Quick Tutorial: Create a Reusable Retro Type Treatment

Retro Type Illustrator Tutorial

In this tutorial I will show you how to create a simple retro type treatment. Even though its simple, it uses some powerful Illustrator features. If you have read my tutorials before, you know this means the Appearance panel! Along with the Appearance panel, we will be using some texture effects, Warp effects, and some simple layering.

Final Image

Below is the final type treatment we will be working towards.

Final Image

Tutorial Details

  • Program: Adobe Illustrator CS5 (You should be able to create this tutorial in CS4 and CS3 but some of the tutorial images might look different.)
  • Difficulty: Beginner / Intermediate
  • Topics Covered: Appearance Panel, Effects
  • Estimated Completion Time: 15-20 minutes

Step 1

Create a new document and type out some text with the Text tool (T). I used Clarendon Bold at 48 pt. Take off any stroke and fill on the text.

Step 1

Step 2

With the text still selected, choose Add New Fill from the pop-up menu of the Appearance panel. Fill the new fill with a reddish orange color. In the Appearance panel, press the drop-down arrow for the new fill to reveal its attributes. Press the Opacity link and change the Blending Mode to Multiply.

Step 2

Step 3

Create another new fill in the Appearance panel, select the bottom fill item, and fill it with a light yellow color. With the light yellow fill item selected in the Appearance panel, go Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform. In the Transform dialog, change the Horizontal Move to -2 px and the Vertical Move to 2 px.

Step 3

Step 4

Create another new fill, select the bottom fill item, and fill it with a light aqua color. With the aqua color fill item selected, go Effects > Convert to Shape > Rectangle. In the Rectangle dialog, select the Relative radial button, change the Extra Width value to 30 px and the Extra Height to 8 px. With the aqua fill item still selected, go Effects > Warp > Squeeze. In the Warp Options dialog, select the Horizontal radial button and change the Bend to 23.

Step 4

Step 5

With the aqua item selected, press the Duplicate Selected Item button at the bottom of the Appearance panel. In the Appearance panel drag one of the aqua copies above the first reddish fill item. Change the fill of the top item to a light gray. With the item still selected, go Effects > Texture > Grain. In the Grain dialog, change the Intensity to 78, the Contrast to 50, and the Grain Type to Sprinkles. Change the Blending Mode of the gray fill to Multiply and change the Opacity to 38.

Step 5

Step 6

Duplicate the grain fill item, select the top copy, and expand the attributes. Select the Grain attribute and press the trash icon at the bottom of the Appearance panel. Fill the selected item with a Diagonal Line swatch (this can be found by pressing the bottom left Swatch Libraries icon in the Swatches panel then navigating Patterns > Basic Graphics > Basic Graphics_Textures).

Step 6

Step 7

Select the empty stroke item at the top of the Appearance panel, (if your empty stroke item is not at the top, drag it up to the top) fill the stroke with your reddish color, and change the weight to 2 pt. Change the stroke to have the same rectangle and squeeze settings as the previous fill items and set the Blending Mode to Multiply. With the stroke still selected, go Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform and in the Transform dialog, change the Horizontal Move to -4 px and the Vertical Move to -4 px.

Step 7

Step 8

That’s pretty much it for the text treatment! I like to save it as a Graphic Style so I can apply it to other artwork. To create a Graphic Style, select the text and the press the New Graphic Style Button in the Graphic Styles panel. Now you can add the effect to other elements like in the final preview image.

Step 8

Final Image

Again, here is the final image!

Final Image

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111 thoughts on “Quick Tutorial: Create a Reusable Retro Type Treatment

  1. I am stuck on step 4. When I follow the directions to make the rectangle, nothing appears. Visibility is on for all fills, and I have tried several times. I’m very new to illustrator and this is for a class assignment. Thank you!

  2. Great tutorial. I am a beginner so please excuse me… Everything turned out great, but when I try to reuse it I have a brown shape in the center of everything. How do I remove that so I just have the nice aqua?

  3. Hi, when I create a new fill for the blue, the yellow fill above it disappears and I can’t see it. I’ve tried creating the rectangle and then changing the fill to blue, but this doesn’t work either. All fills have the eye checked

  4. Hi,

    Coming from years of working with Inkscape, Illustrator is a bit getting used to. Just not as logical as Inkscape. This tutorial is great to get into Illustrator.
    My result looks just about the same.
    Only difference is that my halftone and grain are a bit more rough then yours.
    Has this to do with the image size?

    Thanks again,


  5. Which illustrator are you using? I’m cs3 and i don’t have half of the options you have in yours. I can’t follow your tutorial. :[

  6. This is SO good. Everything is really nicely broken down, it’s so pleasant to read and the end product looks really nice and authentic. Awesome stuff!

  7. Great tutorial! Though i can’t seem to make the graphic style thing work. I save it but can’t use it on other documents – what am I doing wrong? 🙂
    thanks! /Sara

  8. The tutorial as a whole was awesome. I got stuck on the last part of step 6. After adding the basic texture I didnt see any lines at all. Im using CS3 I noticed my appearance panel is a little different.

  9. I’m studying Graphic Design and I’m all new to this design stuff and I completed this tutorial with ease! I’m so happy! Thanks for the tutorial it really helped me!

  10. I just want to say thanks for sharing this tutorial. I’ve tried going for this look on my own only to be disappointed and frustrated. Finally got around to actually doing the tutorial and made a nice header for my blog. 🙂

  11. Awesome tutorial!. nice and clear step by step guide to getting a satisfying end result! We definetly need things like these to help us learn the how to design without fustration on how to produce them! If only there are classes solely to learn about tutorials! how awesome that would be. Thank you for the time and effort putting this together for us to learn and open our eyes to. Greatly Appreciated! XD

  12. Looks simple enough doesn’t it. The final copy looks like a great retro logo – excellent tutorial and I hope to have as much success..

    Maybe you should change your logo to that one?

  13. Hey! I’m stuck on step 6, “Duplicate the grain fill item, select the top copy, and expand the attributes.” How do you expand just the grain? Every time I expand, it expands the whole thing.


  14. You need to tell the user to create a new document using PIXELS as their unit of measure. Otherwise, when they get to Step 3, they will type in -2in, 2in instead of pixels. This had me so confused. That tip would help this tutorial 🙂

  15. Hi,

    Great tutorial. I’m stuck on step 7 though – the stroke is being applied to the text instead of the squeezed box…

    Any ideas?


  16. great tutorial, thank you…but once i create the rectangle i lose the lighter offset type created in step 3…what am i doing wrong?

  17. wow… cool tutorial…
    i want to ask..
    where i can get that background image at final image?
    what’s the tag name?

    sorry for my bad language hehehe…

  18. I loved your tut, thanks for sharing 🙂

    for some reason my diagonal lines look soooo tiny and close together, unlike yours 🙁 any suggestions? :S

  19. Hi, i have a question, I got stuck on the part where you have to Change the stroke to have the same rectangle and squeeze settings as the previous fill items and set the Blending Mode to Multiply. in step 7, the rectangle and warp squeeze do not appear under the stoke layer. What am i doing wrong? Thanks! 🙂 great tutorial!

    • For the background I created a rectangle with a light yellow color and applied Effects > Pixelate > Color Halftone and changed all the Channel values to 100.

      Then in another fill from the Appearance panel, create a radial gradient (first stop white and 0 opacity and the second stop a darker yellow color), then go Effects >Texture > Grain.

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