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  1. Design & Illustration
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How to Create a Hand-Lettering Textured Poster in Adobe Illustrator

Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

Are you a coffee lover with a passion for beautiful fonts and hand-lettering? Follow this tutorial to create a beautiful retro-style coffee-inspired poster that you can print and hang on a wall in your kitchen! We’ll be using simple shapes, free fonts and some drawing tools of Adobe Illustrator to create a balanced composition with a coffee cup, whimsical text, and intricate hand-lettering. Then we’ll finish up by adding a gentle textured touch to our poster. 

By the end of this tutorial, you’ll have discovered some useful tips and tricks that will help you to create digital hand-lettering from scratch, modify ready-made fonts, and create your own hand-drawn lettering. You’ll be able to use these techniques for your future artworks, creating new interesting lettering posters, cards and compositions!

There are not so many great free fonts on the web, so I highly recommend getting some great fonts from Envato Market. They can serve you either as a reference or as a full-fledged element of your composition, which you can easily modify and recolor. Also, don’t forget to check these hand-written scripts and hand-lettered illustrations for inspiration! And let's get started!

1. Think About the Composition and Make a Rough Sketch

Step 1

First of all, there should be a certain idea of the lettering poster that we’ll be creating. One morning I was drinking my coffee with cinnamon and thought of a great start of the day. A picture of a coffee lettering poster appeared in my head immediately, so I grabbed a piece of paper and made a very rough and fast sketch. You can see it below.

make a rough sketch

Sometimes we need some more time to get inspired, to make up a concept and the overall idea of the poster, to think over the composition, and to try different options. We can even put our sketch away for a couple of days and then return to it with a fresh eye.

Your image doesn’t have to be perfect at this step; it is just a guideline that will help you to keep the right proportions of the objects. In fact, it will be much easier to create straight lines and even geometric shapes, using the tools and functions of the program.

Step 2

Start by making a New Document of 600 x 800 px size and create a shape of the same size, using the Rectangle Tool (M) and filling it with chocolate-brown color. You can Lock it in the Layers panel in order not to move it while drawing.

Start by making a New Document

2. Draw a Coffee Cup

Step 1

Create a New Layer and let’s start forming the cup from its top. Take the Ellipse Tool (L) and make a 160 x 20 px dark-beige oval. Switch to the Rectangle Tool (M) and make a light-beige shape of 160 x 100 px.

The shapes are of the same width, so we can combine them together, as shown in the image below.

Switch to the Direct Selection Tool (A) and select the bottom anchor points of the rectangle. Use the Live Corners feature to make the bottom of the cup smooth and rounded by pulling the circle corner markers up.

shape the cup from basic shapes

Step 2

We can use the Align panel to make the shapes perfectly aligned. Select both shapes and click the ellipse once again to make it a Key Object. Use the Horizontal Align Center function to align the shapes.

use the Align panel to make the shapes aligned

Step 3

Select the top oval shape, Copy it and Paste in Front (Control-C > Control-F). Hold Alt-Shift and shrink the top copy using the Selection Tool (M) to make it smaller. Fill the shape with dark-brown color for the coffee.

Let's add the bottom part to the cup. Make a 60 x 12 px dark-beige rectangle and use the Direct Selection Tool (A) to make its corners fully rounded. You can also adjust the Corner Radius from the control panel on top, while the shape is selected with the Direct Selection Tool (A).

Send the shape to Back (Shift-Control-[), beneath the cup.

add a smaller ellipse for the copy

Step 4

Now let’s add a handle to the cup. Make a 35 x 50 px rectangle on the right side of the cup. Create a smaller rectangle on top and Send both shapes to Back (Shift-Control-[). Use the Minus Front function of Pathfinder to cut the smaller rectangle out. Make the right side of the handle rounded with the help of the Live Corners feature.

add a handle to the cup

Step 5

Now we’ll create a saucer. Start by making a 200 x 40 px ellipse and Send to Back (Shift-Control-[), beneath the cup. Make a smaller oval on top of the saucer, set its Fill to none, and apply a dark-beige color to the Stroke. Head to the Stroke panel, set the Weight to 2 pt and change the Profile to Width Profile 2 at the bottom of the Stroke panel.

shape a saucer

Step 6

Let’s add a bright highlight on top of the cup. Duplicate the base of the cup twice (Control-C > Control-F > Control-F). Move the top copy to the right a bit by holding Shift and pressing the Right Arrow key a few times.

Select the two copies and use the Minus Front function of the Pathfinder to cut the shapes, leaving only a narrow stripe. Detach the stripe from the edge of the cup, making it a bit smaller and moving it to the right. Use the Eraser Tool (Shift-E) to erase a part of the highlight.

 add a bright highlight on top of the cup

Step 7

Let’s finish up our cup by adding a small oval on top of the dark-brown coffee shape. Set the Stroke color to lighter brown and set the Weight to 2 pt in the Stroke panel or from the control panel on top.

add details to coffee

3. Create Whimsical Lettering

Step 1

Let’s start making the first word by transforming the font. I’m using Bevan free font to type the word “Good”, setting the Font Size to 75 pt in the Character panel (Control-T).

Go to Object > Expand, turning our text into curves. Select the word and go to Object > Path > Offset Path, setting the Offset value to -3 px to create a smaller object inside each letter.

Apply Offset Path to the smaller shapes with -4 px Offset value.

modify the text

Step 2

Let’s apply a texture to the inner shapes. Select the shapes and head to the Swatches panel. Open the Swatch Libraries Menu and go to Patterns > Basic Graphics > Basic Graphics_Lines. Select and apply the 6 lpi 50% swatch.

Finally, double-click the Scale Tool (S) to open the Scale options panel. Set the Uniform Scale to 30% and uncheck the Transform Object box in order to scale only the pattern itself, making the stripes much thinner.

apply a texture to the inner shapes

Step 3

Apply a black 1 pt Stroke to the shapes, setting the Cap and Corner to middle positions in the Stroke panel.

Apply a black 1 pt Stroke to the shapes

Step 4

Now we’ll work on the colors to make the letters more three-dimensional. Select the bottom shapes of the letters and fill them with vertical linear gradient from dark brown to light brown, forming a thick outline.

Then select the middle shapes and apply a vertical linear gradient from beige at the bottom to white on top.

Now let’s change the color of the line pattern as well. In order to do that, first of all we need to Object > Expand Appearance of the textured shapes. You will see a bunch of lines, hidden inside the Clipping Masks. Now we can select these shapes and apply a dark-brown vertical gradient, making the lines shiny.

work on the colors to make the letters more dimensional

Step 5

Let’s transform the word to make it slightly arched. Go to Effect > Warp > Arc and set the Horizontal Bend value to 15%. Click OK and Object > Expand Appearance to apply the effect.

Effect  Warp  Arc to transform the word

Step 6

Now that our first word is ready, let’s move on to the second one. This time, we’ll do some hand-lettering with the help of the Pencil Tool (N). You can adjust the settings by double-clicking the Pencil Tool (N) and setting the Fidelity slider closer to the Smooth side in order to make the lines flowing.

adjust the settings of the Pencil Tool

Step 7

I’m using the Pencil Tool (N) with 3 pt Stoke Weight to trace the letters of my sketch. As you saw at the very beginning, the sketch is very quirky, so I’m using it only as a rough guide image. As you can see, the final letters are larger than those on the sketch. They look clean and even.

If you don’t feel confident with your handwriting yet, try finding any whimsical font of your liking and practice tracing the letters, using the font as a reference, until you get the desired result. Practice makes perfect.

use the Pencil Tool for hand-lettering

Step 8

When you’re happy with your letters, Object > Expand to turn our strokes into objects. And now we can apply a gentle linear gradient from beige to white, giving our text a shiny metallic effect.

apply a gentle linear gradient to the letters

Step 9

Let’s move on to the next word. For this one, I’ll be using the Amatic free font. It already looks hand-inked and a bit quirky, just what we need! The only detail we’re going to add here is an intricate swirl on the left. Use the Pencil Tool (N) and attach the swirl to the letter “S”.

attach a swirl to the text

Step 10

Now we can Object > Expand our text and fill it with a vertical linear gradient. This time I want to make a distinct line in the center of the gradient, adding more contrast between the colors. As you can see in the image below, I add two contrast colors right in the center of the gradient bar, placing the sliders very close to each other.

fill the text with a vertical linear gradient

Step 11

Let’s move on and add the word “with…”, using a typewriter style font, like Inconsolata or Courier New. It looks too straight and geometric, so we’ll use the Blob Brush Tool (B) to give it a hand-drawn look. You can double-click the Blob Brush Tool (B) and adjust the settings to make the lines accurate or smooth. I’m setting the Fidelity slider to the middle position and selecting the smallest Size of the brush.

Trace the letters, making them look a bit more quirky.

trace the font with Blob Brush Tool

Step 12

Before we add the last word, let’s create an additional element: a simple, elegant ribbon. Start with a 310 x 70 px rectangle, setting its Fill color to light-beige and its Stroke color to dark brown with 3 pt Stroke Weight.

Go to Effect > Warp > Arc and set the Horizontal Bend value to -20%.

Object > Expand Appearance to apply the effect.

make a ribbon from rectangle and apply arc effect

Step 13

Let's add folded tips to our ribbon. Make a 55 x 55 px square with the Rectangle Tool (M). Grab the Add Anchor Point Tool (+) and place an anchor point in the middle of the right edge. Use the Direct Selection Tool (A) to drag the point to the left.

Rotate the shape and attach it to the right side of our ribbon, Sending it to Back (Shift-Control-[).

Double-click the Reflect Tool (O) and flip the shape over the Vertical Axis. Click Copy to create a mirrored copy for the opposite side of the ribbon.

create a tip of the ribbon

Step 14

Let’s create the word “Coffee”, using the Limelight free font, and place it over the ribbon. Go to Effect > Warp > Arc and set the Horizontal Bend value to -20%.

Adjust the Text Size and the Tracking of the letters (the spacing between the letters) in the Character panel (Control-T) to make the text fit the ribbon.

add the word coffee and apply arc effect

Step 15

Now we can Object > Expand Appearance to apply the effect, turning the text into curves. Let's apply a vertical linear gradient from dark brown to lighter brown, making the letters more intricate.

expand the text and color it

Step 16

That’s how it looks all together.

lettering preview

4. Add Hand-Drawn Elements to the Poster

Step 1

Let’s make a stylized cloud around the text. Use the Rectangle Tool (M) to make a set of rectangles of different sizes to fit each word. 

Unite all the rectangles in the Pathfinder and select the shape with the Direct Selection Tool (A). Head to the control panel on top and set the Corner Radius to 7 px, making the shape a bit smoother. Set the fill color to light coffee-brown.

make a stylized cloud around the text

Step 2

Now let’s arm ourselves with the Pencil Tool (N), setting the Stroke color to light-brown, the Stroke Weight to 1 pt, and the Cap and Corner to middle positions. Start making shorter and longer strokes around the objects, outlining and underlining them. This way we start filling the blank spaces of our poster.

Move on by adding flowing swirls in the bottom part of the composition.

add strokes and swirls with the pencil tool

Step 3

Let’s make a simple branch. Use the Arc Tool (you can find it in the same drop-down menu as the Line Segment Tool (\)) to make an arched line for the stem. Use the Pencil Tool (N) to make a drop-like shape for the leaf and attach it on top of the stem. Hold Alt-Shift and drag to copy the leaf. Make several pairs of leaves on both sides of the stem and arrange them as shown in the image below.

make a simple branch

Step 4

Copy the created branch and make a variation by making the copy smaller, applying a lighter-brown color, and switching the leaves from Fill to Stroke.

Place the created branches on both sides of the cup.

add a variation of the branch

Step 5

Now let’s create another element by combining two arched lines and placing small circles on top of each tip. Fill the blank areas next to the cup and to the ribbon by placing the created elements there. 

create another branch

Step 6

Continue filling up all the blank spaces of the poster, moving from the bottom of our image up to its top. Use the simple lines, swirls and branches that we created and add variety by adding some other small objects: circles, leaves, drops, and tiny flower blossoms.

Continue filling up all the blank spaces of the poster

Here are some close-up fragments for you to see those small generic elements. Nothing really complicated and yet it helps us to create a proper look with a warm coffee atmosphere.

close-up fragments

5. Add Texture to Your Lettering Poster

This section is optional. Our poster is already completed, but we can still improve it a little. 

Now that the poster is ready and you’re happy with it, you can proceed to export and just leave it as it is. However, I’d recommend adding a touch of texture, which will make our lettering more unique, giving it a certain retro look. Let’s see how we can do it! 

Step 1

First of all, we need to create a large rectangle and fill it with a vertical linear gradient from black to white.

Go to Effect > Texture > Grain. In the effect options window, select the Stippled Grain Type and adjust the Intensity and Contrast by moving the sliders and checking the preview. I’ve set the Intensity to 50 and Contrast to 30.

Click OK as soon as you’re satisfied with the result.

apply a grain texture effect

Step 2

Now we need to turn this effect into a vector object! Object > Expand Appearance of the shape, turning it into a bitmap image, and head straight to the control panel on top, to the Image Trace panel. Select the High Fidelity Photo preset from the drop-down menu to trace the image.

Right after that, you will see the Image Trace Panel button appear in the control panel on top, which allows us to adjust the settings of the traced image. You can see my settings in the screenshot below.

trace the image and adjust the settings

Step 3

Finish up by clicking the Expand button in the control panel on top, to apply the tracing result and turn our image into a vector. If there is a set of white shapes left after tracing, use the Magic Wand Tool (Y) to select and delete them.

Select all the remaining black shapes, Unite them in the Pathfinder and go to Object > Compound Path > Make (Control-8), turning all separate pieces into a single object.

expand the traced shape

Step 4

Now that we have this textured grungy shape, let’s apply it to the cup. Place the shape across the cup. Duplicate (Control-C > Control-F) the base of the cup and Bring the copy to Front (Shift-Control-]), above the texture.

Select both the texture and the cup copy, click the right mouse button and Make Clipping Mask. This way we hid the texture inside the cup. Now let’s adjust the color!

apply texture to the cup using a clipping mask

Step 5

Now we can select our texture inside the Clipping Mask in the Layers panel and apply a gentle linear gradient from white to beige. Switch the Blending Mode to Multiply in the Transparency panel, making the shape semi-transparent.

Use the same technique to add a grungy texture to other elements as well, such as the ribbon and the text cloud.

apply a gentle linear gradient to the texture

That’s All, Folks! Time for a Coffee Break!

Great job, my friends! Our coffee lettering poster is finished. I hope you’ve enjoyed following this tutorial and discovered some new tips and tricks that will inspire you to create more lettering posters on different topics, for example a nautical poster or a card with a motivational quote.

If you like to try out a few more techniques on creating digital lettering, go ahead and check out these tutorials as well:

retro coffee hand-lettering poster
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