I’m Dani Kelley,

and I do lots of things.

There Are No Strings On Me: From Sketch to Vector

Calligraphy swashes of the phrase "there are no strings on me," written with frayed rope.

Last year, when Avengers: Age of Ultron came out on Bluray, my brother came over to watch the film at my house. While watching, I suddenly had an idea for a lettering project: I wanted to draw the phrase Ultron seems obsessed with throughout the movie (which is, of course, from Pinocchio): “There are no strings on me.” My thought was to use lots of swashes and embellishments, then finally ink it with my flex nib dip pen.

I ended up vectoring the piece, but was unsatisfied with the first finalization. I sat on it for several months, then decided to rework it after reading Jessica Hische‘s fantastic book, In Progress. The final result is something I can say I’m quite proud of.

For more on how I’ve started vectoring my projects, see “Cleaner bezier curves in typography.

Pencil sketch on dot-grid paper of italicized Copperplate-esque script with swashes linking the words together, reading "there are no strings on me."

The initial sketch.

Inked calligraphy on dot-grid paper of italicized Copperplate-esque script with swashes linking the words together, reading "there are no strings on me."

After inking with a flex-nib dip pen.

Digital edit of the inked calligraphy, on a red grungy painted background. Calligraphy with swashes linking the words together, reading "there are no strings on me."

First edit in Photoshop.

Second digital edit of the inked calligraphy, on a blue grungy painted background. Calligraphy with swashes linking the words together, reading "there are no strings on me."

Second edit in Photoshop.

Digitized monoline calligraphy with swashes linking the words together, reading "there are no strings on me."

First vector. I’d planned on adding shading like the original inking, but ended up preferring the monoline look. I was unsatisfied with this result overall, however. But I couldn’t put my finger on why.

Digitized and shaded calligraphy with swashes linking the words together, reading "there are no strings on me."

I thought that perhaps further stylizing the design would help, but it still felt “off” to me. I decided to sit on it for a while.

Animation of vectored calligraphy with swashes linking the words, with anchor points appearing and disappearing, text reading "there are no strings on me."

Several months later, after reading In Progress by Jessica Hische, I decided to take the knowledge I’d gained from her book (along with experience in lettering since that first sketch) to rework the vector for greater precision in my curves and more balance overall. This is a look at my progress, with and without anchor points, to illustrate how the lettering was structured.

Animation of final vectored calligraphy with swashes linking the words, with anchor points appearing and disappearing, text reading "there are no strings on me."

This is the final vector version, before adding embellishments.

Calligraphy swashes of the phrase "there are no strings on me," written with frayed rope.

I found a fantastic vector rope brush set online (I wish I could remember where!), and added it to the design. Then I moved into Photoshop to add further depth and correct where some of the rope brush didn’t quite work out around curves. Lastly, I added a grunge texture to the rope to help distinguish it from the clean black background.

A close-up of some of the rope intersecting, highlighting the texture and depth.

A close-up of the fine detail in the piece.

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