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  1. Design & Illustration
  2. Text Effects

How to Create a Japanese Hanko Stamp Text Effect in Illustrator

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

Love a creative text effect? Follow this tutorial and learn how to create a text effect inspired by Japanese Hanko stamps. Sounds interesting, right?

In Japan, people do not sign; they use stamps. These stamps are called Hanko, and every individual has one. They're very traditional and are used as a signature to sign every official document in a faster and easier way. Hanko stamps are a significant part of Japanese culture, and they come in different sizes, shapes, and designs, both for personal and corporate use.

What You'll Learn in This Japanese Hanko Text Effect Tutorial

  • How to use basic shapes and tools in Adobe Illustrator to create the text
  • How to create a distressed stamp look using Illustrator brushes
  • How to distort the font to obtain the Japanese Hanko stamp look
  • How to draw cute animal characters, a common design of a Hanko stamp
  • How to create a vector stamp texture using an Illustrator pattern

Find more inspiration and resources that will help you improve your Illustrator text effect by going to GraphicRiver, where you'll surely find what you are looking for. 

Tutorial Assets

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

1. How to Create a New Document

Launch Illustrator and go to File > New to open a blank document. Type a name for your file, set up the dimensions, and then select Pixels as Units and RGB as Color Mode.

Next, go to Edit > Preferences > General, 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 a new Illustrator document

2. How to Create a Hanko Stamp Font Using Basic Shapes

Step 1

Grab the Rectangle Tool (M) and start to draw a few rectangles on your artboard. The words we are trying to create are "STAMP IT", so you will need seven rectangles, each one having the size indicated. 

how to create hanko stamp letters using basic shapes in Illustrator

Step 2

Focus on the second shape and use the Rectangle Tool (M) again to draw a smaller rectangle of 17 x 64 px on top. Make sure their bottom left anchor points are aligned (1). Arrange an identical rectangle on the right side (2); then select both of them and go to Object > Compound Path > Make (Control-8).

Now, select the green rectangle along with the newly obtained compound path and press Minus Front in the Pathfinder panel. You will obtain the letter "T" (3).

How to create letter T using basic shapes in Illustrator

Step 3

Focus on the fifth shape. Use the Rectangle Tool (M) to draw a 40 x 31 px rectangle and position it in the bottom right corner. Now, select both shapes and press Minus Front in the Pathfinder panel to obtain the letter "P". 

How to create letter P using basic shapes in Illustrator

Step 4

Here's how the stamp text is looking at this point:

How to make simple stamp shapes as letters in Illustrator

Step 5

To make the letters easier to read, we will draw and arrange small rectangles inside each shape. These will also define the areas where the Japanese style font and the little animals will be placed. 

How to create hanko stamp inspired letters in Illustrator

Step 6

Not all letters need dividers. Once done, our stamp-inspired text is ready. 

Japanese Hanko stamp letters for Illustrator text effect

3. How to Create a Japanese Hanko Stamp Style

Step 1

We need to create a distressed look for the letters, and we're going to do this using Illustrator brushes. 

Focus on one of the rectangles, and first give it a 4 pt Stroke using red R=213, G=5, B=0. We will use this shade of red throughout the tutorial. 

Keep the shape selected, and press Add New Stroke at the bottom of the Appearance panel to add a second Stroke attribute above the first. Use an Illustrator brush called Dry Brush 3 that you can find in Brush Libraries Menu > Artistic > Artistic_Paintbrush. Reduce the Stroke Weight to 0.15 pt; then go to Effect > Path > Offset Path and apply an Offset of 2 px. This will move the brush stroke outwards; otherwise, it will not be visible. 

How to create outer distressed stamp look using Illustrator brushes

Step 2 

While the shape is still selected, press Add New Stroke again to add a third Stroke attribute at the top of the Appearance panel. Use the Dry Brush 3 again and set the Stroke Weight at 0.25 pt. Go to Effect > Path > Offset Path and apply an Offset of -2 px to move this brush stroke towards the inside; otherwise, the inside edge will be too sharp. 

How to create inner distressed stamp look using Illustrator brushes

Step 3

While the rectangle from the previous step stays selected, press New Graphic Style at the bottom of the Graphic Styles panel to save all the appearances we have applied. You can name the style "outer stroke". 

Now, you can easily apply it to the other letters by simply selecting the outer stroke style from the Graphic Styles panel. You can see the result in the image below. 

How to save the distressed Hanko stamp look as a graphic style in Illustrator

Step 4

Focus on the letter "S" and select the two black rectangles. Give them a red fill, and for the stroke use an Illustrator brush called Dry Brush 5 that you can find in Brush Libraries Menu > Artistic > Artistic_Paintbrush. Reduce the Stroke Weight to 0.15 pt

how to create a distressed Hanko stamp look for the letter dividers

Step 5

Keep the two small rectangles selected, and save the graphic style as you did before. You can name it "inside dividers". Apply this style to the other black rectangles, and you are done with the distressed look of the Hanko stamp inspired letters. 

How to save the distressed Hanko stamp look as a Illustrator graphic style

4. How to Create a Japanese Style Font

Step 1

This text effect is inspired by Kanji Hanko stamps, which have idioms written on them using Kanji symbols arranged in quite a symmetrical and square-like fashion. There are also mixed ones having Kanji symbols plus a cute character or sakura flower, and this is exactly what we are making with this text effect. 

Grab the Type Tool (T) and write seven short popular idioms on your artboard, one for each stamp letter. Feel free to write your favorite ones, if you have any, and make a personalized Illustrator text effect. Use the 5 Computers in Love Font, which looks kind of square-like and geometric and will look great inside our Hanko stamp. Go to Type > Create Outlines and make sure to Ungroup (Shift-Control-G) them because we will rearrange the letters individually.  

How to create a Japanese style font in Illustrator

Step 2

Match each idiom with a stamp letter and start arranging the text inside them, like in the image below. Scale the letters up or down, or distort them with the Selection Tool (V) by dragging the bounding box to make them taller or shorter. Whilst arranging the text, don't forget to reserve an empty space for a cute little animal character.

How to arrange the Hanko stamp font inside the Illustrator text effect

Step 3

Do the same for the last two letters:

How to arrange the Hanko stamp font inside the text effect in Illustrator

Step 4

It's time to create a distressed stamp look for the idioms. 

Focus on one of the letters, and first give it a red fill using the same color R=213, G=5, B=0. For the stroke, use an Illustrator Art brush called Charcoal-Thin that you can find in Brush Libraries Menu > Artistic > Artistic_ChalkCharcoalPencil. Set the Stroke Weight to 0.25 pt. The result is more discreet compared to the stamp letters as we don't want to obtain an overly distressed look by the end of the text effect. 

How to create a distressed look for the japanese style font

Step 5

While the single letter is still selected, press New Graphic Style at the bottom of the Graphic Styles panel to save the appearances we have applied. You can name it "text style". 

Now, select all the other letters that compose the idioms and apply the same style by simply selecting it from the Graphic Styles panel. This makes things so much faster, right?

How to apply the distressed look for all japanese style font

5. How to Create Cute Hanko Stamp Characters

Step 1

Focus on the BE THE BEST stamp, and let's draw the first cute cat character in the empty space we have reserved. 

Use the Pen Tool (P) to draw two half ellipses as the paws, and then give them a 0.15 pt red Stroke using Dry Brush 5. Continue to draw the shape of the head, with little ears followed by the tail. Apply the same appearance, and also save it in the Graphic Styles panel for easy use. Name it "cats style", and we will use it for the other characters as well. 

How to draw the first cute Hanko cat character in Illustrator

Step 2

Finalize the cute cat by adding little details on the paws and the top of the head and then drawing the mouth. For these paths, we won't apply a brush stroke because they are too short, so just give them a 0.75 pt or 1.25 pt red Stroke with the Round Cap option selected in the Stroke panel to obtain the rounded ends. On the tail, add small triangles filled with the same shade of red R=213, G=5, B=0.

In the image below, you can see the final result of the BE THE BEST Hanko stamp. 

How to finalize the first Hanko cat character in Illustrator

Step 3

We will continue with the DON'T GIVE UP Hanko stamp. Use the Pen Tool (P) to draw the silhouette of a cat sitting down, like in the image below. Add a tail and then apply the cats style for both shapes. 

As details, add a path at the top of the head and two whiskers on each side. Give them a 1 pt red Stroke with the Round Cap option selected. 

How to create a sitting down Hanko cat character in Illustrator

Step 4

The next Hanko stamp is BREAK THE ICE, and this time, we will draw a cute bunny head. Start with the edge of the head, add the ears, and then add the final details like the eyes, which are small ellipses filled with red, and two crossed paths for the mouth, with a 1.5 pt Stroke

How to create a cute Hanko stamp bunny character in Illustrator

Step 5

Now, focus on the DO IT stamp and follow the sequence of images to draw a new cat. Always use the cats style for the contour of the character, and for the details, just apply a 0.75 pt or 1 pt Stroke.  

How to create another sitting down Hanko cat character in Illustrator

Step 6

How cute is the little cat on the PIECE OF CAKE Hanko stamp? Follow the sequence of images and draw it as you did with the others.

How to create a waving adorable Hanko cat character in Illustrator

Step 7

The last cat character is a little different, but still easy. Use the Pen Tool (P) to draw a semicircle as the head, followed by the ears. Apply the cats style by selecting it from the Graphic Styles panel, but also add a red Fill attribute. 

Use the Ellipse Tool (L) to draw two white circles as the eyes and two smaller circles filled with red on top. Add two whiskers on each side and give them a 1 pt red Stroke with the Round Cap option selected in the Stroke panel. The ON CLOUD NINE stamp is complete now. 

How to create a red Hanko stamp cat character in Illustrator

Step 8

At this point, the Illustrator text effect should look like this:

Illustrator text effect inspired by japanese Hanko stamp

6. How to Create the Distressed Stamp Texture

Step 1

Before we create a vector texture, let's make the clipping mask that we will need later.

Select everything that makes up the text effect, and then Copy and Paste in Place (Shift-Control-V) to make a copy. Do not release, and go to Object > Expand Appearance followed by Object > Expand. You might need to expand it twice until you see there is no stroke in the Toolbar

Now, press Unite in the Pathfinder panel, and after that, go to Object > Compound Path > Make (Control-8). As a result, you will get a compound path that we will use to mask the vector texture.

How to create a clipping mask shape for Japanese Hanko stamp text effect

Step 2

Before we make the texture, let's add a simple background behind the text effect; otherwise it will be difficult to see it on a white background. So take the Rectangle Tool (M) and draw a rectangle the same size as your artboard. Send it behind everything by going to Object > Arrange > Send to Back (Shift-Control-[). Color it with a neutral color like beige R=232, G=224, B=188

How to create a background behind Japanese Hanko stamp text effect

Step 3

Use the Rectangle Tool (M) again to draw another rectangle the same size as your artboard. This one should be in front of the Illustrator text effect. Use the Mezzotint pattern that you can find in the Swatch Libraries menu > Patterns > Basic Graphics > Basic Graphics_Textures.

How to create a stamp vector texture using Illustrator pattern

Step 4

Keep the pattern selected and go to Object > Expand to turn it into a vector texture. Now, zoom in as much as needed and use the Direct Selection Tool (A) to select only one of the shapes in the texture. Go to Select > Same > Fill Color, and Illustrator will automatically select all the shapes that make up the texture. Change the fill color to white, and the entire texture will become white. 

How to recolor stamp vector texture in Illustrator

Step 5

While the texture group stays selected, go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Roughen and apply the settings shown. This will make the texture be more grungy and irregular. Also, reduce the Opacity to 35%

How to distress the stamp vector texture using Illustrator effect

Step 6

It's time to mask the texture. Select the compound path made earlier, along with the texture group, and go to Object > Clipping Mask > Make (Control-7).

How to mask the vector stamp texture in Illustrator

Step 7

Here is the final look of the Illustrator text effect inspired by Japanese Hanko stamps: 

final image of Japanese Hanko stamp inspired text effect in Adobe Illustrator

Congratulations! You're Done

You have successfully learned how to use basic shapes to create letters and how to create a distressed Hanko stamp look using Illustrator brushes and patterns. You can apply these techniques in your other Illustrator text effect projects. 

How to Create a Japanese Hanko stamp text effect in Illustrator tutorial

Customize This Illustrator Text Effect

Feel free to recreate this text effect using your preferred sayings written using a Japanese style font, and also draw your own adorable characters. Here's a selection of fonts that would be perfect for you to use:

Moshi Moshi Font (OTF)

An all-caps block font that already comes with a rough look and will work perfectly in this text design. It includes multi-language support and will add a modern and minimal style to your posters, branding, and social media posts. 

Moshi Moshi Font from Envato Elements recommendation

Makuton Japanese Vintage Typeface

If you love retro designs, labels, badges, and logos, then you need this font in your collection. It's an eye-catching Japanese typeface with a handmade lettering look. 

Makuton Font from Envato Elements recommendation

Shakuro - Brush Typeface

Inspired by Japanese kanji symbols, this font has a unique brushed lettering that looks traditional and handmade. You can also use it successfully for headlines, titles, logos, and anything related to Japan.

Shakuro Font from Envato Elements recommendation

Bulgogi - Ethnic Asian Display Typeface (OTF, TTF, WOFF)

You will use this font on many occasions because of its striking Japanese-style lettering. A bold typeface that will stand out on traveling prints, titles, posters, and so much more.

Bulgogi Font from Envato Elements recommendation

Kimono - Japanese Display Typeface (OTF, TTF, WOFF)

A bold display font that already has a rough distressed look and is ready to use in a multitude of projects. Grab it and give a unique Japanese style to your designs.

Kimono Font from Envato Elements recommendation

Expand Your Text Effect Designing Skills!

Keep drawing and learning with these recommended tutorials, which will explain plenty of other useful techniques. 

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