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Quick Tip: Text Distortions in Adobe Illustrator

Using Envelopes to conform a text element to a graphic element By Dave Nagel
Creating a logo from scratch or reproducing a logo can require complex text distortions, which usually requires you to convert text to outlines and then go through a series of difficult or time-consuming path manipulations. However, there's a quicker way for some projects, and one that doesn't require you to convert text to outlines: envelope distortions.

In this quick tip, we'll take a look at a logo for a fictitious company: Hil Real Estate, Rental & Time Share Co. GmbH. Mr. Hil, the company's owner, wants his logo to include a graphic of a hill (as that's the sort of thing company owners would want) with his name in big letters on top, conforming to the contour of the hill graphic, sort of like an inverted "Arc Lower" warp effect. (And he's drawn a sketch of the logo on a cocktail napkin to make sure you get it, as that's the sort of helpful thing company owners do.) In the end, the logo is to look something like this.

Now, this isn't terribly complicated. The hill graphic is just a simple object with one of Illustrator's graphic styles applied to it. But what about the word in the logo? How are you going to distort that to conform to the graphic?

You could simply grab points and start dragging them around, but that can take a while. So we'll use an envelope distortion instead.

Here are the steps to achieve this effect, focusing exclusively on the text distortion

1. Type the letters of the word to be distorted, and place them over the graphic.

2. Draw a rectangle over the text using the Rectangle tool. Make sure the rectangle conforms precisely to the left and right edges of the graphic and the top of the text. (It doesn't matter what fill or stroke you have applied to the rectangle. Those things will disappear in the end.)

3. Add a point to the rectangle object along the bottom in the center of the line. Do this using the Add Anchor Point tool, which can be accessed in the Tool palette or by pressing the + key. (In the screen shot below, you'll see the added point at the base of the "I," but it's applied to the rectangle.)

4. Drag this point upward to make the rectangle conform to the triangular shape of the hill graphic. To do this, use the Direct Selection tool (the white arrow). Click it, then hold down the Shift key as you drag to make sure the point stays centered on the rectangle.

5. Now select both the rectangle and the text. Then choose Object > Envelope Distort > Make with Top Object.


If you find any imperfections, you can still go in and tweak the rectangle, which will force the text to conform to it, since envelope distortions are, in essence, "live" effects.

Also, note that you can adjust various aspects of envelope distortions by choosing Object > Envelope Distort > Envelope Options. For example, if you want a crisp edge, you set the "Fidelity" parameter all the way up to 100. If you have pattern or gradient fills, you can force those to conform as well.

If you have any Illustrator questions, be sure to visit me in the Adobe Illustrator forum at DMN Forums by clicking here.

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Related Keywords:adobe illustrator, text distortion, envelope distort, logo, conform text to shape

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