Alphabet Road Trip | the blog of Iskra Design

Category: Book Covers

The Hidden Man: Custom Historical Script for a Book Cover

Here is a new book cover for The Hidden Man demonstrating the use of historical hand-lettered script. I did this with a pointed metal nib and ink on charcoal paper.


Below are a couple of other versions with notes on the process. Because this is hand done calligraphy it can be customized in ways not possible when working with a font.


Custom script pen variations


Double letters are always tricky, and d’s especially. How to make the most of them, yet remain legible? These are two of the more complex variations for a double d.


Historical script hand lettering by iskra


Subtle refinements, experimenting with different ways of treating the H to balance the loops on the d’s, letting the handwriting evolve and see how the negative space between lines can be adjusted for the best balance.


Historical lettering for a book cover


This was actually my favorite version. It is done with a transitional pen that gives a little more weight overall. The trade-off is that it is less intimate, and loses some of the handwriting character of writing with thinner strokes. The loops were also a problem for legibility at a distance, and weren’t quite right for the character that the title typography needed to express.
Custom historical calligraphy © Iskra Design

Brush Lettering for Book Covers: It’s All About the Dress

I had a lot of fun with this lettering project for a book by Vicky Tiel, “It’s All About the Dress.” Here are some of the explorations, with the final cover design for St. Martin’s Press. I used a loose brush technique with watercolor on rough paper.

Brush Calligraphy Fo rBoo kCover

Brush Calligraphy with Walnut Ink

Brush Lettering For Book Cover

Brush Lettering with Watercolor

Watercolor Brush Lettering

Brush Lettering with Watercolor, Mixed Script and Print



Final Lettering Design for “It’s All About the Dress” book cover. See more book cover title and author design in the book cover section of my website.

Small Blessings Book Cover Project: Contemporary Hand Lettered Script

Here is a fun new project, a hand lettered title and author treatment for a recent book cover for St. Martins Press. The book is a comedy of manners that takes place in a university town. It was a chance to experiment with some quirky and light styles of brushwork as well as other styles that I thought might complement the illustrator’s line work.


Small Blessings Hand Lettered Cover

The final book cover lettering, a mix of bold and light brush script



Hand lettered capitals book title

Hand lettered capitals, pen on rough paper


Rough brush script lettering for a book cover title

Very rough brush script, a beat-up Japanese brush on charcoal paper


Hand-lettered brush script

Quirky bold brush lettering with mixed script and print elements

Two New Handlettered Book Covers, Contemporary and Traditional

Here are two new book covers in very different styles. The first title for Jackie Collins is done with a bold brush for a casual contemporary look. The second is a children’s book title done in a style of formal calligraphy designed to have many of the qualities of a font.



Casual brush lettering for a contemporary book title



Formal calligraphic lettering for a children’s book


I start these formal styles with a calligraphic pen, and then modify using a combination of hand techniques and computer. See more examples of lettering for book covers in the titling section of my website here.


Embroidered Baseball Lettering and A Nautical Old World Pen Style

I recently received two interesting samples of book covers from art director and designer Jesse Reyes. I love working on diverse projects with wildly different briefs. For Fantasyland I channeled my inner baseball fan into a vintage style that was intended purely as a vehicle for embroidery. For The War for All the Oceans it was a matter of stepping back and nearly vanishing into a style that, while entirely custom, would look like old type or titling from centuries past.

Detail of original lettering and embroidered art: FanstasyEmbroideredHandLettering
Actual Cover, lettering by Iskra Johnson, Design by Jesse Reyes:


(Below) This was not the version used, and I had not seen it before. I love the very dry feeling of this design, as though you found it in the private library of an estate. Title, pen lettering done on rough paper, the rest of the copy is typeset.