Distressing Type in Illustrator

When I see something cool online I’m always telling Mel to write a blog about this, make a shirt look like that, or asking her to find different tutorials that are awesome (that I’m too lazy to find).  She saved the day again today! I’ve been trying to find out an easy way in illustrator to distress type without bringing it into Photoshop. She sent me a link to this tutorial on DzyneO about distressing type that really helped my project get finalized.  Check it out:

Step 1. Type something that you’d like to distress. Open the brushes palette

Step 2. With the pen or the brush tool draw lines over your text in a different color (this color won’t be seen at the end, it helps with separation of images) until you receive the desired effect. Apply different stroke sizes to add variation in your design.

Step 3. Outline the text and group. (Type>Create Outlines) (ctrl+g)

Step 4. Select all strokes created and go to Object>Expand Appearance

Step 5. Open the Pathfinder tool and select everything (ctrl+a). In the pathfinder palette click on merge. Make sure that the stroke color is selected in the fill color. Go to the toolbar and click Select>Same>Fill Color and delete the selection. (I promise it works, it took me a few trys to figure it out, so don’t give up)

Step 6. Your Final Image!

I’m working on some t-shirts for our favorite local singer/songwriter Zank. Which design do you like? I can’t decide.

Hope this helps!



14 thoughts on “Distressing Type in Illustrator

  1. Stellar. Way easier than the convoluted method I had been using.
    That involved finding a woodgrain, doing a live trace in B/W then subtracting from each individual letter in pathfinder. Used that method to do my logo. Your method is far simpler and yields cool results. Thanks.

  2. Hey DJ! Awesome. I’m so glad it helped. Let me know if you need any more help in illustrator and Mel and I will be happy to figure out how to do it.

  3. Hello:
    I have tried this at least 5 times and when I get to step 5 and hit delete, everything is deleted. I have tried converting everything to outlines, converting only the brush strokes to outlines, no outlines, text only (no objects) etc. and still get the same result. I must be missing or not understanding a step. Any help would be appreciated. I love the concept but obviously am doing something wrong.

    • Hi Jeff,
      After you have merged your brush strokes with you text DE-SELECT everything. Make sure that the color of your brush stroke (in my example, purple) is the selected FILL color and then with everything still de-selected click on the navigation dropdown “SELECT> Same > Fill Color.”

      The key here is to make sure that everything is deselected when you click on “Select > Same > Fill Color.”

      I hope this helps!

      Fill Color

  4. Pingback: how to do this effect? - T-Shirt Forums

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