This quick tutorial will show you how to create a letterpress-style effect to apply to any text. It’s a lovely vintage-inspired style that will give any layout a more hand-crafted look, but without the expense of letterpress printing!
We’ll be creating the effect in Adobe InDesign using the program’s Effects panel, and it only takes ten minutes to put together.
Ready to get started? Awesome, let’s go!
1. How to Create a Papery Background for Your Effect
Open up InDesign and go to File > New > Document. You can create the type effect at any size you wish, but here I’m going to set up an A3 landscape page with the Intent set to Print.
Once you’ve set up the specs for your document, go ahead and click OK.
Expand the Layers panel (Window > Layers) and double-click on the Layer 1 name. In the Options window, change the name to Background and click OK.
Select the Rectangle Frame Tool (F) and drag across the whole page. Go to File > Place, choose a paper texture image (here I’ve used this art paper photo), and click Open. Allow the paper to fill the whole frame.
Expand the Swatches panel (Window > Color > Swatches) and create a new CMYK swatch. Name it Cream and set the levels to C=12 M=10 Y=18 K=0.
Take the Rectangle Tool (M) and create a shape that again extends across the whole page. From the Swatches panel, set the Fill to Cream.
With the rectangle still selected, head up to Object > Effects > Transparency. Set the Mode to Overlay and bring the Opacity down to 90%.
Click on Gradient Feather at the bottom of the panel’s left-hand menu. Choose Radial from the Type menu, and ensure the gradient extends outwards, getting more opaque towards the outer edges of the page.
Click OK to exit the window.
2. How to Build Up Your Letterpress Effect
Lock the Background layer and create a new layer above, Typography.
Use the Type Tool (T) to create a text frame in the center of the page. Type in the word or words you would like to apply the effect to, and format this as you wish using either the top Controls panel or the Character panel (Window > Type & Tables > Character). Here I’ve set the text in Arvo Bold, increased the Font Size to 220 pt, and upped the Tracking to 20.
Once you’re completely happy with your text, first Edit > Copy, Edit > Paste a copy and set it aside on the pasteboard. This is because we’re going to outline the text to make formatting a little easier, but this will mean you will be unable to change details like font and tracking. So it's always a good idea to have a spare copy to hand if you change your mind!
With the text frame selected, head up to Type > Create Outlines.
Create three new CMYK swatches with the names and values listed below:
- Off-Black: C=85 M=76 Y=61 K=93
- Blue: C=0 M=95 Y=92 K=0
- Red: C=70 M=15 Y=22 K=1
Apply the Off-Black swatch to the Stroke of your outlined text, setting the Fill to [None].
Go to Object > Effects > Transparency and set the Mode to Multiply and Opacity to 35%.
Click on Outer Glow in the left-hand menu and set the Mode to Multiply, Effect Color to Cream and Opacity to about 40%. Increase the Spread to around 40%.
Finally, click on Bevel and Emboss. Choose Outer Bevel for the Style, and adjust the Size and Shadow Opacities until the text has a slightly lifted effect. When you’re happy, go ahead and click OK.
Select the text and Edit > Copy, Edit > Paste, shuffling the copy down and to the right a little. Go to Object > Effects and remove any effects.
Then set the Fill of the copy to Red and the Stroke to [None].
Head back to the Effects window and adjust the Transparency to Multiply, 90% Opacity.
Click on Inner Glow. Choose Cream for the Effect Color, set the Opacity to 75%, and increase both the Choke and Noise to 100%. Click OK to exit the window.
Select the red, grainy version of the text and Copy and Paste, moving it slightly further down and to the right. Adjust the Fill to Blue.
Select the blue text and Copy and Paste, before getting rid of any effects applied to it. Move it upwards and to the left a little, as shown below. Adjust the Fill to Red.
Go to Object > Effects > Inner Glow. Set the Mode to Screen and Opacity to about 65%, and add about 50% Noise.
Click on Bevel and Emboss and add a Pillow Emboss effect, setting the Shadow to Multiply and the shadow’s color to Red. Play about with the percentage levels of the glow settings until you’ve given a nice flat, letterpress-style look to the text.
Go to the Layers panel (Window > Layers) and click on the arrow symbol next to the Typography layer’s name to expand the layer. Identify the version of the text which has the Off-Black outline and no color fill, and click on the small square to the right of that element’s name to select it.
Drag the element up to the top of the layer sequence, setting it above all the other text items.
Conclusion: Your Finished Letterpress Effect
Your type effect’s looking fantastic—great job! You can now incorporate it into another layout, or simply enjoy it on its own.
Looking for more quick type effects that pack a punch? Check out these InDesign Quick Tip typography tutorials: