The use of typography in design is important; everyone does it. But you don’t want your text to look like every other designer’s, do you?
Here we share our best tips and tools to help you improve your custom typography in Adobe Illustrator. You may have heard of it before, but there are plenty of hidden gems to discover and try.
1. Tap Type
Touch Type is a lesser-known feature that lets you scale, rotate, kern, or move individual letters while keeping the text editable. You don’t need to create outlines and you can still edit your text anytime, even after applying effects to your letters.
After typing your text, open the Character panel by navigating to Window > Type > Character. At the top of the pop-up window, select Touch input tool. Then you can select any individual letter to edit.
Once you have selected a letter, you can use the top left anchor point to scale vertically, the top right anchor point to scale proportionally, the bottom-right anchor to scale horizontally, circular anchor above the selection to rotate it, or keyboard keys arrow keys to kern horizontally or to move up and down. You can also click and move with your mouse.
You can highlight the changed letter to enter a new one with the same effect, and you can also change the font of an individual letter to follow the same effect. But if you highlight the whole word to rewrite it, the effects will be lost.
2. Adding glyphs
Although this is not an option for all fonts, it is a hidden option for many. Find out if your chosen font comes with added glyphs by going to Window > Type > glyphs. This will open a tab displaying all available letters, numbers, punctuation marks, non-English letters, ligatures and glyphs.
Not all fonts come with added extras, but if they do, you’ll find them here. Cursive fonts are more likely to offer decorative glyphs.
To add a glyph, ligature, or accent, highlight a letter and double-click the square with the new choice to replace your original letter, or you can place your cursor where you want your new glyph or accent appears and double-click on the square to insert it.
3. Create outlines
Outlining your text in Illustrator can be useful for many reasons. For example, for logotypes with elements added to the text, or when creating a design for a client, you should outline all the text to ensure that it will not change and that the font will not will not be lost later.
To create outlines, first type your text. Set the desired parameters in the Character and Paragraph panels. Once you are happy with what you have, right click on the text and choose Create outlines.
Now your text is a path and can be edited as such. If you want to edit things, like remove the gaps in the letters, you can delete, move, or edit the paths now. This lets you create custom text the way you want, but it saves you time because you didn’t have to create the font yourself first.
4. Redraw the text paths with the Pencil tool
If you have created outlines from your text, one way to further customize it is to draw paths over your text. You can draw elongated letters, change the shape of the holes, remove the serifs, or whatever you want.
Select the text, then use the Pencil Tool to draw on the text path, and it will add your new shape to the path. To remove parts of the path, draw from one anchor point to another and the small area between those anchor points will disappear.
5. Offset Text
Offset text is like adding a stroke around the outside of your text so it merges rather than just outlining individual letters. Offsetting your text is a great way to add a border around it.
An offset border can also be used when printing stickers or creating logos or GIFs. You can offset the text after creating the text outlines quite easily, but we also have a tutorial for creating editable offset text in Illustrator.
To offset the text with the created outlines, select the path and navigate to Object > Path > Offset path. Choose a size for the border and click OKAY. Then on the Properties panel, click Merge. Right-click the outline and navigate to Arrange > send to bottom. Then change the outline color to see your original text at the top.
You can also easily frame text or add borders to text using Photoshop. This can produce a result similar to offset text.
6. Set Kerning, Tracking, and Leading
Setting leading, tracking, and kerning is important for readability and accessibility. Setting these up will transform any text from an out-of-the-box font to professional typography in seconds.
You can find leading, kerning, and tracking settings in the Character panel after typing your text. These settings are also found in Photoshop; did you know that you can create bold text in photoshop in several different ways?
Leading defines the space above a line of text. Leaving this on automatic does a good job most of the time, but if you want more or less horizontal space between lines of text, you can change that by highlighting your line of text and toggling First up or down in the Character menu – this will move any text that is below the line, opening or closing the gap.
Kerning is used to define the spaces between individual characters. Most fonts are correct by default, but your text will appear more professional if you carefully define the spaces for the individual letters yourself. Place your cursor in the gap you want to change and toggle up or down in the Kerning option until you reach the best readability.
Finally, tracking is used to set spaces across multiple characters or words. Simply highlight the letters or words and toggle the Followed up or down to increase or decrease the spacing. This can be used more globally than kerning, and some people use it for artistic effects rather than readability.
7. Download External Fonts
Using unique fonts will always give your typography a personalized feel. Here are some good places to find and download new fonts:
- Adobe Font
- Pangram Pangram
- creative market
If you need help downloading fonts, check out our guide to installing third-party fonts in macOS.
8. Tap on a path
Why type in a straight line all the time when you can type around circles or on wobbly lines? A great way to personalize your text is to type on a path.
Create a path using any path based tool – Pen Tool, all shape tools, Pencil Tool. Then select and hold the Input tool and choose Tap on a path tool. Now when you place the cursor over the path, you will have the option to click and tap on that section of the path. Click and drag nodes to move your text around the path for better placement.
You can use your custom text for a variety of designs or even add it above a photo. Here are the best ways to add text to a photo with different software.
Step up your typography game with Illustrator
With these helpful tips and tools, you can take your typography from standard and simple to fun and exciting. Custom text brings a unique touch to your design work, and it’s also fun to experiment with new ways to design. Incorporate a few of these tips into your workflow and see how your text results change for the better.