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Create Typography Inspired By Embroidered Patches

By Erica Larson

Though patches have been commonplace for decades, I’ve loved watching designers and illustrators take advantage of the medium’s recent surge in popularity. I’m particularly inspired by the work of Ben Goetting, who fuses his graphic design background with wonderfully irregular chain-stitch embroidery and a punk aesthetic. Listen to our interview with Goetting while you look at his work and follow a tutorial to make some of your own patch-ready type.

We don’t all have a vintage chain stitch machine, so I used Adobe Illustrator CC to compose typography around a graphic I created in Adobe Illustrator Draw, and then I gave the text the hand-drawn feel of the illustration.

Step 1: In Illustrator, draw a circle with the ellipse tool. Choose the Type on a Path tool (underneath the Type tool), then click on your circle to add some placeholder text. Replace this with your own message, then center-align the text from the Control panel. If the text doesn’t land where you expect, don’t worry—we’re about to fix that.

Step 2: To position your message, press Esc to exit the text tool. Rotate the circle so the text is where you want it. You can also hold Shift while you rotate to snap the text to the top-center.

Step 3: Now you can go wild with the typography. It’s helpful to apply your font first and then make the point size bigger. I used Brothers OT Bold from Typekit, adding letter spacing quickly by holding Option (Alt on Windows) and pressing the left and right arrow keys.

Step 4: If you’re really fancy and using a font with OpenType features, you can highlight individual letters to access alternate characters. Just click one of the alternates to swap it with the default. Then hug a type designer for the privilege of choosing from three different letter Q’s. (And discretionary ligatures! And swashes!)

Step 5: You can stop here, but I wanted to better unify the typography and the illustration. First I softened the corners of my text to match the round brush I used in the drawing. Zoom in on your type, and go to Effects > Stylize > Round Corners. Check the preview box, then experiment with the corner radius until you get something you like. I used a value of 0.03 inches, but settings will vary with the size of your art.

Step 6: For a handmade quality, go to Effects > Distort & Transform > Roughen. Check the preview box and the Smooth option, then play with the Size and Detail sliders until you get a subtle effect. When you zoom out again, you’ll see that the slight change does a lot to bring the text and image together.

Step 7: Almost done. If you want to send your artwork to a printer or manufacturer, right-click on the text and choose Create Outlines. This ensures they will see your design exactly as you intended it (and that you won’t get an angry email asking for a proper file). Outlining also means you can’t go back and edit the message, so save a live (un-outlined) version if you think you’ll change your mind.

Want to learn more Illustrator techniques? Check out our tutorials.