Illustrator 10: Making Good Text Go Bad

Large companies have spent many years and millions of dollars ensuring that computer-generated text looks great.

Sometimes, we’ve got to roughen the text up. Make it look more natural. Remove the clinical accuracy of computer generated type. Here’s a technique using Adobe Illustrator 10’s Transparency and Warping features to make text look bad.

Step 1: Type the Text. In this instance, I am using ITC American Typewriter-Bold.

[1251] step 1

Step 2: Window>Transparency. From the flyout menu choose “Make Opacity Mask”. This will hide all of the text behind a mask. Opacity Masks in Illustrator 9 and 10 work the same as Layer Masks in Photoshop. In Illustrator, however, they are vector shapes that hide (black areas) or show (white areas) the underlying object. The Opacity Masks can be placed on an object-by-object basis. Using levels of gray, you can partly reveal underlying objects.

[1252] step 2

Step 3: Paint into the Mask. Here I have selected the Mask as the target (you see a solid black line around the mask in the Transparency palette). Using a Paint Brush, stroking with White (no colour) and using a particular brush from the Brushes palette I have painted white into the mask, thereby revealing the underlying hidden text. Brushes in Illustrator are vector shapes, so this will be sharp on output.

Click onto the left-hand preview of your object in the Transparency palette. By clicking back on the text (or object) on the left hand side of the transparency palette, you return to normal editing of objects. The beauty of this technique is that the text is still live and editable.

[1253] step 3

Step 4: Now to subtly warp the text. The process here is to create an envelope over the text.  Illustrator 10 cannot warp live text, so what we are going to do is warp a rectangular shape that live text is enveloped into.

Firstly, create a rectangle that just encompasses the text.

[1254] step 4

Step 5: Envelope Distort: select both the newly created rectangle and the Text. Go to Object>Envelope Distort>Make with Top Object. The text is now distorted slightly into the rectangular frame.

[1255] step 5

Step 6: Use the Warp Tool. In this instance, I have used the Pucker tool to permit simple warping of the rectangular frame around the text. As the text is inside the frame, the text warps into this shape. As this text has an Opacity Mask applied, this is also warped.

[1256] step 6

Step 7: (Optional) To edit the text, Click on the object and go Object>Envelope Distort>Edit Contents. You will find you can still edit the underlying text.

[1257] step 7

Thanks to: Colin Smith for the first transparency brushing technique.

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