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  1. Design & Illustration
  2. Vector
Design

Design a Crazy Retro Poster with Quirky Lettering in Adobe Illustrator

Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

In this tutorial we will create a crazy poster, illustrating a famous quote by Oscar Wilde – “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken”. We’ll apply various Warp Effects to create the elements easily. Learn to make a gentle grain effect to give our poster a vintage look and do some freehand lettering. Let’s get started!

1. Create a Fancy Top Hat

Step 1

First of all, create a New Document of 600x800px size. Form the palette that we’ll be using in our image to make the composition vivid, yet preserving the consistent look of a retro-style poster. 

Document palette

Step 2

Start by taking the Ellipse Tool (L) and draw a squashed shape. Further, use the Rectangle Tool (M) to add a rectangle shape and align its upper anchor points with the middle part of the ellipse.

Create upper part of top hat

Select the lower left anchor point and press the Enter key to open the Move options window. Set the Horizontal position value to 35px and Vertical to 0px, and hit the OK button. Repeat the same with the right anchor point, but this time move it to -35px.

Create middle part of top hat

Step 3

Keep our rectangle selected and go to Effect > Warp > Bulge, setting the Bend value to -11%.

Apply bulge effect

Step 4

Go ahead and add a narrow stripe with Rectangle Tool (M) forming the hat’s rim. This time use the Arc effect, setting the Bend value to -20% and making the rim arced.

apply arc effect to hat brim

Step 5

Let's form a simple ribbon to make our hat more saucy. Duplicate the rim-shape and move the copy up a bit. Select both the middle hat shape and the rim copy and use the Shape Builder Tool (Shift-M) to delete the unneeded parts by clicking them while holding the Alt key.

create a ribbon

Step 6

Duplicate the middle part of the top hat, make it narrower and set the Blending Mode to Screen. Repeat these moves once more and, finally, get rid of the unwanted parts, thus making a nice highlight on the ribbon. 

create highlights on the ribbon

2. Style Those Crazy Round Glasses

Step 1

Let’s make trendy round glasses to give our poster a unique and crazy look! Start by forming an even circle with the Ellipse Tool (L). Go to Object > Path > Offset Path and set the Offset value to -10px. Finally, select the outer shape and change its color to orange, picking it from our palette. 

make round glasses with ellipse tool

Step 2

Add a simple highlight and a shadow to the frame. Let’s also create a shiny fleck on the glass. Put a small white rectangle on the glass and Move it to 12px horizontally. Hit the Copy button to create the copy of the rectangle. Add two more copies of the rectangles and place them under the first two.

make reflections on glasses

Step 3

Group the highlights and apply Arc effect with 20% Bend value. Object > Expand Appearance of the shape and apply another effect – this time Arch – with 23% Bend value.

apply arc and arch effects

Step 4

We need to add a reflection to make the glasses more glossy and vivid. Just copy the inner glass shape, make it brighter and use the Shape Builder Tool (Shift-M) to form a curved reflection.

create colored reflection on the glass

Step 5

It’s time to form the whole glasses! Add the second part of our glasses and connect them with a narrow rectangle. Add a highlight and a shadow similar to those on the glasses’ frame.

add second part of glasses and connect them with a bridge

Step 6

Group all parts of the bridge together and apply the Arc effect with 40% value to bend the bridge upwards.

apply arc effect to the bridge

3. Style the Trendy Hipster Mustache

Step 1

We need to make a simple brush in order to form curled mustache in a few clicks. Start by making a circle and use the Direct Selection Tool (A) to grab its side anchor point and drag it further right. Click it with Convert Anchor Point tool (Shift-C) to turn it into a sharp corner. 

Move the shape that we’ve formed onto the Brushes panel and create an Art Brush. I’ve left the default setting here as I don’t need to change the color or size of the shape later, however, you can return to this menu and edit the settings any time by clicking your brush twice in the Brushes panel.

create art brush

Step 2

Create an arched line with Pencil Tool (N) or Arc Tool and apply the newly created brush. Go on and Object > Expand Appearance of our object. Select the Smooth Tool (or click and hold the Alt key, while the Pencil Tool (N) is selected) and stroke the shape to reduce the quantity of the anchor points, thus making it  more smooth and neat.

expand art brush

Step 3

Add a gentle shadow to the lower part of the mustache, picking the darker red color from our palette. Place the mustache under the glasses and use the Reflect Tool (O) to make the second half of the mustache by mirroring it over the vertical axis.

style the mustache

4. Render a Funny Smiling Mouth and Vintage Folded Ribbon

Step 1

To start with, grab the Rounded Rectangle Tool, set the Corner Radius to 20px and make a sausage-shaped object. Apply the Arc effect to bend our object horizontally to -38%.

use rounded rectangle tool for the mouth

Step 2

Add a second, smaller, shape to form the inner part of the mouth and to emphasize the lips. Continue by adding two white circles in the corners of the mouth. Those will shape the teeth. Select both circles and go to Object > Blend > Make, setting the Spacing to Specified Steps, 3 in the Blend Options.

use blend tool for the teeth

Step 3

Select the Blend group with Direct Selection Tool (A) and edit the line, making it a bit arched. Put a copy of the mouth inner shape above other objects and Make Clipping Mask to hide the unneeded parts of the teeth.

modify the blend group and use clipping mask

Step 4

Add two more circles to our mouth and hide them in the Clipping Mask as well, forming the tongue. Use the Paintbrush Tool (B) and make a smooth stroke with the same brush as we’ve created for the mustache.

make the tongue with art brush

Step 5

Expand your stroke and modify it by cutting off the unneeded upper part. Make the tip of the tongue more realistic and smooth with the Convert Anchor Point Tool (Shift-C) and, finally, add a gentle shadow with the Pencil Tool (N).

modify the tongue

Step 6

The last but not the least element of our composition is an elegant vintage ribbon, which is very easy to make. Create two turquoise stripes with the Rectangle Tool (M) and skew them by selecting side anchor points and dragging them up with the Direct Selection Tool (A). Add darker background parts of the ribbons and, finally, use the Arc effect with -10% value to bend the ribbon slightly.

create a ribbon

We’ve finished with the face elements!

Let’s move on to the letters!

5. Design Your Whimsy Freehand Lettering

 “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken” - Oscar Wilde.

Step 1

Arm with the Pen Tool (P) and start blocking the first letter of our quote – the “B”.  Make straight lines and cut out the center parts using the Minus Front function in Pathfinder panel.

create the letter B with Pen tool

Step 2

Let’s decorate our letters with bright “bulbs”.  Put several circles in the corners of the letter and use the Blend Tool (W) to connect them into a nice garland.

use blend tool for decoration

Step 3

Form the “E” letter in the same way and make the letters more dimensional by adding a shadow. Duplicate the basic shapes and move the copies a few pixels down and to the left.

make the letters dimensional

Place the letters on top of the hat.

Place the letters on top of the hat

Step 4

Now grab the Pencil Tool (N) and freehand the first part of our next word – “yourself” – in a simple cartoon handwriting. 

use Pencil Tool N and freehand the letters

Draw a brighter yellow shape above the upper parts of the letters and edit them with the Shape Builder Tool (Shift-M), turning them into a nice highlights.

add highlights

Put the letters on the center of our cylinder hat.

Put the letters on the center of our cylinder-hat

Step 5

Use some nice calligraphic font to depict the second part of the word. In this particular case I use the “Adventure” font, but you can choose any italic script to your liking. Expand the font and give it a nice look by adding the highlights and the shadows. Use the Arc warp effect to give the object a gentle bend, so that it fits the hat brim perfectly.

use a custom font to create text

Step 6

The next word will be “everyone”. Let’s make a simple Pattern Brush for a whimsy writing. Create a stripe and put a dashed line above it. Make a simple shape, consisting of circles, which we’ll use as tips of the letters.

create a pattern brush 1

Expand the line, group it with the rectangle and create a Pattern Brush with default settings.

create a pattern brush 2

Take the Paintbrush Tool (B) and make a few strokes to form each letter. Attach the circled elements to the tips of every letter.

add details

Step 7

There is also a “lazy” way to create the whole word. You can add the circled tips to your pattern brush as well. Just drag the element and its reflected copy to the Swatches panel and then add  them in the Pattern Brush Options window as the “Start Tile” and “End Tile”.

create a pattern brush 3

This way you’ll be able to make a line with figured tips, but sometimes they become deformed and don’t look quite nice.

apply pattern brush

However, the scale of the word will be quite small comparing to the size of other objects, so it’s up to you to decide, which technique to use. Below you can see the comparison of these two methods.

comparison of  two methods

Put the letters on our image and distribute them nicely around the glasses. Add a bright shadow to separate the letters from the objects below and to make them more noticeable. Further on, form the word “else” with the Pencil Tool (N) and place it on the mustache.

distribute the letters around the glasses

Step 8

Let’s try out another handy Adobe Illustrator tool – the Blob Brush Tool (Shift-B). Check out my settings on the screenshot below and form the word “is” on the tip of the tongue, decorating it with simple doodle sparks.

use the blob brush tool

Step 9

Finally, shape out two last words – “already taken” – in the same way as we shaped the word “your” with the Pencil Tool (N). Place the letters and rotate them a bit to fit the ribbon.

add text to the ribbon

6. Give Your Poster a Vintage Grainy Look

Step 1

As far as we’ve finished with the main elements of the composition, we need to add some nice and simple background that won’t distract us from the picture and, at the same time, will emphasize the vividness of our poster. I’ve played with the colors, changing some of them, so that they are clearly visible above the background. As you may notice on the screenshot below, I’ve changed the colors of the words “be”, “everyone else” and “is”, still using the colors from our basic palette.

recolor your image

Step 2

Add a rectangle of a size of our Artboard for the background and fill it with a bright radial gradient from vivid yellow in the center to orange on the edges.

add background with radial gradient

Step 3

It’s time to make a vintage grainy look! Select the top part of our hat, Copy it and Paste in Front (Control-C > Control-F). Fill the shape with a linear gradient from white to dark red and switch the Blending Mode to Multiply. 

Finally, go to Effect > Effect Gallery > Textures > Grain and apply the effect with Sprinkles Grain Type, setting the Intensity to 72 and the Contrast to 55. You can alter these values anytime by choosing Grain in the Appearance panel.

add grain effect to the hat

Apply the same Grain effect to other elements of our picture, selecting the proper colors of the gradients.  

add grain effect to other elements

Yay! Congratulations on Finishing Your Crazy Poster!

Great job! You’ve just finished creating a funny retro poster with quirky lettering. I hope it has motivated you for some new great art creations and gave you some useful tips and tricks. Stay tuned and follow your inspiration! 

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