Illustrator Magic: Part One

Illustrator has an absolute plethora of tricks that it can perform, provided the user knows some of the basics about using the Appearance Palette and Effects menu. Today, I’m going to illustrate one of the many magic tricks you can pull off using some very simple techniques in tandem.

Step One

First off, you’ll need to open up Illustrator, and create a new document (use whatever size you feel like, since this is just to show a new technique). I used regular ol’ letter size for mine.

Step Two

Next, grab the Type tool, and click on your artboard to start a new type object, and type ‘Illustrator Magic Text’ and set it to something like 72pt to make it nice and big, and set the color to something other than black (I chose a light green) if you want to follow along with me.

Step Three

Here’s where the fun begins: Go to your Appearance Palette (Window>Appearance if it’s not already open), click the palette options icon in the upper-right corner of the palette, and choose Add New Fill. Drag the newly-created fill underneath the ‘Characters’ line in the palette window, and make it whatever color you like, as long as it’s different than the text color (I just stuck with black, but I made mine a rich black since Illustrator’s version of black is more of a dark grey, to be honest. We’ll cover how to do that in another post).

Step Four

Now, select the new fill that you just moved under the ‘Characters’, and go up to the Effects menu, and choose Convert to Shape>Rounded Rectangle. A settings dialog box will appear. Make sure it’s set to ‘Relative’, and choose any size you want for the ‘Extra Width’, ‘Extra Height’ and ‘Corner Radius’ values (for mine, I chose .3in for ‘Extra Width’, .2in for ‘Extra Height’ and .25in for ‘Corner Radius’). Hit Ok to complete the changes.

Step Five

Ok, so now you’ve got this big text with a rounded rectangle behind it – what’s so great about that, you ask? Double-click on the type, and add some more text/line breaks/etc.

Now do you see?

The fill you added to the characters is still acting like it’s part of the text, only it’s been converted to a shape instead of conforming to the character shapes. So technically, you now have a live, fully-editable text box that magically resizes itself as you type, and keeps the same spacing around your text as you go! How awesome is that!? Thanks for reading. Please subscribe if you want to be kept up to date when I post new magic tricks for you to amaze your friends with…


10 thoughts on “Illustrator Magic: Part One

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  2. Michael C

    This is really cool, nice find there :). I use InDesign for most text-based work but this is super useful if I need to do a quick flyer or leaflet etc.

  3. Jesse Post author

    @ Michael C – Thanks! I learned this trick from ‘The Adobe Illustrator CS3 Wow! Book’ by Sharon Steuer. That book has tons of great Illy ideas.

    @ Quentin – Thank you. I guess I’m sort of a vicarious genius… since I got the idea from the book mentioned above.

  4. Pierre Loubert

    Very cool!

    I knew you could slide the layers around in the Apparence palette, but what’s really cool, you can apply all the effects from the Fx menu to these layers you just taucht us about! Once an effect is applied it appears under a triangle for the layer, that you can pop open and modify on a whim!

    Great trick! Thanks!


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