In the following steps, you will learn how to create a letter characters text effect in Adobe Illustrator.
For starters, you will learn how to create a simple piece of text and how to convert it to vector shapes. Taking full advantage of the Appearance panel, you will learn how to stylize your text and how to create the eyes. Using some basic blending and stroke techniques, you will learn how to create the legs and add some subtle shadows. Finally, you will learn how to create a simple background.
What You Will Need
You will need the following resource in order to complete this project:
1. How to Create a New Document and the Text Shapes
Hit Control-N to create a new document. Select Pixels from the Units drop-down menu, enter 850 in the width box and 510 in the height box, and then click that More Settings button. Select RGB for the Color Mode, set the Raster Effects to Screen (72 ppi), and then click Create Document.
Open the Info panel (Window > Info) for a live preview with the size and position of your shapes. Don’t forget to set the unit of measurement to pixels from Edit > Preferences > Units. These options will significantly increase your work speed.
Pick the Type Tool (T) and open the Character panel (Window > Type > Character). Select the Knicknack font and then set the Size to 150 px and the Tracking to 50. Move to your artboard, click on it, and type your text. We’ll be using the word “DESSIN”, which is French for “drawing”.
Make sure that your text is still selected, and go to Type > Create Outlines (Shift-Control-O). Ungroup (Shift-Control-G) the resulting group and then fill all your letter shapes with R=255 G=220 B=50.
2. How to Stylize the Text Shapes
Make sure that all your letter shapes are selected, and focus on the Appearance panel (Window > Appearance).
Add a second fill using the Add New Fill button, and select it. Set its color to R=255 G=170 B=5, drag it below the yellow fill, and go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform. Drag the Move-Horizontal slider to -0.5 px and the Move-Vertical slider to -0.25 px, enter 20 in the Copies box, and then click OK.
Select all your letter shapes and focus on the Appearance panel. Make sure that your entire path is selected (simply click that Compound Path text from the top of the panel) and go to Effect > 3D > Rotate. Enter the attributes shown below and click OK.
Select your letter shapes one by one and replace the existing fill colors with the ones shown in the following image.
Select one of your letter shapes and focus on the Appearance panel. Make sure that the entire path is selected and go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform. Enter the attributes shown below and click OK. Don’t forget to check the middle-bottom reference point.
Select two more shapes and apply the Transform effects shown below.
3. How to Create the Eyes
Enable the Grid (View > Show Grid) and Snap to Grid (View > Snap to Grid). You will need a grid every 1 px, so simply go to Edit > Preferences > Guides & Grid, and enter 1 in the Gridline every box and 1 in the Subdivisions box. Try not to get discouraged by all that grid—it will make your work easier, and keep in mind that you can easily enable or disable it using the Control-“ keyboard shortcut.
You can learn more about Illustrator’s grid system in this short tutorial from Andrei Stefan: Understanding Adobe Illustrator’s Grid System.
Pick the Ellipse Tool (L) and create a 13 x 19 px shape and a 13 x 16 px shape. Fill both shapes with white (R=255 G=255 B=255).
Make sure that your white ellipses remain selected and focus on the Appearance panel. Add a second fill and set its color to R=254 G=170 B=5. Drag this new fill below the white one and go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform. Enter the attributes shown below and click OK.
Make sure that your white ellipses remain selected, and focus on the Appearance panel. Add a third fill and set its color to R=254 G=170 B=5. Drag this new fill to the bottom of the panel and go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform. Enter the attributes shown below and click OK.
Pick the Ellipse Tool (L) and create a 4 x 8 px shape and a 4 x 6 px shape. Fill both shapes with R=12 G=142 B=220 and place them as shown below.
Pick the Ellipse Tool (L) and create two, 4 x 2 px shapes. Fill both shapes with black (R=0 G=0 B=0) and place them as shown below.
Pick the Ellipse Tool (L) and create two 1 px circles. Fill both shapes with white and place them as shown below.
Select the shapes that make up the left eye and Group them (Control-G). Select the shapes that make up the other eye and also Group them (Control-G).
Multiply your eye groups and place the copies roughly as shown below. Use the Direct Selection Tool (A) to easily select the main eyeball shape from your groups.
Open the Transform effect applied to the bottom fill of this shape and play with those settings to adjust the position of the eyebrows. Also, when needed, replace the orange color with the dark blue or dark pink used for the letters.
4. How to Create the Legs
Pick the Pen Tool (P) and draw two simple paths as shown in the first images. Make sure that these new paths remain selected, and focus on the Appearance panel.
Set the stroke color to R=255 G=170 B=5 and then open the Stroke fly-out panel. Increase the Weight to 4 px and then check the Round Cap and Round Join buttons. Once you’re done, send your paths to back (Shift-Control-[).
Multiply the paths that make up the legs and spread them as shown in the following image. When needed, replace the orange with the dark blue or the dark pink from the letter shapes.
5. How to Create the Shadow and the Background
Using the Ellipse Tool (L), create the set of squeezed circles shown in the following image. Fill all these shapes with black and lower their Opacity to 15%. Place them as shown below and don’t forget to send them all to back (Shift-Control-[) when you’re done.
Finally, pick the Rectangle Tool (M) and create a shape the size of your artboard. Fill it with R=44 G=56 B=104 and send it to back (Shift-Control-[).
Congratulations! You’re Done!
Here is how it should look. I hope you’ve enjoyed this tutorial and can apply these techniques in your future projects. Don’t hesitate to share your final result in the comments section.
Feel free to adjust the final design and make it your own. You can find some great sources of inspiration at GraphicRiver, with interesting solutions to improve your design.
Looking to learn more? I recommend you check out more of my beginner tutorials: