Life & Style tutorial: Experimental text effects

Twist your words out of recognition to create cool and unusual illustrations, with these great tips from Amenth.

Many graphic designers, illustrators and digital artists use Illustrator on a daily basis for creating fantastic vector images, but the application’s typography tools are often overlooked – or at least, not used to their full potential.

This is a shame, because a little tinkering around reveals that some stunning effects are easily created. In this tutorial, Illustrator expert Amenth demonstrates just a few of these, taking text extrusions to the extreme and using this as the basis for creating amazing vector shapes dynamic, far-out artwork almost entirely using Illustrator’s text tools.

Before starting this tutorial, take some time to assemble some cool graphic elements you’d like to add in – here, Amenth has added paint spatters and a robot monkey, but yours could be whatever you fancy.

01. In Adobe Illustrator, create a new A3 document (21cm-x-42cm), setting the colour mode as CMYK. Select the Text tool, set the font to Myriad Bold at about 48 points, and type in a few words. Myriad is a great font for this because it is clean, sans-serif and unadorned, so will distort well. For the text, I’ve chosen the charming term, Hello Worldwide Bastards. If you want to use different text, make sure it’s three words of roughly similar lengths, with each word on a separate line.

02. Change the font colour to white or red, then pick the Selection tool (the black arrow) and click back onto the text to highlight it. Select Effect > 3D > Extrude Bevel. Set Extrude Depth to 200.

03. Separate out the extrusion’s individual lines by selecting Object > Expand Appearance. Then right-click (Ctrl + click) and select Ungroup (or use the shortcut Cmd/Ctrl + Shift + U). Click on an area of screen away from the letters to activate the ungrouping.

04. Zoom in a little and hold Shift while clicking on each of the letters, to select the letters but not their extrusions, then hit Delete to get rid of the letters.

05. Next, fill the extrusions with a gradient that goes from magenta to blue: at the bottom of the tool panel, pick the Gradient colour option. Next, in the Gradient panel, click on the white square at the bottom left end of the gradient – this will bring up the Eyedropper. Use this in the Colors panel to select a magenta shade. Then click on the black square to the bottom right and select a magenta. Highlight the first word and click on your gradient swatch to fill it. Create different gradients for the other words.

06. Now we’re going to make the extruded text more abstract in shape. Highlight the extrusions with the Selection tool and ungroup them (Cmd/Ctrl + U), so that they’re split into constituent parts. Move some of the shapes around the canvas, but keep them in proportion, so that each word forms its own abstract pattern. Once you’re happy with this effect select all parts (making sure you’ve got the end of every extrusion) and group (Cmd/Ctrl + G).

07. Select Object > Envelope Distort > Make with Warp. In the Warp option’s dialog box, select Style > Flag and set the Bend to 50. Copy the now warped object (Cmd/Ctrl + C) and paste it (Cmd/Ctrl + V) elsewhere on the canvas; highlight this copy and warp it slightly differently. Repeat this until you end up with several very different objects.

08. Now you have some cool shapes to start composing an illustration with. Start by combining two or three objects, considering their compositions, shapes and colour matches.

09. Repeat Step 08 using another two or three objects. Once you have several clusters of objects, compile them together in a striking cluster, as shown here. Create this by combining objects into smaller groups and then combine these into a larger one so that the resulting object is punchy and random. If you need the objects to be more in harmony then you can create your image object by object.

10. Bring in any other objects you’d like to include. Here, I’ve introduced paint spatters that I’ve created manually, scanned in and treated using Photoshop, and a character I quickly created in Illustrator, but you could use whatever you like – textures, vectors, photos from magazines, flowers, or images you’ve created yourself.

11. Once you’re happy with it, fill in the background – this can be any colour you like providing it matches with the main illustration. I’ve chosen quite a neutral colour to make the image really stand out, but this effect also really stands out against black and very dark colours.

Who: Based in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, Amenth (aka Loveisick) has been working as a freelance graphic designer and art director for the past two years. His clients include magazines and brands all over the world, including Don’t Panic in the UK, ColdVibe in Canada, Lovemonk Records in Spain and Overspray magazine in New York.
Software: Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop
Time to complete: 2 hours

Note: We may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site, at no extra cost to you. This doesn't affect our editorial independence. Learn more.

Read Next...