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  1. Design & Illustration
  2. Text Effects

How to Create a Lightning Effect in Illustrator

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Read Time: 14 mins
Final product imageFinal product imageFinal product image
What You'll Be Creating

In the following tutorial, you'll learn how to create a lightning text effect in Illustrator. To start, you'll learn how to create an art brush, the background, and the main compound path.

Moving on, you'll learn how to make a lightning bolt in Illustrator and how to use it to decorate your electric text effect.

If you don't have the time to learn how to create lightning in Illustrator, you can always try Envato Elements. You'll find plenty of resources to help you easily create a lightning effect in Illustrator. This Illustrator lightning text effect is one of the many examples.

ellectric text effectellectric text effectellectric text effect

Do you prefer to learn by watching video tutorials? Then you're in luck! You can learn how to make a lightning bolt in Illustrator and how to make this cool electric vector effect by watching this video from the Envato Tuts+ YouTube channel:

What You'll Learn in This Electric Text Tutorial

  • How to create an art brush in Illustrator
  • How to create a lightning text effect in Illustrator
  • How to draw a lightning bolt in Illustrator
  • How to create an electric effect in Illustrator

What You Will Need

You will need the following font in order to complete this electric text effect:

1. How to Create a New Document and Set Up a Grid

Hit Control-N to create a new document. Select Pixels from the Units drop-down menu, set the Width to 850 px and the Height to 580 px, and then click that Advanced Options button. Select RGB for the Color Mode and set the Raster Effects to Screen (72 ppi), and then click the Create button.

Enable the Grid (View > Show Grid or Control-") and the Snap to Grid (View > Snap to Grid or Shift-Control-"). To start with, you will need a gridline every 1 px, so simply go to Edit > Preferences > Guides & Grid, and enter 1 in the Gridline every box and 1 in the Subdivisions box. Try not to get discouraged by all that grid—it will make your work easier, and keep in mind that you can easily enable or disable it using the Control-" keyboard shortcut.

You can learn more about Illustrator's grid system in this short tutorial from Andrei Stefan: Understanding Adobe Illustrator's Grid System.

You should also open the Info panel (Window > Info) for a live preview with the size and position of your shapes. Don't forget to set the unit of measurement to pixels from Edit > Preferences > Units. All these options will significantly increase your work speed. Now that you're set, let's learn how to create lightning in Illustrator.

illsutrator new documentillsutrator new documentillsutrator new document

2. How to Save an Art Brush and Create the Background

Step 1

Focus on your toolbar and pick the Ellipse Tool (L), and then move to the color settings. Select the stroke and remove the color, and then double-click the fill and set it to black (R=0 G=0 B=0 ).

Move to your artboard, and simply click and drag to create a 10 x 1 px shape—the grid and Snap to Grid should make things easier.

Switch to the Anchor Point Tool (Shift-C) and simply click the left and right anchor points to turn them into corner points, as shown in the second image.

ellipse corner pointsellipse corner pointsellipse corner points

Step 2

Make sure that your shape is still selected and open the Brushes panel (Window > Brushes) to save it as a brush.

Click the New Brush button and check the Art Brush box, and then click OK to open the Art Brush Options window. Keep the default settings and set the Colorization Method to Tints, which will allow you to change the brush color once it's applied.

Once you're done, click OK, and your art brush should show up in the Brushes panel. Keep the Brushes panel open as you'll need this art brush to create your own lightning effect in Illustrator.

illustrator new art brushillustrator new art brushillustrator new art brush

Step 3

For the following steps, you will need a gridline every 5 px, so go back to Edit > Preferences > Guides & Grid and enter 5 in that Gridline every box.

Pick the Rectangle Tool (M) and click on your artboard to easily create an 870 x 600 px shape.

Fill it with R=9 G=23 B=72 and then focus on the control panel. Make sure that the alignment is set to Artboard and then click the Horizontal Align Center and Vertical Align Center buttons to easily move your rectangle to the center of the artboard.

illustrator rectangle backgroundillustrator rectangle backgroundillustrator rectangle background

3. How to Create the Text

Step 1

Select the Type Tool (T) and focus on the Character panel (Window > Type > Character).

Select the Robison Regular font and set the size to 250 pt, and then click on your artboard to type in "ELECTRIC". Set the text color to R=62 G=239 B=254.

illustrator textillustrator textillustrator text

Step 2

Make sure that your text is still selected and go to Type > Create Outlines to turn your text into editable vector shapes. Press Shift-Control-G to Ungroup the resulting group of shapes.

illustrator expand textillustrator expand textillustrator expand text

Step 3

Select the "I" shape and delete it, and then use the Rectangle Tool (M) to create a 60 x 180 px shape and fill it with white (R=255 G=255 B=255).

text shapetext shapetext shape

Step 4

Make sure that your white rectangle is still selected and go to Object > Path > Add Anchor Points. Switch to the Direct Selection Tool (A), and let's focus on the newly added anchor points.

Start with the top one, select it and drag it 15 px to the right, move to the bottom anchor point and drag it 15 px to the left, and then focus on the newly added left and right anchor points. Select the left one and drag it 15 px down, and then select the right one and drag it 15 px up, as shown in the second image.

illustrator bolt shapeillustrator bolt shapeillustrator bolt shape

Step 5

Keep focusing on your white shape and make sure that the Direct Selection Tool (A) is still active. Select the top-right anchor point and drag it 75 px down and 25 px to the left.

Move to the bottom-left anchor point, select it, and drag it 75 px up and 25 px to the left. In the end, things should look like the second image.

illustratorillustratorillustrator

Step 6

Keep focusing on your white shape, press the - hotkey to activate the Delete Anchor Point Tool, and click the two anchor points highlighted in the first image to easily remove them.

illustratorillustratorillustrator

Step 7

Using the Selection Tool (V), select the "E" shape, drag it to the left, and leave a 160 px gap between the left edge of this letter shape and the left edge of the background shape.

Move to the final "C" shape, drag it to the right, and this time leave a 160 px gap between the right edge of this letter shape and the right edge of the background shape.

move shapesmove shapesmove shapes

Step 8

Select all your letter shapes along with the bolt shape, focus on the control panel, and click the Horizontal Distribute Center button. This will make the space between your selected shapes even.

Once you're done, press Control-8 or go to Object > Compound Path > Make to turn your selected shapes into a single compound path.

illustrator horizontal distribute centerillustrator horizontal distribute centerillustrator horizontal distribute center

Step 9

Make sure that your compound path is selected and center it using those Horizontal Align Center and Vertical Align Center buttons from the control panel. Now that you're set and you've got your compound path, let's start work on that lightning vector effect.

electric compound pathelectric compound pathelectric compound path

4. How to Create a Lightning Text Effect in Illustrator

Step 1

As we continue this tutorial, it's very important to make sure that you're keeping the compound path selected, as you're about to add a bunch of strokes and effects which will eventually make up your electric vector effect.

Open the Appearance panel (Window > Appearance), select the fill and remove the color, and then select the stroke and set the color to R=0 G=88 B=179.

Increase the stroke Weight to 2 pt and then go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Zig Zag. Check the Absolute and Corner boxes, drag both sliders to 2, click OK to apply the effect, and then go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Roughen. Again, check the Absolute and Corner boxes, but drag the sliders to 5 px and 10. Click OK to apply this second effect and then go to Effect > Stylize > Rounded Corners. Set the Radius to only 1 px and click OK.

stroke zig zagstroke zig zagstroke zig zag

Step 2

Keep focusing on the Appearance panel, make sure that the stroke is selected, and duplicate it using the Duplicate Selected Item button.

Select the new stroke and just lower the stroke Weight to 1 px, and replace the color with R=0 G=166 B=215.

duplicate strokeduplicate strokeduplicate stroke

Step 3

Keep focusing on the Appearance panel, make sure that the top stroke is selected, and duplicate it using that same Duplicate Selected Item button.

Select the new stroke and replace the color with R=78 G=194 B=241, and then open the existing Zig Zag effect. Drag the Ridges per segment slider to 4 and click OK.

stroke illustratorstroke illustratorstroke illustrator

Step 4

Keep focusing on the Appearance panel, make sure that the top stroke is selected, and duplicate it.

Select the new stroke and just replace the color with R=148 G=241 B=255.

duplicate strokeduplicate strokeduplicate stroke

Step 5

Keep focusing on the Appearance panel, make sure that the top stroke is selected, and duplicate it.

Select the new stroke and lower the Weight to 0.5 px, and then open the existing Zig Zag effect. Swap the Size and Ridges per segment settings, and then click OK.

new stroke zig zagnew stroke zig zagnew stroke zig zag

Step 6

Keep focusing on the Appearance panel, make sure that the top stroke is selected, and duplicate it.

Select the new stroke, apply your art brush from the Brushes panel, and set the color to R=251 G=255 B=247.

stroke art brushstroke art brushstroke art brush

Step 7

Keep focusing on the Appearance panel, make sure that the top stroke is selected, and duplicate it.

Select the new stroke and lower the Weight to 0.25 px, and then open the existing Roughen effect. Drag both sliders to 10 and click OK.

stroke art brushstroke art brushstroke art brush

Step 8

Keep focusing on the Appearance panel, make sure that the top stroke is selected, and add a new one on top of it using the Add New Stroke button.

Select this new stroke and apply your art brush from the Brushes panel. Set the color to R=68 G=78 B=255, increase the Weight to 6 px and change the Blending Mode to Overlay, and then go to Effect > Blur > Gaussian Blur. Set the Radius to 10 px and click OK.

stroke gaussian blurstroke gaussian blurstroke gaussian blur

Step 9

Keep focusing on the Appearance panel, make sure that the top stroke is selected, and duplicate it.

Select the new stroke and change its color to R=251 G=176 B=64, and then open the existing Gaussian Blur effect. Lower the Radius to 8 px and click OK.

duplicate strokeduplicate strokeduplicate stroke

Step 10

Keep focusing on the Appearance panel, make sure that the top stroke is selected, and add a new one on top of it.

Select this new stroke and apply your art brush from the Brushes panel. Set the color to R=134 G=250 B=242, increase the Weight to 3 px, and don't forget to change the Blending Mode to Overlay.

stroke overlaystroke overlaystroke overlay

Step 11

Keep focusing on the Appearance panel, this time make sure that the bottom stroke is selected, and duplicate it.

Select the bottom stroke, increase the Weight to 3 px and replace the color with R=0 G=27 B=135, and then go to Effect > Stylize > Outer Glow. Enter the settings shown below and click OK.

stroke outer glowstroke outer glowstroke outer glow

Step 12

Keep focusing on the Appearance panel, make sure that your bottom stroke is selected, and duplicate it.

Again, select the bottom stroke, change the color to R=9 G=23 B=72, and then open that already applied Outer Glow effect. Replace the existing settings with the ones shown in the following image and click OK.

stroke glow effectstroke glow effectstroke glow effect

Step 13

Keep focusing on the Appearance panel, make sure that the bottom stroke is still selected, and duplicate it.

Select the new stroke and change its color to R=9 G=23 B=72. Select the Outer Glow effect that's applied to this stroke and remove it using the Delete Selected Item button, and then go to Effect > Stylize > Drop Shadow.

Enter the settings shown in the first window, click OK, and go to Effect > Stylize > Drop Shadow again. Enter the attributes shown in the second window and click OK to apply this second effect.

stroke drop shadowstroke drop shadowstroke drop shadow

Step 14

This will be your electric text effect. Let's save it as a graphic so you can easily apply all those Appearance settings to other paths and create some similar lightning effects in Illustrator.

Make sure that your compound path is still selected, open the Graphic Style panel (Window > Graphic Styles), and simply click the New Graphic Style button to save all those Appearance settings as a graphic style.

electric effect graphic styleelectric effect graphic styleelectric effect graphic style

5. How to Draw a Lightning Bolt in Illustrator

Step 1

Using the Pen Tool (P) or the Brush Tool (B), draw some jagged paths coming out of your text, roughly as shown in the following image.

jagged paths illustratorjagged paths illustratorjagged paths illustrator

Step 2

Select all your paths and simply click your graphic style from the Graphic Style panel to easily apply all those Appearance attributes.

apply graphic styleapply graphic styleapply graphic style

Step 3

Let's make some changes to those Appearance settings and make the paths look more like lightning vector effects.

Make sure that you have them all selected and focus on the Appearance panel. Hold down the Shift key to easily select the bottom four strokes, and then remove them using the Delete Selected Item button.

remove stroke illustratorremove stroke illustratorremove stroke illustrator

Step 4

Make sure that your paths are still selected and keep focusing on the Appearance panel. Select the bottom four strokes one by one, and apply your art brush from the Brushes panel.

apply art brush strokeapply art brush strokeapply art brush stroke

Step 5

Make sure that your paths are still selected and keep focusing on the Appearance panel. Select the strokes one by one, and set the Weight values as shown in the following image.

stroke weight illustratorstroke weight illustratorstroke weight illustrator

6. How to Make a Lightning Bolt in Illustrator

Step 1

Make sure that at least one of your paths is selected, and save your second graphic style.

save graphic stylesave graphic stylesave graphic style

Step 2

Use the Pen Tool (P) or the Brush Tool (B) again to draw some new jagged paths, roughly as shown in the following image.

slim lightning boltslim lightning boltslim lightning bolt

Step 3

Make sure that all your new jagged paths are selected, apply your second graphic style, and then focus on the Appearance panel, where you need to disable the strokes highlighted in the following image. With this final touch, your electric text tutorial is complete.

lightning illustratorlightning illustratorlightning illustrator

Congratulations! You're Done!

Here is how your electric effect should look. I hope you've enjoyed this tutorial and can apply these techniques in your future projects.

Feel free to adjust the final design and make your own electric effects. You can find some great sources of inspiration at Envato Elements, with interesting solutions to improve your lightning effects in Illustrator.

lightning text effect illustratorlightning text effect illustratorlightning text effect illustrator

Popular Electric Effects From Envato Elements

Envato Elements is an excellent resource for electric vector assets. Here's a short list of some of the most popular assets that you can find.

Shake Lightning: Editable Electric Text Font (AI, EPS)

Looking for a more colorful electric text effect? This might be the solution. All you have to do is write your word, and the electric effect will be applied!

electric text effectelectric text effectelectric text effect

Realistic Lightning Vector (AI, EPS, JPG, PNG)

Check out this pack of lightning vectors which can be perfect to further decorate lightning text effects in Illustrator.

lightning vectorlightning vectorlightning vector

Hand Drawn Lightning Vector Bolt Doodles (AI, EPS, JPG)

Make your designs fun and cartoonish with these hand-drawn lightning vectors. These would be perfect for comic books, scrapbooking, paper craft projects, card design, or stickers.

vector lightning boltvector lightning boltvector lightning bolt

Lightning Vector Backgrounds (JPG, AI, EPS, PNG)

Create dynamic lightning vector backgrounds using this set of colorful bolts. You get one concept and ten color schemes of multicolored polygonal surfaces. All these lightning vectors are high-quality and print-ready.

vector lightningvector lightningvector lightning

Electric Text Font (OTF, TTF)

Clearly, you can always try different electric text fonts for your text effect. This one might look pretty good. Feel free to try it out.

electric text fontelectric text fontelectric text font

Want to Learn More?

We have loads of tutorials on Envato Tuts+, from beginner to intermediate level. Take a look!

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