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Design

How to Create a Furry Cheshire Cat Inspired Text Effect in Adobe Illustrator

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Difficulty:IntermediateLength:LongLanguages:
This post is part of a series called Alice in Wonderland Week.
How to Create an Alice in Wonderland Inspired Afternoon Tea Invite in Adobe InDesign
How to Create an Alice in Wonderland Tea Party Scene in Adobe Illustrator
Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

Follow this tutorial and learn how to create a Cheshire Cat inspired text effect in Adobe Illustrator. You will learn a new way to create the appearance of fur and also use a Pattern brush to add extra fur for a more detailed look. And this tutorial would not be complete without a cheesy cat grin. Let's start!

If you are looking for more text effects or cartoon characters, be sure to check out GraphicRiver and you'll surely find what you are looking for there. 

Tutorial Assets

To complete the tutorial, you will need the following assets:

1. How to Open a New Document

Launch Illustrator and open a blank document. Type a name for your file, set the dimensions, and then set Pixels as Units and RGB as Color Mode

Next, go to Edit > Preferences > General and set the Keyboard Increment to 1 px and while there, go to Units to make sure they are set as in the following image. I usually work with these settings, and they will help you throughout the drawing process. 

how to open new illustrator document

2. How to Create and Distort the Text

Step 1

Grab the Type Tool (T) and write “MEOW” on your artboard using the Jungle Fever Font, size of 160 pt. Choose Expand Appearance from the Object menu to get the individual letters and Ungroup (Shift-Control-G) if necessary. 

how to write the Meow text

Step 2

Focus on the letter “M”. Use the Delete Anchor Point Tool (-) to delete some of the points at the top to obtain a straight edge (1). Now, take the Pen Tool (P) and draw a shape like the one below to simulate the Cheshire Cat's tufts of fur (2). Continue with the shape of the ears and send them to the back (3). 

how to distort the letter M

Step 3

Focus on the letter “W”. Use the Add Anchor Point Tool (+) to add an extra point at the top of the left leg and distort the shape to simulate another tuft of fur (1). 

Switch to the Pen Tool (P) and draw the shape of the tail (2). After that, select the letter along with the tail and press Unite in the Pathfinder panel to merge them into a single shape (3). 

how to distort the letter W

Step 4

Rotate and move the letter “E” closer to the letter “M” (1). Next, delete the existing letter “O” and draw an egg-like shape instead (2). Scale up the letter “W”  a little, rotate it, and move it over the letter “O” (3). At this point, the text is ready.

how to arrange the text

3. How to Create the Stripes on the Text

Step 1

Use the Pen Tool (P) to draw a few paths over the letter “M” and drag some of them over the letter “E” as well to create a continuous look (the green paths). Use Width Profile 1 to stroke these paths and choose different Stroke Weights of 14 pt, 12 pt, and even 10 pt

how to draw stripes on letter M

Step 2

Focus on the letter “E”. First, make copies of the three green paths that go over both letters because you will need the duplicates later. After that, draw more paths to cover the free areas (the blue paths). Use Width Profile 1 again and choose different Stroke Weights of 12 pt and 18 pt

how to draw stripes on letter E

Step 3

Now, focus on the letter “O” and draw four paths with a 10, 12, and 14 pt Stroke (1). Next, draw a long path that goes over the letter “W” as well, and leave some free space in the bottom left corner for the cheesy Cheshire Cat grin (2).

Continue to draw more wavy paths over the letter “W”, and don't forget to duplicate the green one for later (3). 

how to draw stripes on letter O and W

Step 4

Let's go back to the letter “M”. Select all the paths and choose Expand Appearance from the Object menu to turn them from strokes into fills. Do not release and go to Object > Compound Path > Make (Control-8) (1). Make a copy in front of the resulting compound path for later use.

Copy and Paste in Front (Control-F) the letter “M”; then select this copy along with the striped compound path and press Minus Front in the Pathfinder panel (2). If you get a group of shapes as a result, also go to Object > Compound Path > Make (Control-8). Fill the newly obtained compound path with gray for the moment (3). 

how to create the pink fur compound path for letter M

Step 5

Select the original pink letter and then Copy and Paste in Front (Control-F) again. While this copy stays selected, also select the copy of the striped compound path made in the previous step and press Intersect in the Pathfinder panel (1). If you get a group of shapes as the result, go to Object > Compound Path > Make (Control-8). You will obtain a new striped compound path (2). 

how to create the pink striped fur compound path for letter M

Step 6

Focus on the letter “E” and select all the paths that go over it (1). Choose Expand Appearance from the Object menu to turn them into fills and then go to Object > Compound Path > Make (Control-8). Make a copy in front of the resulting striped compound path.

Select the pink letter and then Copy and Paste in Front (Control-F). Keep this copy selected along with the striped compound path and press Minus Front on the Pathfinder panel. Also go to Object > Compound Path > Make (Control-8) and fill the resulting shape with gray (2).

Make another copy in front of the pink letter. While this copy stays selected, also select the copy of the striped compound path made earlier and press Intersect on the Pathfinder panel. If you get a group of shapes as the result, go to Object > Compound Path > Make (Control-8). You will obtain a new striped compound path (3). 

how to create the fur compound paths for letter E

Step 7

Follow the technique explained above and apply it for the letters “O” and “W” as well to get the compound paths that you need. 

how to create all fur compound paths

4. How to Create the Furry Look

Step 1

Focus on the letter “O”. Select the gray compound path obtained earlier and change the fill color to a darker shade. Next, go to Effect > Sketch > Reticulation and apply the settings shown (1). Choose Expand Appearance from the Object menu to expand the effect, and then go to Object > Image Trace > Make. Do not release, and choose High Fidelity Photo as the Preset and Expand from the Control panel. 

Use the Direct Selection Tool (A) to select only the white square around the letter and delete it (2). As a result, you will have a complex group of tiny gray shapes (3). 

how to apply Reticulation effect and Trace for letter O

Step 2

Fill the group of tiny shapes with the linear gradient shown at a -60 degrees Angle (1). Next, go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Pucker & Bloat and apply a -140% Pucker effect to get the furry look. Drag the Pucker & Bloat effect applied under Contents in the Appearance panel for a better result (2).

While the group of shapes is still selected, go to the Appearance panel and double click on Contents to see the attributes. Select the existing Fill attribute and then go to Effect > Stylize > Drop Shadow. Apply the settings shown and hit OK (3). This will add more depth to the fur. 

how to create the pink fur on letter O

Step 3

Now, select the striped compound path and replace the fill color (1).

Make a copy in front of this shape, fill it with gray, and apply the Reticulation effect using the same settings (2).

Choose Expand Appearance from the Object menu to expand the effect and then go to Object > Image Trace > Make. Select High Fidelity Photo as the Preset and Expand from the Control panel just like before, and then delete the white square. You will get a new group of tiny random gray shapes (3). 

how to apply Reticulation effect and Trace for stripes letter O

Step 4

Fill the newly obtained group of tiny shapes with the linear gradient shown at a -45 degrees Angle (1). Apply a -140% Pucker effect again, and after that, drag the effect under Contents in the Appearance panel (2).

While the group is still selected, open the Contents to see the attributes and apply a Drop Shadow effect using the same settings in order to add more depth (3). 

how to create the purple striped fur on letter O

Step 5

If you take a closer look, you will be able to see the shapes that are behind the fur, and they are too sharp. Let's fix that.

Select the pink letter that was in the back all along and, while the existing Fill attribute stays selected in the Appearance panel, go to Effect > Path > Offset Path and apply an Offset of -1 px to make the shape slightly smaller. Next, go to Effect > Stylize > Inner Glow and apply the settings shown; then go to Effect > Blur > Gaussian Blur and apply a Radius of 2 px (1).

Now, select the purple striped compound path behind the purple fur and apply the same effects to obtain smooth, blurry edges (2). You can see the end result in the image below (3). 

how to create smooth blurry edges for letter O

Step 6

Now, focus on the letter “E” and apply the same technique. First, create the pink fur, starting from the gray compound path and the Reticulation effect (1). Next, replace the blue fill color of the striped compound path with purple and make a copy in front (2). To this copy, apply the Reticulation effect and then create the purple fur as explained earlier (3). At the end, don't forget to create the smooth, blurry edges for the original pink letter and the purple stripes that are in the back (4).

Repeat the same things for the letter “W”. 

how to create fur on letter E O and W

Step 7

For the letter “M”, after you create the fur on the actual letter (1), let's work on the shapes above. Select the fur tufts shape and apply the Offset Path, Inner Glow and Gaussian Blur effects using the same settings as for the purple striped compound paths earlier in the tutorial (2). Make a copy in front of this shape, remove all existing appearances, and apply the Reticulation effect followed by Image Trace and the Pucker & Bloat effect to create the fur (3). 

how to create fur on tufts shape for letter M

Step 8

Repeat the same technique and create the pink fur on the ears. 

how to create fur on ear shapes for letter M

Step 9

At this point, the Cheshire Cat inspired text effect should look like the following image. 

finished pink and purple fur for Meow text

5. How to Add Extra Fur Around the Text

Step 1

Select the original pink letter “M” and then Copy and Paste in Back (Control-B) to make a copy of it. Remove all existing appearances (1). Go to File > Scripts > Round Any Corner and apply a Radius of 10 in order to get the rounded corners. This script works better than the Round Corners effect. You can find more information about the Round Any Corner Script and how to install and use it in the 20 Free and Useful Adobe Illustrator Scripts tutorial.

Give it a 1 pt light pink Stroke and use the Grass Pattern Brush that you can find in the Brush Libraries Menu > Borders > Borders_Novelty. Open the Stroke Options window from the Appearance panel, drag the Scale slider to 20%, and set the Colorization Method to Tints and Shades. This will make the grass smaller, like fur, and it will take the color of the stroke, which in this case is pink. If the tips of the brush don't go outwards, also check the Flip Across option (2). 

how to add extra fur around letter M

Step 2

While this copy of the letter is still selected, add a New Stroke at the top of the Appearance panel and use the Grass Pattern Brush again. This time, set the color to a darker pink (1). Open the Stroke Options window, drag the Scale slider to 40%, and set the Colorization Method to Tints and Shades. You can see the result in the image below (2). 

how to add more fur around letter M

Step 3

Now, select the fur tufts shape and make a copy in back. Remove the existing appearances and then apply the Round Any Corner Script. To this shape, apply the two Stroke attributes using the Grass Pattern Brush and the same settings (1).

Repeat the same thing for the ear shapes (2).

You can even save this “Edge Fur Graphic Style” in the Graphic Styles panel and apply it more easily to the other letters. 

how to add extra fur around tufts and ear shapes

Step 4

Apply the same technique for the letters “E”, “O”, and “W”, and add extra fur around the letters. 

how to add extra fur around letters E O and W

6. How to Add Shadow to the Furry Text

Step 1

Let's create a complex compound path. Focus on the letter “O”, select the original pink shape, and then Copy and Paste in Place (Shift-Control-V). Remove all existing appearances and give it any fill color (1). Hide this shape for the moment.

Select the purple fur group and Copy and Paste in Place (Shift-Control-V) to make a copy of it. Double click on Contents in the Appearance panel to see the attributes and delete the Drop Shadow effect. Now, go to Object > Expand Appearance in order to expand the Pucker & Bloat effect. Do not release the group and press Unite in the Pathfinder panel (2); then go to Object > Compound Path > Make (Control-8). Fill the resulting striped fur compound path with blue for the moment (3). 

how to create a striped fur compound path for letter O

Step 2

Next, select the pink fur group and Copy and Paste in Place (Shift-Control-V) to make a copy of it. Delete the Drop Shadow effect in the Appearance panel and then go to Object > Expand Appearance to expand the Pucker & Bloat effect (1). Press Unite in the Pathfinder panel followed by Object > Compound Path > Make (Control-8) and you will obtain the green complex compound path (2). Hide it for now. 

how to create a complex fur compound path for letter O

Step 3

Next, select the copy of the letter “O” stroked with the Grass Pattern Brush and then Copy and Paste in Place (Shift-Control-V) to make a copy of it (1). Go to Object > Expand Appearance to expand the brushes (2); then press Unite in the Pathfinder panel followed by Object > Compound Path > Make (Control-8). Fill the resulting compound path with gray for the moment (3). 

how to create the edge fur compound path for letter O

Step 4

Unhide the pink, blue, green, and gray compound paths that you have obtained in the previous three steps (1) and keep them selected. Press Unite in the Pathfinder panel, and then go to Object > Compound Path > Make (Control-8). We'll use this newly obtained shape to create the shadow (2). 

how to create the shadow shape for letter O

Step 5

Follow the steps explained above and create the other shapes that you need (1). Move all four shapes into a New Layer under the text effect and fill them with purple. Go to Effect > Stylize > Drop Shadow and apply the settings shown (2).

how to create shadow for Meow text

Step 6

Select the four shapes from the previous step, and then Copy and Paste in Back (Control-B) to make copies of them. While they are still selected, go to Object > Compound Path > Make (Control-8) to merge them into a single compound path (1). Remove the Drop Shadow effect and replace it with the Outer Glow effect (2). 

how to add more shadow around Meow text

Step 7

Take the Pen Tool (P) and draw a path where the letter “M” touches “E” and where “O” touches “W”. Send the first path behind the letter “M” but in front of the letter “E”; and send the second path behind the letter “W” but in front of “O” (1).

Give them both a 3 pt black Stroke and use Width Profile 1 in the Stroke panel. Next, apply a 3 px Gaussian Blur and reduce the Opacity to 50% (2). 

how to add shadow between Meow letters

7. How to Create the Cheesy Cheshire Cat Grin

Step 1

Use the Pen Tool (P) to draw the shape of the smile on the letter “O”. Give it a white fill and then go to Effect > Stylize > Outer Glow and apply the settings shown. Also, add a 2 pt Outside Stroke and use the linear gradient shown. 

how to draw the cheesy cat smile shape on letter O

Step 2

With the smile shape still selected, add a New Fill at the bottom of the Appearance panel and use black as the color. While this Fill attribute stays selected, go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform and apply a -3 px Vertical Move. Set the Blending Mode to Overlay and you will get a thin shadow at the top of the smile (1).

With the smile shape still selected, add another black Fill attribute at the bottom of the Appearance panel and then apply a 3 px Vertical Move. Set the Blending Mode to Overlay and you will get a thin shadow at the bottom of the smile (2). 

how to add shadow around cheesy cat smile

Step 3

Use the Pen Tool (P) of the Line Segment Tool (\) to draw a bunch of short paths to define the teeth (1). Give all of them a 2 pt light gray Stroke and use the Tapered Blend Art Brush. Add a New Stroke at the top of the Appearance panel and use the same brush, but choose a darker shade of gray and reduce the Stroke Weight at 0.2 pt (2). I've shown how to create and save this useful blend brush in the How to Create a Candy Monster Character tutorial (section 10).

Select the smile shape and then Copy and Paste in Place (Shift-Control-V) to make a copy of it. Set it to stroke-none and fill-none. While this copy stays selected, also select the lines and go to Object > Clipping Mask > Make (Control-7) (3). 

how to define the teeth on cheesy cat smile

Step 4

Use the Pen Tool (P) to draw a few short paths following the edge around the mouth and apply the two Stroke attributes using the Grass Pattern Brush and the same settings as for the extra fur around the edges of the letters earlier in the tutorial (1).

While all the paths stay selected, go to Object > Expand Appearance in order to expand the brushes, and then Group (Control-G) them and apply the Drop Shadow effect (2). 

how to add extra fur around cheesy cat smile

Step 5

Select the smile shape, go to Object > Path > Offset Path, and apply an Offset of 2 px. Now, select the bigger shape that you have obtained and bring it in front of everything by going to Object > Arrange > Bring to Front (Shift-Control-]). Set this shape to stroke-none and fill-none (1).

Now, select the small groups of fur around the mouth along with the copy of the smile and go to Object > Clipping Mask > Make (Control-7) (2). At this point, the cheesy grin is ready. 

how to mask extra fur around cheesy cat smile

Congratulations! You're Done

Here is the final image of the Cheshire Cat inspired text effect. This was challenging and fun to create. I hope you enjoyed it and that you learned new techniques. Don't forget to share an image with us if you decide to recreate it. 

Cheshire Cat inspired text effect final image
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