In this tutorial, I'm going to show you how to make a death metal logo. We'll go into other metal band logos and use this to show you how to create your own custom metal logo.
Every few months, I take the time to draw a new logotype for myself. It's an easy way to show clients the kind of work I can do and the variety of styles I can tackle. For the longest time, I've wanted to draw a death metal logo. If you've ever come across one, you can easily see the amount of skill and detail involved. They're truly on another level and live in their own unique world. Well, today I'm going to kill two birds with one stone and draw myself my very own death metal logotype.
This design is based on hand-lettering practices which you can learn in my free hand-lettering course over on the Envato Tuts+ YouTube channel:
1. Where Metal Logos Began
We first and foremost have to thank Black Sabbath for being the pioneers of heavy metal, which led on to death metal. It's interesting to consider the origins of metal being rooted in more of a psychedelic approach (and even inspiration from Art Nouveau) before it evolved into what we see today. Metal band logotypes may be difficult to read, but they sure are full of personality.
2. Research Into Metal Band Logo Design
Metal music is a very unique subculture, characterized by some gnarly heavy guitar riffs, aggressive and intense drums, and of course, loud screaming vocals. There are a number of subgenres of metal as well: Thrash Metal (Slayer, Megadeath, Metallica), Metalcore (Architects, While She Sleeps, August Burns Red), Deathmetal (Autopsy, Morbid Angel, Obituary), Alternate Metal (System of a Down, Killswitch Engage, Tool), and even Baby Metal! Those are just a few, but listening to any metal music, you'll easily understand how that translated into the look and feel you see today. Keep this in the back of your head as you design your logotype because the subgenres of metal can be rather diverse.
It will be extremely beneficial to view existing logotypes in this space for a better idea of the look and feel we're trying to achieve. This handy dandy website is a perfect place to explore.
First and foremost, the metal band logo expert Christophe Szpajdel has key advice to break down the basics of a metal logo in a WIRED interview:
I think the lettering should be sharp, inspired by gothic/old English fonts. First and last letters should be bigger than the middle ones. Unlike most people who think a black metal logo should contain symbols like pentagrams, inverted crosses... I think this is overdone.
3. Sketch a Custom Metal Logotype
As we talked about previously, we first need to understand the client and what kind of metal should influence the overall look and feel. For this particular project, I'll be drawing a custom logotype for me, myself and I. Additionally, being a huge fan of the "Metalcore" genre, I am going to explore that idea with this particular logotype. Metalcore bands oddly enough tend to be a bit on the "cleaner" side, so we'll keep that in mind going forward. Let's get to work!
Since metal logotypes are incredibly detailed and complex works of art, let's try and break it down to the bare minimum first. I'll be using Procreate for this entire process, but feel free to use Photoshop or even do things the analog way with pencil and paper!
Begin by exploring the overall color (or visual weight) that your letterforms have. Is it super wide and bold? Maybe thin and wispy? Somewhere in between? Does the logotype have multiple words? That's something to consider as you go deeper into this process. Is it not looking how you've envisioned it? That's perfectly fine! This is a building up process, so be patient with yourself as you proceed.
Through our research, we can easily derive that one of the key elements of a metal logo is the symmetrical shape it takes on. Now, the logotype doesn't necessarily have to be symmetrical—you could attempt something similar to Black Sabbath or Slayer, with angular, cleaner forms. However, for my logotype, I'll be exploring the symmetry.
Consider additional illustrative elements. Does the logo have an upside-down cross? Maybe a sword or an axe? How can we show something dark, evil, or heavy through the use of illustration? This is where you explore spiders' webs, dripping blood, or the branch-like features you see in existing metal logos.
4. Refine & Finesse a Metal Band Logo
After you're done exploring, it's time to select one concept to push onward to the final logo design. The concept you see below is the one I selected. While it may be very rough, it still shows the overall idea of what we're going for.
With your composition set, it's now time to flesh things out a bit further. I'm beginning to refine the details of my blackletter letterforms, as you can see below. Again, this is still very rough to get the overall idea finalized, and we'll continue the clean-up process as we go along. You can see I'm paying attention to the symmetry as we progress.
At this stage, I knew the composition was heading in the right direction. But I knew it still needed something else. I then warped the perspective of the letterforms to add a bit of visual depth and interest to the piece. Feel free to explore various types of warping here to achieve different results. You could arc, arch, bulge, etc.
The clean-up process continues! With the warp now in place, it's time to clean up the letterforms and perfect the visual weight across the entire logotype. The goal here is to have everything feel visually equal.
A minor but very important step: refine the spacing. Later on down the line, I will be adding additional texture, drips, branches, etc. to bring it further into the heavy metal realm. With that said, I'm opening up the spacing to make it easier to read even after the additional detail is added in. I individually selected each letterform in Procreate/Photoshop and nudged them outward from the left/right.
Now for the fun part! This is where you begin to add all the messy details to your logotype. Since this logotype will eventually be living on my portfolio website at a small scale, I wanted to make sure it wasn't too detailed. I drew minor cuts and divots to help the logotype feel more eroded and evil.
Plenty more fun to be had! Continue pushing your drips, branches, etc. on your logotype to really drive it home. Again, since my logotype will be used at smaller scales, I kept the additional detail to a minimum while still achieving the overall "heavy metal band" look and feel.
5. Vector Your Custom Metal Logo
With your logotype complete, you now have the option of vectoring! If you're interested in using this logotype at large scales or maybe need it in vector format for ease of printing, feel free to use Adobe Illustrator's Auto Trace feature. Most heavy metal band logotypes are grungy enough that the Auto Trace feature will do a perfect job rather than spending time placing all of your anchor points manually.
You can learn more about vectoring your death metal logo, or any lettering, in my tutorial here on Envato Tuts+:
Rock On, Your Custom Metal Logo Is Complete!
There we have it! We finally have ourselves a custom metal logotype. This truly is a building-up process, and it can take a great deal of time to properly achieve a well-balanced, symmetrical piece. While the upside-down cross may be overused and overdone, I still couldn't pass up the chance since the "I" was perfectly placed! Best of luck on your heavy metal endeavors.
Then you can see what your design looks like on a CD and CD case. After using the same album cover design generator, and moving the death metal band logo to the top and the album name to the middle, I was able to create a realistic CD and jewel case mockup.
Want to learn more about hand lettering? Check out my previous tutorials.
- Hand LetteringHand Lettering: Letterforms at Their CoreScott Biersack
- Hand LetteringHand Lettering: Understanding Types of TypeScott Biersack
- Hand LetteringHand Lettering: Scripts, Swirls, & FlourishesScott Biersack
- Hand LetteringHand Lettering: Mastering Brush ScriptScott Biersack
- Hand LetteringHand Lettering: How to Vector Your LetterformsScott Biersack
- Hand LetteringHand Lettering: How to Stylize Your LettersScott Biersack
- Hand LetteringHand Lettering: A Project From Start to FinishScott Biersack