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Create a Stitched Type Effect in Adobe Illustrator

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Read Time: 7 min

In this tutorial you will learn how to create a stitched type effect. You will create simple geometric patterns, a pattern brush and use the appearance panel to create the final look. Let's get started!

Step 1

Open a new Document. I picked a 180x240 mm portrait format in RGB mode.

Step 2

We will start by creating a seamless pattern. To do this, make a square, sized 10x10 mm and center it on the canvas.

Step 3

The first pattern will be made from circles. To do so create an ellipse with 4x4 mm dimension and center it as well.

Step 4

We want to have another smaller circle inside the first. Duplicate the layer (Command + C and Command + F) and change its dimensions to 2x2 mm.

Step 5

Now in order to make the pattern repeatable, copy the two circles and place them at the top left corner of the rectangle. You can get the precise position by first selecting the corner with the direct select tool (A) and copy the point's position using the Transform panel to the center of the two duplicated circles. Since you know the canvas size and square size, the position will be x: 85 mm; and y: 125 mm.

Step 6

Now duplicate the square 2 times (Command +C and Command +F and Command +F). Select the square and one of the circles in the corner. Use the Pathfinder panel to intersect the two shapes.

Step 7

Do the same with the second circle and duplicated square. Group the two quarters of the circles.

Step 8

Duplicate the quarter group, flip it horizontally and align it with the square that is still left at the right side of the square (not the canvas). Select the two quarters and duplicate them. Now flip them vertically and align with the square's bottom.

Now you should have one square shape, two circles in the center, and eight quarters of the circles in the middle.

Step 9

Now I will color the pattern to something more appealing than grayscale. Open the swatches panel and go to Open Swatch Library > Retro (This is a CS2 color swatch, I copied it into my CS3 folder manually). You can of course choose any color swatch you want or pick your own colors.

The colors work best when you have contrast between the shapes. I used a bright blue next to a very pale yellow. That way the two colors won't blend into each other and make your eyes hurt. Same goes for the pink in the center.

Step 10

Open the swatches panel and drag the group into it. Now you have your first pattern. To check it, simply create a new shape and apply the pattern as a Fill. If everything looks fine, you are done with your first pattern.

Note that AI sometimes displays "holes" in the preview. Once you export the file or save it for web, everything will be perfectly filled.

Step 11

The pattern you created is staggered because we moved a quarter of the circle to the corners of the square. If you don't want this, delete the quarters and drag only the square and circles to the swatches panel.

In my example (shown below) I changed the colors as well, because I want to use this pattern later.

Step 12

You can use the same workflow above to create patterns with squares instead of circles.

To create a striped pattern make a square. Duplicate the square and change either its width or height, using either the transform panel or just drag it. Make as many stripes as you want.

With a little creativity and logic you can now create whatever pattern you want. I created some example patterns below.

You may want to review other tutorials about creating seamless patterns here on Vectortuts+ for more inspiration and instructions:

Creating the Pattern Brush

I want to create the appearance of stitched text. I could use an outline to do this, but I decided to create a pattern brush to give it more depth.

Step 13

Create a square (I choose 2 mm) and centered it on the canvas. Delete all fills and strokes from this rectangle. Now create an ellipse of the same height like the rectangle, but less width. Fill it with black and no outline.

Step 14

The width of the rectangle defines how much space will be between the single "stitches" later. For a better view, swap to View > Outline. You will be able to see the outlines of all shapes, even if they have no stroke or fill.

Step 15

Group the two shapes. With them still selected create a New Pattern Brush by clicking the new brush icon on the brush panel. Change the colorization method to Tints and you are done.

Creating the Type

This is were I stop being all about numbers and do some freehand illustration. I started drawing letters using the Pencil Tool. I have a pen tablet, which makes it easier. But as I want the letters to be somewhat floppy, a mouse works just fine.

Step 16

I prefer to work with paths that don't close automatically. What I do instead is I select the 2 open points with the Direct Select Tool and join them, using the Command + J shortcut. You can draw the letters using the Pen Tool as well. It is what I eventually did to get more precise shapes for the letters.

Step 17

I will adjust the letters to the shape I like using the Pen Tool later anyway. If you don't feel good drawing the letters freehand you can always draw on paper and trace a scan of your sketch. I am not going to tell you how the letters are supposed to look. After you are happy with how the letters look, you can move on to the next step.

Adding the Layer Style to the Type

We are done with our preparations and can now start putting it all together.

Step 18

Select any of the letters you created. Open the Appearance panel and select the fill, then choose a pattern for this letter.

Step 19

Next you select the outline and use the pattern brush we created earlier. You can play around with the color and stroke width until it looks good to you. I picked a dark brown and 1pt stroke width for my letters.

Step 20

We want to give the letter a more fabric-like feel. Use Add New Fill in the Appearance panel. You can do so by clicking on the icon in the Appearance panel. This one will be filled with a standard Illustrator pattern.

Go to the Swatches panel and use Open Swatch Library > Pattern > Basic Graphics > Basic Graphic_Textures. I selected the "Burlap" pattern for my new fill. Set this fill to soft light and to 40% Opacity on the transparency panel.

Step 21

To give the letter more depth I will apply a drop shadow to the letter. Go to Effects > Stylize > Drop Shadow and use this setting.

Step 22

We will now save the appearance of the letter. Go to the Appearance panel and make sure none of the strokes or fills are selected. Then open the Graphic Styles panel and create a new style.

Step 23

Select the other letters and choose the newly created style.

Step 24

You can now change the pattern fill for each letter by selecting only one letter, select the pattern fill on the appearance panel and pick a pattern from your swatches panel. Play around with a pattern for each letter until you are happy with how they look.

Step 25

Arrange the letters in a way you feel comfortable. I like to put them in the upper third of the canvas.

Adding a Background

We are almost done! To complete our layout, we will now create a background setting for the type.

Step 26

Draw a rectangle in the size of the canvas and fill it with a light green.

Step 27

Using the appearance panel add a new fill and apply a gradient in a 90° angle.

Step 28

Set the gradient fill to Soft Light and 50% Opacity.

Step 29

Add another fill using the structure we used on the letters and set it to Soft Light at 40% Opacity.

Final Image

You can add as many elements as you like to the layout. I will add a little line of text and we are done.

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