Setting Up a Lettering Studio

Setting up a productive workspace is no easy task. Maybe you have a desk where you do your creative work, but you still get distracted all the time and don't getting as much done as you want to. If you want to make your space more efficient for freelance & personal work, you'll love this post.

I asked a few of my most talented friends, lettering artists, and creative freelancers to bring me behind the scenes into their workspaces.

Let's get into the questions and answers.


Do you have a dedicated workspace? Did you invest in anything big for it?

I moved here nearly 2 months ago and my work space was one of the first things I set up. I wanted to find a desk with a real wood surface—my previous desk was veneer and wasn’t that nice to stare at for hours every day! I found a surprisingly affordable desk with a beautiful cherry surface on Overstock and snapped it up; well worth what I spent on it.
Joseph Alessio
(Denver, CO)
I’d say so! I tell myself I can work nearly anywhere and I definitely can. It’s just a matter of how much work I actually get done. Sometimes I may not be able to focus in certain locations, so coming home to work on my desktop [iMac] is very nice! I’ve been investing in my setup for years now. Definitely spent too much on the desk and chair, but if it’s something I’ll be utilizing day in and day out, I think it’s worth it.
Scott Biersack
(Brooklyn, NY)
It is nearly essential for me to have a dedicated workspace apart from my other activities. I fairly strictly assign certain devices to specific types of activities to make sure I am staying on track. If I am writing, its on my iPad with a bluetooth keyboard. It is stripped of any distracting apps and isn’t logged into any email or messages. If I am editing video or creating blog posts it’s on my Macbook. My phone is the only device I look at distracting things on, so that’s the first device to get turned off if I need to get work done.
Levi Allen
Leftcoast, Vancouver, BC
At work I have a stand up desk and lots of places where I can sit if I need to separate myself from distractions.

At home I mostly work on my lap on the couch. I use pretty minimal supplies, I’ve learned to only use the tools I need to get the job done.
Bob Ewing
(Indianapolis, IN)
Terence's overhead camera setup where he films his calligraphy videos

Terence's overhead camera setup where he films his calligraphy videos

What helps get you in to the working groove? Coffee? Music?

Music can be a distraction sometimes because I like to devote my attention to it, but it’s almost a welcome distraction because silence can be deafening and invite overthinking! Taking brief breaks also helps refresh my mind and allows me to focus more clearly when I come back to the project at hand.
Joseph Alessio
I feel the most focused when I can conquer all the distractions (social networks, internet surfing, tea making, etc). But It’s hard to get to that point. I discovered that listening podcasts or audio books helps me stay more focused than listening to music while working. Also, when I feel like I can’t concentrate in my studio at all, I go outside and work in a park, a cafe or my friend’s office.
Olga Vasik
(Chelyabinsk, Russia)
Definitely need music when I’m designing or I’ll go crazy. Most people don’t know this, but I absolutely love heavy metal / post hardcore. Bands like Northlane and Bring Me The Horizon get me in my groove.
Scott Biersack

"My phone is the only device I look at distracting things on,
so that’s the first device to get turned off"

-Levi Allen, Leftcoast

Terence Tang's home studio

Terence Tang's home studio

What's your favorite thing in your workspace, and why?

My favorite (practical) thing in my workspace is my rolling table/shelf — I bolted an Ikea table top onto an Ikea shelf and attached casters, so it’s part shelf, part work table. I love that I can roll it into the middle of the room or park it against the wall depending on what I’m working on.
— Terence Tang,
Tin Lun Studio, (Houston, TX)
I keep examples of my own work, my friends work, and awesome antique store finds on two IKEA shelves that sit above my drafting table.

I get down on my work a lot, and it’s an awesome reminder to look up and see some of my best work, my friend’s best work, and other things that I admire. It pushes me to keep going.
Winston Scully, (Baton Rouge, LA)
I like my stand up desk quite a bit, I feel like it has really helped with my posture. At home, the best part is being comfortable and having my wife is sitting next to me. This time after the kids go to bed serves as double-duty. We are spending time together and getting work done. It isn’t the most ideal use of time, which is why I see myself getting up early to work in the near future.
Bob Ewing
My favorite thing in my workspace is my Zelda action figures. I’m obsessed with the Legend of Zelda and having those on my desk is an instant reminder of my awesome childhood.
Scott Biersack
Winston Scully's lettering collection at his home studio

Winston Scully's lettering collection at his home studio

What's in your dream studio space?

My dream studio space would be a large, bright and white, open windowed space. I’d have 2 large desk stations setup, one for analog work and one for digital. Hardwood floors and lots of shelving spaces and room for all my prints / inspirations.
— Scotty Russell
Perspective Collective, (Cedar Falls, IA)
If we’re talking end-all be-all, I would love a large NYC style loft space with some exposed brick, wood floors, windows all around, a giant chalkboard wall, and a hi-fi sound system. It would be walking distance from all of my favorite foods. And of course, there would have to be a regulation basketball half-court inside.
— Terence Tang
Tin Lun Studio, (Austin, TX)
Joseph Alessio's minimal desk setup

Joseph Alessio's minimal desk setup

What's one thing that you want to get in the near future to improve your workspace, and why?

I really want to get a nice camera with a sick tripod rig setup so I can improve my video time lapses. I have a make shift setup now that is getting me by but it’s no where near the quality of what I visualize.
Scotty Russell, Perspective Collective
My dream studio space is to have two large desks, and a large work table for screen printing / miscellany art adventures. Also a lot of flat file storage for paper and supplies. I really love the old rustic industrial look, but I’m not super picky about that.

Just give me a place to work and the space I need to do it.

Winston Scully, (Baton Rouge, LA)
A lifting desk in between sitting and standing, is a huge one. I think that upgrade could bring things to the next level for me.
Levi Allen, Leftcoast
Scotty Russell's home office setup

Scotty Russell's home office setup

Right now I'm just working on getting better at compartmentalizing all my stuff.
Having a [separate] space to store all of my paint and gear
so I can de-clutter my living space a little.

—Nev, No Entry Design

Bob Ewing's workspace at Element Three

Bob Ewing's workspace at Element Three

Is it possible for you to work on the go? What do you need in order to get work done outside of your place?

I travel a lot, so I’m working on the road quiet often . . . If I can’t take a lot of instruments, the essentials are hard pencil, paper knife, scissors, a few liners, pointed brushes, Sharpie markers, Tombow brushpens and black ink.

I hate drawing in sketchbooks for some reason, so I take sheets of paper and tracing paper. I also have a portable Epson scanner I find very useful.
Olga Vasik
I like working in public places like coffee shops because it helps keep me from turning into a hermit. I also just like being around people, not sure how to explain it, but it’s easier for me to zone out and do my own thing when I’m in a room full of people than when I’m sitting somewhere by myself.
Nev, No Entry Design, (Brooklyn, NY)
I have been traveling more this year, so I’ve learned to work on the go. I’m comfortable working in many different places as long as I have my stuff with me. I even invested in a Cintiq Companion (mini wacom tablet with built in screen) so it would be easier to pack my work when I travel or go to my parents’ house for a weekend.
Shauna Lynn Panczyszyn, (Orlando, FL)

Olga's travel essentials

Olga's travel essentials

Everyone works differently.

Clearly, one size does not fit all when it comes to work spaces and habits. Everyone has their own preferences.

Olga and Nev prefer to be around other people, and not stuck in the same space every day, while others like Terence and Joseph prefer a private space to focus.


You don't need a beautiful space to make great work.

It's easy to get caught up looking at photos of beautiful spaces, comparing them what you have (or don't have). But truthfully, many of the best creators have the most minimal of setups.

It's definitely good to have goals to strive towards, but don't ever let that stop you from making great work wherever you are at right now.


Work with what you have (inside or outside).

I once had a professor named Peter Pracilio who told me that his first apartment was so tiny that he would literally make his paintings on his bed. (He also had an assistant that worked with him there.) I'm sure that situation was not ideal, but he still managed to use what he had.


Bob Ewing's essentials for working from home

Bob Ewing's essentials for working from home


Invest in things you will enjoy using every day.

What do you use every day? Is it falling apart or just not great quality to begin with? Maybe it's time to replace something that would end up saving you a headache and frustration in the long run. If it's something that will make you work faster or more efficiently, odds are the investment will pay itself off pretty soon.

I plan to keep it minimal, by purchasing just a few things that are high quality and long-lasting. Here are a few of the items I am investing in for my new space.

  • Tiltable Drafting Table / Desk
  • Comfortable desk chair
  • Lightbox for tracing
  • Hanging indoor plants
  • New desk lamp
  • Shelving/Storage for tools and sketches


A workspace is a never-ending project.

I feel like I'm at the very beginning of finding out what works for me. I have a lot of ideas for my space, but I won't know if they actually work until I try them. Much like any other design project, it's going to be an iterative process.

Scott's desk from our new shared space

Scott's desk from our new shared space

Scott's area is looking pretty good, but mine still needs a lot of work. If you're curious, I will be sharing frequent updates on our new studio space on my newsletter.

I want to hear from you.

I hope this post inspires you to improve your workspace and habits. 

What's your setup like right now? How can you improve it for the future? 

I'm curious to hear your answers. Feel free to contact me if you have any other feedback or questions too!