1. Design & Illustration
  2. Text Effects

Getting Carried Away with Balloon Lettering

This post is part of a series called Vector Text Effects.
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Create an Organic Spring Lettering Illustration

If there are balloons near by, you've probably had or will be having some fun. I love balloons! So in this tutorial I will cover the process of creating some illustrative shiny balloon lettering. You will also learn how to create rounded, semi-transparent, bubble letters that will make up the basis of the balloon lettering. Let's have some fun!

Starting with analog sketches has always been a part of my process, its not completely necessary but I think its extremely important not to neglect actual drawing. Many designers/illustrators would benefit from developing some hand-drawing skills and not depending so heavily on the computer.

Step 1a

I always like to start with a few quick sketches.

Step 1b

I also like to explore the highlights with sketches, so that you can really understand how they work and will look.

Step 2a

Once you have a good feel for how to draw the shape and highlights of the letters jump right into Illustrator and start developing the letters with the Pen Tool.

Step 2b

Try to keep each letter to its simplest form, one shape if possible. In some cases you will need to add a 2nd or 3rd line to complete the letter. Just remember to keep it super simple. For example, the letter 'H' isn't very hard to read until the 2 (pink) horizontal lines are added. Notice that the main shape is closed, this is important to do on all letters.

Step 2c

I just wanted to have a bit of fun with this, so this is the full set of letter shapes.

Step 3a

Next, draw the knots of the balloons. It's just a simple circle with a round cornered triangle-like shape below. Draw a few and repeat, they are such a small detail no one will notice.

Step 3b

All of the knots drawn. In-order to make the coloring process easy, group each letter and knot.

Step 4a

Next, color each balloon by simply selecting the shape and using the eyedropper tool. I like to just create a square for each color that I will use in the illustration. You could also create a new swatch.

Step 4b

The overall color. Be sure to choose the colors based on the overall composition. Meaning, don't have awkward groupings of one color. I try to keep all of the colors equally distributed.

Step 4c

Also, be sure to convert the interior lines (in my example it is the 'H' and 'G') to a white 3pt stroke.

Step 5a

To do the highlights establish a 'light source'. For clarity of explanation purposes I will put a circle (the sun) in to show the placement of my light source.

Step 5b

As you can see the light is coming from the upper left, so draw the highlights with the pen tool on the upper left of all of the letters. I am using a 3pt stoke white line.

Step 5c

All of the highlights drawn.

Step 5d

Also, be sure to layer the highlights and balloon shapes according to how they are positioned. i.e. The 'I' balloon is behind the 'V' and the 'N' is behind the 'I'.

Step 6a

Next, we'll need to select everything except the white stoked lines (highlights and interior lines). An easy way to do this is to select one of the lines with the white stroke and go to Select > Same > Stroke Color. All of the lines with that stroke color will be selected.

Step 6b

While all of the lines with a white (3pt) lines are selected, using the selection tool (standard black arrow) select everything white holding the Shift key. All of the balloon shapes, including knots, will be select.

Step 6c

Go to the Transparency palette and change the blending mode to Multiply.

Step 6d

All of the balloons have the Multiply blending mode applied. Yay! They look like balloons.

Step 7

Now, to give the illustration a bit more visual interest, not to mention the fact that balloons probably wouldn't normally float in perfect alignments (haha), use the Selection Tool to simply move the balloons around so that the words are readable yet a bit more natural. Being sure that the balloon and highlights are grouped together will make this step a great deal easy, instead of selecting the balloons and highlights every time.

Step 8

Using the Rectangle marquee tool drop a very subtle light blue background into the illustration. (this will help with the next step)

Step 9a

To tie this all together (cheesy pun intended) we'll need to draw the stings. Using the Ellipse Tool draw a small circle at the bottom of the illustration. Drawing this knot first helps because this will be the point where all of the strings connect, forming the big knot.

Step 9b

Draw a thin line (1pt stroke) from the big knot to each balloon knot.

Step 9c

Select all of the strings and the big knot, group it (Command + G) and move to just above the background shape (Command + Left Square Bracket)

Step 10a

To put on the final touches draw a few stings with the Pen Tool, make them "dangle" below the big knot (3pt white stroked line).

Step 10b

For a bit of fun draw a person happily getting carried away. (this extra is not necessary)

Step 10c

Add a few clouds, just to put it over the edge with style, and boom! You're done.


This is a very simple, yet very fun way to illustrate balloon lettering. I hope you have as much fun as I did creating this style.

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