Discover: Illustrator’s Touch Type Tool

Photo by esp2k on Fotolia:

The Touch-Type Tool, introduced into the Illustrator Toolset in 2013, is an intuitive way to adjust the scaling, position and rotation of individual characters in text, saving you from expanding the text to outlines or messing about for ages in the Character Panel. In this post we’re going to look at the tool to create this—completely fictitious—band logo. If you’re a Creative Cloud subscriber you can use the same font as I’m using here from Typekit: Banshee Std—if you don’t yet have a subscription, you can always get a free 30-day trial by following this link. Just so you know, the image I’ve used in this post is by esp2k and available on Fotolia:

Begin by creating two instances of point-text for the words “The” and “Creations” (or whatever words you’re using) then hit ESC on your keyboard to exit the Type Tool. The Touch Type Tool is actually nested with the other type tools, but you can access it quickly with the keyboard shortcut SHIFT-T. You’ll get a little HUD—Heads-Up Display—momentarily, that invites you to Click on a character to select, so click on the r in creations.


A box will appear around the character, and each corner has a different function, along with a circle widget above the box:



  1. The circle widget allows for the rotation of the character
  2. The top-right corner allows for the proportional scaling of the character (no need for a modifier key)
  3. The bottom-right corner allows for the horizontal scaling of the character
  4. The bottom-left corner can be used to move the character
  5. The top-right corner allows for the vertical scaling of the character

Using a combination of rotating, scaling and moving, the text is rapidly moved into a more interesting arrangement; all of the characters have new individual size, rotation, baseline-shift and kerning values applied. Tip: while the tool is active, you can also use the arrows on the keyboard to nudge the selected character. Imagine how much fiddling around with those values in the Character Panel this would have taken otherwise!


It only takes a moment or two more to move the word “The” into position and adjust those characters:


Creating The Logo Style

You can’t add gradients to text directly in Illustrator, but you can use appearances to do so; make sure that you can see the Appearance Panel (it’s in the Window menu if not already present) then select and group the two bits of text. Click the Add New Fill icon, the middle of the three icons at the bottom-left of the Appearance Panel and a new fill will be added to the group; this can also be achieved with the shortcut CMD-/.

From the fill selector in the panel, you can choose a gradient swatch and using the Gradient Panel and the Gradient Tool model it to appear as you’d like it to be. Keep the group selected.

Now add another new fill. This time choose or create a solid colour—hold down SHIFT when you click on the fill selector in the panel to access the colour mixer—and don’t worry about your gradient being hidden, that’ll be resolved in just a moment.


Attributes can be selected just like layers—make sure that your solid fill is active just like in the image above—then go to Effect > Path > Offset Path… and add a value of 4px (you can always change this later by clicking the effect in the Appearance Panel). Now drag this fill beneath the Contents in the panel:


The only thing now is to close that gap in the aperture of the letter C. Ensuring that the group is still selected and that the solid fill is still active, go to Effect > Pathfinder > Merge and you’ll see that it makes all of the shapes in the fill combine into one shape.


The huge advantage of working this way is that everything is editable; you can make changes to any aspect of this and the combined effect will just adjust as you work, rather than recreating shapes as you would if you were working with outlined text.


Tut: Just for Fun Photoshop Christmas Tree

In this post, we’re going to look at using (and perhaps misusing) a couple of Photoshop CC2014 features to make a simple Christmas Tree. With this exercise this won’t be so much about what you’re making here as what you’ll see and learn on your way, but if you do get something you can use out of it then that is of course a bonus, but hopefully at any rate you’ll enjoy it and pick up a thing or two.

Get Photoshop open and create a new document: ⌘-N (Windows users substitute CTRL for ⌘ throughout) and choose Mobile App Design from the Preset drop-down. From the Size drop-down choose 1536 x 2048 which will give us a decent size file to work with, in the portrait orientation. You can of course create the document any size you like, just modulate the settings as desired in some of the following dialogs.

New Document

Step 1: Set the scene.


We’ll set a Wintry scene with a gradient that runs from blue to white. I’ve used Pure Cyan from the default swatches here, and a foreground-to-transparent linear gradient that runs from the top of the document to about three-quarters of the way down. You could also add another slightly darker blue to transparent gradient that finishes about 25% from the top if you like—it’ll set off the star nicely at the end.

Step 2: Grow a Tree

Pen tools

Add a new blank layer, name it Tree and then grab the Pen Tool by tapping P on your keyboard—make sure you have the Pen Tool  and not the Freeform Pen Tool (the icon has a wavy line coming out form the nib), and then click towards the bottom centre of the image, about three or so centimetres form the bottom. Click again towards the top centre, and leave a bit more room at the top. The direction is important, as trees grow upwards!

Line segmentFilter menu

Go to Filter > Render > Tree… and in the ensuing dialog select 8: Pine Tree 1, from the Base Tree Type drop-down, then from the following settings use these or modulate as desired:

Light Direction: 30

Camera Tilt: 5

Leaves Amount: 100

Leaves Size: 100

Branches Height: 95

Branches Thickness: 110

Default Leaves: On

Leave all other settings Off and the Arrangement slider set to about 10.

Tree dialog

Photoshop will grow your tree!

Hit Backspace to delete the path, add a new layer and name it Tinsel

Step 3: Generate Some Tinsel

Tinsel path

Use the Pen Tool to draw a path that zig-zags down the tree. In the image here I have hidden the tree to show the path drawn in my image. Any variation on this should do the trick.

Go to Filter > Render > Flame… and quite possibly an infoWarning dialog will appear if your path is longer than 3000 pixels. This may slow down rendering of the flame effect but if you’re on a fairly current machine with a decent RAM spec you’re unlikely to be delayed too long. Click through the dialog (OK).


From the Flame Type drop-down choose 2. Multiple Flames Along Path and set as below or modulate as desired:

Length: 60, leave Randomize Length checked


Interval: 10, leave Adjust Interval for Loops checked

Flame Lines (Complexity): 25

Turbulent: 55


Opacity: 12 (days of Christmas)

Flame Bottom Alignment: 2

Choose 2. Violent from the Flame Style drop-down and 4. Oval from the Flame Shape drop-down

Enable Use Custom Color for Flames then click the colour swatch beneath and choose a colour for your tinsel.

Low from the Quality drop-down should be fine, enable Randomize Shapes and then click OK.

Tinsel added

The filter will generate the flame-slash-tinsel. If you think the effect is too weak, then simply run the filter again with the same settings, and you can fine tune that by going to Edit > Fade Flame… and dialling the filter back a bit. This will only work if you have performed no other steps since running the filter.

Delete the path, and model the effect by adding a layer mask and using a soft brush to twaek the joins a bit, and so on, as desired. The tinsel may also look a bit flat, so add a dodge and burn layer by alt-clicking the New Layer icon in the Layers Panel or using the SHIFT-⌘-N shortcut to access the New Layer dialog.

New layer dodge

Name the layer tinselDodge—even though we’ll be burning it seems wrong to name it that way to me given that tinsel ias a bit er, flammable (and yes the irony that we made it with the Flame filter isn’t lost on me)—and select Use Previous Layer to Create Clipping Mask, change the Mode to Overlay and enable Fill with Overlay-neutral color (50% gray) thwn click OK.

Tap O on your keyboard to select the Burn Tool. If you have the Dodge Tool selected instead, hold down SHIFT and tap O again to switch tools. Burn in some colour around the lower parts of the tinsel—unless your colour is really light, this should work pretty well. If you’ve gone with a very light colour, you may need to brush in some dark tones with the paintbrush on an empty layer.


Step 4: Fairy Lights

Back to the Pen Tool but this time we need to change modes so that it creates a Shape Layer—with the tool selected the first drop-down in the Options Bar at the top of the screen will have an option for Shape. Use the tool to draw a nice curvy path down the tree as shown (the tree is again hidden in the screenshot so you can see the path)—don’t worry if you start to see coloured regions as in the screenshot as we’ll get rid of these in a moment.

Draw shape

Go to the Options Bar and click on the Fill swatch and select the NONE icon at the top of the pop-out. The go to the stroke swatch and select the lightest yellow you can find—you’ll get a stroke applied to your path but we need to modify that a bit. Change the Weight to 14pt, and then click the Stroke Type drop-down to the right of the Weight field. You should see three stroke types: Solid, Dashed and Dotted—select Dotted and then click More Options at the bottom of the dialog.

Remove fill

Fairy lights

In the first Gap field increase the value to about ten, and exit the dialog. You should now have nice evenly-spaced dots that we can use as tree-lights. On my example, I added a layer mask and then used a reduced-opacity brush to dab on some of the lights so they are not all the exact-same brightness. To complete the effect, double-click on the layer (just to the right of the name) in the Layers Panel and add an outer glow in the layer style dialog. My settings are in the screenshot below but of course you may want to tweak these for your own version.

Stroke options

Finally, add a radial gradient for a glowing star at the top of the tree. Add a new layer, then tap G to access the Gradient Tool and select a bright yellow colour for the foreground—as the settings should still be at Linear Gradient and Foreground to Transparent the only step required here is to tap the right-bracket key ] to switch to Radial then click and drag from the top of the tree outwards and you’ll get a warm glow for your star. Tapping the left-bracket key twice will cycle you to the Diamond Gradient. Tap X to swap the foreground to white followed by 7 to reduce the opacity to 70%, then drag a small gradient out at about 190º to complete that effect.

Add star

Al that remains then is to add your holiday message on a type layer with some styles. In the example I used Sarina from TypeKit, with a fat yellow stoke and a solid drop-shadow, with a text warp applied—there’s also a great font called HWC Star Ornaments on TypeKit that could be used for embellishments—have fun!

Finished project

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