"Sweet Young Thing" Walkthrough

Inspired by The Monkees' "Sweet Young Thing" I create a custom lettering illustration last week. The goal of this was to have a complete creation processs from sketch to final image.
One of the requirements I gave myself was to use/create 3 typefaces from different classificatons, in this case Chirographic, Sans Serif and Serif.
I started laying out a grid for the sketch, which you can see with the faint blue lines under the pencil drawings. Going diagonally while keeping up the impression of similar widths for each line. The "Sweet" is voluptuous and expands way beyond its line, even interacting with other letters.
The sketch on the right was traced over the first sketch using greaseproof food wrapping paper, due to a lack of tracing paper. I refined the characters of the "Thing" as they had too little Kerning in the first sketch. even more so in the blue sketch, where the word became far wider than I had anticipated at first. I also corrected the "ee"s from "Sweet" as they looked way too different from each other. Even if having them drawn individually instead of copy-pasting one e gives it a more realistic look, in the first sketch there was way too much difference. The letters in "YOUNG" were fairly uneven and in both sketches, but I shall write more about that issue later.
When starting on the work in Illustrator, I used a variety of techniques. For "Sweet" I wanted to use the Width tool (a CS5 addition) to stay faithful to the curves and variability of my sketch. Therefore I traced the shapes not on their outlines, but on their visual center adding the different widths using the tool later. It was the first time I tried it and I had to do it several times to achieve a result I was satisfied with. Especially the "ee"s were tricky and required several tries until they looked right.
"YOUNG" was created with the typeface League Gothic, partly out of laziness partly out of not being able to create shapes as good as I had in my head. However the typeface comes very close to my initial sketches, so it was a perfect choice.
"Thing" was created using rectangles and circles and combining them via Pathfinder. The serifs were created separately and attached to the single characters. The "g" took the longest, because I was not able to transform the circles I had intended to use for it, into shapes that looked good in themselves but also good with the other characters. In the end I used a Calligraphic brush. I am still not 100% convinced that it fits to the rest of the word, but it worked a lot better than using shapes.
After finishing each word, it was time to let the letters interact with each other. Therefore I created an offset on certain shapes and placed them appropiately in different orders. Some shapes were used multiple times in the end.
The main goal of this process was to create non-overlapping shape. That way I can display all of the lettering on a colored background using only one color.
Here you can see the typography on a simple teal background. I added the "-AAH" element like a button or sticker. It is not part of the title, but definetely part of the song. It is referencing '60s advertisement in a very subtle way.
This layout may have already worked, but it was too simple and not what I had in mind. So the next step was to add colors.
Here you can see several color combinations I worked with. I had applied some colors to each word manually to start with and then moved over to the Edit Colors dialogue, which allows to recolor an artwork using premade color groups. In the examples you see here, I used groups referencing Russian Propaganda poster art or art epoches like Impressionism or Bauhaus. I based my final color choices on the second example from the left.
I edited most colors only slightly, except for the "Thing" which was becoming almost invisible on the background and made it more blue then green. Having "Sweet" in a red / pink color gave a nice impression of candy and possibly girliness.
To finish off, I added pattern textures, lines that were following the baseline of the letters and a 45° turned checkerboard. A slight Vignette Effect was added to underline the aged / retro character of the whole piece.
And this is the final result. I am very happy with how it turned out and the whole process as such. I will work more with sketches from now on and focus on how letters are created and to improve my workflow.
Thank you for reading.


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