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Aug 18

Illustrator type technique using shapes

2009 at 08.48 am posted by Veerle Pieters

One of the questions I often get from readers is if I could write a tutorial on how to create a certain logo. It’s something that I think is not very good material for a tutorial because it’s so very specific. The hard part is not the execution in Illustrator, it’s the design itself, the creative process. Then again I think certain parts are explanatory e.g. a logo made of letters you draw yourself using circles, simple shapes and lines of equal thickness. The technique I have in mind is something that only works for logo’s that contain only a few characters, ideally not more than 5. It also stands or falls with the characters at hand e.g. if o’s and other circular shapes are involved, than it can get interesting to try this technique out…

Here is what we'll be creating:

Loca, the final result

As you can see, 4 letters, 2 o's, a lot of roundness, ... First thing I often do for a type design is analyzing the letters I have to work with, try to find certain patterns. If there are double letters (2 o's, 2 t's , 2 l's etc.) can I create something fun with that? Can I create a ligature? Can I transform one of the letters a bit an integrate it with a symbol etc. There are many more ways than only this, but the typographic part is often one of the mayor routes you want to try out. The word 'loca' seems ideal for this type of execution. Lets get started :)

Draw 2 horizontal guides

Draw 2 horizontal guides

Start by placing 2 horizontal guides that represent the height of the logo. Turn on Smart Guides (go to View > SmartGuides or hit Cmd/Ctrl + U).

Draw a circle

Draw a circle

With logos like this one, everything starts with the circle of the 'o' and then you derive the other letters from the 'o'. Select the Ellipse tool. Click somewhere on the top guideline (as shown in the left image above), start dragging diagonally down right, now hold down the Shift key. Release the mouse, then the shift key, once you've reached the bottom guideline, as shown in the right image above.

Add thick black stroke

Add thick black stroke

Give the circle a thick black stroke. I used a 40 pt thickness, but the value depends on how big your circle is.

Duplicate the circle

Duplicate the circle

Select the Selection tool, select the circle (grab the bottom left segment), start dragging to the left, now hold down the Shift + Option/Alt key. Once you've reached the intersection as shown in the image above, release the mouse and then the keys.

Delete unnecessary segments

Delete unnecessary segments

Select the Direct Selection tool. Click the top and right anchor point of the circle. Hold down the Shift key to select the 2nd point. Hit backspace to delete the selected path segment.

Drag horizontal guide for the letter L

Drag horizontal guide for the letter L

If you know the basics of typography, than you know that round letters like an 'o' are always slightly bigger. Because they are round, they appear optical smaller (vertically) then straight letters like an 'l' for example. Because of this, we'll add another horizontal guide right on the spot as shown in the image above. This is where the anchor point of the top of the letter 'l' will end.

Draw the letter L

Draw the letter L

At this point we only have the rounded corner of the 'l'. Select the Pen tool and click in the top anchor point of the curved corner. Hold down the Shift key go to the intersection point of the guideline you've just drawn and click again. Now hold down the Cmd/Ctrl key and click somewhere outside the drawing area to end this path. Click in the right anchor point of the curve, hold down the Shift key again and click at the intersection of the bottom anchor point of the letter 'o'.

Adjust the kerning

Adjust the kerning

The letters 'o' and 'l' are connected, but the letter 'l' looks way too wide, or the kerning (if you can call it that, in this situation) is too wide. Select the Direct Selection tool and drag a rectangle to select the 3 anchor points of the letter 'l' as shown in the left image above. Start dragging this segment to the right a bit (as shown in the right image above) while holding down the Shift key.

Duplicate the letter O

Duplicate the letter O

Select the Selection tool and select the letter 'o'. Start dragging the circle to the right while holding down the Shift + Option/Alt key as shown in the image above. Just like before, release the mouse first, than the keys.

Duplicate the letter O again

Duplicate the letter O again

Repeat the previous action.

Create the letter C

Create the letter C

Select the Direct Selection tool and click the right most anchor point of the circle. Hit the Backspace key to delete the path segment.

Create the letter C

Select the Pen tool and click in the top right open anchor point. Hold down the Shift key and click again a little bit to the right (as shown in the image above). Now hold down the Cmd/Ctrl key and click somewhere outside the drawing area to end this path. Click in the bottom open anchor point, hold down the Shift key again to draw a horizontal line just like before, and click where you intersect the bottom point of the last circle (as you can see in the image above).

Adjust the kerning

Adjust the kerning

Just like before with the letters 'l' and 'o' (which will change into an 'a' later), we only guess the spacing between the letters. So we have to adjust the kerning a bit again here to get this perfect. We do that by selecting the Direct Selection tool again and by dragging a selection around the 'o', making sure we also select the anchor point we drew to connect both letters. Now grab the path, hold down the Shift key and move the segments to the left a bit (for another reference of how far, see the next image to the left below).

Create the letter A

Create the letter A

Now we'll turn the 'o' into an 'a'. First of all, add another horizontal guide to the bottom of the letters. This time you can aim for the very bottom, because we have already lines in place connecting the rounded letters and so we need to give the leg of the letter 'a' the same height. Select the Pen tool and click in the most right anchor point of the circle. Though, make sure you're not adding an anchor point. So make sure your Pen cursor has an x and not a plus sign. You can always temporary lock the circle by hitting Cmd/Ctrl + 2 (don't forget to unlock later via Cmd/Ctrl + Option/Alt + 2). Hold down the Shift key and click on the intersection below with the horizontal guide (see image below on the left).

Duplicate the layer

Duplicate the layer

Grab the layer in the Layers palette and move it onto the Create New Layer icon to duplicate the layer.

Apply smaller white stroke

Apply smaller white stroke

Select all paths in the duplicated layer by using the target circle icon in the Layers palette. Go to the Stroke palette and select a value that is about 1/4 of the size of the back stroke. I'm using a value of 10 pt. Now select the Stroke option in the Color palette and select white at the bottom right of the palette.

Expand to fill

Expand to fill

With the white stroke still selected, go to Object > Expand... and click OK. The stroke is now turned into a fill. Now select all paths of the layer containing the black stroke by using the target circle icon in the Layers palette and do the same: go to Object > Expand... and click OK to turn the stroke into a fill.

Unite the L and O, then unite the C and A

Unite the L and O

Select the letters 'l' and 'o'. Go to the Pathfinder palette and choose the Unite option to merge the paths of both letters together to one object.

Unite the C and A

Now select the 'c' and 'a' and do the same: go to the Pathfinder palette and choose Unite.

Minus front

Minus front

Now we'll make the logo transparent, meaning the white lines will become transparent holes instead of a white fill. Select both the white part and the black part of the letters 'l' and 'o' and choose Minus Front from the Pathfinder palette. Do the same for the letters 'c' and 'a'. We're almost there now. Only one last tweak left...

Move the letters CA into place

Move the letters CA into place

To create a more perfect and balanced connection between the letters, select the 'ca' part using the Selection tool and move them to the left, holding down the Shift key until you intersect and overlap the left most part of the letter 'c' with the most right part of the letter 'o' as shown in the image above. You should end up with a similar result as shown in the image below.

The final result

Loca, the final result

Hope you enjoyed the exercise and you can put this to good use for your designs.

Try out different things

Loca, the final result

Make sure to try out different stroke widths. You could try out an extra stroke and achieve this effect for example.

Want to learn more?

VECTORTUTS+ Vector Tutorials and More A good and not expensive source to learn more about Illustrator, Photoshop, or web design is by joining the Tuts+ sites. You get access to the source files for just $9 a month. So your ONE membership gives you access to members-only content for ALL the Plus sites. I've written a tutorial for the Vector Tuts section.


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permalink this comment Thomas Verrier Tue Aug 18, 2009 at 10.09 am

Another great tutorial. Thanks!


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permalink this comment Jasmin Halkić Tue Aug 18, 2009 at 10.29 am

Nice article. I need that.


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permalink this comment Brownspank Tue Aug 18, 2009 at 12.42 pm

Great tutorial! Love the use of geometry in creating custom logotype.

Though, I keep double-checking, and can only see 4 letters and 1 ‘o’. Am I missing something?


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permalink this comment Veerle Pieters Tue Aug 18, 2009 at 01.22 pm

Thanks :)

Brownspank said:

Though, I keep double-checking, and can only see 4 letters and 1 ‘o’. Am I missing something?

No, it was just a typo of mine, it’s 4 not 5 ,)


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permalink this comment Joella Molson Tue Aug 18, 2009 at 01.38 pm

I don’t have cause to create too many logos, but I could use this technique to draw some very nice retro shapes and curved lines. Thanks for the information.


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permalink this comment Nardyello Tue Aug 18, 2009 at 03.15 pm

Didn’t know it was this simple to make a curvy font design.

Always wondered how they’d do it x]

Thank you for sharing! :D


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permalink this comment qw78 Tue Aug 18, 2009 at 05.00 pm

Thanks for this tutorial and thanks for this magnific web


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permalink this comment Nana Yaw Wed Aug 19, 2009 at 04.32 am

Good tutoring.Hmph


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permalink this comment Luke Fri Aug 21, 2009 at 01.54 am

I love creating logo’s so this is indeed a nice technique to shelve for future reference. thanks for the great work that you do Veerle, you have helped me grow my skillset significantly since i started reading your blog.

Best regards.

Luke.


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permalink this comment Josephine Fri Aug 21, 2009 at 08.05 pm

awesome! thank you for this tutorial.
finally can learn how to create logo.


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permalink this comment Cody Fri Aug 21, 2009 at 11.54 pm

Thats awesome.  I love how everything flows with each other.  I was trying the letter “K” and that was a bit tricky with the edges.


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permalink this comment Karl Sat Aug 22, 2009 at 07.56 am

Thank you for sharing your thoughts Veerle. You are always very interesting.

Keep up your great work!


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permalink this comment Sam Logan Sat Aug 22, 2009 at 11.03 am

Thanks for another great tutorial Veerle. I’m starting to master illustrator again and it’s all due to reading your blog.


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permalink this comment Karel Zeman Mon Aug 24, 2009 at 05.36 am

Looks very simple but very effective. Sometimes we didn’t notice these small things but they do matter.


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permalink this comment Lin Mon Aug 24, 2009 at 12.04 pm

Wow, I am big into design and this article was fabulous. It was very detailed and quite polished. I love it, keep them up!


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permalink this comment Vadim Uvazhny Mon Aug 24, 2009 at 06.33 pm

Great final result! Thank you.
But the first time I tried to repeat I had some trouble with arranging C and O. Now everyting is ok.


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permalink this comment Jillian Tue Aug 25, 2009 at 05.54 am

Thanks for putting this into geometry terms instead of geek speak. I could follow along quite nicely.


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permalink this comment Carly Tue Aug 25, 2009 at 10.30 am

Very very cool, i saw a similar style used for a full page perfume ad in a magazine once before.

They used a ton of white space, and just like your example it was very striking with only the use of black/white and the flowing parallel lines for effect.

Nicely done, i’m going to give this a shot.


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permalink this comment Kat Wed Aug 26, 2009 at 01.11 am

I never got past the “L” - when I would use the pen tool to draw a line from the bottom of the curve to the “O” it would delete part of the “O” in a strange triangular pie wedge in between the bottom anchor and the left anchor. Help?


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permalink this comment Chet Wed Aug 26, 2009 at 06.43 am

Unbelievable (like always) - keep up the good work with your tuts Veerle!


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permalink this comment Veerle Pieters Thu Aug 27, 2009 at 09.26 am

Kat said:

I never got past the “L” - when I would use the pen tool to draw a line from the bottom of the curve to the “O” it would delete part of the “O” in a strange triangular pie wedge in between the bottom anchor and the left anchor. Help?

If you temporarily lock the O, you avoid turning the bottom anchor point of the O into a straight point (which is what I think is happening). To lock the O, select it and go to Object > Lock > Selection (or hit Cmd/Ctrl + 2). After you’ve drawn the bottom line of the L, unlock the O by going to Object > Unlock All (or hit Cmd/Ctrl + Option/Alt + 2). Hope this solves the problem.


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permalink this comment Michelle Thu Aug 27, 2009 at 02.30 pm

great tutorial :) thanks


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permalink this comment John Fri Aug 28, 2009 at 02.20 pm

Is there something that you can’t create? I really like al the tutorials you are giving us for free! This is really Web 3.0. Giving so much effort for the community.

Veerle, Thank you so much for your contribution.


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permalink this comment Ocean surfer Sat Aug 29, 2009 at 10.23 pm

Illustrator is a truly amazing piece of software. I prefer it even to Photoshop for actions which can be done in either software. I have designed multiple company logos in illustrator. However, I learned some new tricks from your tutorial and thanks for sharing them.


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permalink this comment Benjamin DiCaprio Sun Aug 30, 2009 at 01.32 am

This is awesome! I didn’t think I could make a decent logo, but it helped boil it down to an easy to follow guide. Thanks so much.


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permalink this comment brian Tue Sep 1, 2009 at 11.11 am

Excellent guide and article, shared it with folks in office


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permalink this comment Simon Wed Sep 2, 2009 at 12.18 am

Nice example of both basic typography and Illustrator tools. In my opinion there isn’t enough contrast in the colours and nor is there enough space between the strokes in the final example. As an aside, you have essentially created four different stroke widths, which doesn’t scan so well on the eye. As well as the basic look of a logo you should always consider it in different situations - i.e. small print, black & white (faxed, photocopied), the background - does it look good on both a dark and a light background? and so on.


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permalink this comment umerzafar Wed Sep 2, 2009 at 09.27 am

Just like Kat, I am having the same problem of one of the anchor point of letter “O” deleting when i draw a line from L. i even tried locking O before drawing the line but same problem. maybe i am not drawing the line / selecting the points properly.
kindly help


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permalink this comment Veerle Pieters Thu Sep 3, 2009 at 01.51 pm

Simon said:

In my opinion there isn’t enough contrast in the colours and nor is there enough space between the strokes in the final example. As an aside, you have essentially created four different stroke widths, which doesn’t scan so well on the eye. As well as the basic look of a logo you should always consider it in different situations - i.e. small print, black & white (faxed, photocopied), the background - does it look good on both a dark and a light background? and so on.


I appreciate your remark here, but like I mentioned in my article, I just want to show people that you can do different ‘things’ with this technique. This isn’t persé a logo. I want to motivate people to think creatively and let them experiment. We are discussing a technique here after all, NOT the design of a logo. I mentioned this in my introduction that designing a logo is not really tutorial material.

umerzafar said:

Just like Kat, I am having the same problem of one of the anchor point of letter “O” deleting when i draw a line from L. i even tried locking O before drawing the line but same problem. maybe i am not drawing the line / selecting the points properly.

If you properly lock the O shape, you can’t alter the points of the O (it’s locked). So I assume something else is going wrong here. Did you also make sure you clicked on the canvas somewhere outside the drawing holding down the Command key (for Mac) or Control key (for PC) before you started drawing the bottom line of the L? This way you start a new path, like mentioned in the article. Other from that I can only think you didn’t properly lock to O. Hope this helps.


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permalink this comment Jarod Taylor Thu Sep 3, 2009 at 09.28 pm

You do friggin’ fantastic work. I just wanted to say that.


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permalink this comment cheryl cassidy Sun Sep 6, 2009 at 07.17 pm

Thanks for keeping things simple. It’s good when someone takes the time to explain things step by step for the challenged!


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permalink this comment Milena Sun Sep 6, 2009 at 09.13 pm

Two words for you:
YOU ROCK


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permalink this comment Goh Wei Choon Mon Sep 7, 2009 at 10.41 am

Wonderful tutorial.

I especially appreciated your philosophy, that the really hard part of logo design is the conceptualisation, the trial and error, the many versions and amendments; and the actual execution is really, just 10% of the work.

But for those of us who are not yet quite so up to grips with the technical aspects of designing, this is a gem!


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permalink this comment Matt Tue Sep 8, 2009 at 07.02 pm

I love your entries and always appreciate them when they arrive, thanks once again. Matt

PS, I wish I had the time to help or influence the design community like you do, thanks.



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