How to Make Any Font a Handmade Font

By on May 24, 2016 in How To
How to Make Any Font a Handmade Font

Design and technology are getting more and more refined, allowing graphic designers to streamline and speed up their process. However, people are still enamored with handmade art, lettering and illustration. I have deep respect for those fantastic artists who can create beautiful works with a pen, pencil, brush, or piece of chalk. To me, handmade art is both appealing and inspiring.

As a result of our fascination with handmade art and lettering, there are many fonts on the market that come ready-made with a handmade look that can provide a fun, easy, and attractive way to "hand-letter" our designs. Today I'm going to demonstrate a quick and easy way to make any typed lettering look handmade in Adobe Illustrator. Thanks for following along!

What you'll need:

  • Basic to intermediate knowledge of Adobe Illustrator (I'll be designing in CS4.)
  • Any fun font of your choice. I don't recommend choosing a font with lots and lots of detail.

We'll be creating the effect on the word "PEACE."

Handmade-Font-TutorialPin It

  • Create a new document in Illustrator.
  • Pick a font and create your lettering. I'm going to be creating a holiday card, and I've used two different fonts that I want to match more:

beforePin It The lovely Melany Lane is a delightful script, subtly artisanal, but the other font, Otama, is decidedly clean-cut. I'd like it to take on a more rustic appearance.

  • Use the tool palette to remove both fill and stroke from the lettering.

nofillPin It You can't see the lettering anymore, and your appearance palette looks like this:

appearance1Pin It

  • On the bottom left of the appearance palette, click "Add New Stroke." I'm going to make my stroke a nice, healthy, rounded 5 points.

resultwithstrokePin It You can control stroke settings easily by using the stroke palette.

stroke1Pin It

  • With the stroke selected on the appearance palette, I'm now going to roughen the lettering a little bit by going to Effect > Distort & Transform > Roughen. Here are the settings I used:

roughen1Pin It Play around until you've got an effect you're excited about.

resultwithroughenPin It

  • Great! Now, we're going to use the appearance palette to add a fill to our lettering. The "add new fill" button is right next to the "add new stroke" button. Now the appearance palette looks like this:

appearance2Pin It resultwithfillPin It

Honestly, your lettering would look amazing if it were left as it is now. However, I'm going to take it a bit further and create a scribbled effect to make it look more authentically handmade.

  • With your new fill selected in the appearance palette, apply a scribble effect by going to Effect > Stylize > Scribble. Here are the settings I used:

scribble1Pin It

resultwithscribble1Pin It

  • I'm now going to put the last finishing touch on my lettering. In the appearance palette, I'm going to duplicate the fill I just scribbled by choosing the "Duplicate Selected Item" button on the bottom.

appearance3Pin It

  • Now I've got two of the same scribbled fills. On the top one, I'll click "Scribble" to edit the effect. I'm going to change the angle of the scribble effect very slightly (10 degrees or less) to achieve a more authentic colored in look. Here are my settings:

scribble2Pin It

finalresultPEACEPin It

  • Wow! It looks great, and it's even editable! I can change colors, effects, stroke weights, and more, all from the appearance palette. I can even change my lettering. I'm so excited about this effect that I'm going to save it as a graphic style so I can use it for future projects.

graphicstylesPin It

You've just created a fantastic hand drawn effect. Thanks for following along! I hope you have a great holiday season.

Handmade-Font-TutorialPin It

Beth Rufener, the shop owner of Ornaments of Grace, is a wife, mom of two, graphic designer, amateur photographer, aspiring foodie, occasional musician, and avid collector of fonts. She and her family live outside of Rittman, Ohio.

Free lettering worksheets

Download now!


Download now!

Getting started with hand lettering?

Download these worksheets and start practicing with simple instructions and tracing exercises.


  1. Love it, brilliant Beth. The appearance panel is severely underestimated in Illustrator!

    • Staff

    Thanks, @Dustin Lee! You know, as I was writing this tutorial, I realized that, too. I have a new appreciation for the appearance palette now!

  2. This is a brilliant tutorial. Simple, easy to understand and it delivers great results. Thanks Beth!

  3. Gosh, this is really fun! I really love this post, Beth. So many great tips in an easy-to-follow tutorial.

  4. Kudos Beth. Always trying to manipulate typefaces. This is a terrific tutorial. Must start experimenting. Again, thanks.

  5. Thanks so much...didn't know you could do this - off to try it myself!

  6. Excellent stuff, expect some new handwritten versions of some of my fonts in the future.

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