joanne shih

lettering, illustration, design


Frequently Asked Questions


About the 365 project

Do you really do one every day? Or a bunch at once and then post one per day?

One of the main reasons I committed to doing a 365 project is to develop a very regular habit of creating something, anything, every single day! So yes, I do my very best to letter something each day -- or more accurately, every night right before I go to bed (procrastinator here..). I never batch letter them in advance and then space out my posts, because to me that would feel sorta like cheating. Occasionally I will do something like unintentionally fall asleep* that makes me miss a day, but I try to make it up the next day or ASAP! 

I will say though that I keep a spreadsheet (Google docs FTW) of ideas for each month, so that if I think of a good quote/lyric/phrase that I want to do in the future, I won't forget. But the ideas don't come to fruition until the specific day I choose to post about it.

*There actually have been numerous times that this has happened and I'll wake up 3-4 hours later and do a lettering. I'm surprising myself with my own commitment to this daily project!

What's your general process like?

I think it's evolved over the first 100+ days, but here's a look at my process these days:

  1. Decide what to letter. (Thanks to me being a pretty indecisive person, sometimes this is the most time-consuming step! Which is unfortunate.)
  2. Decide how I want to letter it. Sometimes I make a few quick brainstorming sketches but most of the time I sort of just envision it in my head and then roll with it, rather than trying out variations. I would recommend brainstorming at least a few different ideas for bigger projects, but as I usually try not to spend too much time on these daily ones, I tend to bypass that stage (which I sometimes regret when things don't turn out how I imagined they would).
  3. Get sketching! When I first started, I actually never used pencil and would go straight to the final inked version from the beginning (risky!). Ironically (or maybe not?), the better I get at lettering, the more I use pencil to sketch out guidelines and a rough draft before inking over it. Depending on how much time I devote to it, the pencil version might be super rough or fairly close to the final version. I save all the embellishments and thickening of letters for the next part, though.
  4. Ink it up! Once I'm satisfied with it (more or less; or I run out of patience / energy since typically these get done late at night), it's time to make it final with ink! First I'll go over the basic framework of the lettering -- usually I adjust the spacing of the letters here, since the pencil version is more of a guideline. After the framework's inked, I erase any pencil lines before adding the fun stuff -- thickening of downstrokes, serifs, shadows/textures, embellishments, etc. Fun!
  5. (A) Digitize it up! Almost finished! At this point, I either take an ideally high-contrast, clean photo (using my iphone) of the lettering and then bring it onto the computer, or I scan it in (the less lazy method. Although actually it's super easy to scan and returns better results... it just means I have to tear the paper out of my sketchbook, to which I'm apparently averse). I'll write up another post sometime going into more detail about digitizing, but I keep it fairly simple once I isolate it in Photoshop -- either adding background color, changing the color of the type, and/or placing a photo as the background. The bulk of the work is always in the previous, non-digital steps!
    - OR -
    (B) Take a photo of it and be done with it! Sometimes I don't feel like digitizing, or I'm traveling, or I think it looks good just in the sketchbook with no digital frills. So I'll just take a pic and upload it straight to Instagram/the blog. This is definitely easier/quicker but I do enjoy the digitizing process (and simultaneously getting more comfortable in Photoshop/Illustrator). The hubs thinks the non-digitized ones are better (show more of the raw effort, I guess?) so I have mixed feelings! Maybe I should just post both...
  6. Share it - both on the blog and on Instagram. This is the final step, and I'm usually quite sleepy by this point unfortunately. I would like to spend more time creating quality blog posts in the future, but I am usually out of steam by the time I'm posting, so I write up something quick.

And voila! There you have it. That was a much longer description than I thought it would be.

How long does it take each day?

It varies and I also don't really keep track, but I would say on average about an hour to an hour and a half. There have definitely been some that took <10 minutes (if I'm dead tired) and some that took longer! 

What are your favorite tools to use?

Micron pens for sure (in all different thicknesses, from 0.2mm to 0.5mm). A good (sharp) pencil and a clear ruler. My trusty Staedtler eraser and Staedtler pencil sharpener. I'm still exploring brush pens (and also not very good at using them), but I recently got a black Tombow brush pen and I'm liking it way more than my Copic brush pen.

I'm also still figuring out what's the best paper (that is inexpensive) to use for final letterings. I'm on my second Canson sketchbook right now -- it's fine for the most part, but not as smooth as I'd like it to be. Any recommendations appreciated :)

What is your favorite thing about doing this project?

What is your least favorite thing about doing this project?

About Joanne