1. Design & Illustration
  2. Adobe Illustrator

Illustrator's Type Tool: A Comprehensive Introduction

Scroll to top
Scroll to top
Read Time: 11 min
This post is part of a series called Guides to Illustrator Tools.
Illustrator's Blend Tool: A Comprehensive Guide
A Comprehensive Guide: Illustrator's Paintbrush Tool and Brush Panel

Type is an essential part of Illustrator. Whether you're desktop publishing, designing logos, or using type for image building, you'll be reaching for the Type Tool in Illustrator. This guide comprehensively covers the essentials of type in Illustrator.

Once you've learned the essentials of type in Illustrator, you can head over to Envato Elements. This subscription-based marketplace has over 2,000 Illustrator add-ons you can download without restrictions! You can get find plenty of designs that can inspire you to create your own text designs.

Are you a fan of video tutorials? Then you can't miss this new video from the Envato Tuts+ YouTube channel. We'll cover everything from the different functions of the Type Tool in Illustrator, useful Illustrator keyboard shortcuts and more:

What You'll Learn in This Type Illustrator Tutorial

  • How to use the Type Tool functions
  • How to use Illustrator keyboard shortcuts
  • How to use type Illustrator panels
  • How to set up type Illustrator preferences

1. How to Use the Type Tool in Illustrator

Type Tool in Illustrator (T)

Click on the artboard to begin a Point Text object. Alternatively, click and drag, or click on a closed path to create an Area Type object.

type tooltype tooltype tool

Area Type Tool in Illustrator

Click on a closed path to create an Area Type object, which constrains text within that path. This is the basis of the Area Type Tool in Illustrator.

area type toolarea type toolarea type tool

Type on a Path Illustrator Tool

The Type on a Path Tool can be really useful for different designs. Click on a path to constrain text along that path.

type on a pathtype on a pathtype on a path

Would you like to know more about the Type on a Path Illustrator tool? Check out this tutorial:

Vertical Type Tool in Illustrator

Click on the artboard to begin a Point Text object with vertically flowing text.

vertical type toolvertical type toolvertical type tool

Vertical Area Type Tool

The vertical Type Tool has many more uses. Click on a closed path to create an Area Type object containing vertically flowing text. 

vertical area type toolvertical area type toolvertical area type tool

Vertical Type on a Path Tool

Here's another use of the path type tool in Illustrator. Click on a path to constrain vertically flowing text along that path.

vertical type on a path toolvertical type on a path toolvertical type on a path tool

Touch Type Tool in Illustrator (Shift-T)

Click on characters from a piece of text and use the handles to rotate, scale, or move a selected character. And that's the Touch Type Tool in Illustrator.

touch type tooltouch type tooltouch type tool

2. What Are the Different Cursors?

The type Illustrator tool takes on different forms depending on which you select. Each cursor intuitively makes you aware of the action you are about to perform.

type tool cursorstype tool cursorstype tool cursors

3. How to Use Illustrator Keyboard Shortcuts

Wondering about the Illustrator keyboard shortcuts for working with type? Here are the most useful:

  • Select the Type Tool (T)
  • Select the Touch Type Tool (Shift-T)
  • Show/Hide the Character panel (Control-T)
  • Show/Hide the OpenType panel (Alt-Shift-Control-T)
  • Show/Hide the Paragraph panel (Alt-Control-T)
  • Show/Hide the Tabs panel (Shift-Control-T)
  • Create Outlines (Shift-Control-O)
  • Show/Hide Hidden Characters (Alt-Control-I)
type keyboard shortcutstype keyboard shortcutstype keyboard shortcuts

4. How to Use Keyboard Controls

Press the Esc key when you're done typing to quickly release your text and switch to the Selection Tool as your text object remains selected.

Hold Shift whilst the Type Tool, Area Type Tool, or Type on a Path Tool is selected to switch between vertical and horizontal orientation.

Hold Alt whilst the Area Type Tool is selected to switch to the Type on a Path Tool or vice versa.

Hold Alt whilst the Vertical Area Type Tool is selected to switch to the Vertical Type on a Path Tool or vice versa.

5. What Are the Different Type Panels?

Type is a huge part of what Illustrator does, and as a result, the list of options for defining text is immense.

The most appropriate panels when working on text-based documents can be revealed by going to Window > Workspace > [Type]. This default workspace will give you all the essential type-editing panels.

Further panels can be found under Window > Type, and the most crucial are listed below with brief descriptions.

The Character Panel in Illustrator

This is your text-editing workhorse. Here you can alter the appearance of your type, character by character. Here are some useful terms found in the Character panel (Window > Type > Character):

  1. Font Family: self-explanatory, in this case Alma Mono Bold
  2. Font Style: version of the font such as Regular, Bold, Light, Condensed, etc.
  3. Font Size: set the size of the text
  4. Leading: sets the spacing between lines of text
  5. Kerning: sets the spacing between two characters
  6. Tracking: sets the character spacing across selected text
  7. Vertical Scale: sets the character height
  8. Horizontal Scale: sets the character width
  9. Baseline Shift: sets the height of the baseline upon which text sits
  10. Character Rotation: sets the rotation of the specified characters
  11. All Caps/Small Caps: turns the selected text into capital or lowercase letters
  12. Superscript/Subscript - turns the selected text into superscript or subscript
  13. Underline/Strikethrough: underline or strikethrough text
  14. Language: sets the language of the text, which will also dictate the hyphenation rules
  15. Anti-Aliasing: can be used to adjust the smoothness of the text

Check out this tutorial if you wish to learn more about the Character panel in Illustrator:

illustrator character panelillustrator character panelillustrator character panel

The Paragraph Panel 

The Paragraph panel (Window > Type > Paragraph) provides all your basic options for defining paragraphs (sections of text separated by line breaks). Options here include indentation, alignment, bulleted or numbered lists, and spacing above and below paragraphs.

Also worth noting is the Hyphenation option. When checked, this allows words to be hyphenated (-) should they be too long for the text area and need wrapping to the following line. Where exactly the words become hyphenated is defined by the selected language from the Character panel. Make sure, therefore, that if you choose Hyphenation, the selected language corresponds with the language of the text.

pharagraph panel illustratorpharagraph panel illustratorpharagraph panel illustrator

The OpenType Panel

The OpenType panel (Window > Type > OpenType) is used to define how you wish to display alternate OpenType characters within your document. Alternative characters available for the selected font family can be seen in the Glyphs panel.

To better understand the OpenType panel and all its features, check out the How to Use Glyphs and the OpenType Panel in Illustrator section from this tutorial: A Beginner's Guide to the Character Panel in Illustrator.

open type panel illustratoropen type panel illustratoropen type panel illustrator

The Glyphs Panel 

The Glyphs panel (Window > Type > Glyphs) displays alternative characters available for any given font. With the type cursor prepared for typing on your artboard, click on a glyph to insert it into your document. This panel allows different-sized thumbnails for ease of viewing, a selection menu to display only certain glyphs, and drop-down menus for alternatives.

glyphs panel illustratorglyphs panel illustratorglyphs panel illustrator

The Character Styles Panel

When building a document with recurring styles, you can use the Character Styles panel (Window > Type > Character Styles) to predefine styles to apply to multiple instances of type.

For example, let's say you have a header which you set to 18pt, Bold, and underlined. Use the New Character Style button from the panel submenu to save these attributes as a style. Future instances of text to which you apply this style will adopt this appearance. Editing the style and using the Redefine Character Style command will instantly update all text instances that use your style.

character styles panel illustratorcharacter styles panel illustratorcharacter styles panel illustrator

The Paragraph Styles Panel

The Paragraph Styles panel (Window > Type > Paragraph Styles) acts in the same way as the Character Styles panel but (obviously) applies styles to paragraphs.

paragraph styles panel illustratorparagraph styles panel illustratorparagraph styles panel illustrator

The Tabs Panel

Whilst text is selected, open this panel to have it appear directly above your text. Add and edit tabs to apply immediate results to the selected text.

tabs panel illustratortabs panel illustratortabs panel illustrator

Type Toolbar Options

All your fundamental type options can also be found in the Toolbar (Window > Toolbar).

Pressing the Character or the Paragraph underlined text will open the Charater or the Paragraph panels.

toolbar character paragraph paneltoolbar character paragraph paneltoolbar character paragraph panel

6. How to Set Up Type Illustrator Preferences


Go to Edit > Preferences > Type. Listed here are some of the more important options under the Type Preferences dialogue:

  • Size / Leading: Line height.
  • Tracking: Character spacing across a selected text.
  • Baseline Shift: Height of baseline upon which text sits.
  • Show East Asian/Indiac Options: Enable East Asian or Indic language settings.
illustrator type preferencesillustrator type preferencesillustrator type preferences
    • Type Object Selection by Path Only: Allows the selection of type only by clicking on the object's path, not the text.
    • Show Font Names in English: Displays the font names in English.
    • Auto Size New Area Type Tool: Enlarges the object in which you type to make it fit all the text.
auto size area typeauto size area typeauto size area type
    • Enable in-menu Font Previews: Determines whether or not font previews are displayed.
font preview illustratorfont preview illustratorfont preview illustrator
    • Number of Recent Fonts: Set how many recently used fonts are shown when you open the Fonts list.
illustrator recent fontsillustrator recent fontsillustrator recent fonts
    • Enable Japanese Font Preview in 'Find More': Lets you preview Japanese fonts when you're in the Find More tab.
illustrator find more japanese fontillustrator find more japanese fontillustrator find more japanese font
    • Enable Missing Glyph Protection: When a font is missing a certain glyph, Illustrator keeps the one from the previous font.
enable missing glyph illustratorenable missing glyph illustratorenable missing glyph illustrator
    • Une Inline Input for Non-Latin Text: Make all the text go left-to-right and top-to-bottom, including non-Latin text.
    • Highlight Substituted Fonts: Highligts text which uses fonts that you do not have installed.
highlight substituted fontshighlight substituted fontshighlight substituted fonts
    • Fill New Type Objects With Placeholder Text: Adds Lorem Ipsum placeholder text to any new text object that you create.
new type placeholder textnew type placeholder textnew type placeholder text
    • Show Character Alternates: Display the glyph alternatives when selecting a character from the text.
character alternatescharacter alternatescharacter alternates
    • Automatic Bulleted and Numbered lists while typing: Keep this enabled to automatically turn your text into a list whenever you press + followed by a space. Also applies to the * and - symbols.
automatic bulleted and numbered lists while typingautomatic bulleted and numbered lists while typingautomatic bulleted and numbered lists while typing


Go to Illustrator > Preferences > Hyphenation. Just as explained under The Paragraph Panel, this determines the base language of your text for hyphenation purposes. Exceptions are also allowed for text which won't be hyphenated when text wrapping is needed. In this example, EnvatoTuts+ and Illustrator are made exempt from hyphenation.

illustrator hyphenationillustrator hyphenationillustrator hyphenation

7. What Are the Other Illustrator Keyboard Shortcuts and Tips?

Text Flow Between Containers

Using the Direct Selection Tool (A), click on the small red cross icon on an Area Type Object (this appears when text is too large for the container). Clicking again on the artboard will create a container of equal dimensions.

illustrator flow between containersillustrator flow between containersillustrator flow between containers

Clicking and dragging will create a container of whatever dimensions you determine. Your text will automatically flow between the newly linked containers.

linked text containerslinked text containerslinked text containers

Deleting Empty Type Objects

Go to Object > Path > Clean Up and select Empty Text Paths to remove unwanted empty type objects which may have slipped your attention.

empty text pathsempty text pathsempty text paths

Handling Type on a Path

Use the Direct Selection Tool (A) to edit handle positions along a Type Path. Handles affect start points, end points, position, and the baseline (whether above or below a path).

type on path start end pointstype on path start end pointstype on path start end points

Use the central handle to flip the baseline or go to Type > Type On A Path > Type On A Path Options, select Flip, and click OK.

type on path fliptype on path fliptype on path flip

Congratulations! You're Done!

The Type functionality that Illustrator offers is a massive topic. This guide gives a comprehensive introduction to the type tools. Play around with the many options on offer, and don't forget that you can find some great sources of inspiration at Envato Elements, with interesting solutions to improve your text designs.

Envato Elements is an excellent resource for fonts and text designs. Here's a short list of some of the most popular assets that you can find.

Collina Font (OTF, TTF, WOFF)

Here's a great font that comes with a consistent collection of ligatures. Check out this tutorial if you wish to learn more about ligatures: How to Turn Off Ligatures in Illustrator

Collina FontCollina FontCollina Font

Camelia Font (OTF, TTF, WOFF)

Keep it smooth and simple with this bold font. This simple yet elegant design can be used for titles, headers, or other large texts.

Camelia FontCamelia FontCamelia Font

Cotton Cloud Font (OTF, TTF, WOFF)

Here's a smooth and playful that can be used to easily add cloud text in Illustrator. Just install it, grab the Type Tool, and you're ready to go.

Cotton Cloud FontCotton Cloud FontCotton Cloud Font

Alma Mono Font (OTF, TTF)

This monospaced font could be the perfect choice whenever you need to add comprehensive blocks of text.

Alma Mono FontAlma Mono FontAlma Mono Font

Carosello Font (OTF, TTF)

Looking for something with more of a vintage look? The Crosello font might be the perfect solution.

Carosello FontCarosello FontCarosello Font
Did you find this post useful?
Want a weekly email summary?
Subscribe below and we’ll send you a weekly email summary of all new Design & Illustration tutorials. Never miss out on learning about the next big thing.
One subscription. Unlimited Downloads.
Get unlimited downloads