Discover how to create visually interesting layouts with two sets of text in this Adobe Illustrator typography tutorial.

Typography is an art in and of itself; the practice of arranging various font styles, assigning color, and establishing an interaction amongst text elements impacts how viewers perceive the whole design. As you advance in your design abilities, you’ll start to think about how the letterforms work together instead of simply typing out a phrase and placing it on your design.

There are many techniques you can use to spice up a headline or a simple phrase.

Overlapping text reading Make Waves

In this Adobe Illustrator typography tutorial, you’ll learn how to overlap and weave letterforms together to create intertwined text.


Step 1: Pick Two Contrasting Fonts

Begin by searching for a contrasting font pair with styles on the opposite ends of the spectrum. I find that combining a sans serif style with a script style works well. The juxtaposition of a heavy, monoweight style and a dynamic script always looks interesting.

Not sure where to source budget-friendly fonts? Check out our list of free font resources.

Type out text using the Type tool in Illustrator

Julietta and Futura Condensed Fonts. 

Now that you’ve found varying type styles, think of the  actual words you might use in this typographic layout. Words with a similar amount of characters work in an overlapping format; the phrase “make waves” fits the bill.

Type out each word using the Type tool in Illustrator. Use the bold sans serif font on the first word, as this will be the base layer.


Step 2: Place Phrase on Top

Overlap the phrases by moving their text boxes and bring the lighter script style to the front with Shift + Command + ]. Then create a new layer within the Layers panel and bring the top phrase to the second layer.

Move layers on top of each other and convert the text to objects

Find a unique interaction between the phrases, tilting the top path if necessary. Then, convert your text paths to vectors by navigating to Object > Expand.

When choosing color palettes to use for your typographic layout, think of the context of the design, along with how the words might read. Darker hues will retreat to the background, while lighter hues have the spotlight. Experiment with various color swatches or manipulate the RGB or CMYK sliders within the Color menu.


Step 3: Remove Overlaps

To create an intertwined typographic layout, we’re going to reconfigure how the letterforms interact. Find the overlapping portions of each letterform and consider which pieces should be removed. Only remove portions that do not impact legibility.

Select the top layer of the phrase with the Selection Tool (V) and then activate the Eraser Tool with Shift + E. You can reduce the transparency of the top layer to guide the removal process.

Erase overlapping areas using the Eraser tool

Drag the eraser across portions that are being removed to get a glimpse of how the typographic layout appears. Adjust the size of your eraser with to decrease and ] to increase. Undo your actions with Command + Z if necessary. Don’t worry about complete accuracy at this point, but keep your eraser within overlapping areas.

Use the pen tool to remove anchor points and complete the overlap

Within the Pen Tool (P) dropdown, activate the Add Anchor Point Tool (+) and map out the exact point of overlap on the top layer. Delete excess anchor points with the Delete Anchor Point Tool (-), then adjust individual bezier curves by holding down the Option key and dragging the blue handles.


Step 4: Add Dimension with Gradients

Gradients will add highlights and shadows to the text, simulating a three-dimensional layout while transforming the look and feel of a flat vector design.

Begin by duplicating the top layer within the Layers panel by holding down the Option key, then dragging upwards until you see a blue line. Select the newly copied layer with the Selection Tool (V), then ungroup all elements with Shift + Command + G.

Use the Gradient tool to add more color

Erase and delete the portions of each letterform that do not border the bottom phrase. Select the remaining portions, then open the Gradient Tool (G) to adjust the transition of color. Drag the fill color to the gradient slider, then copy the color by holding down the Option key and dragging across. Delete the default black hue and select the duplicated slider and adjust its hue with the RGB sliders.

Overlapping text reading Make Waves

The key to a natural gradient is to create a subtle transition between two or three colors. Drastic changes in color may appear harsh when applied to vector shapes. When you’ve found a gradient that works with your composition, use the Eyedropper Tool (I) to apply the same gradient to the remaining shapes. Adjust the angle and direction of your gradient as needed.


Interested in learning more about Illustrator’s tools and functionalities? Look through these articles:

Cover image via SFIO CRACHO