6 overlooked typography tools in Adobe Illustrator

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When it comes to typography, are you really making the most out of the features Adobe Illustrator has to offer? With an abundance of powerful tools at your fingertips, exploring unknown ones can feel a bit intimidating — especially once you’ve already got a workflow and process down pat.

Today, we’re shedding light on a few type tools in Adobe Illustrator that you may have overlooked if you’re self-taught in the software or just getting started with it. These features go beyond the basic Type Tool and will help streamline your workflow or equip you with some snazzy new tricks of the trade. Let’s jump in!

1. Text Box

The Text Box feature is especially handy when working through text-heavy graphic designs. You can actually create boundaries for where your text will sit within a specific area of your Artboard. Select the Type Tool icon then drag your cursor across any section of your Artboard to create a box. This box will act as a parameter for any text you include in this area. Simple and very useful!

Pro Tip: You can adjust the size of your Text Box at any time using the Selection Tool and dragging its edges.


2. Optical Kerning

Kerning refers to the process of manually spacing out letters in a font to achieve a more visually appealing result. While high-quality typefaces often have great built-in kerning, other typeface’s default spacing may not look as polished with certain letter combinations.

You can always manually adjust the kerning between your letters (using Alt + left/right arrow keys), but Adobe Illustrator also offers a built-in kerning option called Optical Kerning. It’s essentially an algorithm that calculates the adequate spacing between letters based on their shape. Find it in your Character panel and try it out — but don’t be afraid to manually adjust if something looks off! Use your best judgment.


3. Envelope Distort

Envelope Distort is a nifty feature that enables you to squeeze and fit type into any shape or form. Create any shape on your Artboard, then select both the shape and your text (just make sure the shape is arranged in front of the text in the Layers panel). Once both objects are selected, click on Objects in your menu bar, find Envelope Distort and toggle Make with Top Object. Boom — your text is automatically squeezed into your desired shape!


4. Special Characters & Glyphs

Did you know that many typefaces offer alternate characters to choose from? While you can access these letter variations in your Glyphs panel (find it under the Type menu bar), there’s also a simpler way: Use the Type Tool to select a single letter in your text and you should immediately see any and all different alternate characters that are at your disposal to choose from.


5. Type On a Path Tool

Use the Type On a Path Tool to insert text on any open or closed path. Simply create a path (or shape) using the pen tool or shape builder tool, then hold down the Type Tool icon to toggle Type On a Path Tool. Click anywhere on that path to activate the tool and start typing!


6. Warp

Use the Warp effect to distort your type into all kinds of different shapes — from an arc, to a bulge, or even a wave shape. The best part about this feature is that with each Warp effect, your type is completely maintained and still fully editable. Find the Warp effects by selecting your type, click Effect in the main menu bar, then find Warp.

Pro Tip: To undo any Warp effect, find your *Appearance panel, select the Warp effect, and hit the small trash can icon at the bottom right corner of the window.*


While we’ve only scratched the surface of the powerful tools Adobe Illustrator CC has to offer graphic designers, we hope you’ve learned some new tricks to implement into your vector art workflow. Keep exploring this roundup of great tips and features further, and show us what you come up with! We’d love to see what you’re working on.

For more typography resources, check out 5 sneaky typography errors to avoid and 5 online typography exercises to improve your skills.

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