Meet Debi Sementelli, font designer and professional lettering artist

Posted by Dana Ansell on

Guest Designer - Debi Sementelli

 

professional lettering artist and font designer

I personally am in awe of anyone who can hand letter or design fonts. It is a skill set that has eluded me, so I just shop all the pretty fonts. It's no secret that Debi Sementelli is one of my most favorite font designers and that I use her fonts quite frequently in my designs. Debi and I have collaborated together with a little Q & A session. It's obvious that she creates all of her fonts with love in her heart and a purpose. Let's get started!

Hi! I'm Debi Sementelli. I'm a professional lettering artist and font designer based in Dallas, Texas. I've been practicing the art of lettering for over 30 years. I've also been designing hand lettered fonts for the past 10 years. I'm pleased to say that my fonts have consistently made the most popular fonts list. 

I love to share my love of the brush and encourage others who want to pursue lettering. I'm a big believer in learning the rules first so you can break them! In addition to teaching workshops in various cities in the U.S., I've also been honored to have been voted one of the top 20 Teachers three years in a row by attendees in my Brush Lettering Workshops at the Adobe Max Conference. 

When I'm not lettering, I'm taking daily walks in a nearby Nature Park and experimenting with plants in my garden. I love to learn and am also currently trying to master the Italian language! 

 

  1. When and how did you start creating fonts? 

I was doing a lot of hand lettering on envelopes for weddings and noticed that some brides didn't have it in their budget to also hire me to create place cards, menus and other wedding day signage. Being a mom, I didn't want them to have to go over their budget, so I looked for ways to solve the problem for them. One of them was to create a font of my lettering style so they could create their own signs using their computer and printer. That led to me finding an existing font designer who knew the technical side of font making to partner with. 

Luckily I did! And 6 months later, I released my first font family, Belluccia, my mother's maiden name (with an added a at the end, because there was already an existing font named Bellucci.) My mother had really beautiful handwriting. Unfortunately she passed away when I was 23. So I thought it was a great way to honor her. 

  1. Where do you get the inspiration for your fonts? 

Generally the inspiration comes from playing around with my pens, brushes and inks. I think about a feeling I want the font to evoke and letter for hours or days until I start to see it show up on the page. Sometimes it's just identifiable in a single letter or word that I've written. So I analyze how the letters are structured, where they are thick or thin, the size of the negative shapes,  etc...and try to recreate that. So that process can take a week or more.  Then, I keep lettering words with every possible letter and ligature combination until I think I have the makings of a full alphabet. Next I letter words with beginning, ending and flourished letters to start to create what will become alternates in the font. So this is usually done in the first month of the process.  

     3. Which font are you most proud of & what makes it so special to you? 

That's like asking a parent which child they like best! They are all special for various reasons. Primarily because they are all inspired by people in my life who are very near and dear to me. Belluccia is special because she was my first born:) She was created to honor my mother. And I am very proud that she made it to the Best Sellers list on Myfonts.com and stayed there for over 2 years! That is unheard of for a first time font designer. So I was quite honored that people liked her that much. (She also was named one of the Most Popular Fonts of the Year.) 

Dom Loves Mary was my second. She was named in honor of my in laws Dom and Mary Sementelli who had both passed away. They had a beautiful love story. And I wanted to capture the feel of their classic 1952 wedding. It also made it onto the Best Sellers list!  Cantoni, my maiden name, was the first bouncy script font ( mine was one of the first of this style) that was created to honor my large, fun, Italian family. Again, I was thrilled to see how many people loved this font by it's long stay on the Best Sellers list and making the Most Popular Fonts of the Year list.  Fratello Nick ( it means "brother Nick" in Italian) was made with my oldest son, a lover of books, in mind. It's the only non script font I made. Next came Cinque Donne ( it means "five women" in Italian) in honor of the various groups of 5 women I have in my life. (Primarily 5 sisters in my family and 5 friends from high school that I've stayed close with.) My latest font, Hello My Love, is an anniversary gift to my hubby of 35 years. The name comes from the greeting we use upon seeing each other or answering each other's call. So, how can I choose a favorite when all of my fonts represent all the lovely people in my life! Sorry, I just can't do it:) 

  1. I know there are different styles of fonts, which is your most favorite to create?

Script fonts are what I create primarily because my original intention was for them to be used for weddings and invitations. But they have been used in so many different ways by cutting machine enthusiasts, scrapbookers and even for a TV commercial! There isn't a particular script style that is my most favorite, since I like each font to have it's own feel.  

  1. What are some of the tools you use to create your fonts? Are you a traditional font artist or have you moved to digitally creating them?

I am a traditionalist using pens, brushes and inks and doing everything by hand first. The reason is that I believe that I can better inject the life into the letters when the paper, pen and ink all come together. It's as if I'm transferring what I'm feeling in my heart through my arm and hand into the pen and onto the paper. I just don't get the same feeling using an Apple pencil and iPad. Maybe once I spend as much time doing digital lettering as I have traditional lettering I'll be able to do that. But I'm not there yet. 

        6.How long typically does it take you to create a font?

The minimal typical font has 265 characters. Because my fonts are so large (from 1265-3372 characters) it takes a minimum of 6 months to create one. There's so much more that goes into it than just designing it. The original design of the letters takes at least a month. Creating all the various alternates, ligatures, symbols and extras elements like ornaments, can take another month or more. Then drawing out all of those with a pen tool in the font program can take 2- 3 months.  The kerning, which determines how well all the letter combinations connect with each other, takes at least a month. And then you need to test it in as many programs as possible to make sure there are no technical issues with them.  

So a true professional level font, depending on it's complexity and the experience level of the designer, is a lot longer than most people think! 

         7.Do you have any advice for designers wanting to create fonts? 

The hardest part about designing fonts, if you are doing so with the intention of selling it, is understanding what your target audience needs and wants in a font. 

It's not good enough to just create it and hope enough people like it enough to buy it. In today's overcrowded market, your font has to stand out from the crowd. Don't just copy the trend of what everyone else is doing. There are a bazillion fonts that all look the same because of that. And trust me, they are not making any money. So really spend time getting to know the market you want to serve and what they are looking for. But if you want to create a simple font for yourself and your own use, and your are familiar with Photoshop or Illustrator, I would suggest using a plug in for those apps called Fontself. It's probably one of the easiest ways to create a simple font. So start there. If you like the process and want to continue, you can eventually move to a more sophisticated program like Glyphs or FontLab.  

         9. Tell us about your brush lettering classes?

I’ve started offering a Brush Lettering series of classes on Skillshare, whether your a beginner or more experienced with lettering, I share lots of tips and tricks. All of my classes include downloadable handouts to help you along. And I’m just a message away if you need help. It’s like taking private classes with me!

If you want to check it out, you can now get 2 months of a full premium membership for FREE (membership typically costs ~$15/mo or $99/yr). You can take all of my classes  Plus take any other classes by the many talented teachers on too many topics to list. 

8. Can you share some projects that have used your fonts?

    

 

      

 

         10. Where can we purchase your fonts? 

Well, first, I have an exclusive special for you! I have uploaded to SVG & Font Market, 3 of my most popular fonts at a massive savings for you! The following 3 fonts are $19 each or Buy all 3 for $49 a savings of $85.00!

Code: SEMENTELLI

Cinique Donne Pro - $44 on sale for $19

Nick Fratello Pro - $39 on sale for $19

Hello My Love Pro & Ornaments - $51 on sale for $19

All of my fonts other fonts are available for sale on my own website www.debisementelli.com. 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sementellidebi/ 

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/debisementelli/ 

Instagram:https://www.instagram.com/debisementelli/ 

Website: https://debisementelli.com/ 

YouTube:   https://www.youtube.com/user/Letteringartstudio 

Thank you Debi for our "Meet the Designer" interview and for sharing with us your beautiful fonts!


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  • Just wanted to say I LOVE your fonts and thank you for this great blog post!!! I love to hear the stories behind the fonts! My most recent purchase was Hello My Love and it is indeed a love affair for me!! I use that font all the time. Thanks again for the info and for this amazing deal!!

    Rita Wiggs on

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