Illustrator paper cut tutorial

121615If you are looking for a way to create a paper-cut look with digital tools, check out this Paper Cut tutorial. Using a combination of hand sketching and Adobe Illustrator, Adobe senior designer Lidia Lukianova walks you through just a few simple steps to get this stunning effect. Her example shows a beautiful letterform but I’m sure you could use this technique with illustrations or icons just as effectively.

Cheater Chalkboard Calligraphy


A friend recently asked me to create a couple of chalkboard signs for her son’s beach wedding and I admit I felt a bit daunted by the project. I haven’t practiced calligraphy in many years and I had never done calligraphy with chalk. I started thinking about how to keep the words spaced properly and decided I needed to figure out a way to transfer the design to the chalkboard before I drew with the chalk. It was easy! You do not have to be a graphic designer or calligrapher to do this. Here are the steps:

What you’ll need:

  • Adobe Illustrator (this technique will work with Photoshop or InDesign too)
  • a laser or inkjet printer
  • tape, pencil, scissors, ruler, liquid chalk markers
  • chalkboard

Create the calligraphy pattern
These instructions show you how to create the design using Illustrator but you can do basically the same thing if you want to create the design using Photoshop or InDesign.

  1. Measure the chalkboard and note its dimensions.
  2. Launch Illustrator and create a document using the dimensions of the chalkboard.
  3. Use the type tool and various typefaces to create your design. Save the file. Here are a few great tutorials about using the type tool in Illustrator:
    Work with fonts from Typekit
    Point vs. Area Type
  4. I created my design in color to give me an idea of where I wanted to use different colored chalk. I also created a black rectangle behind the typography so that I could visualize what the final chalkboard would look like.
  5. Choose File > Save As to save a duplicate of the design. Select the type and choose Type > Create Outlines.
  6. Select View > Show Print Tiling. This will give you a preview of what the pages will look like when they print. Select the Print Tiling Tool. You will use it to indicate which part of the design you want to print.
  7. Use the Print Tiling Tool to print each area of your calligraphy design. Print the page or page tiles at 100% size. For my design, I printed 4 separate pages to include the whole design at full size. You definitely want some overlap. That will help you align the prints when you combine them.Notice in the illustration below that the inner dotted lines show what you’ll see in the print. The outer dotted lines indicate the edge of the paper. For further learning, here is more printing & tiling information: Printing onto multiple pages using tiling.

Combine the pages to create the full sized pattern.

  1. Take your scissors, some clear tape, and your printed pages and find a window or glass door you can work on. This works best during the day with lots of indirect light. (A glass of wine is optional but I recommend it.)
  2. Holding the pages up to the lighted window, line up the letterforms and once they overlap seamlessly, use the tape to secure the pages together. Continue aligning and taping until all the pages are taped together. You now have a pattern that is ready to trace.

Transfer the design to the chalkboard

  1. Flip the pattern so the back side is visible. Tape the pattern to a window or glass door to reveal the design. If the overlapping pages block you from seeing the letterforms, you may need to trim them a bit. That’s what I did below:
  2. Use a fine tip chalk marker or chalk pencil to trace the outlines of the letterforms onto the back of your pattern. Don’t fill in the designs, just outline them. The chalk that’s left on the back of the paper will transfer to the chalkboard in the next step.
    062215.17   062215.10
  3. Place the pattern sheet backside down on top of the chalkboard. Adjust its position and using a ruler, make sure the baseline of the letters is parallel to the chalkboard frame.
  4. Once the pattern is taped to the chalkboard, use a pencil to trace over the outlines of the letterforms on the right side of the pattern paper. I used a dull pencil so that it wouldn’t tear the paper and accidentally scratch or mark the chalkboard.
  5. Once you are finished tracing the whole design, you should have a light outline of your letterforms transferred to the blackboard. You will use the outlines as a guide for your calligraphy.

Create the chalkboard calligraphy

  1. Trace the outlines using the liquid chalk markers. I used two sizes. For very light, thin typefaces (Futura Light below), I used the small markers. Note: I placed a sheet of paper over the chalkboard as I drew so that my hand or sleeve didn’t smear or erase the light outlines.
  2. I started at the top and worked downward, moving the protective sheet as I went. For the straight line, I used a ruler and a thin marker. For larger letters and fill areas, I used the large chisel tip chalk markers. Theoretically you could use regular chalk for this but the liquid chalk markers give you much cleaner lines and more solid colors.
  3. Below is the finished board before I transported it to the wedding venue. To protect the chalk lettering, I wrapped the chalkboard with cardboard and taped it. I managed to smear some of the letters while I packed it up but I used some wet Q-Tips and the chalk markers to touch up and it looked as good as new.

Normally I wouldn’t mix so many different typefaces but the idea was to imitate the style of old fashioned ad designs. Here are the typefaces that I used:

  • Futura Light and Futura Book
  • Zapf Dingbats
  • Lust Script
  • HWT Catchwords
  • Rockwell Extra Bold

Creating arrows and arrowheads in Illustrator CS6

There are several ways to create an arrow using Illustrator CS6. Here are five different methods that will give you a wide variety of arrows to choose from:

  • Using the Stroke Panel
  • Using Symbols
  • Using Glyphs
  • Using Brushes
  • Using Shapes

Using the Stroke Panel

In Illustrator CS6, turning any line into an arrow with arrowheads and tails is easy.

  1. Create any line (straight or curved) with two end points.
  2. With the line selected, open the Stroke panel by choosing Window > Stroke.
  3. Find the section titled “Arrowheads” and select your arrowhead and tail sections!

Below are some examples of arrows created using the Stroke panel:

Using Symbols

  1. To use the preset symbols in Illustrator CS6, open the Symbols panel by choosing Window > Symbols.
  2. In the Symbols panel, open the fly-out menu, choose “Open Symbols Library” and open the Arrows Library.
  3. From there, just drag and drop your arrows onto your artboard.

Here are some examples of Arrow Symbols:

NoteWhen you make edits to the symbol on your artboard it will apply the change to the symbol in the library. To prevent this, right-click on the symbol you dragged out and click “Break Link to Symbol” before making any alterations to it.

Using Glyphs

  1. You can choose a typeface that contains special arrow characters. To see if a font contains arrow characters, choose Window > Type > Glyphs.
  2. Select the font at the bottom of the panel and scroll through the glyphs (characters) to search for arrows.
  3. Create a text box. Double-click the glyph you would like to use and it will appear in the text box.
  4. To convert the arrow from live text into a graphic icon, select your text box and choose Type > Create Outlines. Converting live text to outlines is important if you would like to edit the text in the same way that you edit objects. For example, you may want to alter the edge of a text character but cannot do so if you don’t convert to outlines.

Here are some examples of arrow glyphs in the typeface Zapf Dingbats:

Using Brushes

  1. To use the arrow brushes, select Window > Brushes.
  2. In the panel fly-out menu, choose Open Brush Library > Arrows.
  3. There are three default arrow libraries in Illustrator CS6 (Special Arrows, Standard Arrows, Pattern Arrows). Open any of the libraries and select any arrow you desire.
  4. Use the Paintbrush tool and paint your arrow onto the artboard. The arrow will follow the motion of your brush.

Here are some examples of arrow created using the Brush Tool:

Using Shapes

Creating your own custom arrows using shapes is very easy with the help of the Pathfinder tool. Here’s a basic example using simple shapes.

  1. Start by creating a rectangle and a triangle.
  2. Position the two so that they overlap slightly and make an arrow shape.
  3. Open the Pathfinder panel by choosing Window > Pathfinder. Select both shapes and choose Unite in the Pathfinder panel.
  4. The two pieces have united to become one! This same process can be used with any number of shapes that you create, so get creative!

More Resources

There you have it… five simple methods to give you a variety of arrows for any of your designing needs! If you’d like to learn more about creating Arrows and Arrowheads using Illustrator CS6, check out these great resources:

[Note from Luanne: This is a post from guest blogger, Michael Jarrott, one of the digital media interns working for me here at Adobe.]

Creating arrows and arrowheads in Illustrator

There is more than one way to create an arrow using Illustrator. First, you can always draw your own arrow with the pen tool. Or, you might want to use a pre-designed arrow by using the Add Arrowheads filter or a brush or symbol. And finally, you can use an arrow design that is part of a font. To learn how to make an arrow, here are some good resources for you. If you want arrow and arrowhead instructions for Illustrator CS6, see this blog post: Creating arrows and arrowheads in Illustrator CS6.

To create arrows:
These are the arrows you can use with the Symbol Tool. To get this palette, choose Window > Symbols to display the Symbols palette. Then from the Symbols palette pop up menu, choose Open Symbol Library > Arrows.
These are some of the arrows you can use with the Brush Tool. To get this palette, choose Window > Brushes to display the Brushes palette. Then from the Brushes palette pop up menu, choose Open Brush Library > Arrows and choose one of the three libraries of arrow brushes.

  • Use a font that contains arrow characters
To see if a font contains arrow characters, choose Window > Type > Glyphs. Select the font at the bottom of the palette and then scroll through the glyphs (characters) to search for arrows.

Painting with type

Today I stumbled upon this incredible site called “Typographic illustration”. What a beautiful example of animation, illustration, and typography. I love this stuff! It reminds me of the typographic illustrations done by Roberto de Vicq de Cumptich and Matteo Bologna in their “Words at Play” piece featured on the Adobe Design Center Gallery. Do you have any interesting examples of this type of artwork or interesting tutorials on how to create it? I’d love to hear about it. Leave a comment…