With Adobe Illustrator’s Warp Effects, you can bend and warp your typography to transform it into eye-catching, custom illustrations. Let’s look at the 5 most useful styles.
Instead of performing the tedious work of adjusting individual letters, let the Warp Effects in Illustrator do the work for you. Used judiciously, these Warp Effects can add elegant, eye-catching motion to your titles and logos. However you want to add dynamism to your typography, Warp Effects has a few ways to help you out.
This guide will highlight a few of the options, which will help you work with other effects in the menu. Then, you can use these classic effects to expand your skill-set and leave some of the tedium behind — and learning how to adjust the effects of typography will benefit you for a lifetime.
Overview of the Warp Effects
In Illustrator, familiarize yourself with the Warp section in the Effects menu up top.
This list may seem like a lot to master, but for typography, we don’t acknowledge each style. There are some that obscure any readability, so those are obviously out. Basically, the first half is what we’ll use for typography: from Arc down to Wave, skip Fish, add Rise.
Each option has a Preview option, too, so you can visually inspect the effect before committing to it. On top of that, when you open an effect style from this list, you will be able to cycle through the same style list found in the actual Warp Options window.
Now, let’s go through a few of the more useful styles and see how they work.
1. Arch Lower and Upper for a Suspension Bridge Effect
These styles allow you to arch the top or bottom, while keeping the opposite edge flat. Choose Arc Lower to curve the bottom, and Arc Upper to curve the top.
You don’t have to bulge it outward like the icon suggests. The Bend control goes negative, so you can bring it in. That way, the outer edges are as tall as the original letters, while the middle comes downward or upward.
We’ll use the cover image for an example on these, since only the Arc styles were used in the logo’s lettering. The original letters are in blue outline.
Here we have the Bend at -18%, which nudges the bottom edge up without too much other distortion. In the menu, you’ll find Horizontal and Vertical Distortion controls, but I find those to affect readability in negative ways. So for typography, we won’t really use them.
A good rule of thumb is to be conservative with the distortion across the style options. The more you distort wording, the wackier it gets. However, if you’re looking to go wild and make some wavy-gravy stuff, the distortion controls available in Warp Effects are very much your friend.
For Upper Arc, the same holds true. Stay low. This example’s Bend is at 12%, and this time on the positive side since we’re squeezing the top down. Take note of how the Bend amount is less because we’re distorting the top of the letters, where readability is more prone to distortion.
The length of the word also plays into the Bend amount. There is no hard rule or number to shoot for since it’s based on size and font choice. Go with your personal aesthetic, but bend conservatively for best results.
2. Use Arch for a Banner Style
The Arch style is a really, really useful style. I might use this the most — especially in circular logos. When used with a low Bend percentage, you can evoke a circle rather than turn your typography into forcibly contorted forms (you should use the Type on a Path Tool for a completely circular lettering baseline, anyway).
A 10% Horizontal Bend is about as much as I want to use for this. The thin letterforms appreciate less dabbling. But thicker, bolder letterforms can take a bit more abuse.
That’s about as far as I want to bend this title. It will start having issues with kerning and looking too bent for my eyes. Then you can add color and outlines and go wherever your design heart desires.
3. Bulge for Retro Industrial Dynamics
A quick and easy way to get that retro industrial design look is to use the Bulge style. This is one where a light touch is best, as the letters on the ends, especially round ones, bear the brunt of the distortion.
This is pretty handy for that low-diamond look from the heavy-machinery days of yore, beloved by all the designers sporting work-wear right now . . .
As you’ll see, though, a very low number on the Bend slider is best. That G is already worrying me at 7%. If you have more angular letters on the ends, you could probably take it up a couple percentage points.
4. Waving Flag-Style for Subtle Motion Action
These last two are a bit intertwined. The Flag style puts a wave from the center point of the object being affected, while Rise’s wave starts flat from the baseline. We’ll talk about Rise in the next section.
A note about the 3 styles in this section: Flag, Wave, and Rise. Flag and Rise shift the whole shape when bending the style. Wave, on the other hand, moves the center mass of the object in a wave shape, which is far less usable in typography.
Notice you can blast the Bend up into 80% for this style. Also notice how it affects the different word lengths at the same setting.
5. Rise Above Bad Typography
Rise is another favorite for typography. While Flag seems to do about the same thing, the way Rise starts from one side is handy for symmetry, when more than one word needs the same effect.
This will yield a nice, gentle rise to your lettering, which can follow a shape, create interest juxtapositions, or just look cool. There’s nothing wrong with something just looking cool.
Note that for different lengths of words, you’ll need to use different Bend percentages to try to match the effect on a word with either more or fewer letters. On “Rabbit” here, I used 40% Bend, while “Schmear” is set to 50%.
In conclusion, these all require you to use Preview, along with your personal judgement, to get the effect you want. Rarely does a set of numbers work for a different design, but that’s the fun of all this — constant evaluation and change.
For more how-tos and design tutorials, check out these articles: