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Picture Text in Illustrator

by Sara Froehlich


They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and with Illustrator’s path tools, you can take plain text and make it worth a thousand words too!

Step 1. Choose the type tool and choose a wide font. I used Wide Latin at 72 pt, but any bold font will do. Type the word Trees.


Step 2. Click the Selection tool in the toolbox to select the text and give the word a plain 2 pt stroke (just choose a stroke color and in the Stroke palette, set a width of 2). Go to Type > Create Outlines.


Step 3. After creating outlines, each letter is a separate object. To further break down the object, use the Object > Expand command. With the text “Trees” selected with the selection tool (so there is a bounding box around the word), go to Object > Expand.


Expanding divides the object into multiple objects: not only will each letter be an object, each letter will consist of two objects, stroke and fill. Using the Direct Selection or Group Select tool, they can actually be separated. If you try this, use Undo to put it back the way it was.


Step 4. Grab the center bottom handle on the bounding box and drag downward to make the text taller.


Step 5. Ungroup the letters (shift + cmd/ctrl + G or Object > Ungroup). The act of ungrouping in this case removes the highest priority grouping: that of the letters themselves. Each letter object is still grouped with its stroke object. To ungroup the stroke and letter objects, repeat the ungroup command.

Step 6. Select the T stroke object. Press the delete key to get rid of the stroke on the T only.


Step 7. Select the T with the direct selection (A) tool. Choose the Knife tool (NOT the Slice tool! It makes web slices and will not even come close to what you are trying to do here). The Knife Tool is under the scissors in the toolbox. Draw a line across the top of the T to separate it from the stem of the T, and then Object > Ungroup.



Step 8. Select the bottom of the T and change the color to brown for the trunk of the tree (or maybe a brown gradient fill?) Use the direct selection tool and the convert point tool to change the shape.


Step 9. Select the top of the T and bring it to the front (Object > Arrange > Bring to Front) so it is not behind the trunk. Use the Direct Selection tool, and the Add and Subtract Points tools to alter the trunk. You can also use the Object > Path > Add Anchor Points command to give yourself more points to work with. Don’t forget you can use the Convert Point tool to change from curved points to corner points and vice versa.


TIP! If you have trouble with the trunk moving when you are editing your treetop and accidentally touch the trunk, lock it: Select the trunk then go to Object > Lock Selection.

Step 10. Alter the rest of the letters. I deleted the stroke objects from r,e,e,and s, then added a stroke by give it a color in the color chips at the bottom of the toolbox. Next , I opened the Brushes palette and opened the brush options menu. I chose Open Brush Library > Foliage_Leaves, and applied one of the leaf brushes to the letters.

Double click the brush thumbnail in the brushes palette to open the options and change the size so the leaves are not too big for the letters.


I added a couple short brush strokes on the treetop too, and a quote on a spiral path.


Try other words and fonts. LOVE uses the font Impact, and after creating outlines and ungrouping, and adding a custom heart-shaped brush, this is the result:


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©2005-2008 Sara Froehlich