Graphic Design: Create a Typography Illustration

Beginner level Adobe Illustrator Adobe Illustrator

Hand lettered illustration 

To make hand lettered illustrations can take up a lot of time, especially when you’re not an illustrator yourself. Normally these types of illustrations are made with pen and paper to give it an authentic look. But with this tutorial you’ll learn how to create a similar illustration in illustrator. 

Getting started

Step 1

Choose an image that you'd like to use, in this case I’ve chosen the Black Buck Antelope because of its spiralling horns from this ( http://vintageprintable.com/vintage-printable-animal/animal-deer/animal-range-antelope-haekel-3/) website, the images are free to use. But you could also use vector images and save yourself a bit of time, for example this ( http://www.freepik.com/free-vector/grungy-animal-silhouettes-with-lettering_799642.htm) is a good option too. I'll combine this image with the quote “Take the risk or lose the chance”.

Paste the image on the first layer and reduce the opacity to 50% by double-clicking on the layer and ticking the template checkbox.

Step 2

Add a second layer, this is where we're going to work. We're going to roughly outline the image, press shortcut P to select the Pen tool. Make sure the outline is black and the filling is off. Close the shape and we’ve created the silhouette. It doesn’t have to be perfect because it should look like it has been sketched, so don’t worry about the little details.

Step 3

Now we’ve got the outline there’s no need for the image in the background. Unlock the first layer and delete. Type out the quote and check your font collection for a hand drawn style font, in this case I’m using “Luna”. But if you browse online you’ll find lots more choices. Check if you prefer the lowercase or the capital letters, in this case I’ve used only capitals. Afterwards, create separate text elements, so that each word is in a separate bounding box.

Step 4

Change the color of the text to white and place the text on top of the silhouette image and start scaling and rotating the text items to your liking. Make the important words bigger for a better contrast and legibility. To make your design more playful, rotate the words in a slight angle so that there aren’t any words placed in a straight line. 

Adjusting the text

Step 1

Now it’s time to adjust the words to the shape of the figure, this will give the illustration more of an organic and hand drawn feeling, it’s something you’ll always see in hand drawn typography. To create this effect we'll use the Envelope Distort tool so that we’re able to manipulate the shapes into the shape we'd like. Select the word you want to adjust and click on Object > Envelope Distort > Make with Mesh

Step 2

I’ve chosen to use only 1 row and 4 columns, it’s best to use the same amount of columns as letters. So if you've only got 2 letters, use 2 columns. But when the letter doesn’t take up too much space (like the letter i), it’s better to use fewer columns. In that case you don’t need to reshape the word as much and it will look smoother. The more columns you’ve got in a tighter space, the bigger the risk that it will look messy.

Step 3

Now we can reshape the words by adjusting the anchor points of the bounding box. Use the Direct selection tool or shortcut A, click on an anchor point and drag, use the handles to adjust the curve.

Step 4

Play around with the shapes until you’re happy with the design. Make sure that the words each  have a natural flow with each other. You can always use extra elements to fill up the empty spaces in between, in this case I’ve made a simple wave with the Pen tool and have placed it above and underneath or/the. But be careful with adding things to your design, if you add too much it will look messy.

Cutout and texture

Step 1

Now we’re going to cut the phrase out of the silhouette so that when we put a background behind this illustration, the letters won’t have a white fill. The first step is to select all the elements with the Selection tool or shortcut V and click on Object > expand, make sure the boxes, object and fill are selected and click on ok. The words don’t work as a group anymore because all the letters have their own anchor points. 

Select all the elements and click on Pathfinder in the right sidebar or in Window if you can’t find it, click on the second icon Minus Front, this action will cut out the letters from the silhouette. If you’re not sure if it worked correctly then you can check by placing a shape in a different color behind the illustration. 

Step 2

So now we’ve got the cutout, it’s time to add texture for more of an authentic feel. You can download the texture in the attachments section. I used the second one but you can use any other for a different effect. Copy the texture, select the silhouette and click on the Transparency tool. Click on ‘Make Opacity Mask’ in the slide out menu. 


Click on the black square and paste the texture in this layer, move and scale the texture until it covers the whole shape. Deselect clip and invert mask, click on the left square to select the silhouette as a whole. This was the last step for creating the whole vector shape. 

Placing the shape on top of a picture

Step 1

The only thing we need to do now, is to place the shape on top of a picture. Choose the picture you would like to use and adjust it to your liking. You can find the picture I’ve used in the attachments section. Open Photoshop and place the picture you would like to use as a background. Copy and paste the silhouette shape on top as a smart object.

Step 2

If your picture has a lot of light elements it’s better to have a dark shape, the contrast makes it easier to read the text. But if you prefer to change the color to white, you need to rasterize the layer. To do that, we need to right click on Vector Smart Object and select Rasterize Layer, this allows us to adjust the object. For inverting black to white, click on Image > Adjustments > Invert or command+I. If the color is still a bit grey (because default black of illustrator is not pure black) use brightness, Image > Adjustments > Brightness/Contrast > 100% > Ok. And that’s it!

What do you think of this tutorial?


Making hand lettered illustrations can take up a lot of time, especially when you’re not an illustrator yourself. Normally these types of illustrations are made with pen and paper to give it an authentic look. But with this tutorial you’ll learn how to create a similar illustration in illustrator.

Tut Details

Beginner level 30m 6,405 views