How to create a Typography Illustration in Adobe Illustrator

By Kimberly Kembie 3 years ago

Tutorial details: handlettered illustration

  • Program: Adobe Illustrator CS6 – CC2015 / Photoshop CS6
  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Topics Covered: Shape building, Composition, Typography, Masking, Cut-out Shapes
  • Estimated Completion time: 30 min.

To make hand lettered illustrations can take up a lot of time, especially when you’re not an illustrator yourself. Normally these types of illustrations are made with pen and paper that gives it an authentic look. But with this tutorial you’ll learn how to create a similar illustration in illustrator.


Step 1

Choose an image that you would like to use, in this case I’ve chosen for the Black Buck Antelope because of its spiraling horns from this website, the images are free for use. But you could also use vector images and save yourself a bit of time, for example this is a good option too. This image I will combine with the quote “Take the risk or lose the chance”.

Paste the image on the first layer and reduce the opacity to 50% by double-clicking on the layer and ticking the template checkbox.


Step 2

Add a second layer in which we are going to work in. We are going to roughly outline the image, press shortcut P to select the Pentool. Make sure the outline is black and the filling is off. Close the shape and we’ve created the silhouette. It doesn’t have to be perfect because it should look like it has been sketched, so don’t worry about the little details.


Step 3

Now we’ve got the outline there’s no need for the image in the background, unblock the first layer and delete. Type out the quote and check your font collection for a hand drawn style font, in this case I’m using “Luna”. But if you browse online you’ll find more than enough other choices. Check if you prefer the lowercase or the capital letters, in this case I’ve used only capitals.

Afterwards, create separate text elements, so that each word is in a separate bounding box.


Step 4

Change the color of the text to white and place the text on top of the silhouette image and start scaling and rotating the text items to your liking. Make the important words bigger for a better contrast and readability. To make your design more playful, rotate the words in a slight angle so that there aren’t any words placed in a straight line.


Step 5

Now it’s time to adjust the words to the shape of the figure, this will give the illustration more of an organic and hand drawn feeling, it’s something you’ll always see in hand drawn typography. To create this effect we will use the Envelope Distort tool so that we’re able to manipulate the shapes into the form we would like. Select the word you want to adjust and click on Object > Envelope Distort > Make with Mesh.


Step 6

I’ve chosen to use only 1 row and 4 columns, it’s best to use the same amount of columns as letters. So if you got only 2 letters, use 2 columns. But when the letter doesn’t take up too much space (like the letter i), it’s better to use fewer columns. In that case you don’t need to reshape the word as much and it will look smoother. The more columns you’ve got in a tighter space, the bigger the risk that it will look messy.


Step 7

Now we can reshape the words by adjusting the anchor points of the bounding box. Use the direct selection tool or shortcut A, click on an anchor point and drag, use the handles to adjust the curve.


Step 8

Play around with the shapes until you’re happy with the design. Make sure that the words among each other have a natural flow. You can always use extra elements to fill up the empty spaces in between, in this case I’ve made a simple wave with the Pen tool and have placed it above and underneath or/the. But be careful with adding things to your design, if you add too much it will look messy.


Step 9

Now we’re going to cut the phrase out of the silhouette so that when we put a background behind this illustration the letters won’t have a white fill. The first step is to select all the elements with the selection tool or shortcut V and click on Object>expand, make sure the boxes object and fill are selected and click on ok. The words don’t work as a group anymore because all the letters have their own anchor points.


Select all the elements and click on Pathfinder in de right sidebar or in window if you can’t find it, click on the second icon Minos Front, this action will cut out the letters from the silhouette. If you’re not sure if it worked correctly then you check by placing a shape in a different color behind the illustration.


Step 10

So now we’ve got the cutout, it’s time to add texture for more of an authentic feel you can download the texture here. I used the second one but you can use any other for a different effect. Copy the texture, select the silhouette and click on the Transparency tool. Click on ‘Make Opacity Mask’ in the slide out menu.


Click on the black square and paste the texture in this layer, move and scale the texture until it covers the whole shape. Deselect clip and invert mask, click on the left square to select the silhouette as a whole. This was the last step for creating the whole vector shape.


Step 11

The only thing we need to do now, is to place the shape on top of a picture. Choose the picture you would like to use and adjust it to your liking. The picture I’ve used here is this. Open Photoshop and place the picture you would like to use as a background. Copy and paste the silhouette shape on top as a smart object.


Step 12

If your picture has a lot of light elements it’s better to have a dark shape, the contrast makes it easier to read the text. But if you prefer to change the color to white, you need to rasterize the layer. To do that, we need to right click on Vector Smart Object and select Rasterize Layer, this allows us to adjust the object. For inverting black to white, click on Image> Adjustments > Invert or command+I. If the color is still a bit grey (because default black of illustrator is not pure black) use brightness, Image> Adjustments > Brightness/Contrast > 100% > ok. And that’s it!




Reply to Leinybeth Salas

Leinybeth Salas
Leinybeth Salas

3 years ago

I'm newbie in this, do u have the link for the image Black Buck Antelope?