Lettering: Create a Colorful Text Shadow

Beginner level Adobe Illustrator Adobe Illustrator


For many people, talking about design is equal to talking about flat design, something that could be explained as a minimalist and simple design. But this design is often paired with an effect called "long shadow", which is simply creating a 45º shadow casted by our design and usually towards the right side. You can find an example of this in this icon pack from Flaticon.

Set of Social Media icons that you can find in Flaticon 
and are in Long Shadow style

Generally this effect is applied as a solid shadow, but you can also find it as a gradient shadow, like in this example from Freepik.

Set of icons that you can find in Freepik that apply a variation of the Long Shadow

In this tutorial we'll work with an effect similar to the hard shadow you saw in the first example. We'll apply the shadow to the letters of a word in order to make a multicolor gradient, and that will give a different look to our message. What do you say? Shall we start?


Setting Up the Document

The first step, as I always point out in my tutorials, is to decide if our document is going to be used only in a web environment or if it's going to be printed. Since we'll be working on a vector file, we'll use Adobe Illustrator, so the resolution won't be a problem. It's important that we decide on the Color Mode though. Since in theory we'll be using the image in a web environment, we'll work on this project using the RGB Color Mode.


Therefore we'll set up a 1025x768 px document with the RGB Color Mode. With this, we'd be ready to work.

Applying the Typography

This design has a style that reminds of the hippie style, so it is very important that the font selected is closely related to this cultural movement. You can do as I did and look for your own typography on the internet until you find the one that suits our project. On the other hand though, if you liked the one used on this project, its called is '1960 Hippie' and you can find it here.

Step 1

Select the Type Tool (T) and, choosing the typography we had picked, we write the word which we want to apply the effect to. For this design, I chose a sentence to work with, though I'll only apply the effect to a single word. The sentence is 'All you need is love', taken from the chorus of a song composed by John Lennon. Type it using a big font size so you can clearly see how it looks.


Step 2

Turn the text into a path in order to move the text and create our composition. You can turn the text into a path by right-clicking on the text and choosing Create Outlines. You can also use the shortcut Shift + Ctrl + O or, from the Text menu, click on the Create Outlines option. You'll get the same result in any of the three cases.


Step 3

Now ungroup the sentence by pressing Ctrl + Shift + G or right-clicking on it and selecting Ungroup


Step 4

In order to keep the composition well organized, I personally like to group each word separately. Therefore, select each individual word and group it by pressing Ctrl + G or going to Object → Group.


Repeat this step with each of the words. Given that in the final composition the word 'love' will be the only one independently placed, I decided to group 'All you need is' and place 'love' in a different group.


Step 5

Open the Align panel and place 'All you need is' in the center of our composition. If you don't have this panel enabled, don't worry. You can open it by going to Window → Align or pressing Shift + F7. Then click on Horizontal Align Center.


Step 6

Enable the rulers in the document by pressing Ctrl + R and place guides in both ends of the sentence 'All you need is'.


Step 7

Select both parts of the sentence and, from the Align panel, select Horizontal Align Left. If you didn't adjust anything, you'll see that both parts of the phrase have been aligned to the left side of the artboard. If you just wanted to align both parts while keeping the 'All you need is' at the same place, you'd have to change the align preferences. To do so, open this panel's context menu and select Show Options.


Now, with the expanded panel, select Align to Selection.


And now click on Horizontal Align Left, but be aware that, first, you must have both parts selected.


Step 8

Increase the size of the word 'love' so that it fits all the space between the guides. Remember that, when rescaling any element, it's very important to hold Shift to scale the element proportionally. 


Once the word 'love' is scaled up, adjust the composition a bit and delete the guides. To do so, you can select them and press Delete. Or, since we want to delete them all, we can go to View → Guides → Clear Guides.


So the design should look like this so far.


Creating the 'Long Shadow' Effect

In this part, we'll start creating the shadow with Illustrator's Transform effect. Let's go!

Step 1

Duplicate the 'love' word layer and hide it. To duplicate it, go to the Layers panel, select the layer in which the 'love' word is (it doesn't matter if you didn't rename it; after selecting it, a square with the color of the layer will appear indicating which one is it) and drag it to the Create New Layer icon (the sheet of paper with the bent corner at the bottom of the Layers panel).


Now that we've made the copy, hide it so that we can use it later on.


Step 2

Ungroup the 'love' word. If we were to apply a shadow to the whole word, we wouldn't need to ungroup it, but since we're going to create the shadow letter by letter, we need to apply the effect separately.


Step 3

Change the color of each of the letters. In this design I used:

  •  L (#f1e008)
  • O (#5fb47b)
  • V (#3696d3)
  • E (#e12c59)

I've also left the codes in the image in case you want to take them using the Eyedropper Tool (I).

Step 4

From here on, we'll start applying the shadow to our design, so pay attention. Select the first letter and go to Effect → Distort & Transform → Transform...


Step 5

This panel will pop up. In order for you to see the changes you're doing, it's important that you check the Preview checkbox, which is disabled by default. 


Step 6

Set up a vertical and horizontal movement of 0,5 px. With this, we'll only move our layer, but if we want to create that shadow, we have to create many copies that move towards the bottom. For this, we'll have to set a value of 800 in the Copies field, since it moves very little (0,5 px) so the separation between the copies is not noticed.


Step 7

Now repeat this effect with the rest of the letters, keeping the same values in the Transform effect panel. You can select the remaining letters and apply the effect at once with no problem. The results should look like this:


Step 8

As you'll see, we can't tell apart the shapes of the letters. That's why at the beginning of this section we made a copy in a layer we left hidden. It's time to enable it.


With this, we've completed our shadow's design, so the only thing left would be to create a background that matches our design. Everything ready to go on?

Creating the Background

As I previously said, with this we can already consider our shadow finished but, if we want to go the extra mile with our design, we should create a more appropriate background to the idea we want to communicate. For this, what we'll do is to freely create a shape and then use the Blend tool in order to obtain a very cool effect. Well, you better see it yourself, so let's go!

Step 1

Create a new layer in the Layers panel and place it below the one with our design. Then, hide that layer.


Step 2

Now we can start working on our background with total freedom. Using the Pen tool (P), generate a shape made with curves that is center aligned to the composition. Don't worry too much about how it looks since you'll probably have to adjust it using the Direct Selection tool (A) until you get a shape that you like. The color I used for this shape is #cdc802.


Step 3

Copy the shape we created using Ctrl / Cmd + C and paste it in the same place using Shift + Ctrl / Cmd + V. Now paint it with a lighter tone than the one we chose for the main shape. In my case it's #ddd767.


Step 4

Scale up this shape until it goes over our artboard's limits. Then, we send it to the back using right click → Arrange → Send to back


Step 5

Now double click on the Blend tool (W). A panel will pop up in which we must select the Specified Steps option and enter a value between 1 and 5. Try different values and see what you get.


Now, click on the center of the top shape and then, on the background. We'll get the following effect.


Step 6

Go back to the Layers panel and activate the design layer in order to see how it looks on our background.


It looks like they don't work well together, so I'll make the design bigger and change the color of the letters from black to white.


Step 7

Now create a clipping mask for our design. With this, the project would almost be finished. Select the Rectangle tool (M) and make a rectangle that has the size of the artboard. I did a white one so you can see how it'd look. 


Step 8

Select everything in our artboard, either using the Selection tool (V) or using Ctrl / Cmd + A, and then right click on the rectangle we created and select Make Clipping Mask.



Well, it's done, we've finished our design. I hope you liked this tutorial. I encourage you to share your final results with me using the Projects tab. I also want to tell you that you can ask me any doubt you have using the tutorial's discussion forum. And that's it! I hope you keep learning a lot in Tutpad. See you in the next one :)


What do you think of this tutorial?


"All you need is DESIGN, All you need is DESIGN, DESIGN, DESIGN is all you need…". I know that's not the original lyrics by John Lennon, but you can't say it doesn't fit like a glove to a new Tutpad tutorial. This time you'll learn to use the long shadow effect on an illustration created from scratch, and afterwards you'll see how to create a very cool background using the blend tool. What are we waiting for?

Tut Details

Beginner level 30m 1,373 views