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Design

How to Create a Blueprint Text Effect in Adobe Illustrator

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Difficulty:IntermediateLength:MediumLanguages:
This post is part of a series called Learn Adobe Illustrator.
How to Create Vector Floral Typography in Adobe Illustrator
How to Create a Floral Anchor Illustration in Adobe Illustrator
Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

In the following steps you will learn how to create a blueprint text effect in Adobe Illustrator. 

For starters you will learn how to set up a simple grid and how to create the shapes that will make up your pattern brush components. Next, you will learn how to save and rename patterns and how to save a pretty simple pattern brush. Using simple strokes, basic blending mode techniques and several Transform effects, you will create the blueprint paper background.

Moving on, you will learn how to create a the actual text effect and how to make your work easier using graphic styles. Finally, you will learn how to create a simple piece of chalk using the 3D Extrude & Bevel effect, some linear gradients and the Appearance panel.

For more inspiration, you can always find a variety of graphic styles (including blueprint graphic styles) at Envato Market.

1. 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, enter 600 in the width and height boxes and then click on the Advanced button. Select RGB, Screen (72ppi) and make sure that the Align New Objects to Pixel Grid box is unchecked before you click OK.

Enable the Grid (View > Show Grid) and the Snap to Grid (View > Snap to Grid). You will need a grid every 10 px, so simply go to Edit > Preferences > Guides > Grid and enter 10 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 and how it can ease your work 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 > General. All these options will significantly increase your work speed.

setup grid

2. Create and Save a Pattern Brush

Step 1

Pick the Rectangle Tool (M) and focus on your toolbar. Remove the color from the stroke and then select the fill and set its color to R=255 G=0 B=7. Move to your artboard and simply create a 63 px square—the grid and the Snap to Grid feature should make this easier.

Make sure that your newly made shape stays selected, open the Transparency panel (Window > Transparency) and lower the Opacity to 10%.

red rectangle

Step 2

Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create a 30 x 3 px shape, fill it with black, and place it exactly as shown in the following image. Again, the grid and the Snap to Grid feature will make this easier.

black rectangle

Step 3

Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create a 3 x 15 px shape, fill it with black, and place it as shown in the first image.

Focus on the top side of this new rectangle and pick the Direct Selection Tool (A). Select both anchor points and go to Object > Path > Average (Alt-Control-J). Check the Both box and click the OK button, and your rectangle will turn into a triangle, as shown in the second image.

Keep focusing on the edited anchor points, switch to the Delete Anchor Points (-), and simply click that point to remove one of the two overlapping anchor points.

average both

Step 4

Make sure that your triangle is still selected and go to Object > Warp > Bulge. Enter the attributes shown below, click the OK button, and then go to Object > Expand Appearance.

Duplicate the resulting shape (Control-C > Control-V), select the copy, rotate it 90 degrees, and then place it as shown in the second image.

warp bulge

Step 5

Keep focusing on your two triangles and pick the Direct Selection Tool (A). Select the two anchor points highlighted in the first image, focus on the options bar, and simply enter 0.2 px in that Corners box.

The Live Corners feature is only available for CC users. The best solution to replace this effect would be the Round Any Corner script that can found in this article: 20 Free and Useful Adobe Illustrator Scripts. Save it to your hard drive, return to Illustrator, and grab the Direct Selection Tool (A). Select the same two anchor points and go to File > Scripts > Other Script. Open the Round Any Corner Script, enter a 0.2 radius, and click OK.

live corners

Step 6

Disable the Snap to Grid (Control-"). Pick the Brush Tool (B), open the Brushes panel (Window > Brushes) and select your 3 pt. Round calligraphic brush.

Move to your artboard and draw some wavy paths along the edges of your black shapes roughly as shown in the following image. Make sure that your paths do not cover a big part of your black shapes.

calligraphic brush

Step 7

Select the two paths that go along your longer black shape and go to Object > Path > Outline Stroke. Select the resulting shapes along with that black shape that lies in the back, open the Pathfinder panel (Window > Pathfinder), and click the Minus Front button.

subtract

Step 8

Move to the other two black shapes and repeat the technique mentioned in the previous step.

subtract

Step 9

Take a closer look at your black shapes and make the sharp anchor points a bit smoother.

smoother

Step 10

Enable the Snap to Grid (Control-"). Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create a 3 px black square and place it as shown in the following image.

black square

Step 11

Select your red rectangle, focus on the Transparency panel, and lower the Opacity to 0%.

Now, select the same rectangle along with the three black shapes highlighted in the following image, and simply drag them inside the Swatches panel (Window > Swatches) to save them as a pattern. Make sure that your newly added pattern is selected, open the fly-out panel from the Swatches panel, and go to Swatch Options. Rename your pattern "Corner" and click that OK button.

pattern

Step 12

Select the black shape highlighted in the following image and click the New Brush button from the Brushes panel. Check the Pattern Brush button and then click the OK button to open the Pattern Brush Options button.

Pick a name for your new brush, drag the Scale slider to 70%, select Tints for the Colorization Method, and then focus on the Tile boxes. First, select the Outer Corner tile and add your "Corner" pattern from that list, and then open the Inner Corner Tile and select Auto-Centered. Once you're done, click the OK button.

pattern brush

3. Create the Blueprint Background

Step 1

For this step you will need a grid every 10 px, so go to Edit > Preferences > Guides & Grid and enter 10 in the Gridline every box.

Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create a 620 px square, fill it with R=33 G=61 B=150 and make sure that it covers your entire artboard as shown in the following image.

blue square

Step 2

Make sure that your blue square is still selected, focus on the Appearance panel, and add a second fill using the Add New Fill button.

Select this new fill, set the color to black, and then go to Effect > Artistic > Film Grain. Enter the attributes shown below, click the OK button, and return to the Appearance panel. Click the "Opacity" piece of text that stands for your black fill to open the Transparency fly-out panel, and then lower the Opacity to 7% and change the Blending Mode to Multiply.

film grain

Step 3

Using the Pen Tool (P), create a 620 px vertical path and place it as shown in the following image. Make sure that this path remains selected and focus on the Appearance panel.

First, make sure that there's no color set for the fill and then select the stroke. Make it white, lower its Opacity to 40%, and change the Blending Mode to Overlay. Then go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform. Drag the Move-Horizontal slider to 0.5 px, click the OK button and then go again to Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform. This time, drag the Move-Horizontal slider to 50 px and enter 12 in that bottom Copies box.

vertical path

Step 4

Make sure that your vertical path is still selected, keep focusing on the Appearance panel, and add a second stroke using the Add New Stroke button.

Select this new stroke and make sure that the color is set to white. Lower its Opacity to 30% and change the Blending Mode to Overlay, and then go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform. Drag the Move-Horizontal slider to 0.5 px, click the OK button and then go again to Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform. This time drag the Move-Horizontal slider to 5 px and enter 120 in that bottom Copies box.

transform effect

Step 5

Using the Pen Tool (P), create a 620 px horizontal path and place it as shown in the following image. Make sure that this path remains selected and focus on the Appearance panel.

First, make sure that there's no color set for the fill and then select the stroke. Make it white, lower its Opacity to 40%, and change the Blending Mode to Overlay. Then go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform. Drag the Move-Vertical slider to 0.5 px, click the OK button and then go again to Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform. This time drag the Move-Vertical slider to 50 px and enter 12 in that bottom Copies box.

vertical path

Step 6

Make sure that your horizontal path is still selected, keep focusing on the Appearance panel and add a second stroke using that same Add New Stroke button.

Select this new stroke and make sure that the color is set to white. Lower its Opacity to 30% and change the Blending Mode to Overlay, and then go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform. Drag the Move-Vertical slider to 0.5 px, click the OK button and then go again to Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform. This time, drag the Move-Vertical slider to 5 px and enter 120 in that bottom Copies box.

transform effect

4. Save and Use Graphic Styles

Step 1

Open the Character panel (Window > Type > Character), pick the Type Tool (T), and click on your artboard. Add the "BLUE" piece of text and use the Franklin Gothic Demi font with the size set to 150 pt. Pick a random color for your text and place it roughly as shown in the following image.

type tool

Step 2

Make sure that your piece of text is still selected, remove the existing fill color (which will make your text completely invisible), and focus on the Appearance panel.

Add a stroke and select it. Set the Weight to 0.5 px, replace the existing color with R=233 G=242 B=248, and then go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Roughen. Enter the attributes shown below, and click the OK button.

roughen

Step 3

Make sure that your piece of text is still selected and keep focusing on the Appearance panel. Add a second stroke and select it. Simply add your pattern brush from the Brushes panel, and don't forget to set its color to R=233 G=242 B=248.

With your piece of text still selected, open the Graphic Styles panel (Window > Graphic Styles) and click the New Graphic Style button.

pattern brush

Step 4

Reselect the Type Tool (T), add the "PRINT" piece of text, place it as shown in the following image and use the same font attributes. Once you're done, simply apply your graphic style and things should end up looking like the second image.

graphic style

Step 5

Make sure that your "PRINT" piece of text is still selected and focus on the Appearance panel. Select the existing fill, set its color to R=233 G=242 B=248 and then go to Effect > Stylize > Scribble. Enter the attributes shown below, click the OK button, and then return to the Graphic Styles panel and click that New Graphic Style button again to save your second graphic style.

You won't need this new graphic style throughout this tutorial, but keep in mind that you can always use it to quickly apply its attributes to any kind of text, shape, or path.

scribble

5. Create a Piece of Chalk

Step 1

For this step you will need a grid every 5 px, so go to Edit > Preferences > Guides & Grid and enter 5 in the Gridline every box.

Using the Ellipse Tool (L), create a 15 px circle, fill it with yellow and place it as shown in the first image. Make sure that this new shape stays selected and go to Effect > 3D > Extrude & Bevel. Enter the attributes shown below and then click the OK button.

extrude bevel

Step 2

Make sure that your yellow circle is still selected, and go to Object > Expand Appearance.

Select the resulting group and hit Shift-Control-G twice to Ungroup these shapes. Now, select the two shapes highlighted in the first image and click the Unite button from the Pathfinder panel. Fill the resulting shape with the linear gradient shown below, and keep in mind that the blue numbers from the Gradient image stand for Location percentage.

linear gradient

Step 3

Select the remaining yellow shape and replace the yellow with the linear gradient shown below.

gradient

Step 4

Reselect the two shapes filled with linear gradients and create copies in front (Control-C > Control-F). Select both copies and click the Unite button from the Pathfinder panel. Fill the resulting shape with black.

black

Step 5

Make sure that the black shape made in the previous step remains selected.

First, hit Control-[ twice to send your selected shape behind the two shapes filled with linear gradients, and then focus on the Appearance panel. Be sure that the entire path is selected (simply click that "Path" piece of text from the top of the panel) and then go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Free Distort. Drag those points roughly as shown below, and then click the OK button.

distort effect

Step 6

Make sure that your black shape is still selected and keep focusing on the Appearance panel. Select the existing fill, lower its Opacity to 15% and go to Effect > Blur > Gaussian Blur. Enter a 3 px Radius and click the OK button.

gaussian blur

Step 7

Make sure that your black shape is still selected, keep focusing on the Appearance panel and add a second fill. Select this new fill, lower its Opacity to 20% and replace the existing color with the linear gradient shown below. Keep in mind that the yellow zero from the Gradient image stands for Opacity percentage.

linear gradient

6. Add a Pencil and Darken the Overall Illustration

Step 1

If you wish to also add a simple pencil to your illustration, follow this simple tutorial: How to Create a Detailed Pencils Illustration in Adobe Illustrator.

pencil

Step 2

Finally, duplicate the blue square that makes up your background and bring the copy to front using the Shift-Control-] keyboard shortcut.

Select this new shape and hit the D button from your keyboard to quickly replace the existing Appearance attributes with the default ones (white fill and black stroke). Remove the black stroke and select the fill. Lower its Opacity to 40%, change the Blending Mode to Overlay and replace the existing color with the radial gradient shown below. Don't forget that the yellow zero from the Gradient image stands for Opacity percentage.

radial gradient

Congratulations! You're Done!

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

If you're looking for another blueprint-focused tutorial, check out this neat tutorial from Ryan Quintal: Quick Tip: How to Create a Blueprint Illustration.

final
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