Design Challenge Days 18 & 19: Text with Long Shadows and Line Gradients in Illustrator

My Final Tutorials!

As you may have noticed, I didn't quite achieve my one tutorial each weekday this month. I did come pretty close - I completed 19 tutorials and there were 22 working days this month. (C'mon, you didn't expect me to work on Memorial Day!) These last two are coming in by the skin of my teeth, but they were pretty cool.

Both of these are from one of my favorite designers and design teachers, Teela Cunningham of Every-Tuesday. The first one just screamed summertime to me; the line gradient text effect reminded me of an IROC-Z Camaro cruising the streets in the '80s.

The second one appealed to me because I've seen the stacked long shadow effect and loved it; it looks cool but it's actually much simpler than I imagined it would be to achieve. (Though I did run into a snag - one that I figured out how to fix myself!)

The Process

For the line gradient effect, I chose Titanium Motors Std as my font, which seemed appropriate. After creating outlines of the text, a gradient made using the Blend Tool is placed behind it; the text is made into a compound path and then the Clipping Mask Tool is the final step.

For the stacked long shadow effect, there were more steps, but it was still dead easy. Once the text was set up, I created outlines, ungrouped, and then selected each letter to create a compound path for each word. The full text was copied and moved to the spot to which the shadow would fall. I chose alternate color fills for each word, reversing the colors for the shadow text. The shadows are created for each word using the Blend Tool.

This was easy enough, but I chose a font that had sharper edges than the one Teela used and noticed that my blend wasn't smooth - I could see each step! I couldn't figure out what went wrong until I found some online guidance in the Adobe Forum that recommended using a set number of steps. I quickly learned through trial and error that the maximum number of steps is 1,000, which still didn't give me a smooth blend. I then tried using specified distance; 1 pixel still gave me a stairstep effect. But .1 pixel - that was perfect!

The Presentation

I'm still a huge fan of Teela. She is one of the best teachers sharing design tutorials, both in terms of content and presentation. She usually shares the resources she uses and always offers direction in terms of the types of text or images to use. This was the first time I had to go beyond what she presented, and while it didn't knock her off the design pedestal I have her on, it did make me realize I'm ready to start learning from more advanced sources.


I hardly know what to say. I decided to do a design challenge to push myself and I feel like I've learned an incredible amount in such a short time. I find myself fiddling around in Illustrator and Photoshop much more, pushing the limits of what I know how to do and using the skills I've picked up this month. One of my goals was to become more proficient in and comfortable using Photoshop and I've definitely done that. For all of the Adobe Creative Suite, there is still an immense of amount of learning left for me to do and design ideas to explore.