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Oct 16

3 ways to apply a line pattern effect on text in Illustrator

2008 at 08.06 am posted by Veerle Pieters

A reader told me she used my command shape technique on a logo she was creating, but asked me if I knew a way where she could apply the lines inside the shape of the letters instead of applying them as a brush stroke. If you have no idea what I’m talking about. Let me explain 3 different technique on how you can apply a line pattern effect on text in Illustrator.

A line pattern brush stroke

This technique works with letters that have a prefect equal weight. Because the lines are applied on a stroke you'll have to draw the shapes of the letters first so the lines can be applied as a stroke which represents the weight of the letters. Here are the steps to follow

  • Draw the brush using 4 squares each with a different color
  • Group the 4 squares (command/control + g)
  • Drag grouped object into Brushes palette
  • Choose Art Brush and click OK
  • Change the orientation of the brush to vertical (upwards arrow)

Create the line Art Brush

  • Draw the letters using the Ellipse, Line and Pen tool

Draw your text

  • Apply a Stroke to the letters
  • Select the Brush from the Brushes palette to apply it on the Stroke
  • Adjust the Stroke weight if needed

Apply a Stroke to the letters

Text as a mask

This is a totally different outcome, but also a way to apply a line pattern on text.

  • Select the text using the black arrow
  • Create outlines/paths of the text: hit command/control + shift + o
  • Ungroup the letters: command/control + shift + g

Create outlines/paths of the text

  • Draw the 4 lines
  • Select the 4 lines and group the lines: command/control + g
  • Cut the lines: command/control + x
  • Paste behind the 1st letter: command/control + b

Apply the letter as a mask to the lines

  • Select both lines and letter
  • Apply the letter as a mask: command/control + 7
  • Paste the lines again behind: command/control + b
  • Select both lines and letter
  • Apply the letter as a mask: command/control + 7
  • Repeat the steps to apply the mask for the other letters

Apply the letters 1 by 1 as a mask to the lines

For some reason I couldn't get the text masked all in once.

The hard way

The most complex of all 3 is to apply the lines inside the outlines of the letters and have the lines adjusted to the weight and curves of the letters. As an example we use the same typeface as we used in previous version, Helvetica Neue Black Condensed. This is another story, one that doesn't end perfectly. At least that's my opinion...

Expand the Brush stroke to fills

First I copied the letter 'o' I created in version 1 and I expanded the stroke into a fill: Object > Expand Appearance

Resize the lines to match the letter as closely as possible

I moved my text in a separate layer on top of the lines, I adjusted the transparency of the layer to 50% and I locked the layer. Then I resized the circle with lines to match the letter '0' as best as I could using the Selection tool.

Manually edit the lines by tweaking the nodes

Next step is most difficult and time consuming. I tweaked the nodes on the path so the lines follow the weight and curves of the letter 'o'.

Almost there but not perfect yet

As for the letters 'l' and 'a' I draw a line following the lines and curves of the letter. I applied the brush stroke, expanded it into a fill and tweaked the nodes one by one. All very time consuming, except for the letter 'l' of course. I'm not sure I like the result, because I have the feeling that these kind of typefaces aren't well suited for this technique. This is of course my personal opinion.

Final result, not my happy ending

The result is not 100% to my liking but it's the best I could do... Actually no. The 'a' has imperfections. I gave up on it. I simply just didn't want to spend any more time on this. It makes me wonder if there isn't any other way to achieve this result? Maybe the Make with Mesh technique could work, but it would mean a lot of work and node handle tweaking just like the technique I just used. If you have any ideas, please don't hesitate to share them in the comments. Thank you.

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25served

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permalink this comment Wodan Thu Oct 16, 2008 at 09.27 am

For some reason I couldn’t get the text masked all in once.

When you outline text, you’ll get a group of compound paths…
So, ungroup first and then make a compound path of all elements that will be used as a mask.


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permalink this comment Jan Thu Oct 16, 2008 at 09.40 am

There is also a 4th way to add multiple strokes to text or shapes. If you use the appearance palette, you have the possibility to add multiple fills, strokes and effects to the selected object and you can save those settings as a Graphic Style.


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permalink this comment Jonny Haynes Thu Oct 16, 2008 at 11.29 am

Great article as always Veerle. Saw the feature of you in .Net magazine. When’s the new duoh.com website going to be ready - from the screens in .Net it looks pretty good!

:-)


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permalink this comment James Thu Oct 16, 2008 at 11.41 am

Thanks! This is something I have struggled with in the past. Not an easy thing to do. Looks like you’ve made a good job of it though!


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permalink this comment David Thu Oct 16, 2008 at 11.56 am

The first method looks brilliant.
The third is sort of a manual harder way of doing the same effect but for any lengthy text this would take a loooong time.  I can see why you had enough :)


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permalink this comment Dorin Vancea Thu Oct 16, 2008 at 01.08 pm

Nice tutorial,
Very helpfull for illustrator beginners.

Thanks !


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permalink this comment Jeroen Haijen Thu Oct 16, 2008 at 01.50 pm

Hi Veerle,

I really like the effect but the A does indeed seems somewhat out of balance. The L however worked out fine ! ;)

I was thinking (I don’t speak perfect illustrator) to create 3 steps/lines
between the inner line and the outer line (I believe Illustrator has an automation for creating those in between) and just coloring them out. The a could be solved as if it where 2 different shapes: it’s tummy and the rest.

I’m not sure if it is perfectly clear. But I am going to try it out.


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permalink this comment Grant Friedman Thu Oct 16, 2008 at 02.02 pm

I have a great set of brushes on my website perfect for this tutorial visit for 160 retro line brushes.


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permalink this comment Jeroen Haijen Thu Oct 16, 2008 at 02.17 pm

Hi, me again

I tried it out and it appears to be called the blend mode. Cut the letters into parts that you can blend from inner to outer outline, like you did with the a, expand, and color it in. I guess any letter should work as long as you cut it correctly. For the F and L letters you can use the brush technique or just create an inner line yourself (although I’m not sure)

Hope it works because I just tried a few letters.

Groeten,

Jeroen


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permalink this comment Veerle Pieters Thu Oct 16, 2008 at 03.01 pm

Wodan said:

When you outline text, you’ll get a group of compound paths…
So, ungroup first and then make a compound path of all elements that will be used as a mask.

Thanks for sharing this. It’s just weird, because this was what I was trying at first and it didn’t work. I didn’t understand why. I guess I must have done something wrong without my knowing, because I just retried this again and it worked fine. So yes, you can mask the text all in once instead of letter by letter the way I explained it.

Jan said:

There is also a 4th way to add multiple strokes to text or shapes. If you use the appearance palette, you have the possibility to add multiple fills, strokes and effects to the selected object and you can save those settings as a Graphic Style.

Thanks for sharing this :) I guess with my kind of stroke (4 different colors in a row) it needs to be added as style? Not sure, because with multiple stoke weights and colors stacked on each other you’ll end up with: blue, yellow, pink, maroon, pink, yellow and blue. I have mentioned the technique of applying 2 different types of strokes in this tutorial from way back or my tutorial about Illustrator Art brushes. The technique is very handy for sure :)

Jeroen Haijen said:

I was thinking (I don’t speak perfect illustrator) to create 3 steps/lines
between the inner line and the outer line (I believe Illustrator has an automation for creating those in between) and just coloring them out. The a could be solved as if it where 2 different shapes: it’s tummy and the rest.

Interesting approach although I’m not sure I can follow you…

I tried it out and it appears to be called the blend mode. Cut the letters into parts that you can blend from inner to outer outline, like you did with the a, expand, and color it in. I guess any letter should work as long as you cut it correctly. For the F and L letters you can use the brush technique or just create an inner line yourself (although I’m not sure)

Not sure if I understand you correctly with ‘blend mode’. Do you mean using the Blend tool then? If you blend you have a transition from one color and shape to the other.


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permalink this comment Jesse Thu Oct 16, 2008 at 10.06 pm

You can also offset the path once you make outlines of the text (object>path>offset path…). You have to use negative numbers if you want it to offset within your current object selection. Positive numbers will expand the path outside of the object. This is quick and simple. It also works with perfect accuracy. This would also work with any hand drawn (pen tool) letters.

I’m new to the blog, but I like it, keep up the good work


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permalink this comment Simeon Griggs Fri Oct 17, 2008 at 12.25 am

The reader is right about creating one big compound path in Illustrator. It’s necessary for a lot of things.

Like if you’re using the pathfinder palette you’ll want to make outlined text one big compound path. Cmd+8 is very useful!


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permalink this comment Edwin Fri Oct 17, 2008 at 11.16 am

A good ol’ tutorial, like we were used to get from you. Thanks, interesting! :)


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permalink this comment ND Fri Oct 17, 2008 at 12.10 pm

Hmm… Corel Draw has an effect called “envelope”, which allows you to distort shapes with a kind of perimeter object and node handles (it bears a vague resemblance to “Liquify” in Photoshop). If Illustrator has a filter with a similar effect, it might yield better results?


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permalink this comment Dainis Graveris Fri Oct 17, 2008 at 07.48 pm

Nice tut..I didn’t knew really the third one..:) But all together - sweet!! :) And thanks for keyboard shortcut :) ctrl+7


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permalink this comment Amanda DeVries Fri Oct 17, 2008 at 10.40 pm

Without trying it out myself, my hunch would be to use Object->Path->Offset Path with negative numbers…


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permalink this comment Martine Sat Oct 18, 2008 at 05.46 pm

Wow, jij bent goed! En wat een supermooie website heb je. Echt geweldig. Ik ben je fan! Liefs van Martine


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permalink this comment John Mon Oct 20, 2008 at 04.16 pm

Being an amateur student of design, I know little bit of Photoshop—but have problems with illustrators with loops and other aspects.
Thanks for the great info.


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permalink this comment Michael Short Tue Oct 21, 2008 at 02.59 am

Thanks veerle, fantastic tutorial as always. 

I too am very much looking forward to seeing the new duoh.com, judging by some of the designs that were not chosen its going to be fantastic :-)


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permalink this comment Veerle Pieters Thu Oct 23, 2008 at 08.39 am

Jesse said:

You can also offset the path once you make outlines of the text (object>path>offset path…). You have to use negative numbers if you want it to offset within your current object selection.

Amanda DeVries said:

Without trying it out myself, my hunch would be to use Object->Path->Offset Path with negative numbers…

Thanks for sharing :) That’s an interesting approach. I’ve tried it out and explained the steps in my next article. However the end result is different: the coloring of the lines is applied from the outside in (double) and not from left to right. You could break the compound paths and re-apply them differently but that is only a solution if you have a line pattern of 3, 5, 7, 9… lines because with this technique you always end up with an uneven number.


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permalink this comment Ryan Wed Oct 29, 2008 at 12.24 am

That is great, I love how the striped go under each other in the first example. Very cool.


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permalink this comment Manu Wed Oct 29, 2008 at 09.54 am

In Illustrator CS3 it is not mandatory to outline the text before you apply it as a mask. This way it remains editable.


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permalink this comment Niels Thu Oct 30, 2008 at 07.18 pm

Nice tutorial, I was not aware of all the different ways. Thanks Veerle.


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permalink this comment Dave Tue Nov 11, 2008 at 07.47 pm

Great tutorial.  Even though this is still a little past my pay grade with illustrator, it is always nice to learn a few more things to play around with.  Thanks again.



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