Many projects require you to design for mulitple types of mediums: postcards, posters, websites, billboards. You can start with a MASSIVE Photoshop file or instead use Illustrator for your designs. Since typography is central to almost any design, Illustrator is the ideal tool if you are going to be using your design in multiple sizes.
Two type tools of interest when designing in Illustrator include the Area Type Tool and Masks (clipping or opacity). This article walks you through each of the options that make conforming type to your every desire possible.
The Area Type Tool allows you to type within the area of a path. For example, if you have a square you can simply type within this area and manipulate the square later and the text will dynamically update. For this article, we will use a star shape to show you how to make the most use of the tool’s features.
In Illustrator, open a new document and draw a shape of your choosing or use an existing project of your own.
Now, within the Type Toolbar, you can select the Area Type Tool. To enable the tool to work, you must select the area you want the text to adhere to by clicking along a path.
Now you can type within the area of your shape and the text will conform to it. But this probably isn’t enough. You may need to be able to manipulate how the type moves within the shape. Using Times New Roman and default settings, our star pattern looks like this:
To get the type to adjust more appropriately, open the Paragraph window (Windows -> Type -> Paragraph):
You can use various options like hyphenate and justify to get the text to fit the shape better.
For more detail work, double-click the Area Text Tool in the toolbar where you can tweak how closely the text adheres to the area paths. Make sure to check the Preview box so you can see your changes in real-time. Notice the red plus sign in the images above? This means that some of your text cannot fit inside of the area (the star in this example). Click on the plus sign to create a new container or enlarge your area (star).
Clipping masks are either on or off, meaning that you can either see what is being “masked” or you can’t. This is different than Opacity Masks (discussed later) which allow you to see what is being masked based upon how much opacity is applied.
We will start off with a block of dummy text for demonstration purposes.
Going back to the star shape, place a star in the middle of the text as shown:
Before applying the Clipping Mask, open your Layers window (Windows -> Layers) and make sure the two shapes on your Artboard are arranged so that your new star is immediately above the text block and in its own layer, like this:
With the entire layer selected (not just one of the shapes), at the bottom of the Layers window is the “Make/Release Clipping Mask” button. Press this to apply the clipping effect.
Your final result should look like this:
You can move the mask around by selecting the star shape layer (highlighted in the above example) and the text area is still fully editable allowing you to change the font, colors, etc.
If you want even more control of masks, reach for the Opacity Masks option in Illustrator. This gives you a great deal more ability to manipulate the effect, but it’s a bit tricky. There are other ways of doing this, but this process means you won’t miss anything important.
First, start with a block of dummy text.
In the Layers menu, select the layer. Now open the Transparency tool (Windows -> Transparency).
In the Transparency tool, click the fly-out menu and select Make Opacity Mask.
Now, in the Transparency tool, unlock the opacity mask by clicking the chain symbol.
Now, still in the Transparency tool, select the mask (the black shape next to the text layer) by clicking on it.
Using any tool you want, create a shape. We’ll stick with our favorite — the star, of course!
Wait! Nothing happened! No fear. With your shape you just drew selected, change the foreground color to a shade of gray.
Now that you understand the tool a bit better, click the Gradient Tool and apply the following using the Windows -> Gradient toolbar:
To move the entire set of layers around, simply click the layer in the Transparency window. To only move the mask, click the mask in the Transparency window. The only downside to this approach is that to edit the underlying text layer, you must first release the opacity mask, so you may want to make sure you have your text perfect before playing around with an opacity mask.
Illustrator has some very awesome text features, of which masks and area type are only a few. However, with these two tools under your belt, you have lots of cool text effects at your fingertips and now have a good basis for moving on to more difficult tools. What kind of effects have you been able to come up with these three tools for creating dramatic type in Illustrator?