I love balloons! I love real balloons and I love balloon clipart and letters. They look lovely on gift wrap, party invitations, and kids stationery. So in this month’s tutorial, I will show you how to create a balloon text effect in Illustrator.
This quick guide will teach you how to make cute, cartoon-like bubble or balloon letters. If you are looking for more realistic looking balloon letters, you can do that using Photoshop, but I love to use this text effect because it has a more hand drawn look.
Drawing or typing?
You can start by drawing your letters and then vectorizing them or by using a typeface. Because I’m really bad at drawing letters and calligraphy, I will start by using a typeface.
Open Illustrator, create a new document and type your text.
You can use any typeface you want, but you will have the best results if you start with a bold, sans-serif font. I’m using Montserrat bold because it’s one of my favorite sans-serif fonts and I also use it on all my blog post images.
Turn your text into a shape
Once you are done typing, you should transform your letters into shapes. Select your text using the Selection Tool (V), then go to Type > Create Outlines (Shift+Ctrl+O). This will change your text into a shape and you won’t be able to edit it with the Type Tool.
Go to Objects > Ungroup (Ctrl+Shift+G) to ungroup the letters so you will be able to change the shape of each letter.
Create bubble letters
One of the reasons I wanted to show you this text effect, besides the fact that I really like it, is that it uses a couple of tools that I rarely work with, like the Warp Tool (Shift+R).
Select the letter you want to distort with the Selection Tool and then go to the Warp Tool. If you double-click on the Warp Tool, you will be able to change its size and other options. I like to use a small brush (20 pt) and the following settings:
I want to create round letters and that’s why I have the Detail set to 2 and Simplify to 50, but you can experiment with the values.
If you haven’t worked with the Warp Tool before, you might need to practice a bit until you learn how to use it. It’s fun to use and it can give your vectors a handmade feel.
With your letter selected, click on one of the corners using the Warp tool and drag the corner.
You should do this with all the sharp corners to make them rounder. Then starting at the top of the letter, trace the outline of the letter with the Warp Tool to make it rounder and a bit thicker.
Do this a few times until you remove the sharp corners and the letter is nice and round.
Repeat this step for all the other letters.
As you can see, they are not perfect (and they don’t have to be if you want to keep that hand drawn look) so we will have to make a few changes to them.
Simplify the shapes
The shapes have many paths and anchor points and we will have to simplify them in order to make the letters even rounder. You can do this by selecting all the letters and going to Object > Path > Simplify.
The Curve Precision is the setting that removes points and makes the letters round and it should be close to 100%.
The letters look better, but if you zoom in, you will see that there are still some areas that you will have to smooth. You can do this using the Anchor Point Tool (Shift+C).
Select the letter you want to change using the Selection Tool, switch to the Anchor Point Tool and click on the point to want to smooth. Adjust the handles until you are satisfied with the result.
Use the Anchor Point Tools on all the letters to adjust the areas that don’t look well.
How to colorize your letters
Adding shadows and highlights
Just a couple of steps left. First, we will add a bit of depth to the balloons and then we will make them shiny.
So, select all the letters and group them from Object > Group (Ctrl+G). Duplicate them by going to Edit > Copy (Ctrl+C), then paste them in the back from Edit > Paste in Back (Ctrl+B).
Drag the new layer a bit down and to the right to make something that resembles a shadow. With the back layer selected, go to Windows > Transparency and change the Opacity to 70%.
You will also get an interesting effect if you select both layers and lower their opacity to 80%.
The last step is to add highlights. Pretend that there is a light source in the upper left corner and draw the highlights with the pen tool or the brush tool.
I like to use the Paintbrush Tool (B) and a very thin brush (2 pt).
You can leave the highlights as they are or you can select all of them, group them, and lower the opacity. Lowering the opacity to 90% will make them blend better with the background.
Select all letters and group your text so you can use it in your designs. Don’t forget to save your file.
You can use this technique to create your own balloon text effect alphabet or just illustrate each word every time you want to use balloon letters in your designs. Creating a balloon text effect in Illustrator is so much fun and you can make unique letters every time you try this.
Do you want to learn how to create other text effects in Illustrator? What other Illustrator tutorials do you want to see?