Shading Letters in Illustrator | Jamie Bartlett | Skillshare

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.

      Getting Started


    • 2.

      Preparing the Letters


    • 3.

      Breaking it Apart


    • 4.

      Creating the Shadow


    • 5.

      Multiple Shadows


    • 6.

      Adjusting Colors


    • 7.

      Finishing it Off


    • 8.

      Bonus Tips!


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About This Class

In this class you'll learn how to quickly add textured shading to your vector lettering inside of Illustrator. It's a super easy and fun way to add a lot of style and depth to your letters. 

Meet Your Teacher

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Jamie Bartlett

Graphic designer and left-handed letterer


Jamie Bartlett is a graphic designer and left-handed letterer working out of Denver, CO. She graduated from John Brown University with a degree in Graphic Design and now runs a shop for her hand lettered designs and fonts. Her work reflects everything she loves in life: a good cup of coffee, nerdy design terms, tandem bikes, road trips, and so much more.

Check out all Jamie's classes to learn her tricks of the trade. 

To see what she's up to now, follow her on Instagram and Dribbble.


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1. Getting Started: Hi guys, I'm Jamie Bartlett. In this class, we're going to be learning how to ask add some textured style shadows to our letters inside of Illustrator. It's super quick and easy and it's a great way to add some style to your lettering. With a class project, you just need Illustrator and some vector lettering. You can use lettering you've already created or you can create something new for the class. If you need some inspiration, a great place to start, is your initials because there's only a few letters. So let's jump right in. Here's the lettering I'm going to be using. You can do any type of style lettering you want, it just needs to be a vector. If you need some help turning your lettering into vector, I do have a class called monoline. In that class, I teach one of my favorite techniques on how to vectorize your lettering using the pen tool. My lettering uses stroke paths to start out with, but yours doesn't need to. It just makes things a little easier in our first step. So start by making a new document. In my document is set to 2000 pixels by 1500 pixels. Make sure it's RGB and make sure to uncheck, align new objects to pixel grid if that was selected. Then also make sure your units are set to pixels. Click "Okay". Then bring your lettering into this document. I'm going to close that since I already have mine set up. Before we get started, I want to show you what our final project is going to look like. So I have all the letters here with different placements for shadows. You can have a lot of fun deciding where you want to add more depth to your letter. Because normally, you probably wouldn't think of adding a shadow here or in these spots, but it does add a lot. 2. Preparing the Letters: Let's go back to our original paths. The first thing I want to do is duplicate this layer so that I have a backup. All I'm going to do is go to the "Layers Palette", drag my layer down to the "New Layer" icon, and now I have a "Paths Copy." I'm going to lock that layer and hide it. Now I always have that to go back to if for some reason I messed up. Always make sure to save as you go along. Before I outline my Paths and make them into fills, there are a few situations where it's a lot easier to separate the layers while it's still a path. One of those situations is this L here. If you remember from my example, we want this part of the L to look like it's overlapping this back part, so we need a shadow on this back part. But if we outline it, these two intersecting parts are going to merge together. We need to break up this path before they get merged together. Select your layer and then switch to the "Direct Selection Tool" by pressing A on your keyboard, then select points that contain the overlapping path. If I select this point, the two points on either side of that is also going to be copied when I copy and paste it. Copy, Command C, and then paste in front by pressing Command F on your keyboard. Now I have this line duplicated. If I moved it off, you can see that I still have that underneath, and that's great. This applies to any letter that has overlapping paths within them like this. The D has overlapping paths, but you can see that they are two separate paths already, so I don't need to worry about that one. If you remember how I did the N, This is another one that I can do this too. If I switch to the "Direct Selection Tool" again by pressing A, and I want this path to be duplicated, so I'll select this point, and copy and paste in front, and then I have that ready to go. I need to do the same thing for this path. Then I'm going to select that point and the path, copy, paste, and now I have that one. I have one more I can do this to while it's still a path. I'm going to do the A, copy paste in front, and everything else will work better once it's filled. Once you have all that done, go ahead and select all your letters, then go up to "Object, Path, Outline Stroke." Now everything has become a fill. You can see that the L here is still separated. 3. Breaking it Apart: Next we need to finish separating all of our layers. For example, this E, I want shadows to be on each part of these links here. I need to make a selection to have this overlap on top. I'm going to select that part of the E, copy and paste it in front and then I'm going to double-click on it, to enter isolation mode so that nothing else can be selected, just that layer. I'm going to zoom in and I'm going to add some anchor points on to this path. To do that, I'm going to press the plus sign on my keyboard and then just click where I want that anchor point to be added. Then I'm going to find my Lasso Tool, select all the points that I want to delete, then go to Object, Path, Remove Anchor Points. I'm going to zoom in a little more and I'm just going to move this point a little bit. If you need to adjust any of your points, switch to the direct selection tool by pressing A and you can just move it over a tad, so it looks a little more straight. Then I can just take off these other two and between by pressing minus on the keyboard. I have that E separated. I'm going to do the same thing for the G over here. To get out of the isolation mode, all you need to do is double-click outside of that layer. I'm going to do the same thing with the G; copy and paste in front, double-click to isolate it and then zoom in and I need to add a point right over here. Just press plus sign, add your point, go to your Lasso Tool and select all those points you want to delete. Then Object, Path, Remove Anchor Points. Now in this situation, you'll see that the handles on these two points are extended out. Switch to your Pen Tool and hold option on the keyboard and pull that handle up into that anchor point. Everything will straighten out. There you go. Will continue doing that, till everything is separated how you want. 4. Creating the Shadow: Before we had the shadows, we'll start by changing the color of our text so that we can see the shadows, because the shadows are going to be black and if the letters are black then we can't see it. So for now, I'm just going to change my color to a lighter gray. If you know what color you want, feel free to choose that color now, you can always change it later though. Let's start by adding the shadow onto this L. I want the shadow to be on this portion of the L underneath this path. So select the part of the path that you want to have a shadow on it, go to your appearance panel. If you're appearance panel isn't already over here, just go up to window and find appearance. In Illustrator, you can actually add multiple fills and strokes onto any object. Right now we have one fill, we want to add another fill. So click the Add New Fill button and it creates a new fill up here. But we want that to be a gradient fill. You go to your gradient tool, make sure the fill is selected, and then switch the fill over here to be a gradient. Then go to your gradient tool, click and drag where you want that shadow. That will reset it. Now we need to do some adjusting of our gradient. The first thing we need to do is make our gradient radial instead of linear. This way, it's a circle. Then we want to switch the white and the black so that the black is in the center and the white goes out to the edge. Now we want to adjust the positioning of our gradient. We want to drag the center right where we want the shadow to show up. Then we need to make this a lot smaller, probably more about from there. Go back to your appearance panel, expand your gradient fill. We want to change the blending mode of this fill to be multiply. That way the white doesn't show up anymore and it's blended into our layer. We just have the dark showing up, if you like, just the opacity, you could even just stop here and have a gradient shadow. But we're going to take it one step further and add some texture to it. To add some texture makes sure that the gradient fill is selected, and then we're going to go down here and add new effect. Go to texture, grain. Make sure your grain is set to stippled, and then you can play around with whatever look you like. I know I like mine at about 40 and 25. Press Okay. Now you can see how that's looking. When you're using the stippled grain effect, you can't change the color of the gradient. It's always going to be black and white. Really quickly I'm going to change the color of my L just so you can see what I'm talking about. Let's change it to this red color. You see that the grain here is still black. So what I like to do is change the opacity of my grain, so some of the pink red color starts to come through and it's not so harsh, like that. You really need the grain to be colored, you can always go back into grain and change it from stippled to sprinkles. You add adjust the contrast until most of the layer is white. So if you set it to a route there, press Okay, and then you can go back into your gradients and change it to whatever color you want. You can see here that whatever call you choose, like this blue, changes the grain to the color. The one thing I don't like about this sprinkles effect is that you can see the grain it fades out. Whereas the stippled effect that I like to use actually do this out, the density of the texture gets less to create the gradient. So I'm going to just change my lettering back to be gray. Now that you have your shadow set, you can play around and do some adjusting. If you have your gradient fill selected, switch to the gradient tool by pressing G, and you can shorten this to bring it in further, you can spread it out, and you can also bring the black in more, which darkens it, makes it more solid at the beginning. Also do that over here. So this is what I was doing. We have that darkens it whatever settings you prefer. You can also always go back into the grain and play around with it more here. 5. Multiple Shadows: Now, let's add that texture to another letter. The easiest way to do that is switched to your selection tool, select the next thing you want to apply Shadow tool. I'm going to do this d here and I have a shadow on the top and the bottom. Now, instead of doing all those steps again, you can sample the shadow with your Eyedropper tool. To make that work first, we got to make sure that our Eyedropper tool settings are correct. You'll find your Eyedropper tool, double-click to open the options, and you need to make sure that the appearance is checked. Press Okay, and then click, and sample your grain. You can see your grain appears up there. You can see that this layer has the gray fill and the gradient fill just like RL. Now, we need to position this where we want it. Switch to your gradient tool and then you can just position it and enlarge it just how you want, and because I have this part of the D layer on top, it's going right where I want it to. But now, we need to add another gradient fill up here to create another shadow. I just need to duplicate this fill. To do that, I make sure that fills selected and then go down to here and this is duplicate selected item. Press that and it created another one down here. Then we just move it up to where we want it and there you go and continue on with all your letters. Once you have all the letters shaded, how you want them to be, you can now play around with color or any adjustments that you want to make. 6. Adjusting Colors: If you remember, my final has multiple colors, but I'm just going to show you how to make it all one color for now, and you can always change the colors however you want. The easiest way is just to use the Magic Wand tool. You can double-click on the Magic Wand tool to change the settings. Make sure Fill is checked and the tolerance is set to zero. Then click on the color you want to select, which is our gray color. Then we can adjust it to whatever color we want and see it changes it to whatever color. Let's say you had a color over here that you really liked, like this purple color, and you want your letters to be that purple color. So use your Wand tool again to select all the red, then use your Eyedropper tool. So if you were to just click straight on the purple, everything changes to purple. So you would lose all the shadows and all the green because it's sampling the appearance of this purple square and that doesn't have any shadows on it. So to get around that, you have to hold Shift on the keyboard while you click. That just samples the color and not the entire appearance. 7. Finishing it Off: So here's my final lettering, I'll shade it and I'll color it how I want it. But one thing that might bother you, might not, is that because this is a raster effect, some of the grain comes outside of the shape. So to get around that, what we're going to do is mask it off. I'm going to zoom out, make a selection of all my letters, and group it by pressing "Command G". Now it's one group. Now I want to copy and paste that in front. Then next, I want to merge this duplicate layer altogether and go to the "Pathfinder" and then press "Unite", to unite all those shapes together. Then we're going to change this layer to white and then we cut it by pressing "Command X". Go up to Window, transparency with your lettering selected, double-click to add a mask, and while inside that mask, we can paste in front, and it makes a mask here. If we zoomed in, you can see that it doesn't go outside our letters anymore. So one other thing to know is that the size of the grain is based on how big your object is. Say our lettering was that size. If we zoomed in, you can see how big that grain is and it doesn't look that great. So you want to make sure that it's large enough for the grain to be looking right. Now, the resolution on this document is much larger than I wanted to be when I export it. If I'm going to export it, I can always say for web and change the size of it right here. Though if I wanted it to be 800 by 600, I do that, and it resizes it for me, but the grain maintains its size. That's all there is to adding some shading to your letters. I hope you guys enjoyed this and I can't wait to see all your projects. If you posted on Instagram, feel free to tag me at a pair of pairs, so that I can see your work. I love it if you left me a review, and if you have any questions, feel free to ask me on the community page. Thanks guys. I'll see you next time. 8. Bonus Tips!: Hey guys, I'm back and I just wanted to share with you a quick little bonus video on a few handy tips, that could be helpful as you build your effect. The first one is, I want to show you how you can change the shape of your radial gradient. If you go into your radial gradient, all you have to do is grab the top point here and you can squash it, or even stretch it, and that could be helpful depending on the shape of your letter. The next tip will come in handy if you need your artwork to be all vector. I'm going to show you how to vectorize our shadows. I'm going to do just the L for now, but you can do it to all your letters. First, I'm going to copy and paste the part of the letter that has a shadow on it. Then I'm going to change the fill of that color to white, and then once it's white go to object, rasterize. Make sure the resolution is 300, and the background is set to transparent. Press "Okay", and now it's rasterized. So the next step is to image trace it. So up here, you'll see image trace, and if you click the down arrow, you can select "Black and White Logo", that one seems to work pretty well. Next, we need to open the image trace panel. So go up here on your toolbar, press that to open, and here's all of our tracing options. So you can mess with the threshold by turning it up or down, for more or less of the texture to show up. Also, we want to make sure that we have ignore white check. That way we just have the black shadows. Once you have it, how you like it, go up here and press "Expand", and now we have vector shadows. Since it's vector, you can even go in and change the color of the shadows to anything you want. I'm going to select the blue of my L by changing to the eyedropper tool, and then holding down "Shift" to make sure that I don't select the gradient. Now it's the same color as the L. So I'm just going to go in here and darken it up a bit. If I turn off my old texture gradient, you can see the new one. Thanks guys. I hope you like these two little tips and was able to help you customize your effect even more.