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How to Create a Pencils Text Effect in Adobe Illustrator

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Difficulty:IntermediateLength:LongLanguages:
This post is part of a series called Communication Week.
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Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

In the following steps you will learn how to create a pencils text effect in Adobe Illustrator using a pretty detailed pattern brush. 

For starters, you will learn how to set up a simple grid and how to create the body of your pencil using a bunch of rectangles. Using the Zig Zag, Warp and Roughen effects along with basic blending and vector shape building techniques, you will learn how to create the tip of the pencil. 

Then, using the Rounded Corners effects and the Live Corners feature along with a bunch of rectangles and compound paths, you will learn how to create the remaining components of your pencil.

Moving on, you will learn how to make your work easier by using the Shape Builder Tool, how to save and name patterns, and how to create your own pattern brush. Using the Transform effect, you will learn how to easily multiply a path and how to perfectly align it to the pixel grid. Finally, you will learn how to create the text effect using your pattern brush and a simple piece of text as a reference.

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

1. How to 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 850 in the width box and 585 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 the 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 tutorial by 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 the Body of the Pencil

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=227 G=174 B=124. Move to your artboard and simply create a 10 x 8 px rectangle—the Grid and the Snap to Grid should make this easier.

Return to your Toolbar and replace the existing fill color with R=207 G=154 B=104. Using the same tool, create two 10 x 6 px shapes and place them exactly as shown in the second image.

rectangle

Step 2

Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create two 10 x 1 px shapes and place them exactly as shown in the first image. Fill the top one with R=246 G=202 B=155 and the bottom one with R=242 G=197 B=158.

Using the same tool, create two 10 x 2 px shapes and place them exactly as shown in the second image. Fill both shapes with black (R=0 G=0 B=0), lower their Opacity to 40%, and change the Blending Mode to Soft Light.

Create a 10 x 3 px shape, fill it with white (R=255 G=255 B=255), lower its Opacity to 50%, and change the Blending Mode to Soft Light.

thin rectangle

3. How to Create the Tip of the Pencil

Step 1

Pick the Pen Tool (P) and create a 20 px vertical path. Add a 0.25 px stroke for this new path, set the color to R=237 G=28 B=36, and then go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Zig Zag. Enter the attributes shown in the following image, click OK, and then go to Object > Expand Appearance

Be sure that your resulting path is selected, go to Object > Path > Join (Control-J) to close your path, and then hit Shift-X to quickly inverse the fill and stroke attributes.

zig zag

Step 2

Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create a 21 x 20 px shape and fill it with a random blue. Focus on the right side of this new rectangle and switch to the Direct Selection Tool (A). Select both anchor points and go to Object > Path > Average. Check the Both box and then click OK. This should basically turn your rectangle into a triangle.

Make sure that your triangle is selected and make a copy in front (Control-C > Control-F). Select it and go to Effect > Warp > Arc Upper. Enter the attributes shown in the following image, click that OK button, and then go to Object > Expand Appearance.

Select your red shape along with the two blue ones, open the Pathfinder panel (Window > Pathfinder), and click the Unite button.

warp

Step 3

Make sure that your red shape is still selected and make a copy in front (Control-C > Control-F).

Using the Ellipse Tool (L), create a 10 px circle and fill it with a random yellow. Place this new shape as shown in the first image, and then go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Roughen. Enter the attributes shown in the following image, click that OK button, and then go to Object > Expand Appearance.

Select your yellow shape along with the copy of that red shape, go to the Pathfinder panel, and click the Union button. Select the resulting shape and replace the existing fill color with R=53 G=47 B=49.

roughen

Step 4

Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create a 25 x 10 px shape. Fill it with a random blue and place it as shown in the first image. Focus on the right side of this new rectangle and switch to the Direct Selection Tool (A). Select both anchor points and go to Object > Path > Average. Check the Both box and then click OK.

Select your blue triangle along with that red shape and add copies in front (Control-C > Control-F). Make sure that only the copies are selected and click the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder panel. Simply hit Shift-Control-G to Ungroup your resulting group.

average

Step 5

Select the remaining red and blue shapes and then click the Intersect button from the Pathfinder panel.

Move to the Layers panel (Window > Layers), select the dark shapes that make up the tip of your pencil, and bring them to front (Shift-Control-]).

intersect

Step 6

Select your blue shape along with the dark one and add copies in front (Control-C > Control-F). Select both copies and click the Intersect button from the Pathfinder panel. Fill the resulting shape with R=96 G=95 B=93.

pathfinder

Step 7

Pick the Rectangle Tool (M) and create a 3 x 2 px shape. Fill it with a random yellow and place it as shown in the first image.

Keep focusing on this new rectangle and switch to the Direct Selection Tool (A). Select the top-right anchor point and drag it to the tip of your pencil, as shown in the second image.

Duplicate your yellow shape, select this copy, rotate it 180 degrees, and then place it as shown in the third image.

yellow

Step 8

Pick the Rectangle Tool (M) and create a 24 x 3 px shape. Fill it with a random yellow and place it as shown in the first image.

Keep focusing on this new rectangle, switch to the Delete Anchor Point Tool (-), and simply click on the top-right anchor point to remove it.

delete anchor point

Step 9

Select your top red shape and add a copy in front (Control-C > Control-F). Select this copy along with the top yellow shape and click the Intersect button from the Pathfinder panel. Fill the resulting shape with black, lower its Opacity to 40%, and change the Blending Mode to Soft Light.

Select your bottom red shape and add a copy in front (Control-C > Control-F). Select this copy along with the bottom yellow shape, and click the Intersect button from the Pathfinder panel. Fill the resulting shape with black, lower its Opacity to 40%, and change the Blending Mode to Soft Light.

Select your blue shape and add a copy in front (Control-C > Control-F). Select this copy along with the remaining yellow shape and click the Intersect button from the Pathfinder panel. Fill the resulting shape with white, lower its Opacity to 50%, and change the Blending Mode to Soft Light.

intersect

Step 10

Select your red shapes and replace the existing color with R=217 G=164 B=114. Select your blue shape and replace the existing color with R=236 G=192 B=145.

recolor

4. How to Create the Metallic Side of the Pencil

Step 1

Pick the Rectangle Tool (M), and create two 3 x 22 px shapes and one 5 x 22 px shape. Fill all three rectangles with R=171 G=175 B=184, place them as shown in the first image, and then go to Effect > Stylize > Rounded Corners. Enter a 1 px Radius, click that OK button, and then go to Object > Expand Appearance

Make sure that the resulting shapes are selected and go to Object > Compound Path > Make (Control-8) to turn them into a compound path.

rounded corners

Step 2

Make sure that your grey compound path is still selected and add a copy in front (Control-C > Control-F). Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create a 13 x 6 px shape, set the fill color to R=149 G=153 B=162, and place it as shown in the first image.

Select this new rectangle along with the copy of your compound path, and click the Intersect button from the Pathfinder panel. Turn the resulting group of shapes into a new compound path (Control-8) and then duplicate it (Control-C > Control-F). Rotate this copy 180 degrees and then place it as shown in the fourth image.

compound path

Step 3

Pick the Rectangle Tool (M), and create two 3 x 1 px shapes and one 5 x 1 px shape. Fill all three rectangles with R=229 G=229 B=227 and place them as shown in the first image. Turn them into a compound path (Control-8) to make it easier for you to select or edit all these shapes at once.

Duplicate this new compound path (Control-C > Control-V) and select the copy. Place it as shown in the second image and replace the existing color with R=208 G=212 B=215.

rectangles

Step 4

Pick the Rectangle Tool (M), and create two 3 x 2 px shapes and one 5 x 2 px shape. Fill all three rectangles with black and place them as shown in the first image. Lower their Opacity to 30% and change the Blending Mode to Soft Light. Turn these new shapes into a compound path and then duplicate it (Control-C > Control-V). Select the copy and place it as shown in the second image.

Pick the Rectangle Tool (M), and create two 3 px squares and one 5 x 3 px shape. Fill all three shapes with white and place them as shown in the third image. Lower their Opacity to 40% and change the Blending Mode to Soft Light. Turn these new shapes into a compound path.

rectangles

Step 5

Pick the Rectangle Tool (M) and create two 1 x 20 px shapes. Fill both shapes with R=83 G=92 B=107 and place them as shown in the first image.

Using the same tool, create four 1 px squares and place them as shown in the second image. Fill all four shapes with white, lower their Opacity to 70%, and change the Blending Mode to Soft Light.

Next, create two 1 x 2 px shapes, fill them with black, and place them as shown in the third image. Lower their Opacity to 20% and change the Blending Mode to Soft Light. Turn these two shapes into a compound path (Control-8) and duplicate it (Control-C > Control-V). Place the copy as shown in the fourth image and raise its Opacity to 30%.

Create two 1 x 3 px shapes, fill them with white, and place them as shown in the third image. Lower their Opacity to 30% and change the Blending Mode to Soft Light.

rectangles

5. How to Create the Eraser of the Pencil

Step 1

Pick the Rectangle Tool (M), create a 15 x 20 px shape, fill it with R=224 G=67 B=86, and place it as shown in the first image. Focus on the left side of this new rectangle and switch to the Direct Selection Tool (A). Select both anchor points, go to the control panel, and simply enter 3 px in that Corners box.

live corners

Step 2

Make sure that your pink shape is still selected and add a copy in front (Control-C > Control-F). Pick the Rectangle Tool (M), create a 15 x 6 px shape, place it as shown in the first image, and set the fill color to R=229 G=82 B=101. Select this new rectangle along with the copy of your pink shape and click the Intersect button from the Pathfinder panel. Be sure that the resulting shape is selected and add a copy in front (Control-C > Control-F).

Using the same tool, create a 15 x 2 px shape, fill it with black, and place it as shown in the third image. Select this new rectangle along with the copy made a few moments ago and click the Intersect button from the Pathfinder panel. Be sure that the resulting shape stays selected, lower its Opacity to 30%, and change the Blending Mode to Soft Light.

pathfinder

Step 3

Select the two shapes made in the previous step and duplicate them (Control-C > Control-V). Rotate these copies 180 degrees and place them as shown in the second image. Select the shape highlighted in the second image and simply replace the existing fill color with R=214 G=57 B=76.

Pick the Rectangle Tool (M), create two 15 x 1 px shapes, and place them exactly as shown in the first image. Fill the top one with R=255 G=122 B=141 and the bottom one with R=235 G=102 B=121.

Using the same tool, create a 15 x 3 px shape and place it exactly as shown in the fourth image. Set the fill color to white, lower its Opacity to 30%, and change the Blending Mode to Soft Light.

rotate

6. How to Create the Pattern Brush

Step 1

Pick the Rectangle Tool (M) and create a 4 x 26 px shape. Fill it with a random red, lower its Opacity to about 50%, and place it exactly as shown in the first image. Select this rectangle along with the rest of the shapes made so far and Group them (Control-G).

Make a copy of your group (Control-C > Control-V) and place it about as shown in the third image.

group

Step 2

Select your top group and pick the Shape Builder Tool (Shift-M). Hold the Alt button on your keyboard and simply drag a somewhat vertical path from the top to the bottom edges of that red rectangle. This move will quickly remove that red rectangle along with all the shapes that lie behind it, and in the end things should look like in the second image.

shape builder tool

Step 3

Select the remaining group of shapes and pick that same Shape Builder Tool (Shift-M). This time hold the Shift and the Alt buttons on your keyboard and drag two simple selections to the left side and right side of that red rectangle, as shown in the following images. In the end, things should look like in the third image.

Switch to the Direct Selection Tool (A), select that red rectangle, and simply remove it using the Delete button on your keyboard.

delete

Step 4

Using the Direct Selection Tool (A), select all the shapes highlighted in the first image and simply drag them inside the Swatches panel (Window > Swatches) to save them as a pattern. Deselect the shapes from your artboard and select that pattern from the Swatches panel (Window > Swatches). Open the fly-out menu from the Swatches panel and go to Swatch Options.... Rename your pattern "Start" and then click the OK button.

Select the shapes highlighted in the second image and save them as a second pattern. Select this new pattern and rename it "End".

save pattern

Step 5

Select the shapes highlighted in the following image, open the Brushes panel (Window > Brushes), and click that New Brush button. Check the Pattern Brush box and click OK. Pick a name for your pattern, make sure that the attributes are set as shown below, and then focus on the Tile boxes.

Simple open the Start Tile and add your "Start" pattern, and then open the End Tile and add your "End" pattern. Once you're done, click the OK button and your new pattern brush will show up in the Brushes panel.

save pattern brush

7. How to Create the Background

Step 1

Pick the Rectangle Tool (M) and create an 860 x 595 px shape. Fill it with R=250 G=255 B=255 and make sure that it covers your entire artboard.

background

Step 2

Pick the Pen Tool (P), create an 860 px horizontal path, and place it as shown in the following image. Add a 1 px stroke for this path and set its color to R=41 G=171 B=226.

horizontal line

Step 3

Make sure that your horizontal path is still selected, lower its Opacity to 20%, and then go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform. Drag the Move-Vertical slider to 0.5 px, click that OK button, and then go again to Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform. This time, drag that Move-Vertical slider to 15 px, enter 39 in the Copies box, and then click OK.

That first Transform effect is used to perfectly align your stroke to the pixel grid. Enable the Pixel Preview feature (View > Pixel Preview), take a closer look at your horizontal path, and then disable that Transform effect to understand exactly what it does.

transform

8. How to Create the Text Effect

Step 1

Pick the Type Tool (T) and open the Character panel (Window > Type > Character). Select the Milkshake font, and set the size to 200 px and the tracking to 100.

Simply click on your artboard and add the "Draw" text. Make it black and lower its Opacity to about 30% from the Transparency panel (Window > Transparency).

Using the Pen Tool (P) and the piece of text as a reference, draw some simple paths as shown in the second image.

type tool

Step 2

Get rid of your text and make sure that your paths are selected. Simply apply your pattern brush from the Brushes panel (Window > Brushes), and then go to Effect > Stylize > Drop Shadow. Enter the attributes shown in the left window (in the following image), click the OK button, and then apply the other two Drop Shadow effects.

drop shadow

Step 3

Finally, add a simple scribble effect for the rest of the words.

scribble

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.

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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