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Create Digitally Illustrated Jelly Type

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I'm Ross, one half of the award winning design duo Ahoythere Studio, and I am just about to show how you can go about producing a lovely illustrated type piece using a vector Illustration made base and some interesting textures and treatments within Photoshop. Visit our site for more inspiration.


You will be surprised how quick and easy it is to create something like this. If you have the concept behind it your 80% there, the rest is left to skill, creative vision and software know how. I find with my work that vectors are the start of a concept, and then it's what you do with them that's important.

You can find the tutorial 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

First things first, before you jump straight onto the computer you need to have the concept pretty much designed on paper first. You need the initial foundations to build upon, plus you will need this sketch to work up as a vector in Illustrator. After various attempts were binned, this was the chosen sketch (see below).

I always think ahead of the process and try to envisage the final outcome, or as much as possible because the digital manipulation can have varied outcomes. It's helpful to have some form of structure and direction to start with. As you can see from the sketch, it does not have to be a piece of art, but keeping it tidy and smudge free will help you in the next stage.

Step 2

Import the sketch onto an A4 landscape page in Illustrator. Set the layer properties to lock and dim to 50%, (double-click the layer) name the layer "Sketch." Make a new layer above that and name that "Vector," as this is the layer you will trace the type on. Use the Pen Tool set to a 1pt rounded brush with rounded caps and rounded join (stroke panel).

Step 3

Trace the whole outline of the type using the same layer. You should have something looking like the image below. Once you have completed that, select the artwork on that layer using the Selection Tool (V) and perform an object simplify. To do this go to Object > Path > Simplify. I normally use a curve precision of around 98% and I repeat this several times until I'm happy with the smoothness of the lines. You can alter angles of anchor points further to achieve perfect lines.

Step 4

Now we trace the next set of details such as highlights and shadows. Make another layer and name it "Details." Trace all the highlights and add any extras you wish. It should now look similar to the image below. You won't necessarily import the elements into Photoshop all at once and in the same layout - it just helps you form the concept better.

Step 5

Open up Photoshop and make a new page. Go into Illustrator and select the type outline and copy and paste it into Photoshop as a smart object. I import it in two stages, the first is the type body and then the second is the top of the "J." This will allow me to add shadow and depth to the image, especially underneath the tail of the top of the "J" where it overlaps the rest of the type. You need to think methodically just before you start working on the image to prevent any problems down the line. Things like where to place shadows and how you can physically achieve that are important.

After I pasted them in as smart objects, I filled them with pink (#f11487) and added an inner glow to add a more rounded and intriguing touch.

Step 6

The next stage is to add slightly more depth and dimension to the text. I achieve this by selecting the type layer, then Command-clicking on the layer thumbnail. After this is selected make a new layer. Go to Select > Modify > Contract, then contract it by about 30 pixels. With it still selected, fill it with a lighter color on your new layer. You can now change the Opacity, depth and then erase any unwanted highlights using the Eraser Tool set to a lowish Opacity. As you can see from the bottom image, I have erased the center part so it just highlights the tips and edges.

Step 7

At this stage I wanted to apply some textures to make it more alluring and candy like, so I sourced some very unusual textures that would add a certain sparkle to the text. I used these images of exploding fireworks to add shimmery and they were blended in using blending modes. The blending mode here is set to Screen and is the best to use on a dark background.

Above you can see the differences between the blending modes. On the left I haven't applied one and you can see its the unmodified texture of the fireworks. On the other half of the type I have used the blending mode Screen to demonstrate the vast difference in appearance. All it takes is a click and a scroll to totally change the aesthetic of your design, just experiment.

Step 8

You're nearly finished, just another step to go. The last process is to add all the highlights that you made earlier in Illustrator. Simply select them individually and paste them onto your Photoshop page as Smart Objects on a new layer. You want them to be white so change the color of them in Photoshop by selecting the layer (Command-click the thumbnail) making a new layer above and then fill this with white. The next thing I did was to add a blur to them (Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur) with a Radius of about 1 pixel.

Now it's looking a bit flat so I proceeded to add an Inner Glow of white to add more intensity. As you can see from the image below, I have hidden the texture layer to fully show the potential of using highlights and how it accents such a design.

Step 9

The next thing I did was add the jelly/sweet like elements by placing them on top of the "J." Again these were imported as Smart Objects from Illustrator. I filled them with a darker color and then used an Inner Glow blending mode to add dimension. You can see on a couple of them I have used another pattern just to make them more detailed again. The pattern was a cluster of circles, which was produced in Illustrator, I imported into Photoshop and then colored and erased the relevant parts.

The image underneath this one shows you the transformation from vector to finished product. You can create similar effects in Illustrator, but you can make them that little more special in Photoshop.

Step 10

The final step was to add the extra drips and swirls that you see below. The dots on the tongue are just imported from Illustrator. I won't show you how to create the rest step by step, as they follow pretty much the same journey as the previous examples, and I'll leave that up to you to experiment with.

I used them more around the tongue to enhance the use of the tongue and to demonstrate its purpose and form. Feel free to add your own further details, which will add that little bit extra to your illustrations.

Final Image

That's it for this one now. Work with these techniques using different subjects, images, and effects - have fun with experimenting. We've covered some new techniques along the way, but it's not just about producing masterful technical pieces, it's about the idea behind it.

Take my piece and do what you wish from it, make it your own. I did this as a self promotional piece, I was experimenting myself and this was the result. I am constantly trying to take my work in new directions and typography is a medium it fits in with. Choose your own words and make them come to life. The final image is below. You can view the large version here.

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