Creating A Letterpress Effect For Logo Design In Illustrator

Jennifer Farley

This week I have another Illustration tutorial for you. The letterpress style has been popular in logo design in recent year, both for print-based and web-based work. It’s pretty easy to create the letterpress style effect in both Photoshop and Illustrator. I’m using Adobe Illustrator here because it’s a standard tool for logo design. We’ll create a graphic style which can be applied to text and any other vector object. The difficulty level here is beginner and the technique is something you can play around with to create your own styles. I’m using Adobe Illustrator CS5 here, but this effect can be achieved with any recent version of Illustrator.

Here’s the effect we’ll create:

Step 1. Select the Rectangle tool (M), choose a color that you like in the color picker and draw out a rectangle. This is your background color. I chose a green color (#99CC99), but you can also use a white background if you prefer.


Step 2. Select the Type tool (T) and add some text. It doesn’t matter what color you choose for the font as it will be irrelevant in a few steps time. I chose Myriad Pro – a nice sans serif font, set in bold, size 70.


Step 3. With the text still selected, remove any fill or stroke. Open the Appearance panel, and from the context sensitive menu, choose New Fill. If the Appearance panel is not open choose Window > Appearance.


Now click the swatch thumbnail in the Appearance panel of the new fill and choose a color which is a darker shade of your background color. I picked #669966.


Step 4. With the new fill still selected in the Appearance panel, choose Effect > Stylize > Inner Glow. When the Inner Glow dialog box opens, check the preview box so that you can see the changes as you make them. Set the Mode to Normal and the fill color to a color slightly darker than your background color. I set the Opacity to 95% and the Blur to 2 pixels. Depending on the size of your text, you may need to play around with the Blur value.


Notice that when you press the drop-down arrow of the new fill in the Appearance panel you can see the Inner Glow effect listed under it.


Step 5. Keep the text selected, then as before choose Create a new fill from the context sensitive menu. Don’t worry if it looks like you’ve lost your Inner Glow effect, it’s just hidden under the new fill. Simply rearrange the order of the fills by dragging the new fill under the first Inner Glow you created.
Now set the new fill color to a darker color than the last fill. I used #336633. You won’t actually see any change because the new fill is sitting under the Inner Glow effect.


Step 6. With the latest new fill selected, choose Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform. When the Transform Effect dialog box opens, again check the preview box then change the Vertical Move to -1 pixel. Depending on the size of you text, you can experiment with this value.


Step 8. Ok, once more with feeling! With the text still selected, create another new fill from the Appearance panel and fill it with a light green color. I used #CCFFCC. You could try white here, I felt it was a bit too bright for the green colors I was using. Drag the new fill underneath the other two fills you have created.


Choose Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform. In the Transform Effect dialog box, set the Vertical Move to 1 pixel. Play around with this value depending on the size of your text. This is a very subtle effect but finishes off the letterpress effect with a small highlight.


That’s your letterpress style created. The best bit about this technique is that your text is still editable.


Step 9. (optional) If you want to add a little bit of texture, choose Effect > Texture > Texturizer. Note that this is listed under Photoshop effects and can sometimes make your lovely smooth vectors look a bit rough around the edges.


Step 10. At this point you can create a Graphic Style which can be reused anytime you want to use your letterpress effect. Select the text again, then press the New Graphic Style button in the Graphic Style panel. If the Graphic Style panel is not open choose Window > Graphic Style. To use the style again just click the thumbnail of the graphic Style you created and it will be applied.