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Design

How to Create a Cactus Text Effect in Adobe Illustrator

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Difficulty:IntermediateLength:LongLanguages:
Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

In the following steps, you will learn how to create a cactus text effect in Adobe Illustrator. For starters, you will learn how to set up a simple grid and how to create a pattern brush.

Moving on, you will learn how to create and save a pretty complex pattern. Taking full advantage of the Appearance panel, you will learn how to create the first piece of your cactus and how to save its attributes. Using two simple shapes and some effects, you will learn how to create the pots. Finally, for the background, you will learn how to apply a radial gradient a built-in pattern.

For more inspiration on how to adjust or improve your final text effect, you can find plenty of resources at GraphicRiver.

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

Hit Control-N to create a new document. Select Pixels from the Units drop-down menu, enter 850 in the width box and 500 in the height box, and then click that More Settings button. Select RGB for the Color Mode, set the Raster Effects to Screen (72 ppi), and then click Create Document.

Enable the Grid (View > Show Grid) and Snap to Grid (View > Snap to Grid). You will need a grid 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.

setup grid

2. How to Create 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=188 B=53. Move to your artboard and simply create a 25 x 14 px shape—the grid and the Snap to Grid should make it easier.

rectangle

Step 2

Change the fill color to R=93 G=74 B=27 and pick the Ellipse Tool (L). Create the five squeezed circles shown below and place them exactly as shown in the following image.

Once you're done, select all these new shapes and turn them into a compound path (Control-8).

ellipses

Step 3

Pick the Rectangle Tool (M), create a 25 x 7 px shape, and place it as shown in the first image. Select this new rectangle along with your compound path and click the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder panel (Window > Pathfinder).

minus front

Step 4

Pick the Anchor Point Tool (Shift-C), focus on your brown shapes, and simply click the top anchor points as shown in the first image.

Select the yellow rectangle and remove the fill color.

anchor point tool

Step 5

Select all the shapes made so far, open the Brushes panel (Window > Brushes), and click the New Brush button. Check the Pattern Brush box and click OK to open the Pattern Brush Options window. Type a name for your new brush, enter all the attributes shown below, and click OK to save your new brush.

new brush

3. How to Create a Pattern

Step 1

Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create a 50 px square and fill it with yellow.

square

Step 2

Using the Pen Tool (P), draw two simple paths and place them on the right edge of your yellow square as shown below. Make sure that both paths are selected and open the Appearance panel (Window > Appearance).

Remove the fill color, set the stroke color to R=93 G=74 B=27, and open the Stroke fly-out panel. Increase the Weight to 2 px and select Width Profile 1.

With one of these shapes still selected, open the Graphic Styles (Window > Graphic Styles). Click the New Graphic Style button to save the appearance of your selected path.

width profile

Step 3

Make sure that the two paths made in the previous step are still selected and go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform. Enter the attributes shown below and click OK.

transform

Step 4

Using the Pen Tool (P), draw five simple paths and place them on the top edge of your yellow square as shown below. Apply your graphic style from the Graphic Styles panel to all these paths.

Select only the second and the fourth paths from this set of new paths. Go to the Appearance panel and change the Weight to 1 px, and then go to the Graphic Styles panel and save a new graphic style.

pen tool

Step 5

Make sure that the two paths made in the previous step are still selected and go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform. Enter the attributes shown below and click OK.

transform

Step 6

Using the Pen Tool (P), create the five paths shown in the first image and apply your first graphic style from the Graphic Styles panel.

Using the same tool, create the eight paths shown in the second image, and apply your second graphic style from the Graphic Styles panel.

paths

Step 7

Select all your tiny brown shapes and go to Object > Path > Outline Stroke, and then turn the resulting shapes into a compound path (Control-8).

compound path

Step 8

Select your yellow square along with the brown compound path and click the Intersect button from the Pathfinder panel. Simply drag the resulting shapes inside the Swatches panel (Window > Swatches) to save them as a pattern.

new pattern

4. How to Create a Graphic Style

Step 1

Disable the Grid (Control-") and the Snap to Grid (Shift-Control-").

Pick the Type Tool (T) and open the Character panel (Window > Type > Character). Select the Insaniburger font and set the size to 200 px.

Simple click on your artboard, add the "Cactus" piece of text, and set the color to R=78 G=174 B=99. Place your text as shown below, and then go to the Layers panel and lock it.

text

Step 2

Focus on the first letter of your text. Using the Pen Tool (P) or the Brush Tool (B), draw a simple path roughly as shown in the following image. Make sure that it stays selected and focus on the Appearance panel.

Be sure that there's no fill color and select the stroke. Set its color to R=93 G=58 B=20, increase the Weight to 4 px, and select Width Profile 1 from the Stroke fly-out panel.

stroke

Step 3

Make sure that your round path stays selected, focus on the Appearance panel, and set the fill color to R=75 G=147 B=106.

fill

Step 4

Make sure that your round path stays selected, keep focusing on the Appearance panel, and add a second fill using the Add New Fill button. Select it, set the color to R=78 G=174 B=99, and go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform. Enter the attributes shown below and click OK.

add new fill

Step 5

Make sure that your round path stays selected, keep focusing on the Appearance panel, and add a third fill. Select it and set the color to white (R=255 G=255 B=255). Lower its Opacity to 30%, change the Blending Mode to Overlay, and go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform. Enter the attributes shown below, click OK, and go to Effect > Pathfinder > Add, and then go to Effect > Path > Offset Path. Enter a -7 px Offset and click OK.

white fill

Step 6

Make sure that your round path stays selected, keep focusing on the Appearance panel, and add a fourth fill. Select it, apply your pattern from the Swatches panel, and go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform. Enter the attributes shown below and click OK.

apply pattern

Step 7

Make sure that your round path stays selected, keep focusing on the Appearance panel, and add a second stroke using the Add New Stroke button. Select this new stroke and apply your pattern brush from the Brushes panel, and then drag it below the other stroke.

With your round path still selected, go to the Graphic Styles panel and save a new graphic style.

apply pattern brush

5. How to Create the Cactus Text

Step 1

Using the Pen Tool (P) or the Brush Tool (B), draw a new path roughly as shown in the first image. Make sure that it stays selected and apply your last graphic style from the Graphic Styles panel.

apply graphic style

Step 2

Make sure that the path made in the previous step stays selected, and focus on the Appearance panel. First, select the bottom two fills and replace the existing colors with the ones shown below, and then click the Transform effect applied for the top fill and adjust the Rotate Angle as shown below.

With this path still selected, go to the Graphic Styles panel and save a new graphic style.

adjust graphic style

Step 3

Keep focusing on the first letter from your text and draw more round paths along that letter, as shown below.

apply graphic styles

Step 4

Select those new round paths and apply the last two graphic styles from the Graphic Styles panel. Try not to have two paths with identical styles one after the other. Also, select these paths one by one, open the Transform effect applied for the top fill (in the Appearance panel), and adjust the Rotate Angle to match the orientation of the selected path.

apply graphic styles

Step 5

Select the smaller cactus pieces and focus on the Appearance panel. Open the Transform effect applied for the top fill, drag both Scale sliders to 50%, and click OK.

scale pattern

Step 6

Move on to the other letters from your text and follow the same techniques used for the first letter. First, create the round paths and apply the graphic styles, and then adjust the pattern rotation and the pattern scale for the smaller paths.

cactus text

6. How to Create the Cactus Flowers

Step 1

Using the Pen Tool (P) or the Brush Tool (B), draw three simple paths as shown in the first image. Fill them with R=239 G=75 B=74 and add a 3 px stroke. Set its color to R=93 G=58 B=20, increase the Weight to 3 px, and don't forget to select Width Profile 1. Once you're done, save these attributes as a graphic style.

cactus flower

Step 2

Using the Pen Tool (P) or the Brush Tool (B) along with the graphic style saved in the previous step, add the cactus flower for the other letters. Once you're done, go to the Layers panel, unlock your piece of text, and delete it.

cactus flowers

7. How to Create the Pot

Step 1

Enable the Grid (Control-") and the Snap to Grid (Shift-Control-"). For the following steps, you will need a grid every 5 px. Just go to Edit > Preferences > Guides & Grid and enter 5 in the Gridline every box.

Pick the Rectangle Tool (M), create a 75 x 20 px shape, fill it with yellow, and place it as shown in the following image.

yellow rectangle

Step 2

Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create a 65 x 40 px shape, fill it with blue, and place it as shown in the first image.

Switch to the Direct Selection Tool (A) and focus on the bottom side of this new rectangle. Select both anchor points, go to the control panel, and enter 20 px in that Corners box. Once you're done, send this shape to back (Shift-Control-[).

blue shape

Step 3

Select your yellow shape and focus on the Appearance panel. Replace the yellow with R=188 G=117 B=71 and then add a second fill. Select it, set the color to R=214 G=146 B=97, and go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform. Enter the attributes shown below and click OK.

add new fill

Step 4

Make sure that your rectangle stays selected and keep focusing on the Appearance panel. Add a third fill and select it. Set the color to white, lower its Opacity to 25%, change the Blending Mode to Overlay, and then go to Effect > Path > Offset Path. Enter a -8 px Offset, click OK, and go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform. Enter the attributes shown below and click OK.

offset path

Step 5

Make sure that your rectangle stays selected and keep focusing on the Appearance panel. Add a 4 px stroke and set its color to R=92 G=59 B=28.

stroke

Step 6

Make sure that your rectangle stays selected and keep focusing on the Appearance panel. Select the entire path (simply click that "Path" piece of text from the top of the panel) and go to Effect > Stylize > Rounded Corners. Enter a 5 px Radius, click OK, and go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Roughen. Enter the attributes shown below and click OK.

rounded corners

Step 7

Select your blue shape and focus on the Appearance panel. Replace the blue with R=188 G=117 B=71 and then add a second fill. Select it, set the color to R=214 G=146 B=97, and go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform. Enter the attributes shown below and click OK.

new fill

Step 8

Make sure that your bottom shape stays selected and keep focusing on the Appearance panel. Add a third fill and select it. Set the color to white, lower its Opacity to 25%, change the Blending Mode to Overlay, and then go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform. Enter the attributes shown below and click OK.

new fill

Step 9

Make sure that your bottom shape stays selected and keep focusing on the Appearance panel. Add a 4 px stroke and set its color to R=92 G=59 B=28.

stroke

Step 10

Make sure that your bottom shape stays selected and keep focusing on the Appearance panel. Add a new fill and drag it to the bottom of the panel. Set the color to black, lower its Opacity to 60%, change the Blending Mode to Soft Light, and then go to Effect > Convert to Shape > Ellipse. Enter the attributes shown below, click OK, and go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform. Enter the settings shown in the following image and click OK.

ellipse effect

Step 11

Make sure that your bottom shape stays selected and keep focusing on the Appearance panel. Select the entire path and go to Effect > Stylize > Rounded Corners. Enter a 5 px Radius, click OK, and go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Roughen. Enter the attributes shown below and click OK.

roughen

8. How to Multiply Your Pot

Step 1

Duplicate the two shapes that make up your pot and place the copies as shown in the first image. Using the Direct Selection Tool (A), select the anchor points highlighted in the first image, and drag them to the right as shown in the second image.

Keep focusing on these copies, select only the bottom shapes, and focus on the Appearance panel. Open the Transform effect applied to the top fill and the Ellipse effect applied to the bottom fill and adjust the settings as shown below.

hotchpotch

Step 2

Create another four copies of your smaller pot, and place them as shown in the following image.

hotchpotches

9. How to Create the Background

Step 1

Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create an 860 x 510 px shape, and fill it with R=195 G=224 B=177. Make sure that this rectangle covers your entire artboard and send it to back (Shift-Control-[).

rectangle

Step 2

Open the fly-out menu from the Swatches panel and go to Open Swatch Library > Patterns > Basic Graphics > Basic Graphics_Textures.

Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create a new 860 x 510 px shape and place it on top of the existing rectangle, as shown in the following image. Fill this new shape with the USHS 22 Gravel Beach pattern, lower its Opacity to 50%, change the Blending Mode to Soft Light, and then go to Effect > Artistic > Film Grain. Enter the attributes shown below and click OK.

film grain

Step 3

Make sure that the rectangle made in the previous step is still selected and keep focusing on the Appearance panel. Add a second fill and select it. Lower its Opacity to 50% and change the Blending Mode to Overlay, and then apply the radial gradient shown below. Use the Gradient Tool (G) to stretch your gradient as shown below.

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. Don't hesitate to share your final result in the comments section.

Feel free to adjust the final design and make it your own. You can find some great sources of inspiration at GraphicRiver, with interesting solutions to improve your design.

final product
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