Saturday, December 20, 2014

14 Holiday Themed Hand Lettering Projects for Inspiration

Holiday Inspired Hand Lettering Roundup -

I can get lost on Dribbble, surfing through the endless projects that designers post. Here are some holiday themed hand lettering projects that I love. Enjoy!

Holiday Card Script by Jaime Van Wart

Merry Christmas to You! by Meggan Blake

Happy Holidays! by Jessica Jaime

Christmas Season at Twin Lakes by Amy Sweetman at Infinite Swell

Tis the Season by Alexa Lupul

Present by Joe Clay

Holly Jolly by Philip Eggleston

Merry Christmas! by Matteo Ruisi

Christmas Card by Luiza Abend

Holidays by Ria McIlwraith

Tis the Season... for Calories by Jessi Juart

Seasons Greetings by Lori Ludwig for TrendyMinds

Happy Holidays! by Sebastian Abboud

Happy Holidays! by Lauren Beltramo

Have you come across any holiday lettering or illustration that you love? Link it in the comments below!

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Friday, December 19, 2014

What Is Your Word for 2015?

Last year I chose three words for 2014: Create, Ignite, and Reflect.

Let me pause to explain the 3-word or 1-word thing. I haven't made nor do I believe in New Years Resolutions: putting a start time on a goal is more of an excuse not to start today. The concept words of a year will weave themselves in and out of your real life, breathing purpose and energy into everything you do. Resolutions tend to feel like threats and shoulds.

What is your word for 2015? -

Okay, back to my 3 words for 2014.

All three of those did me quite well this year. I created a platform for my hand lettering and illustration passions and posted new works on Instagram nearly daily since the summer, and yes, doodled like a madwoman as I'd hoped.

Ignite is the blurriest of the three words I chose. I feel like most of 2014 was setting me up for a real launch for this coming year, so ignite is carrying forward.

I checked in with myself regularly in 2014 and made sure I was reflecting upon important moments and situations, and thought heavily on what was making me happy and what wasn't. This heavy reflection has launched me into a whole slew of changes for 2015, including a new job and a new apartment with a growing relationship.

After reading Holly's 2015 word of "content" (as in contentment, not blog content), I started to consider what my word would be for 2015. I commented on her post with "Growth", and after sitting on that word for a few days I am going to go ahead with it.

Because my 2014 words pushed me into a new realm, 2015 is going to be about growing where I'm planted:

  • Settling in at a new job where I'll be working in an office for the first time in almost 2 years.
  • Continued learning about a career I'm so thrilled to dive into: design.
  • Nesting in a new beautiful apartment with a wonderful person.
  • Exploring my new (non center city Philadelphia) town and figuring out how to be a good suburbanite again. (Luckily the train to Philly is within walking distance.)

Moving day will have already happened by the time this is posted, and as I sit here in a mostly-packed apartment I feel a buzz and excitement for taking lots of big next steps in my life, all of which feel so right.

Grow where you are planted - hand lettered quote -

Growth in 2015 is perfect. It also serves my low hum of words from 2014 in that I hope to keep creating and engaging in the illustration world, I hope to fly with my new job in design, and I hope to keep in touch with myself through all of these big steps and stay balanced by reflecting. Plus, I hope to never stop growing and improving, as cheesy as that sounds.

What is your word (or words) for 2015 and why?

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Thursday, December 18, 2014

What Makes a Good Designer?

What is a designer, and what makes a good designer?

What is a designer?

I'm excited to announce I'm starting a new job in January as a UI (user interface) designer. This change in career is causing me to want to solidify my understanding of what makes a good designer.

As I shared on Instagram:

First and foremost, designers are problem solvers, not icing spreaders. We make functional and structural decisions based on the task at hand, then make it look good. Every good designer works towards the best user experience and knows that form follows function.

This quote came to me sometime over the summer, when I first Instagrammed it. You can see why I wanted a do-over ;)

What is a designer

A photo posted by Jennifer Coyle (@jnnfrcyl) on

Your turn: What is a designer to you?

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Sunday, December 14, 2014

How to Set Up Rich Pins for Blogger Blogs

Traffic via Pinterest for bloggers is huge. Bloggers strive to make Pinterest-friendly images (vertical format, striking image or photo, informative, etc) but could be missing out on a huge chance to increase Pinterest traffic and engagement.

Pinterest offers Rich Pins which can be easily set up for various blogging platforms. Rich pins take important data from your blog post and give credit to the original site, author, and SEO-worthy description. With this extra information attached to your pins, you can gain lots more traffic and followers because all of the images pinned from your site will have a trail linking back to your site and your work.

Set up Rich Pins to get more traffic to your blog - tutorial on

Melyssa of The Nectar Collective shared her rich pin tutorial for WordPress last week, and inspired me to replicate this process on Blogger and share it with you. After some research I was able to do this for my site on Blogger and wanted to teach you how to do it.

Follow this quick tutorial to learn how to create Rich Pins for your Blogger blog in order to gain more engagement on Pinterest and therefore more blog traffic.

I'm still waiting for the approval from Pinterest, but I will update the article with examples once I have them.

I promise it's not hard: you only have to dig into your HTML code once.

Step 1: Turn on Meta Tags

Meta tags are so important for SEO for your Blogger blog. When enabled, much like the Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress, this feature will allow you to type in your own search description for each post so people will be able to figure out what your post is about when looking at a list of search results in Google.

To turn on Meta Tags:
  1. Go to Settings
  2. Go to Search Preferences
  3. Under Meta Tags, click Edit next to [Disabled]
  4. When prompted to Enable Search Description?, toggle that to Yes and enter a description for your blog. Click Save changes.

Turn on meta tags in Blogger to have better SEO

Now when you go to draft a new blog post, you will see Search Description in the sidebar. Click to open that and add a SEO-friendly description of your blog post when you publish it.

Step 2: Back Up Your Blogger Blog

Whenever you dig into your code, it's important to back up your HTML first, in case something goes awry.

To back up your Blogger Blog:

  1. Go to Template
  2. Click on the grey Backup/Restore button in the upper right
  3. Click Download Full Template
  4. Save it to a safe place on your computer

Step 3: Paste This Meta Tag Code Into Your HTML

Now it's time to dig into your HTML. Go to Template, then click Edit HTML.

Find the code:

<b:includable id="post" var="post">

(Do this by clicking in the text box then typing CTRL or CMD+F)

Edit your Blogger HTML Template

Right after that code appears, hit enter a few times and then paste this code:

<meta expr:content='data:post.title' property='og:title'/>
<meta expr:content='data:blog.metaDescription' property='og:description'/>
<meta content='article' property='og:type'/>
<meta expr:content='data:blog.url' property='og:url'/>
<meta expr:content='data:blog.title' property='og:site_name'/>
<meta expr:content='data:post.timestampISO8601' property='article:published_time'/>
<meta content='Technology' property='article:section'/>
<b:loop values='data:post.labels' var='label'>
<meta expr:content='' property='article:tag'/>

Replace Technology with the main topic of your blog. For mine, I chose Design.

Click Save Template.

Step 4: Validate Your Rich Pins with Pinterest

Go to the Rich Pins Validator.

Paste in a link to an existing blog post where it says Enter a valid URL and click Validate.

After the information populates, make sure everything looks right, then click Apply Now. When prompted for Data Format, click HTML Tags and then click Apply Now again.

Choose HTML Tags and Validate Your URL with Pinterest

You'll get an email from Pinterest in a bit once your application has processed (the process should take a few hours or a couple of days).

Give this a shot and comment below with any questions!

Found this post helpful? Follow me on Bloglovin' to be notified of new posts to help you improve your blog.
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Friday, December 12, 2014

Friday Five: Hand Lettering and Illustration

This past week I was in Sanibel Island, Florida with Adams and my parents. I've been coming here almost every year since I was 2 (I don't even want to do the math) and being able to spend time with my favorite people in one of my favorite places was just what I needed right before we move into our new apartment and I start a new job.

Friday Five: Hand Lettering, Illustration, and Questions on

I'm doing something different with this Friday Five and am including questions at the bottom of this post. Please participate in the comments or in your own blog post!

Ikki Matsumoto

Since I was little, Ikki Matsumoto's work stood out to me. The angular shapes, crisp lines, and simplified animals of Ikki's style definitely influence my work. We found a tiny Anhinga print for me to take home and I'm thrilled to hang it in our new apartment.

Sandy Gingras

While wandering around one of my favorite Sanibel gift shops, I saw these tiny illustrated books by Sandy Gingras. The Lessons of a Turtle book is extra cute, in that it provides life advice like "we're all soft inside" and "home is within".

Illustrating and writing a children's book is still on my bucket list, and Sandy Gingras' work is a great inspiration.

Hi by James Lewis

A photo posted by James Lewis (@jamesllewis) on

Everything about this piece by James Lewis is beautiful: the paper texture, the lettering, the treatment, and the styling. I highly recommend following him on Instagram.

This Hand Painted Globe

This hand lettered, hand painted globe. Need I say more?

Prosper Pierre-Louis

Prosper Pierre-Louis art

I'm heavily influenced by graphic-style art, so you can see why Prosper Pierre-Louis appealed to me this past week while wandering around art galleries.

Friday Five: Questions

Copy and paste these questions below in the comment section!

  1. What are you listening to? - My Spotify is filing complaints of neglect. In trying to be most productive, music while working has gone by the wayside a little. When I am listening to something, I'm listening to Serial. I hopped on the bandwagon and caught up on all of the episodes around the 8th week. I still think Jay did it, and have thought that since week 1.
  2. What are your plans for this weekend or next week? - We're moving into a new apartment! I can't wait. Moving is always stressful, and even though we hired movers I am still having stress dreams. It'll all be pulled together soon. Can't wait to share photos of my new workspace!
  3. What is your favorite vacation spot and why? - This is a dead ringer for this post, but Sanibel Island, Florida! This feels like my third home away from home and it's the perfect mix of comfortable unplugged relaxing (i.e. it's far from "camping" and I like it that way).
  4. What are you reading? - I've been reading a lot more blogs lately, as I talked about in my recent How to Genuinely Grow Your Blog post. Some new favorites: The Nectar Collective and creative index.
  5. Giving any thoughts to new years resolutions? - I feel slightly hypocritical in even including this question, since I haven't made a new years resolution in a few years now, simply because I feel like resolving to do anything around a specific timeframe is a backhanded excuse not to do it sooner. But as far as goals in 2015? Holly's post about her 2015 word of the year got me thinking about what I'd like to focus on next year, and I still can't put my finger on it quite yet. I'm going through so much personal (and wonderful) change again this year so maybe I'll focus on being positive through the ride.

Your turn: copy and paste these questions below in the comment section!

- What are you listening to?
- What are your plans for this weekend or next week?
- What is your favorite vacation spot and why?
- What are you reading?
- Giving any thoughts to new years resolutions?
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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Tips on How To Genuinely Grow Your Blog

There are some things about growing your blog that all bloggers who read about blogging know.

  • Comment on others' blogs and make meaningful connections
  • Provide helpful, shareable content
  • Post on a schedule
  • Share your own content (and share it efficiently)

All of these things are easy to follow and can be built into your routine.

But on the other hand, a lot of things are easier said than done.

It took me a few months to spin my attitude around about my blog. I was always waiting for the right time to start posting regularly. To start consistently commenting on other people's blogs. Sure, you can spit content out and hope people come to you, but sitting in a blog silo will get you nowhere. The truth of the matter? I was making excuses for myself.

Examples of Recent Successes from Hello Brio Blog Posts

In the past month or so, I've seen tremendous results from some blog posts I've published recently where the focus was to help people. 

My Twitter Guide published on 11/25 got really awesome feedback on… Twitter. But I'm still seeing some feedback, like being included in an AmpliFound roundup. And people have submitted it to ScoopIt and I'm seeing a number of tweets about it still.

In a rare personal post, I talked about how I spend my Me Time (and also talked about my insecurities on including personal posts). From there, Chrystina blogged about it, and then in a fun ripple effect, Caitlyn also blogged about it.

I've also seen a significant increase in blog comments (before it was close-to-crickets) as a result of regularly reading and commenting on blogs.

With all of these things combined, I'd like to share some real how-to's on how to grow your blog (and have fun along the way).

Tips to Genuinely Grow Your Blog -

Applicable Tips for Growing Your Blog Community

Here are my best tips for how to share your content and make meaningful connections with other bloggers that will get you some blogging friends and therefore more traffic.

I hope this post doesn't fall into the category of "just another blog post about how to grow your blog". This is coming from a passionate place because I've just started to see the return from what I've put in the past month or two of jump-starting my blog, and I'm ecstatic about the results. I'd love to know what you think in the comments below.

Comment Genuinely on Blogs

Comment authentically on other bloggers' blogs - Tips to Genuinely Grow Your Blog -

Taking a couple of steps back, it's important that you think about authentic interaction. In the real world, if you are hustling your own agenda to others and aren't being a good listener or a good friend, people are going to see that immediately and avoid you. The same is true in the blogging community.

So when bloggers share the tip of "leave meaningful comments" in order to grow your blog, they mean it. Spend time and read the post. Comment on it with a personal anecdote or ask a question. If you really don't have anything meaty to say, don't comment just for the heck of it.

I'm still on the fence of sharing your URL within your comment. If there's a box for your URL, don't type it into your comment. If you post an insightful comment, most likely the blog author or other commenters will try to click on your name in order to learn more about you. But I'd also vote that this name-to-blog-link isn't intuitive. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this.

Provide Useful and Shareable Content on Your Blog, Regularly

Providing helpful articles that people can bookmark or pin is key. Doing it consistently is also important, but I'd like to vote that quality is more important than quantity.

On Hello Brio, I get a lot of visitors to my Hand Lettering Roundups simply because it's eye candy. But I get way more meaningful engagement when I post a tutorial (and a sense of "cool, I helped someone!").

So, I'd vote that while fluffier pieces are fun and a way to get content up on your blog regularly, make sure you have a good ratio of fluff to evergreen content.

My best formula is 1 to 3. For about every 2 to 3 posts you publish, make sure 1 is really kick ass. And then promote the heck out of it.

Whether you schedule these posts in advance is up to you, just make sure you have a realistic schedule that you can adhere to so it stays fun without becoming a chore (because that mentality will also cause your blog post quality to suffer).

You Get What You Put In, But Be Picky

Like anything, blogging is what you make of it. I know that's so lame and cliche to share, but it's so true. The same goes for anything: personal social networks, blog related social networks, personal relationships, professional environments… I could go on and on.

Don't spread yourself out too thin. In social media, choose the right amount of social networks that you can actively publish to and interact with (i.e. don't open a Twitter account just to have your posts automatically push out every time you hit Publish). Don't start a Facebook page just because you think you should have one. Don't start a Twitter account because you've been told to do it. Choose what's right for you and go with it; you'll build a much more engaged community that way.

Choose your must-read blogs wisely. And don't be afraid to edit your list. In Feedly, I'm subscribed to a number of blogs, but only a few go into the Must Reads category. These are the blogs I'm choosing to actively engage with, either because that person is super awesome or because I truly get a lot out of reading their blog. I don't mean to make it sound like a popularity contest; popularity only goes so far. Helpful content will go much further.

Between social media, commenting on other blogs, and publishing regularly, you may feel overwhelmed. The good news is that no one's forcing you to do any of it (provided you aren't blogging for your salary), so choose what's right for you and run with it. As I commented on Kiki's blog post about obligations, it's good to have high expectations for yourself and be motivated, but you also don't want to push yourself past the point where it's fun. Create your own goals, whether they're written down or loosey goosey, and don't beat yourself up if you don't meet them.

The Most Important Thing About Blogging

The important thing to remember is that blogging should be your creative outlet; it isn't a chore - Tips on How to Genuinely Grow Your Blog -

Unless you are blogging professionally, a blog is usually a creative outlet and a platform to share things. The most important thing that I've realized recently is that blogging shouldn't be a chore. Jen really hit this idea home for me.

Good luck in growing your blog. If you're in it for the right reasons, finding the time to interact with others and create content won't be a chore. It will come easily. The most important thing (…and I must note: this post was originally titled "Blog Growth: Start Doing, Stop Reading About How To Do It") is that you vow to yourself to start doing. You probably already have these tips burned into your brain, but maybe this is the 3rd or 4th time you've heard it. I hope these tips push you to start doing, and stop reading about how to do it!

What has worked for you in growing your blog? Or what is holding you back?

Make sure to follow my blog with Bloglovin to get more blog boosting tips.
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Sunday, December 7, 2014

How to Digitize Hand Lettering with the Pen Tool in Illustrator

I've published a few hand lettering tutorials lately, and while my favorite is still using Image Trace in Illustrator, using the pen tool is a close second.

How to Digitize Hand Lettering with the Pen Tool in Illustrator - Tutorial on

By using the pen tool, you can create polished lettering pieces that can be translated into logos or can be blown up to any size imaginable without losing quality. A "polished piece" means crisp edges, sharp corners, and uniform thicks and thins. It means parallel lines, regulated sizes. Working with the pen tool can create a variety of effects, some of which look more hand drawn than others, but usually the level of perfection is much higher when using this technique.

In this tutorial, I'll show you how I use the pen tool in Illustrator to digitize hand lettering projects and take a quick doodle to a finished piece:

Original pen and paper sketch with Tombow markers to turn into digital hand lettering vector - How to Digitize Hand Lettering with the Pen Tool in Illustrator on

Final Hand Lettering Piece in Illustrator with Pen Tool - Tutorial on

A Quick Demo

A while back, I published this video to show how I use the pen tool in Illustrator, but super sped up.

While it's a very quick video (I think it's at 20x speed), it can be helpful to watch before and after reading this tutorial, as some of the things you're seeing will make more sense after you read the logic and methods in this post.

You can see how using the pen tool captures the essence of the hand lettering project but adds more polish and allows for you to push and pull the lines as you please, and you can play with color (and other effects, which I’ll get to in another post).

Demonstration of hand lettering digitized by using the Pen Tool in Illustrator - Lettering design tutorial on

Step 1: Import Your Photo

Take a photo of your hand lettering piece that you wish to digitize. It doesn't have to be a great picture; it can just be taken with your smartphone and imported into Illustrator.

I've created a new document at 800x600px so it's Dribbble-friendly.

When you Place your image in Illustrator, go to File > Place… and make sure to uncheck the Link button so that the image gets embedded in your AI document. This makes it so your AI file can stand alone and you can delete or move the original photo without losing the link.

Uncheck the Link option when Placing your Image into Illustrator so the AI file stands alone - Hand Lettering Tutorial on

If you need to doctor it up in Photoshop so it's easier to see, use step one and the first half of step 2 from this post.

Once your drawing is in Illustrator and is positioned and sized to your liking, set the photo to Template so it locks in the background and fades it out a little, so you'll be able to see your drawing on top of your photo more clearly. Do this by selecting the layer in the Layer Panel, then choose Template from the drop-down menu.

Set your drawing to Template mode so the layer locks and fades - Hand Lettering Tutorial in Illustrator on

Step 2: Think About Your Project Before You Begin Tracing with the Pen Tool

There are two main tips with using the pen tool to trace your lettering:

  1. Only use an anchor point at the topmost, rightmost, leftmost, and bottommost points of any curve.
  2. Only use horizontal and vertical handles.

You can see this method in another project I worked on in Dribbble.

Minimal anchor points and horizontal and vertical handles only - How to digitize hand lettering with the Pen Tool in Illustrator - Tutorial on

Take a look at your word and see where the natural break points are. You may end up with a better result if you draw a letter in two or more pieces. These natural break points usually occur where you would pick up your pen when working on paper.

For example with the B, I will break it up into four parts: the main stem, the two bowls, and the ear.

Look at your lettering project and figure out where the natural breakpoints are. These will each be separate objects when tracing with the Pen Tool in Illustrator - Lettering Tutorial on

Step 3: Trace the Outlines of Your Letters with the Pen Tool

Choose a bright stroke color and set the fill color to transparent, so it's easier for you to see the edges of the original work. (Make sure to add a new layer on top of your Template layer so you can draw.)

Trace one section at a time. When you click to place an anchor point, hold down shift to drag out the handles at perfect horizontal or vertical angles. Don't worry too much about perfecting your handles as you go; you can fix them after you have the entire shape drawn and the loop is closed.

(To prove to you how you don't have to worry about handles right off the bat, here's my first stab at the B before fixing the handles)

Get your anchor points in place first at the topmost, bottommost, leftmost and rightmost points of each shape, then you can fix your handles later - Hand Lettering Tutorial on

After you've drawn each letter, pause to adjust the handles with the Direct Selection Tool (A).

Now it's looking a little better. (Remember to hold down shift so your handles stay perpendicular.)

alt="Bezier curves fixed after each letter is drawn with the Pen Tool in Illustrator - Hand Lettering Tutorial on"

Continue tracing the borders of each letter following the anchor and handle rules until you're finished.

All letters traced using Pen Tool in Illustrator -

Step 4: Solid Fill and Adjust Your Letters

Now you can change your drawing to a solid fill and hide the background so you can see your work by itself.

I recommend setting the fill to black, stroke to transparent so you can see your work in a clean environment after you've hidden your Template layer.

Seeing your lettering in black and white allows you to see where you need to fix mistakes - Hand Lettering Tutorial on

There are quite a few things here that I'm going to fix.

Once you switch to fill color, you can start to see the mistakes you need to fix - Hand Lettering Tutorial on

Most of these fixes are just adjusting the anchor placement or handlebars.

For the punch outs needed on the R and the O, simply draw the desired punch out with the pen tool on top of your layer. Then, with the Selection Tool (V) select both the letter and the punch out.

Creating punch outs in Illustrator using Minus Front in the Pathfinder window - Hand Lettering Tutorial on

From there, open the Pathfinder window from the Window menu, and then select the Minus Front button. The punch out will disappear, leaving you with your loop that you can edit further by tweaking the handles and anchor points.

Use the Minus Front tool in the Pathfinder Window Menu in Illustrator to create cut outs in objects - Hand Lettering Tutorial on

Step 5: Keep Playing Until You're Content

As you'll quickly find out, playing with the handles and anchor points can turn into an obsessive game of push and pull. But the more you practice, the faster you'll get.

Here's a final look at the adjustments made between Step 3 and Step 4. Not the most drastic change I've experienced but still different.

Changes made between hand lettering editing in Illustrator with Pen Tool - Hand Lettering tutorial on

You're Done!

Paper to Digital Hand Lettering Design with the Pen tool in Illustrator

Thanks for reading! Comment below with any questions.

I'd love to know what you think of this tutorial and what other tutorials you'd like to see.

Follow me on Instagram for more hand lettering goodness.
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