Professor X doesn’t write his letters on just any old stationery. This tutorial will show you how to create a stationery set fit for the X-Men leader, and will teach you how to bring a modern flat design look to a letterhead and business card for Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters.
For this tutorial, which is suitable for beginners, you’ll need access to Adobe InDesign, Adobe Illustrator, and Adobe Photoshop.
Ready to get started? Great, let’s go!
1. Create the School’s Logo
The X-Men logo is iconic, but the ‘X’ sitting within a circular border has seen many reinterpretations in the comics and movies. Here, we’ll create a version of the logo that has a flat, on-trend look, with a bit of vintage-style texture that’s going to look great on printed stationery.
Open up Adobe Illustrator.
The key feature of the iconic logo is that perfectly proportioned ‘X’ letter. A perfectly symmetrical ‘X’ is surprisingly hard to find; but I’ve tracked down a near-perfect option in the Intro typeface, which has a similar feel to graphic Futura-style typefaces.
Download and install Intro and return to your Illustrator document.
Take the Type Tool (T), create a new text frame and type in an uppercase ‘X’. Set the Font to Intro and the Font Color to Black.
With the text selected, go to Type > Create Outlines, to turn the X into an editable vector shape.
Take the Scissors Tool (C) and snip the ‘X’ shape at its two central points, on the left and right sides of the shape, to create two separate halves to the shape.
Delete the lower half of the shape to leave just the top ‘v’ shape.
Edit > Copy this remaining shape and Edit > Paste.
Control-Click (Mac) or Right-Click (Windows) > Transform > Reflect to flip the pasted ‘v’ shape to create an upside-down ‘v’ shape.
Position the pasted shape below the original, to create a full ‘X’ shape again. By doing this, you’ve ensured that the ‘X’ is perfectly symmetrical.
Select both parts of the ‘X’ shape and go to Object > Path > Join to combine the two sections together.
Take the Ellipse Tool (L) and, holding Shift, drag onto another part of the artboard. Set the Fill Color to Black.
Position your ‘X’ shape over the top of the circle, making it completely central, and allowing the edges of the ‘X’ to just poke out past the edge of the circle, as shown below. Adjust the Fill Color of the ‘X’ to White.
With both the circle and ‘X’ selected, go to Window > Pathfinder. From the Pathfinders selection of icons, choose Trim.
Now you’ve cut out the ‘X’, leaving just the shape of the black below.
This will be our base logo, which we can now add texture to using Photoshop...
File > Save As your Illustrator document as an AI file and minimize Illustrator. Open up Adobe Photoshop and create a new document. File > Place your vector AI file onto the canvas.
To create a letterpress-style, textured version of the logo, we’ll need to bring in a texture image. Images of cracked charcoal or concrete will look great. Try this image of charcoal or this one of cracked concrete from Envato Market.
File > Place your chosen texture image onto a new layer in the Photoshop document.
With the texture layer selected, hit Command-Shift-U to Desaturate the layer of color.
Add a new Levels Adjustment layer (accessible from the bottom of the Layers panel), and play around with the position of the sliders.
Try and aim to increase the amounts of black and white, creating more harsh elements in the texture.
Select the AI logo’s layer, and add a Layer Mask.
Then choose the texture layer and press Command-A on the keyboard to select everything on the layer, then hit Command-C to Copy.
Turn off the visibility of the texture layer and then Alt-Click the Layer Mask’s thumbnail icon. You’re now able to edit the Layer Mask’s content.
Hit Command-V to Paste the texture.
Come out of the Layer Mask by clicking anywhere else in Photoshop’s Layers panel.
Your logo will probably appear very pale, as all the black parts of the texture are being rendered opaque. You can invert the effect to make it darker.
To do this, go to Window > Properties. From the Properties panel, and with the Layer Mask selected, click the Invert button at the bottom right of the panel.
Just to make the effect a little darker, make a duplicate of the original logo layer by dragging it down onto the Create New Layer button at the bottom of the Layers panel.
First go to File > Save As and save the file as a Photoshop (psd) file.
Then go to File > Save As again, and choose Photoshop EPS from the Format options. Make sure the image is saved with a transparent background. Set the file name to ‘Final Logo_Texture.eps’.
Return to your Illustrator logo file, and select the original vector version of the logo. Copy and Paste into a new Illustrator document.
Add a new CMYK swatch to the Swatches panel (Window > Swatches), with the values C=17 M=100 Y=96 K=7.
Adjust the Fill Color of the logo from Black to your new Red swatch.
Save the document as a new AI file, with ‘Red’ somewhere in the file name.
Open up your Explorer (Windows) or Finder (Mac) window and navigate to your saved Photoshop (psd) file which you saved in Step 7, above.
Copy and create a duplicate of the file in the same folder. Rename the file with ‘Red’ in the file name.
Open the new psd file in Photoshop.
Right-Click (Windows) or Control-Click (Mac) on each copy of the AI logo file in the Layers panel, and choose Replace Contents. Select the red AI logo file and replace.
File > Save As the textured image as a Photoshop EPS file, with a transparent background, naming the file ‘Final Logo_Texture_Red.eps’.
2. Set Up the Letterhead Template
For now, leave Photoshop and Illustrator. Open up Adobe InDesign.
Go to File > New > Document.
Set the Intent to Print and the Number of Pages to 6. Deselect Facing Pages.
Choose Letter from the Page Size drop-down menu (which is equivalent to 215.9 mm by 279.4 mm). Set the Margins to 13 mm on all sides, and add a Bleed of 3 mm on all edges of the page.
Click OK to create the new document.
Expand the Layers panel (Window > Layers) and double-click on the default Layer 1 name. Rename it Paper Texture.
Then click on the Create New Layer button at the bottom of the panel. Rename the new layer Paper Background.
Create a further two new layers, named Watermark and, at the top of the pile, Content.
Lock all layers except the bottom layer, Paper Texture.
3. Design the Letterhead
Download a paper texture image, like this one from Envato Market. I chose to lighten up the image a little in Photoshop first to make it appear a little less grey, but this is completely optional.
In your InDesign document, and remaining on Page 1, take the Rectangle Frame Tool (F) and drag onto the page to create a frame that extends across the whole page, up to the edges of the bleed.
Go to File > Place and choose the paper texture image. Click on the Fill Frame Proportionally button on the top Controls panel to fill the frame with the image.
Return to the Layers panel and lock the Paper Texture layer. Unlock the next layer up, Paper Background.
Expand the Swatches panel (Window > Color > Swatches) and click on the panel’s New Swatch button. Double-click on the new swatch to open the Swatch Options window.
Name the swatch Cream and set the Type to Process and Mode to CMYK. Move the sliders to C=4 M=5 Y=6 K=0. Click OK.
Take the Rectangle Tool (M) and drag onto the page to create a shape the same size as the rectangle sitting on the layer below.
Set the Fill Color to Cream.
Then go to Object > Effects > Transparency and set the Mode to Multiply. Reduce the Opacity to 95%, to bring through the texture of the paper image below.
Lock the Paper Background layer and unlock the Watermark layer.
Take the Rectangle Frame Tool (F) and drag onto the page to create a large square frame. Go to File > Place and choose the ‘Final Logo_Texture.eps’ file, which is the black version of the textured logo. Position the image nicely in the frame.
With the frame selected, go to Object > Effects > Transparency and set the Mode to Multiply. Reduce the Opacity to 3% to create a watermark effect.
Return to the Layers panel and lock the Watermark layer and unlock the top layer, Content.
Create a new CMYK Process swatch from the Swatches panel, call it Red and set the values to C=17 M=10 Y=96 K=7. Click OK.
Take the Rectangle Tool (M) and drag onto the bottom of the page to create a long rectangle that extends across the length of the page, up to the bleed, and down to the bottom bleed, as shown below. Set the Fill Color to Red.
Zoom into the top of Page 1 and then take the Rectangle Frame Tool (F). Create a small square frame centrally at the top of the page, close to the top margin.
File > Place your ‘Final Logo_Texture_Red.eps’ file.
Move over onto the pasteboard next to the page and take the Type Tool (T). Drag onto the page to create a text frame. Type in ‘Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters’.
Place your cursor at the beginning of the sentence and set the Font to Futura Std, Light, Size 9 pt. From the Glyphs panel (Window > Type & Tables > Glyphs), insert a bullet glyph.
Highlight the remaining text and set the Font to BankGothic, Bold, Size 11.5 pt.
Highlight all the text and set the Color to Red and the text to Align Center.
Move back over to the page, and to the red logo at the top.
Take the Ellipse Tool (L) and, holding Shift, drag to create a circle 35.4 mm in diameter. Position centrally over the top of the red logo.
Then remove any Stroke or Fill Color from the circle by choosing [None] from the Swatches panel.
Head back to your text frame (created in Step 6, above), and highlight and Edit > Copy the text.
Select the Type on a Path Tool (Shift-T) and click onto the circle around the logo to transform it into a type path. Edit > Paste the text onto the path. Rotate the frame until the bullet point is at the bottom center of the circle.
Move down to the bottom of the page, and use the Type Tool (T) to create a few text frames over the top of the red rectangle.
Here you can type in the address for Xavier’s School—1407 Graymalkin Lane, Salem Center, Westchester County, New York—placing each line of the address in a new text frame.
Set the text in Bank Gothic Bold, 8 pt, and add bullets set in Futura Std between each section of text.
Create a new CMYK swatch, C=16 M=11 Y=14 K=20, and name it Grey. Set the text and bullets in Grey.
Your letterhead is complete—fantastic work!
Why not use Page 2 of your InDesign document to create a duplicate of the letterhead artwork (unlock all layers before copying and Edit > Paste in Place). Invert the colors, using Red for the Paper Background color, and changing the top logo to the black version.
Awesome work. Now you can read on to find out how to create a matching business card...
4. Create a Matching Business Card
Remaining in your InDesign document, move down to Page 3.
Take the Page Tool (Shift-P) and click onto Page 3 to select it. From the top Controls panel, adjust the Page Size to US Business Card (88.9 mm Width, 50.8 mm Height).
Hop back up to Page 1 of your document, lock all layers except the Paper Texture and Paper Background layers, and then Edit > Copy all content sitting on these layers.
Move back down to Page 3 and Edit > Paste. Resize the rectangles to fit the business card dimensions.
Adjust the Fill Color of the Paper Background rectangle to Red, and make sure the transparency settings are set to Multiply, 95%.
File > Place the ‘Final Logo_Texture.eps’ file in a frame made by the Rectangle Frame Tool (F) on the center of the page.
Move down to Page 4 of your InDesign document and use the Page Tool (Shift-P) to again resize the page to US Business Card size.
Copy the Paper Texture and Paper Background content from Page 3 and Edit > Paste in Place onto Page 4.
Adjust the Fill Color of the top rectangle to Cream.
Add text to the business card using the Type Tool (T) to create a series of text frames down the left side of the card.
Put the name (‘Prof. Charles Xavier’) at the top, in [Black], occupation and school name (‘Principal’; ‘Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters’) next, in Red, and finally place the address (‘1407 Graymalkin Lane, Salem Center, Westchester County, New York’) at the bottom, in Grey.
Set all text in Bank Gothic Bold.
Save your InDesign document, minimise it, and return to Adobe Illustrator. Create a new document.
Use the Arc Tool to create a gently curved diagonal line going from top-left to bottom-right.
Copy and Paste the line twice to create three Wolverine-style ‘claws’.
From the Brush Definition menu on the top Controls panel, open the Brush Libraries menu and choose Artistic > Artistic_ChalkCharcoalPencil.
With the lines selected adjust the Brush Definition to Charcoal Smooth, and set the Stroke Weight to 4 pt.
Select all three lines and Edit > Copy.
Return to your InDesign document, and to Page 4 and Edit > Paste.
Resize the claws graphic, position on the right side of the page, and set the color to Red.
Great work—your X-Men business card is finished, and it’s looking fabulous!
You can use Page 5 and 6 of your document to create an inverted version of the card, duplicating the artwork from Pages 3 and 4, and then reversing the colors.
5. Export Your Stationery for Printing
Your stationery artwork is finished. You’re now ready to export it, ready for professional printing.
Go to File > Export and choose Adobe PDF (Print) from the Format drop-down menu. Name the PDF ‘Letterhead Artwork’ and click Save.
In the window that opens, choose Press Quality from the Adobe PDF Preset menu. Set the Page Range to 1-2, just so the letterhead artwork is exported this time.
From the Marks and Bleeds options, check All Printer’s Marks and Use Document Bleed Settings.
To export the business card artwork, repeat the process above, but this time adjust file name to ‘Business Card Artwork’ and change the Page Range to 3-6.
We know that Professor X is going to love using his brand new stationery set—great work!
In this tutorial we’ve covered a broad range of techniques and skills that you can apply to other print design projects. You now know how to:
- Create vectorised logos in Illustrator and add modern texture to them in Photoshop
- Prepare an InDesign template for a letterhead
- Create a watermarked letterhead design complete with papery textures, colors, logo and typography
- Resize an InDesign document ready for a business card design
- Design a modern, simple business card complete with stylish typography and cool vector graphics