Many of the text effect tutorials I produce for Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop tend to require the text to be permanently set, which means if the wording needs changing, the effect would have to be created all over again from scratch. In today’s tutorial I’m going to cover some useful tricks that incorporate the Appearance panel in Illustrator to create a Graphic Style that works with live text. See how a range of fills and strokes can be layered to produce a trendy retro style text effect, while retaining the ability to alter the wording and change the font.

Editable Retro Text Style in Illustrator

The text effect I’ll be creating in this tutorial mimics the popular retro style with a faux-3D appearance, flat shading and some subtle halftone texturing. While this design uses a mix of blues and reds, the effects can be layered and modified to produce a range of colourful graphic styles that can be applied to text elements with a single click.

Begin by creating a new document in Adobe Illustrator. I’m using a generic A4 sized document with the RGB colour mode and ruler measurements in Pixels. Draw a rectangle to cover the artboard and apply a colour fill, such as #f16975.

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  1. Thank you again. This is yet another wonderful tutorial. I feel like you should get commission for all the work I get hired to do. BUT, I have a wife and kids who already get 99%, so there really wouldn’t be much left over for you.
    Seriously though, my family relies on my art to have a home, food, school etc. Your site & your tutorials keep me creative, which allows me to continue to make money being a designer. So thank you Chris.

  2. Awesome tutorial. I always learn so much from your tutorials. However, I can’t figure out why my stroke and shadows are jagged. I’m working in CS6.

  3. Nice tutorial but when I apply the graphic style to new text, the lighter blue does not show up. Is it because I’m in CS5? The original letter I created (and yours as well) I can use, change and it looks fine.

    • I believe I realized what had happened. The new text was too small a point size to carry the effect. I took my original letter ‘A’, copied it the reduced its point size and it still retained the effect. I then saved that smaller ‘A’ as a new graphic style and it worked.

  4. Hi Chris, I’m having a problem applying the blue stroke. The image shows that you don’t have the “transform objects” or “transform patterns” boxes checked but mine is requiring me to have at least on of them checked. Do you know how I can fix this?

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