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How to Create a Holiday Themed Typography Piece in Adobe Illustrator

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This post is part of a series called Christmas Illustration Content.
Design Gift Boxes Using Illustrator's 3D Tools
Create a Christmas, Knitted Text Effect in Adobe Illustrator

Tis the season to be jolly, so why not spread some of that joy and cheer around? This tutorial will teach you a few techniques for altering fonts and manipulating their alternatives in Adobe Illustrator to create a unique, holiday inspired typography piece.


1. Set Up Your Document

Step 1

Let's begin by installing the necessary fonts needed for this tutorial. We'll be using several high quality fonts from the Lost Type co-op. Specifically:

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Step 2

With our fonts installed, fire up Illustrator and create a new document that is 850 x 850px.

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Step 3

Enable the Rectangle Tool (M) and create a square that is the same size as our background. Now fill is with the following color and drop the Opacity to 10%.

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Step 4

Switch to the Star Tool and click on the Artboard and enter the following values. Fill the star shape with white and center it to the Artboard.

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Step 5

Draw another square over the top of our star shape the same size as our Artboard once again. Now select both the Star and the top Square then right-click on the Artboard and select Make Clipping Mask.

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2. Create Your First Line of Text

Step 1

For this piece we'll be using a snippet from a popular Holiday song. Enable the Type Tool (T) and click to create your first line of text; "May Your Days Be". We'll be using the font Lavendaria for this line with the following information set for size and color

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Step 2

With that line of text still selected visit the OpenType panel (Window > Type > OpenType) and choose the Titling Alternates option. This will change the capitol letters to alternate versions the font designer created.

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Step 3

Double-click to edit the text and highlight the very last "e" and in the OpenType panel choose the Contextual Alternates option. Similarly, select the first "y" and choose Swash from the OpenType panel.

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Step 4

Let's customize this font a bit more. It is an excellent font but I find a few of the edges where the script loops and ends to be a bit sharp.

Right-click on the type and select Create Outlines to convert the text to shapes.

Zoom in to the sentence so we can see what we're doing and with a mixture of the Pen Tool (P), the Direct Selection Tool (A), and the Convert Anchor Point Tool (Shift-C) manipulate the flat edges so they're softer and more round. I will only be doing this for the first "y", the "r", the "D", the "s", the "B" and the "e". You'll notice with the "s" that I removed the tail that would normally connect that letter to the next.

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Step 5

With our edited text selected navigate to the Transform panel (Window > Transform) and adjust the X and Y axis to the following figures to place our text where we want it.

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3. Create Your Ribbon Text

Step 1

Enable the Text Tool (T) and write out "Merry" with the Ribbon with the following information and color

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Step 2

Double-click to edit the word then highlight the "M" and the "E" and in the OpenType panel choose the Stylistic Alternates option.

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Step 3

With our edited text selected navigate to the Transform panel (Window > Transform) and adjust the X and Y axis to the following figures to place our text where we want it.

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4. Create an Ornament and Ampersand.

Step 1

Select the Ellipse Tool (L) and create a circle that is 81 x 81px and has the same color as our "Merry" text then place it in the following location.

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Step 2

Duplicate this circle and resize it to 64 x 64px. Remove the fill color and add a white stroke that is 7px weight.

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Step 3

Enable the Add Anchor Point Tool (+) and along the left of the circle above the left most anchor point click to create three new anchor points as seen below. Now, with the Direct Selection Tool (A) enabled, select the bottom anchor point, the right most anchor point, and the middle anchor point you just created of the three and delete them from the shape. This will make a nice highlight-like effect.

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Step 4

With the open paths that make the highlight still selected visit Object > Expand to convert the stroke to a shape. You may have to do this twice. Once to ungroup the two open paths and a second time to actually create the shapes.

Once you have your two shapes expanded, visit Object > Compound Path > Make. Now select the highlight and the circle behind it and in the Pathfinder panel (Window > Pathfinder) select the Minus Front option to cut the highlight out of the circle.

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Step 5

Switch to the Rounded Rectangle Tool and click on the Artboard to create a shape. Enter the following values and adjust its location as described below.

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Step 6

With the Rounded Rectangle selected fill the shape with white and give it a 2px center aligned stroke the same color as the circle below.

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Step 7

With the Rounded Rectangle still selected visit Object > Expand then right-click on the rounded rectangle and choose Ungroup. Select just the white object from this shape while also selecting the circle below and choose Minus Front from the Pathfinder panel.

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Step 8

Switch to the Ellipse Tool (L) and create a circle that is 6 x 6px. Stroke it with the same 2px pink color as we did our Rounded Rectangle only this time there is no need for a fill color Once created align it to the top center of the Rounded Rectangle.

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Step 9

Enable the Line Segment Tool (\) and create a line from the center of the small circle to the top of loop in the "e" from our previous line of text. Make sure to go a bit hanging over the top so it looks like it is looped over. My line is 51.5px length and positioned as seen below.

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Step 10

Switch to the Pen Tool (P) and create a loop shape at the top of the line we just drew to create a bow effect.

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Step 11

Once you have one loop created visit Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform. In the Transform Effect window that appears select the Reflect X option and add the number 1 to the Copies text area. Now under the Move section for Horizontal and type 100% then hit OK. This will create a copy of the loop and flip it while moving it over to the correct position.

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Step 12

Enable the Type Tool (T) and type out an ampersand using the following font and size. I've positioned it to the right of the ornaments main circle and colored it white so you can see it.

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Step 13

Right-click on the ampersand and choose Create Outlines to convert it to a shape. With the ampersand shape selected select the ornament circle shape and choose Minus Front from the Pathfinder panel.

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5. Make a Ribbon With Text Inside

Step 1

Switch back to the Type Tool (T) and write out the word "Bright" with the following settings.

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Step 2

Enable the Rectangle Tool (M) and create a rectangle that is 624 x 138px. I've added a 8px stroke along the inside of the rectangle and aligned it as seen below.

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Step 3

With the rectangle selected enable the Add Anchor Point Tool (+) and on the left and right side of the rectangle click in the center to create two new anchor points. Switch to the Direct Selection Tool (A) and while holding the Shift key on your keyboard press the Left and Right Arrow Keys three times to nudge the anchor points over 30px.

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6. Create a Snowflake

Step 1

We're done with the text but let's add some extra winter themed elements to help tie everything together. We'll start with a snowflake.

Enable the Star Tool and click on the Artboard and enter the following information. Once the star is created visit the Transform panel and click the Constrain icon (looks like chain) and change the Width to 182px. You can then rotate the entire shape 90º and add a center aligned Stroke that is 6px and same color blue as our text inside the ribbon we made earlier.

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Step 2

Duplicate this star shape and shrink it so that it is 62px wide. Reverse the fill and stroke so there is no stroke and the fill is now blue.

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Step 3

Enable the Line Segment Tool (\) and create a line from the center of the star shape and up so that it is 148px high and stroke it with the same settings are the first star.

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Step 4

Switch to the Direct Selection Tool (A) and select the top three anchor points from the large star shape we created before. Copy the selection and paste it to the Artboard then line it up with the center of the line we created but above the star shape as seen below.

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Step 5

Duplicate this chevron shape and shrink it a bit and move it near the top of the line shape as seen below.

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Step 6

Select both chevron shapes and visit Object > Blend > Blend Options. Change the options to Specific Steps with the amount set to 1. Now visit Object > Blend > Make to create the blend.

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Step 7

Switch to the Ellipse Tool (L) and create a circle that is 20 x 20px above the chevron and line shapes.

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Step 8

Select the line, the chevron blend, and the circle and Group (Command-G) them together. With this group selected visit Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform and enter the following information. We will be creating copies and rotating the shape on a specific axis. Make note that we have chosen to rotate from the bottom middle handle rather than the exact middle of the shape so that our point rotates around the entire star shape.

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Step 9

Enable the Ellipse Tool (L) and create two circles. One is 20 x 20px and the other is 10 x 10px. Arrange them as seen in the screenshot below.

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Step 10

Switch to the Rectangle Tool (M) and create a square that is 22 x 22px and rotate it 45º so it makes a diamond shape. Now enable the Direct Selection Tool (A) and select the left most anchor point then delete it. You can now select this chevron shape and the circles and Group (Command-G) them together.

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Step 11

Enable the Rotate Tool (R) and while holding Option on the keyboard change the Angle to 60º and press the Copy button to duplicate and rotate the group. Now press Command-D four more times to repeat the process.

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Step 12

With the snowflake created you can now position it with the rest of the artwork. Group (Command-G) the snowflake objects together and align it so the center of the snowflake meets the bottom of the ribbon we made earlier.

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Step 13

Switch to the Rectangle Tool (M) and drag a rectangle over the bottom half of the snowflake. Select both the rectangle and the snowflake group then right-click on the Artboard and choose Make Clipping Mask.

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7. Create the Boughs of Holly

Step 1

The berries are fairly easy to create. They're just a circle that has been rotated and duplicate. Begin by selecting the Ellipse Tool (L) and create a circle that is 24 x 24px and place it in the following location.

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Step 2

Navigate to the Appearance panel (Window > Appearance) and change the fill to white, then add two strokes. Once that is inside, 3px, and our pink color from before and another that is outside, 2px and white. Check out the screenshot below.

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Step 3

With that circle still selected visit Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform and enter the following information. Make note of the number of copies, the rotation axis as well as the Horizontal and Vertical moves.

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Step 4

To create the holly leaf enable the Pen Tool (P) and click to create a straight line followed by a few curved ones as seen below. We'll be using a stroke that is 4px and the same green color as our first line of text.

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Step 5

With this half of leave selected visit Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform and create a copy and Reflect it on the X axis then move it Horizontally so the center line meets.

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Step 6

Enable the Line Segment Tool (\) and create a line that is 180px wide and stroke it with a nice brown color

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Step 7

Switch to the Ellipse Tool (L) and create two circles that are 6 x 6px and align them to the far left of the line we just created. Stacking them on top of one another as seen below.

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Step 8

Switch back to the the Line Segment Tool (\) and while holding down Shift on the keyboard draw a diagonal line that is stroked with a 3px green line. Now duplicate this line and align it to the other end of the stick.

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Step 9

Select both green lines and visit Object > Blend > Blend Options and choose Specified Steps with 12 as the number. Now choose Object > Blend > Make to create the blend.

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Step 10

I'm sure you can see where we're going with this, so duplicate the blend and rotate it so it fits along the underside of the stick. You can now group the stick and leaves together and duplicate them as a whole then copy and rotate them to the other side of the holly berries.

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Like a Present… That's a Wrap!

Stick a bow on it, you're done! Whether you plan to print your work for holiday cards or just share it digitally I hope I was able to show you some great techniques for customizing text and creating rotated copies of objects to cut your workload back.


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