Thursday, 11 August 2016

Create retro-style text in illustrator.

For the logo that I needed for my 100 days project, I wanted a truly 80's vibe.  I love how easy it is to create an retro 80's chrome text effect with Illustrator.

In fact, I loved it so much I thought that I'd share how you can go about making one of these yourself.   I hope you enjoy this walk-through...

Getting started...

I'll assume in here that you are a little familiar with working in Adobe Illustrator.  There are plenty of handy online tutorials, but I will try and make this as user-friendly as I can for the lesser experienced out there by indicating the menu's (and in some screenshots, the tool icon).

80's - an era of Chrome...

The whole retro 80's appeal comes down to one thing - Chrome - Sexy, shiny chrome, even more sexy when its electric blue and hot pink!

As far as creating that whole chrome reflective look in Illustrator, this is relatively easy to do simply by creating gradients.  There are a number of ways we could approach this - there's a gradient tool that can do it, but I use an old-school approach of creating the effect from blended shapes.  Using shapes I find gives me a feeling of flexibility and control over the effect...  But feel free to try your own ways as well.

Lets get started!

Create two rectangles.  One filled with blue, and a thinner one filled with white.  Remove the strokes completely.  Make sure that the white overlaps the blue as shown below, and then use the blend tool. (Object menu > Blend > Make)

If things don't look right - check the settings for the tool (Object menu > Blend > Blend Options).  It should be set to 'Smooth Color' and the first orientation option should be selected.

The result, after applying the blend should look like this...

Get some hot pink ground

Rinse and repeat the blend effect above to create the lower half of the reflection.  In this case, its the opposite (a thinner black rectangle overlapping at the top of a large pink rectangle).  The 80's were all about hot pink's, blues and of course sci-fi perspective style grid planes...  But we can make a grid another day - for now, lets get your pink on!

Once its created, move that blended black-pink up and over the white to close any gap on the horizon...

Rippling chrome...

Chuck in some rippling effect to that black horizon line to take away the boring flat lines and give some curvaceous appeal.  For this, I use the Wrinkle tool (see screenshot below for the tool icon to find) - take care when clicking the left mouse button - the tool can be quite extreme.  Short presses will help give you control.

Keep it simple - don't go overboard and make it super-wrinkly or the effect will just look bad.

What's that era again?

Now use the type tool (keyboard shortcut 'T') and make your text.  We'll use this to cut away the chrome outside the text.  You will need to expand it (Object menu > Expand...), then select all of the outlines and convert them to a Compound path (Object menu > Compound Path > Make).  The reason for this is that we need to do this so we can apply it as a clipping mask - a compound path is like a single shape rather then 4 individual letters.

Cookie-cut some numbers...

Make sure that this compound path is in the same layer as the chrome we created, and that its at the top of the stack (see image).  Select the layer itself, and click on the clipping mask button at the bottom of the layers window to cut out the shape.

Bevel them edges - well, create the illusion of bevelled edges

We can create the effect of metallic beveled edges around the text by copying that compound path.  Create a new layer (we don't want this in the same layer - it'll just get cropped out) and paste the compound path.

Setting a stroke size of around 4pt will give a nice outline, and to give it a metallic look, use a gradient swatch...  There's a nice simple black-white gradient you can select in the default swatch panel (Click on the stroke color, and its the first swatch on the 4th line).

Note that doing this right now will not work quite the way we'd like it to.  You'll get the gradient spread across all the letters rather then across each individual letter.  So select your compound path, and then release the compound path to return it to separate shapes (Object menu > Compound Path > Release).  The gradient should now affect each letter individually as you can see below.

This isn't 100% correct - more at the bottom of this article if you've not noticed it yet...

Glistening in the light

Nothing says "chrome" more then sparkles and glints.  Making these is actually pretty simple... Create a simple circle, filled with white and no stroke.  Yup - a circle - which doesn't exactly look sparkly at all, but don't worry - we're going to sparkle-ify it in the next step.

Yup - circle...  What did I tell you...

Sparklification process...

Select the Scallop tool from the tool bar (its in the same tool set that we found the Ripple tool) and use it to warp the shape of the circle into a sparkle / glint.  Before we do that, its worth noting that you may want to tweak the settings first.

To control how detailed you want to make the effect, double-click on the Scallop tool icon to pop up the settings for it.

If you want a simpler 4-sided star, set the Complexity to 0.  More complexity creates more streaks...  Once set, click OK then you can select the Scallop tool again from the tool bar.  Place the cursor over the circle and click the left mouse button.  The shape will suck inwards towards the center of the tool brush (that circle cursor).

Take care - the effect can be quite extreme so tapping the button a little at a time may be a good idea for more control if you find its gone way too far.

Here's an example to see the differences (and point out where you'll find that Scallop Tool.  A higher Complexity setting can give it more of a flared streaky shape - the one below is a little extreme (I also applied it to a star shape rather then a circle)...  Scallop to taste as they say (well, I don't think anybody really says that, except me of course).

For the stylized look of the retro text, you may want to got for a simpler shape to keep it the same level of detail.  This is what a circle scalloped with a complexity of 0 looks like...

Circle, Scallop complexity of 0

Lets finish what we started...

OK - we're done...  Just copy and paste a few of your sparkles around, carefully placing them on the bright edge areas where the 'light' would be hitting (in this case, the top-left direction).  You can tweak the rotation and scale here and there for some variation.  Probably about 2 or 3 should suffice - but of course experiment and get something you like...

This is the text with that detailed sparkle effect.

Oooh, shiny!

Here is how the simpler detail looks - this is created with a circle and a low detail setting (ie. 0).  It works quite well for the style...

Keepin' it simple

And there you have it...  Now you're a proud child of the 80's, even if you weren't born in that era.

What else can I do

Go look at more reference on google to see what examples you can be inspired by.  There are all kinds of 80's things that you can add in - as mentioned at the start, those perspective grids.  In the example below I added a hot pink outline which also felt pretty good...

Hot pink outline...  Oooh yeh!

To do that, I copied the compound path again, placed it in a new layer and used the offset path option (Object menu > Path > Offset Path) to push it out away from the text.  Make sure to activate the Preview button so you can see what's happening.

Slap on a nice hot pink stroke color, tweak the size and voile!  Just make sure that you push details like that underneath your glint layer so the glints are always sitting on top...

It could be even better!

OK.  Did you spot the 'not quite right' issue with that beveled yet?  You may (or may not) have noticed that the light and shadows effect is actually incorrect on the inner strokes!

They should be the opposite (dark on the top, light on the left) as they technically bevel down rather then up.  I haven't bothered in this particular case, but I'll leave that up to you to play with if you want to be more of a perfectionist then I am.

But its all about learning - and fun.

Have a good play - try recreate some of the examples you find on the Internet.  In the end, its all about having retro-fun.  I really hope that this tutorial was useful and that you can make use of it - or even some of the ideas - to create your own work.

At some stage I'll do a tutorial for Photoshop - You can pull off some pretty cool stuff quickly, though the downside (unlike Illustrator) is that you don't have that whole vector scalability...  Though if (like this one) its for a website or image/video where scalability isn't an issue... Hey... Why not.  :)

Photoshop is just as much fun...

Until next post...


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