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Illustrator Tutorial: Create a Christmas Santa Text Effect

christmas text

Follow this tutorial and learn how to create a Christmas gift text effect in Illustrator. You will use the Blend Tool, the Gradient Mesh, the Round Any Corner script and Art brushes to add highlights and to obtain a glossy look. There are a lot of details, useful techniques and some pattern transformations. For some extra Christmas atmosphere, we will add some sparkles.

Working with the Text

1. First open a new web document. Take the Type Tool (T) and type “SANTA” using a font called Becker Black NF, size of 138 pt. Set the tracking for the selected characters to 30 in order to add more space between the letters.  Next, from the Object menu choose Expand then Ungroup to get the individual letters.

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2. Now we must get rid of the small triangle indicated because it will generate bad results when we use the Blend Tool later. So, take the Pen Tool (P) and draw a shape between the “legs” of the letter “A” to cover the triangle completely. Select both the letter and the blue shape and click Subtract from shape area > Expand from the Pathfinder Panel. Do the same thing for the second letter “A”.

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3. Select all letters and go to Effect menu > Stylize > Round Corners. Apply a 5 px Radius. In order to expand this effect, select Expand Appearance then Ungroup from the Object menu.

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4. Select again all the letters and go to Object menu > Path > Offset Path. Apply a minus 6 px Offset and you will get the smaller letters. Apply again the Rounded Corners effect for the purple letters and select a 2 px Radius this time. From the Object menu choose Expand Appearance then Ungroup.

Before you move on, make a few copies of these letters because you will need them again later. Copy (Ctrl+C) and Paste in front (Ctrl+F) the group of black letters and the group of purple letters and hide them for the moment.

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Create the Gift Style

5. Fill the original letters with the gradients shown and the smaller letters with red except for the first “A”.

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6. Now, select the letter “S” (both shapes) and go to Object menu > Blend > Blend Options. Choose 30 Specified Steps and hit OK. Go back to Object menu > Blend and select Make. Repeat this process for the other letters.

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7. At this step you need the copies of the smaller letters. Move them in front of everything.  With the help of the Gradient Mesh we will add some texture and in the following steps I’ll explain how to do so.

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8. Focus on the first letter. Select the black “S” and go to Object menu > Create Gradient Mesh. In the window that opens select 3 Rows and 4 Columns then hit OK. Unfortunately, the result is not so great and we need to arrange some of the mesh lines. To do so, take the Direct Selection (A) and move some of the mesh points individually and also move the handles if necessary. Once you get a similar result, use again the Direct Selection Tool (A) to select one of the mesh points indicated and change its fill color. In this case, the points highlighted with blue are filled with white and the ones highlighted with red are filled with gray.

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Now focus on the second letter. Select the black shape and go to Object menu > Create Gradient Mesh. This time select 3 Rows and 7 Columns. The result obtained looks good and you don’t have to make any adjustments. Just select the mesh points indicated and change their fill color. Blue means a white fill color and red means a gray fill color.

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Repeat this process for the next letter:

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Here is the letter “T”:

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And the last letter:

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9. At this point the letters should look like in the image below. Set all the mesh-letters to Overlay and 100% opacity besides the two letters “A”.

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Working with Patterns

10. Next, we will need the copies of the bigger letters. Bring them in front of everything and focus only on the letters “A” and “N”.

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11. Select the copy of the first “A” and fill it with a pattern called Borneo that you can find in the Swatch Libraries Menu under Patterns > Decorative > Decorative_Primitive. I’m not sure what you think of it but to me this pattern looks like some small Christmas trees. Having this shape selected, go to Object menu > Transform > Scale. There, check only the Patterns option then type 30% and hit OK. Finally, change the Blending mode to Overlay and reduce the Opacity to 40%.

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12. Fill the copy of the letter “N” with a pattern called Floral Vines that you can find in the Swatch Libraries Menu under Patterns > Nature > Nature_Foliage. Go again to Object menu > Transform > Scale, check only the Patterns option and type 60% this time. Set the pattern to Color Burn and reduce the Opacity to 25%.

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13. For the last letter we will use a pattern called 6 lpi 60% which can be found in the Swatch Libraries Menu under Patterns > Basic Graphics > Basic Graphics_Lines. Fill the copy of the letter with this pattern then scale it 60% as you did before. Next, go to Object menu > Transform > Rotate, check only the Patterns option then select an angle of 45 degrees and hit OK. Change the Blending mode to Screen.

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Add Highlights

14. You need again the copies of the smaller letters in the following steps. First, bring them in front of everything. We will cut these white paths into segments with the help of the Scissors Tool (C) starting with the letter “S”.

Select the white path then grab the Scissors Tool (C) and click on the indicated points to cut it. While you do this, if you release the path just select it again and continue with the remaining points. You can see the resulting segments in the image below.

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15. Continue with the next two letters. Just click on the points indicated with the Scissors Tool (C), one by one and you will get the segments.

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Here are the last two:

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16. Once you have all the segments focus only on the ones indicated. Select and stroke them with an Art brush called Tapered-Sharp, which can be found in the Brush Libraries Menu under Artistic > Artistic_Ink. Select white as the Stroke color. Open the Appearance Panel (Window menu > Appearance) and double click on the stroke attribute to open the Stroke Options window. There, under Width type 10%. You can also check the Flip Along option if the tip of the brush is not in the proper direction.

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17. Now, having all these stroked paths selected, go to the Object menu and choose Expand Appearance. As a result the stroke will turn into a fill and you can now replace the white color with the gradient shown. Because of the gray stops in the gradient, the ends will become semitransparent. Change the Blending mode to Screen for all these resulting shapes and set the opacities between 80 and 100%.

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18. Next, select all the remaining segments and stroke them with the same Art brush. Also use the same settings shown at step 16.

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19. Set the Blending modes and the opacities for the paths indicated as shown below. All the other paths from the previous step that are not indicated here are set to Overlay and 100% Opacity.

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Draw the Ribbons

20. First, select the bigger letter “S” then go to Object menu > Path > Offset Path and apply a 2 px Offset. You will get the blue “S”. Bring it in front of everything then draw a 100 x 10 px rectangle using the Rectangle Tool (M). Duplicate it then rotate them both about 50 degrees. After you arrange them like below, group (Ctrl+G) the two rectangles. Now, select the blue “S” and the group of rectangles and click Intersect shape areas > Expand from the Pathfinder Panel. As a result you will get a compound path. Go to Object menu > Compound Path and choose Release in order to obtain the two individual ribbons.

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21. Take the Pen Tool (P) and draw a small shape like below. Arrange it as shown in the close-up and send it in back. Multiply this shape and use it at the other ends of the ribbon.

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22. At this step you will need a script called Round Any Corner. This is a great script and I use it all the time. Go here and download it then follow the instructions to install it. After you restart Illustrator you can find it in the File menu under Scripts. Now, use the Direct Selection Tool (A) to select only the anchor points indicated then run the script, select a 2 Radius and hit OK. As a result you will get the rounded corners.

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23. Copy (Ctrl+C) and Paste in front (Ctrl+F) the two ribbons (the blue shapes) then take the Rectangle Tool (M) and draw a 100 x 0.5 px thin rectangle (no, that is not a line). Fill it with any color then rotate it 50 degrees. Make three copies then arrange them above the ribbons. Group each pair of rectangles. Now, select the first copy of the ribbon and the corresponding group of rectangles and click Intersect shape areas > Expand from the Pathfinder Panel. You will get a compound path but this time you don’t have to release it. Just fill the thin stripes with the gradient shown and set the Blending mode to Overlay. Do the same things using the other copy of the ribbon and the other group of rectangles.

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24. It’s time to add some shadows. Copy (Ctrl+C) and Paste in back (Ctrl+B) the top ribbon then use the Direct Selection Tool (A) to select only the points indicated and move them a little in front as shown. Change the existing fill gradient with one from white to black and adjust the angle value as much as needed depending on the direction of the ribbon. Set the Blending mode to Multiply (white becomes transparent). Do the same thing for the second ribbon and the letter “S” is ready.

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25. Let’s continue with the last letter because it’s similar to the first. Apply a 2 px Offset to obtain the blue “A” then draw and arrange the three rectangles on top (1). Follow again the step 21 to obtain the ribbons then arrange the small shapes at each end of the ribbons (2), as explained at step 19. Don’t forget to send them in back. Use the Round Any Corner script to create the rounded corners of the ribbons (3), as explained at step 21.

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26. Copy (Ctrl+C) and Paste in front (Ctrl+F) the three ribbons (the black shapes) then draw and arrange the thin pink rectangles on top of them. Follow again the step 21 and use the settings shown there to get the thin stripes. Finally, add the shadows as explained at step 24 and this letter is ready.

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27. The process is similar for the letter “T”. Follow again the step 21 to obtain the ribbons then create the rounded corners as explained at step 24.

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28. At step 23 I’ve explained how to obtain the stripes but this time, arrange the thin rectangles right next to the edges of the ribbons. Continue with the tiny shapes (step 20).

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29. Take the Pen Tool (P) and draw four straight paths parallel to the edges of the ribbons. Give them a 0.75 pt red Stroke then check the Dashed Line option in the Stroke Panel. Set the dash and gap values as indicated. When you are done, expand the four paths. If some of the resulting tiny squares surpass the edge of the ribbons use the Direct Selection Tool (A) to move each anchor point and to fix the problem.

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30. Add the shadows and the letter is ready.

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31. We got to the letter “N”. As explained previously, create the two red ribbons.

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32. Follow again the step 23 and create the thin stripes on top of the ribbons. Fill them with a gold gradient then change the Blending mode to Color Dodge and reduce the Opacity to 80%.

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33. Arrange the small shapes at the end of the ribbons and send them in back (1). Add the shadows (2). Use the same gradient and set these shapes to Multiply.

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34. The last letter is “A”. Take the Pen Tool (P) and draw a triangle like in the image. Copy (Ctrl+C) and Paste it in front (Ctrl+F) then draw a thin rectangle and arrange it right next to the bottom edge. Now, select the copy of the triangle (the black path) and also the blue rectangle and click Intersect shape areas > Expand from the Pathfinder Panel. Fill the resulting stripe with a linear gradient using white and shades of gray then set the Blending mode to Color Dodge and lower the Opacity a little.

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35. Use the Direct Selection Tool (A) to select only the tip of the triangle (1) then go to File menu > Scripts and run the Round Any Corner script. This time select a 3 Radius. Arrange the small shapes in back (2) and fill them with the gradient shown. Finally, add the shadow (3) as explained at step 22.

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36. Next, take the Pen Tool (P) and draw a wavy ribbon like in the image below (1). Continue with the second piece and send it behind the letter (2). Also with the Pen Tool (P) draw two paths following the edges of the ribbon (3). Select light orange as the Stroke color then use the settings shown at step 27 to obtain the tiny dots. Do the same thing for the second piece of the ribbon. Continue with the small shape (4) then add the shadow (5) as explained at step 22. With this, the letter “A” is ready.

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Create the Card

37. Take the Rounded Rectangle Tool and click anywhere on your artboard to open the Rounded Rectangle window. Enter the dimensions shown to draw the card-shape. Use the Ellipse Tool (L) to draw a small circle and put it in the upper right corner. Copy (Ctrl+C) and Paste in back (Ctrl+B) the card, remove the existing fill color and give it a 2 pt black Stroke. Now, select the orange card and also the circle and click Subtract from shape area > Expand from the Pathfinder Panel to get the hole.

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38. Group the shapes that make up the card and arrange it like below. Instead of orange select white then go to Effect menu > Stylize and apply the Drop Shadow effect.

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39. Use the Pen Tool (P) to draw two wavy paths, one in front of the card and the other behind. Give them a 0.5 pt black Stroke then check the Dashed Line option and set the dash and gap values as shown.

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40. Take the Type Tool (T) and type “Merry Christmas!” then choose Expand from the Object menu. Arrange the text on top of the card as you want.

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Draw the Bows

41. The bow is all about the Pen Tool (P) therefore grab it and draw the first two shapes shown below. When you are done, do the same thing on the right side.

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42. Continue with the round shape in the center (1). Next, Copy (Ctrl+C) and Paste in back (Ctrl+B) the left shape of the bow and move it a little down then repeat the same thing on the right side (2). Copy (Ctrl+C) and Paste in back (Ctrl+B) again the left shape of the bow and this time move it a little up then do the same thing on the right side (3). Use the Down and Up Arrow keys on your keyboard for this.

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43. Draw with the Pen Tool (P) the “legs” of the bow (1) then repeat the previous step to create the thin edges (2). Next, draw the black shapes then Copy (Ctrl+C) and Paste in front (Ctrl+F) the two bow-shapes (3). Select the left black shape and also the left red bow and click Intersect shape areas > Expand from the Pathfinder Panel. Do the same thing on the right side. Fill the resulting shapes with the linear gradient shown and change the Blending mode to Overlay (4).

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44. Repeat the previous step for the “legs” of the bow (1). Use the Pen Tool (P) to draw the three thin shapes and fill them with the color indicated (2).

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45. The green bow was made in the same way. The second one is just a copy but without the shapes from the top.

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46. Group all the shapes that make up the bows and arrange them like in the image below. Go to Effect menu > Stylize > Drop Shadow and apply the same settings for each bow.

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Add Sparkles

47. First, draw the two ellipses using the Ellipse Tool (L) then rotate them 45 degrees and scale them 75% to obtain the smaller two ellipses. Fill them with the first gradient shown. Draw a circle in the center and fill it with the second gradient then group all the shapes.

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48. Arrange as many sparkles as you want above the letters. Set the Blending mode to Screen (black becomes transparent).

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49. Use the Ellipse Tool (L) to draw a circle and fill it with the radial gradient shown. Draw more circles and make a group of sparkles. Once you arrange them on the letters set the Blending mode to Screen.

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50. You can see here all the sparkles:

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51. And here are the final letters:

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Final Image

This is the final image and I hope this effect gets you into the Christmas mood.

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Biography

I’m a graphic designer extremely passionate about my work. I discovered Illustrator a while ago and simply love it. Since then, it has kept me busy and active.

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About The Author: Diana Toma

I'm a graphic designer extremely passionate about my work. I discovered Illustrator a while ago and simply love it. Since then, it has kept me busy and active.

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