Ged Palmer has built up a number of lettering skills over the past twelve years throughout his hand lettering career, including calligraphy, sign painting and typography. Ged is primarily based in London and has also completed lettering works across the globe. He has worked with some significant clients including Microsoft and Philips. He has also been recognised by both the Type Directors Club and the International Society of Typographic Designers. Without a shadow of doubt he is a ‘Lettering Legend’.
Although sign painting is significantly less common nowadays than it once was one hundred years ago, Ged has been helping to keep the art alive and known, doing it justice by using unique creativity and by using his diverse talent. There can be so many more risks involved when it comes to sign painting. If you get something wrong it can be a lot harder to fix than a piece of lettering on paper, which in many cases you know you can re-trace or tweak in Photoshop down the line. If you get a large sign wrong it can mean a lot of additional work or starting again from the beginning, so it’s really worth taking some time to appreciate the work that’s involved with sign painting.
Ged talks about the differences between lettering on paper and lettering signs. He discusses working at a large scale, the tools he uses and more in the interview just below.
If you’d like to know more about what a ‘Lettering Legend’ is have a browse of the ‘Lettering Legends Intro’ article. If you’d like to read more interviews like Ged’s they’re available in ‘Resources’.
Update: Lettering Legends are now recognised through the Typefolk Awards platform. Visit Typefolk.com to participate in public community votes, apply to join the Typefolk judges panel and enter work to try and earn the title of Lettering Legend!
If you could sneakily replace some of London’s everyday signage with your own hand painted signs, what would you replace and why?
“There are a few old Funeral Directors around the place that are really old school. I would love to get a job where I could do a glass fascia with gilded blackletter and maybe some faux marbling on it or something. That would look pretty ace. Nothing worse than a budget funeral director sign made out of plastic with cartoony lettering right? Just down right disrespectful, that’s what it is.”
Some of the lettering work you do is on paper and some of the work you do is sign painting, what are the major differences between working on paper and painting signs?
“All of my work starts with a sketch. My work used to be predominantly lettering and calligraphy when I started out, as I was working on logotypes and book covers and that kind of thing. Picking up brush really changed the game for me. There is a reason people have been using brushes for lettering since roman times – they have that swing that gives a natural look!”
Does it ever get confusing when painting lettering backwards on glass windows, or is it something that you have got used to doing? I’d imagine you have to reverse thick and thin brush strokes?
“Yup, it can be a little bewildering. Then again lettering with a brush is really a series of strokes with different gestures, so once you’ve got the basic idea of it then you can use those rules to do things the other way around.”
Some lettering artists have been known to use projectors to transfer their lettering when it’s being scaled up. Do you use any special techniques for transferring your lettering from a sketch to a sign?
“Indeed, I normally scan my sketches and then blow them up on a wide format printer. Projecting is way cheaper but flapping about with getting it all straight is really time consuming. I am really enjoying turning up to do smaller jobs with no patterns these days, just a wax pencil and a brush!”
Are there any types of brush you’d recommend for those wanting to start a sign painting journey, or any that artists should definitely avoid?
Is it best to be comfortable at lots of different styles of lettering or develop your own style?
“For my money I don’t believe there is any such thing as a personal style in lettering. The roman alphabet is 2000 years old and has gone pretty much unchanged since then. Nearly all lettering styles are derivitive of either script, block and roman styles. For me it’s all about choosing something that works for the job and not pushing your own tastes too much.”
What advice or tips would you give those first starting out at lettering?
“Learn calligraphy. Calligraphy is the written letter and lettering is the drawn letter. To learn how to draw letters you first have to learn how to write them!”