In today’s Illustrator tutorial we’re going to create a comic book inspired text effect your favourite superhero would be proud of. Learn how to create a basic 3D effect using the Blend tool and produce cool halftone patterns to give the design that retro screen printed appearance. These two techniques alone are crucial additions to your Illustrator skillset and can be used in all kinds of illustration and design work.

Comic style text effect

The text effect we’ll be creating is based on those retro comic book covers featuring bold titles, often with strong outlines and 3D style effects. Our example also makes use of subtle halftone patterns to add variations in colour and to mimic the visible dot pattern of the old fashioned screen printing technique.

Open up Illustrator and enter some text with the Type tool and choose a tall, bold typeface. Here I’ve picked out Futura Bold Condensed.

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  1. I’m going to be another praising the tutorial but bemoaning the changes made to image tracing in Illustrator (I’m running the latest CC version). Having used CS3-5.5, the process outlined above would be significantly easier to accomplish with the previous menu layout.

    I’ve tried tweaking the size of the object, the size of the halftone pixels and played around with all the new settings but every time the results are ropey –
    1) the pixels are poorly defined (ie not neat circles)
    2) the smaller black halftones (those at the bottom) aren’t converted at all, but the smaller white halftones (those at the top) are expanded and distort the edge of the shape
    3) the final trace shifts and/or expands the result several pixels outside of the parent layer – this is particularly annoying as you need to edit all the individual anchor points to get them to sit flush and neat within the text

    If you have any guidance on how to get around this (except spending half a day manually correcting the vector!) it would be a great help.

  2. Thanks, Chris. I know I learned this a long time ago in CS3, but totally forgot it. Time for me to break out Illustrator and it try again for a greeting card.

      • Yeah, the replacement for Live Trace really sucks. I remember using Live Trace for the halftone effect in CS5 but now with CS6 and Image Trace, it’s taking a lot more effort than it should :(

  3. Hello Chris, this is a nice tutorial, but I have a problem with it. After I create the halftone effects on the text, and I have done the Image live trace, I click expand, but then I can change the color of the vector. When i choose another fill color, the color is applied not only on the dots, but to all the reptangle. Is there something I missed ?

      • Hi Michele

        Is the “Ignore White” button definitely being selected in the Live Trace settings?
        Otherwise you should be able to select and delete the rectangular shape with the Direct Selection tool before changing the colour.

  4. 1st time here.
    nice-clean, splendid tutorial!

    thoughts rolled on my mind:

    0. for beginner/inter or advanced? me beginner;
    1. a free font mention, like – Bebas Neue;
    2. inCS5, Text Wrap: Object > Envelope Distort > make with wrap;
    4. color selection cool!
    5. blending is handy, started liking color halftone.

    Thank you!

    • Thank you for no. 2! I’m working in CS6 and was trying to find out how I would go about this

  5. Really liked the tutorial. I also had a little difficulty with the CS6 change in Live Trace but I ended up with a piece I liked. Thank you for sharing!

  6. I cant seem to change the halftone to any other color besides greyscale. If I choose purple, it changes it to a dark grey. I cant pick a color. Help!

  7. I am having the same problem with changing the colour of the halftone. It seems that once the Gradient is transformed to half tone, the option to change the colour is gone. I believe it is at this point that it converts to greyscale. Cannot figure out how to change the colour of my halftone

  8. Absolutely awesome tutorial. Respect Man. You have become my inspiration.

    Keep up the good work

  9. This is a really great tutorial. Very cool and exactly what I needed for a project. Unfortunately, if you have CS6 it actually doesn’t work at all. It’s a shame there isn’t an updated version of this tutorial.

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