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Design a Custom Lettered Spring Graphic

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This post is part of a series called Design Essentials.
Create a Personalized Toolkit for Making Maps
The Logo Design Process for Ultimate Potential

Get ready for spring with this colorful custom letting tutorial. You'll learn how to manipulate text to create a more customized look and combine it with other vector graphics to create a seamless design.

You can find the source files in the directory labeled "source" that came in the files that you downloaded. You may wish to look through them briefly before we begin.


Step 1

Find a font that has at least two different weights, like bold and light. The font I'm using is called Raspoutine. It comes with regular, medium and bold weights.

Type a short phrase, you may want to use the same phrase I have to make following this tutorial easier. The important thing to remember is that you should keep the phrase short.



Step 2

We'll want the first "O" to be larger but still have it coincide with the rest of the the smaller letters. In Option 1 notice how the smaller "o's" look a little more thin than the larger "O." In Option 2 the smaller "o's" look more similar to the larger "O." In Option 2, I've used a different, lighter weight of the same font for the larger "O." This is a subtle difference, but helps keep both the larger and smaller "o's" looking as consistent as possible. Depending upon the font that you choose, using different font weights together may be much more dramatic.



Step 3

In Option 1 you'll notice an even greater difference between the "S" and the smaller letters.

Note: To make the letters easier to work with, you should type each letter separately.



Step 4

To create unique shapes it's not uncommon to use other characters within the font as a basis. Below I've used a parenthesis (Shift + 9) and rotated it to use as an underline for the word "Snap." Experiment with other letters, characters and numbers that you can use in non-traditional ways.



Step 5

Arrange your letters into a balanced composition. If your phrase does not look balanced and composed, moving forward will yield unflattering results.



Step 6

Select all of the text and go to Object > Transform > Shear...The font you used will determine how much shear you need to apply to your text. Don't be afraid to give it a good shear. I've found that the more dramatic the shear, the more dramatic the end result. I've entered -19 and selected Vertical.



Step 7

Below you'll see that I added the underline after I applied the shear. This is entirely up to you. I didn't want to shear the underline, rather, I preferred to just rotate it slightly.



Step 8

Next we'll start adding elements to customize the look of the letters. The objective here is to visually unify the text to give the impression of a custom type treatment, and not just a font. One idea to help you visualize the end result is to print out one copy of your design on paper and draw some very simple designs so you have an idea of what you're trying to create. You don't have to go crazy with the detail on the printout, just something general that you can use as a reference.

After you have an idea of how you want to tie all the letters together, start working on one of the major shapes that have a big impact on the overall design. Below I've started with customizing the "S." You need to be somewhat familiar with the Pen Tool (P) to achieve smooth lines and curves. I started my shape at the top of the "S." To create the first point (highlighted yellow), with the Pen Tool click and drag slightly upward and to the right (highlighted blue.) Next, click at the area highlighted pink and drag upward until the line curves as shown.



Step 9

Click the pink point again (so the next point you draw is not affected by the previous point) then click the area highlighted yellow and drag slightly down and to the left.



Step 10

Click the area highlighted yellow and drag the curve into the desired position. After you have the curve at the desired angle, click the yellow point once more.



Step 11

Close the shape by clicking on the last point.

Very Important: If the point that you make just before you close the shape is not clicked once more after you draw it, when you try to close the shape the shape may become distorted.



Step 12

Next I'll add more of a curly shape to the bottom of the "S." Start with a single point as we did with the previous shape.



Step 13

It's important to note that if the next point you intend to draw will continue in the same direction, then you should generally not click the point once more before you draw the next one (exception to this rule highlighted in Step 17). This is the case below, the curve will continue in the same direction, to the right and down, so I didn't click the point after I drew it.



Step 14

Continue curving the shape around.



Step 15

Here, the direction of the line will change so I clicked the point after it was drawn.



Step 16

Continue drawing the curve.



Step 17

There may be some cases where if you do not click the point before you start drawing the new one (even if it's going in the same direction) the shape may not be exactly what you intended. If this is the case, then you're left with no choice other than to click the point after you draw it.

The whole purpose of not clicking the point after you draw it is to make the next point you draw smoother, but this is not always an option.



Step 18

Continue with the curve.



Step 19

Complete the shape. Don't worry about making all the new shapes you're drawing match up perfectly with the font. After you intertwine the overall new shapes with the existing text we'll go back and make it perfect.



Step 20

Draw a white shape over the top of the small "o."

Tip: It may be easier to lock the shapes as you draw them so you don't accidentally click them.



Step 21

We'll create a loop that goes from one "o" to the next. Draw a line as shown below.



Step 22

Continue with the curve using as few points as possible to get a smooth result.



Step 23

This is what the shape looks like. Connecting the "o's" may look complicated, but the shape below is essentially all that's needed to achieve this effect.



Step 24

Draw a white vertical football shape in the middle of the top area.



Step 25

Make the other "o's" progressively smaller to create motion.



Step 26

Use the first "o" and loop you create instead of drawing it again.



Step 27

Draw other shapes to fill in areas that need more detail.



Step 28

Create another loop that extends off the top of the "n."



Step 29

Copy this shape and rotate it slightly to use on other areas, like the large "O."



Step 30

For the large "O" we want the entire letter to look like it curls onto itself. To create this effect we'll simply draw a white shape over both the red and black shape. Later we'll use the Pathfinder to merge everything and clean up the shape.



Step 31

Start adding additional small shapes to fill in and connect areas that are close to one another.



Step 32

Here's what the art looks like at this point. Notice it's fairly good, but still needs some fine-tuning to look perfect.



Step 33

Select all the areas that comprise the "S" and use the Pathfinder to click Add to Shape Area followed by clicking Expand.



Step 34

Below notice that the shape has a little bump in it that needs to be smoothed out. Using the Delete Anchor Point Tool (-) to select the red point to eliminate it. Eliminating either blue point will drastically affect the curve of the "S," so getting rid of those is not recommended.



Step 35

Use the Direct Selection Tool (A) to move the points around if needed. Also, adjust the handles using the Direct Selection Tool (highlighted) to achieve a smoother look.



Step 36

Below, the "S" is completely smooth.



Step 37

Get rid of the additional point that jut out of the green shape.



Step 38

Here's what the "S" looks like when it's all smoothed out.



Step 39

Select the curly shape and the large "O," then in the Pathfinder click Add To Shape Area followed by Expand (highlighted below).



Step 40

Select the white arc shape and the green shape, then click Subtract From Shape Area followed by Expand (highlighted below).



Step 41

Merge the shapes that make up the "p" too.



Step 42

Again, eliminate the point highlighted in red and not the blue points.



Step 43

Select the "o" and the white shape and Subtract the white shape from the "o."



Step 44

Select the "o" and the top curly shape and Merge them using the Pathfinder.



Step 45

Subtract the small football shape from the "o."



Step 46

This is what your shape should look like.



Step 47

Merge the "o" with the tip of the "S." To clean up the unwanted shape extending off of the loop of the "o," draw another shape and use the Pathfinder to subtract it. You can alternatively use the Delete Anchor Point Tool but this is just another option.



Step 48

Use the Direct Selection Tool to fine-tune the width of the exclamation point. I've decided it was too wide so I brought it in a little.



Step 49

This is what the art looks like after it's fine-tuned!



Step 50

Use the Pathfinder to Merge all the shapes. Go to Object > Path > Offset Path, enter 8 px, select Round for Joins and enter 0 for Miter Limit if necessary.



Step 51

Select the back path you just created and go to Window > Swatch Libraries > Gradients > Seasons, then apply a colorful fill.



Step 52

Give the object a Stroke of about 15. In the Appearance Palette, make sure the Stroke is below the Fill by clicking and dragging to change the order. Select the path and go to Effect > Stylize > Drop Shadow, enter the variables below then click OK.



Step 53

To make the leaves, first draw an ellipse using the Ellipse Tool (L).



Step 54

Use the Convert Anchor Point Tool (Shift + C) to click on both the top and bottom points to make them angled.



Step 55

Copy and paste the leaf shape and use the Pathfinder to subtract notches from the leaf.



Step 56

Draw a black box that starts at the center of the leaf and use the Pathfinder to divide the leaf into two halves.



Step 57

Select each half of the leaf and give it a subtle gradient.



Step 58

Copy the leaves and arrange them throughout the background. Give the leaves and text a drop shadow to add some extra interest.



Step 59

To make the background simply draw an ellipse and rotate it. Give the ellipse a subtle gradient too.



Step 60

Apply an Inner Glow by going to Effect > Stylize > Inner Glow. Enter the variables shown below.



Step 61

On a new layer (if you like) draw some white shapes that will act as highlights.



Step 62

To blur the shapes select them and go to Effect > Blur > Gaussian Blur. You may want to apply different amounts of blur to each shape if some of the shapes are much thinner than others.



Final Image

Here's the completed design. You've just learned how to take a normal font and turn it into a highly customized piece!


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