Illy tips and tutorials no.4

Part 4 of my 5-part series on map finishing in Adobe Illustrator.

Tip #4

Glowing effect (actually a feather technique) – great for road names

We looked at glows in Tip #2, this effect is one of my favourites. It looks like a glow but doesn’t actually use Illustrator’s glow effect at all. It is also in my opinion a far better effect to apply to text than drop shadow (also see Tip #2) and is particularly valuable for road names.

This is the effect in a finished map environment

© Christopher Wesson, 2013
© Christopher Wesson, 2013

Step 1: So lets take a simple road name which I have as a text on a path (but any text will do), a simple road which I have as a stroke (but fills are fine too) and a background colour (you can have white but as we have no other map features in the demonstration a coloured background will show the effect better.


Step 2: Select the road name. Note that for an entire map you can group all of your road names and do the rest of the actions in one go, but I would recommend testing it on one name first to get your settings right for your map – you don’t want to wait for Illustrator to apply changes to many road names. And from the menu bar choose Type > Create Outlines.


Step 3: The text should now be a group of compound paths (i.e. a load of complex vector shapes). Make a copy of the group and paste it behind (Edit > Copy, Edit > Paste In Back).


Step 4: With the pasted group selected, change the fill colour to white. Next we are going to expand this using offset path. This can be found from the menu bar either by Object > Path > Offset Path… or Effect > Path > Offset Path… . Use the preview option to tailor the values to your needs.


Step 5: With the group still selected, change the fill colour to white and from the menu bar select Window > Pathfinder to bring up the Pathfinder toolbox. In Shape Modes (top row of the box) select Unite (left hand icon) and click on Expand. The original characters will still be separate so repeat the Unite > Expand.


Step 6: From the Layers panel, select the topmost Group (the black text) and repeat steps 3 to 5.


Step 7: On this new selection, change the opacity to 35%. There are several ways to do this. Go to the menu bar and choose Windows > Transparency. And in the drop down you can select 35%. Or it can be done in the Path toolbar.


Step 8: Next, with this same selection go to the menu bar and pick Effect > Stylize > Feather.


Step 9: Copy this group layer and once again Paste In Back. Then you’re done!


Similar things can be achieved by applying multiple outer glows but the resulting effect is often not white or pure enough.


*Remember in tip 2 we discussed how it is best to apply effects with your Illustrator document colour mode set to RGB if your map is for digital display and to CMYK if it is for print. RGB special effects in Illustrator don’t always print very well. I have actually found this one to be okay for printing as either – although printing the RGB effect in CMYK obviously has a duller appearance than on screen, which in terms of this effect makes it a lot more subtle.

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