitable level, I selected all, copied and pasted the adjusted photo in to the document with the Zero Tolerance shape layer. The black of the photo was selected with the magic wand tool and then copied. Pressing CMD + OPTION + SHIFT creates a new layer using the clipboard contents as a mask.

applying a texture as a layer mask in photoshop
applying the texture as a layer mask

With the type shape layer selected, go to Layer -> Layer Mask -> Reveal All and then drag the mask from the texture layer to the empty mask of the type layer. You can then reposition and scale the texture until it looks right (so that no important parts of the type are hidden with the texture)

zero tolerance hand lettering artwork with texture
The finished design

This design is available on apparel and as prints at society6

zero tolerance hand lattering t-shirt all over artwork society6 mock up
the final design is available on society6
zero tolerance hand lettering tshirt transfer
A flat version of the motif transfered to tshirt with heat and transfer paper