The Dog Tag Prints

These prints in the shape of a dog tag tell the story of a breed through illustration and hand lettering.

I first had the idea for the prints when I was participating in an online hand lettering workshop which focussed on label design. Most of the other designers on the course were designing labels for actual products, like bottles of beer or soap but the 'product' for which I was designing a label was a dog, or more accurately a specific dog breed...

I imagined a dog in a pound/shelter with a tag around its neck. The purpose of the tag (product label) was to give a prospective owner some information about the dog breed in the hope that they would rescue the dog. So it was really doing the same thing as a product label - trying to differentiate and tell a story of the product - but in this case a dog, rather than a botte of beer!

There's a bit of Paddington Bear in this project too - the lost bear with a luggage label attached - entreating its finder to 'look after this bear'

I started with lots of sketches, eventually picking a few favourites to develop further. There was a lot of information I wanted to include and I had to decide how it was all going to fit around the illustrations and what the hierachy of each element would be in the overall piece. I had space for roughly 30-35 words in which to tell the story of the breed. My first breed in the series was the Portuguese Water Dog because I am the proud owner of one of these special dogs!

Label Sketch Designs Dog Tag | The Enlightened Hound
Portuguese Water Dog Art Sketch | The Enlightened Hound

When creating breeds for this series, once the design is finalised, I draw each element in pen and ink. I sketch the lettering out with pencil until it works in the available space and then use a fine-liner ink pen to make the final hand lettered piece. All the illustrations are drawn seperately, including the central banner. The final task is to develop a badge for the bottom of the dog tag to define the breed class - in this case a working dog.

The illustrations and lettering are then scanned into my computer. Vectors are created of the scan so each item can be moved and resized without losing quality. The layout for the final artwork is created digitally.

Lettering illustration pen ink dog | The Enlightened Hound
Portuguese Water Dog Print Design | The Enlightened Hound

Each element of the illustration is digitally scanned and then the design is put together using my iPad Pro to create a high resolution artwork file.

There are now 27 breeds in the dog tag series. Breeds are classified into categories, for example gundogs, so I create a different badge for each of the classes. Sometimes I make up my own class, for example, the "Born to Perform" badge for the poodle instead of the rather uninspiringly named Utility Group!

Hand Lettered Dog Breed Class Groups | The Enlightened Hound

It takes 2-3 weeks to develop each new print. The first step is to research the breed history and character and decide what I want to say on the print. It has to be distilled down into approximately 8 words to sum up the breed personality round the edge of the print and 30-35 words to tell the story of the breed. I aim for a mix of history and quirky characteristics and pick each word carefully. I then decide on the illustrations based on the story I want to tell and sketch and ink the hand drawn lettering.

Pug Illustration Lettering Design | The Enlightened Hound
Labrador Illustration Lettering Design | The Enlightened Hound
Golden Retriever Illustration Lettering | The Enlightened Hound

Originally these prints were hand printed on my press using a photopolymer plate, however I was getting a lot of requests for custom colours. I had to turn these requests down as it's not feasible for me to hand-print custom coloured prints because the time taken to hand-mix inks and set up the press for a single print is prohibitive. So I now print the Dog Tag prints on a specialist digital printer that produces beautiful archival acid-free prints on heavy watercolour paper.

There's a range of 12 popular colours but I can also accommodate custom colours... and of course the prints can be personalised!