Exercising creative freedom can be a difficult balancing act. Occasionally you’ll have all the time you need to finish a project, but at other times the speediest turnaround will be of the essence.
Regardless of the time available, your work always has to hit the mark, bettering whatever you did previously. So it’s imperative to know when you can take a prudent shortcut and when only the utmost care will make your illustration look perfect.
This tutorial reflects some of that dilemma. Here Radim Malinic shows you how to create the semblance of words spelt out in melted chocolate. You’ll be encouraged to speed up at times, while at other times you’ll need to linger over tiny details to create that ultra-realistic look, fit for any advertising campaign or logo.
The results should look better than Heston Blumenthal could achieve. And you won’t need an ounce of chocolate.
Time to complete
Photoshop CS5 Project files
Files for this tutorial can be downloaded from
The simplest way to create great typography is to modify and embellish lettering created with an existing font. Here we’ll take advantage of a typeface called CAC Pinafore, available for free at
bit.ly/gF4xBt. In a new A4 portrait Illustrator document, type the text ‘You Are Sweet as Sugar’ in this font at 150pt. Centre-align the text, then convert it into outlines ( Cmd/Ctrl + Shift + O).
Perhaps surprisingly for a free font, CAC Pinafore does have a very appealing flow to it – but nevertheless we’re about to alter some of the letters to give them a more hand-drawn look. Using the Brush tool (
B), redo the letters highlighted in red, then replace the original letters with the ones you’ve made, making sure to cover any joins.
Apply a 4pt stroke around the text to make it look bolder. The type also needs to look more fluid, so let’s join up some of the parts and add a few embellishments, including extended terminals on the two capital S’s, swooping ligatures to tie the letters together better and looping tails at the end of each word.
Create a few quick swirly strokes with the Brush tool to see how they fit together. Select each of these, open the Brushes panel (
F5) and click on the Remove Brush Stroke button so we can adjust the paths as if we’d created them with the Pen or Pencil tool.
When you’re happy with the positioning of each stroke, go to the Stroke panel (
F10), change the stroke width to 11pt and also hit the Round Cap button. This will make all the new elements appear similar to the original typeface.
That done, use the Width tool (
Shift + W) to enlarge or shrink the tips of some lines to give these curly strokes a slightly more varied look. Repeat the process for all joins to emulate a hand-drawn look once again.
Copy and paste some of the looping tails you’ve just created and place them around the type. Adjust their shape to fit with the type by using the Direct Selection Tool (
A) and moving curves as desired.
Next, we’ll turn everything into one element so it’s easier to work with when we add colour and shading. First, select all and hit
Object > Path > Outline Stroke to turn all elements into filled shapes. Select all again, go to the Pathfinder panel ( Cmd/Ctrl + Shift + F9) and select Unite. Clean up any imperfections by deleting anchor points.
To create the area that we’ll add inner-glow-style highlights to, go to
Object > Path > Offset Path and use -0.85mm as the Offset. Cut this offset path out and paste it next to the main type. The result should look like what’s in the project file Type.ai.
Invert the fill and stroke colours (
Shift + X) and add a 4pt stroke to the shape. Next, we’ll create the flowing elements that will be composited onto the main text to make it look like viscous chocolate, so we need to think about how this will work.
The approach we’ll use is to cut out lines from the outline to give a sense of motion to the type. Use the Direct Selection tool (
A) and delete parts of the lines and the tails – basically, those areas that would be touched lightly by a brush if you really were painting with melted chocolate. You can achieve this by going to the Stroke panel and selecting Width Profile 1 in the Profile drop-down menu. This will give you lines that are thin at the ends and heavy in the middle.
Create a new A4 portrait CMYK document in Photoshop. Copy and paste in your original, filled text, selecting Shape Layer in the Paste dialog box. This keeps it as a vector element, making any subsequent scaling much quicker and easier to do.
Double-click on the Shape Layer’s layer thumbnail in the Layers panel and change the colour to C56 M89 Y83 K74 for that genuine chocolatey look. Name this layer ‘Type’.
To give our main shape a three-dimensional look, we will use blending modes to emboss the type, along with inner shadows. Double-click on the ‘Type’ layer’s name to bring up the Layer Style panel and set up the Bevel and Emboss and Inner Shadows effects as shown above.
Now we will bring in the flowing elements part of our Illustrator document. Paste it on the top of the main object and set the opacity to 30%. Change this element’s colour to a dark brown to match the colour of the type behind it. Call this layer ‘Flow’.
We’ll now apply highlights to make it look as if the lighting is coming from one source in the top right. Select the Brush tool, go to the Brush Presets panel and select a Soft Round brush with opacity and flow both set to 10%, and with Shape Dynamics and Airbrush turned on. Make a selection from the ‘Type’ layer’s vector path so any extra white doesn’t show outside the letters. Create a new layer called ‘Highlights’ with the blending mode set to Overlay. Now brush in white highlights, remembering where the light is meant to be coming from.
Next we’ll need to add shadows. Select the ‘Type’ layer, duplicate it (
Cmd/Ctrl + J), call the result ‘Shadows’ and move it to the top of the layer stack. Change its colour to C21 M35 Y56 K6 and set the blending mode to Linear Burn (this will make all the type very dark, but don’t worry as we’re only applying it to the shadows).
Make a selection from this layer’s vector path and, using the same brush as before, take time to paint on shadows in a direction opposite to that of the highlights.
Pop back into Illustrator and select the main type shape. Add a 1pt white stroke and copy and paste it into Photoshop as a Smart Object. Call this layer ‘Glow’. Add a white Outer Glow via the Blending Options button in the Layers panel. Create a selection around the type again and erase most of this glow, leaving the extreme highlights as white.
Repeat the previous step, this time with thicker line settings that will work against the shadows coming off the main type.
In Illustrator, create a couple of strokes offset from the main element. To do this, select the main element and hit
Object > Path > Offset Path with a positive offset value (try 3mm). Repeat this step with an offset value double your initial one.
These two results will be used as very subtle waves in the background, as if the type had been dropped into some milk. To achieve this effect, copy and paste them into Photoshop at the base of the layer stack, change their colour to white, then use Inner Shadow and Outer Glow in the Layer Style dialog to give them the look shown.
Now sit back and review the whole image. I usually spend some time at this point fixing details.
For example, the colours may be good, but still not as amazing as you feel they could be. To address this, add a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer at the very top of the layer stack. Set the Saturation to +40 and the Lightness to -5. This will give you a result that’s look good enough to lick off a plate.
Radim Malinic, aka Brand Nu, is an award-winning art director, illustrator and graphic designer based in London. His work is noted for its innovation, passion and attention to intricate detail. Check out his website for the latest examples from his portfolio. Contact