How to Distort Text in Adobe Illustrator

How to play with the text to make a design look more fun? Well, there’s so much you can do by distorting the text in different ways. But where and how? 

Nope, you won’t see a Text Effects option in the Type menu, but there are effects that you can quickly apply to text. You just need to find it in the right place. 

In this tutorial, I’m going to show you where to find distort options and how to use them in Adobe Illustrator. 

After you use the Type Tool to add text on your artboard, you can use the options from Envelope Distort or Distort & Transform effects to distort the text. 

Note: the screenshots in this tutorial are taken from Adobe Illustrator CC 2022 Mac version. Windows or other versions can look different. 

Envelope Distort (3 Options)

Select the text and go to the overhead menu Object > Envelope Distort, you’ll see these three options: Make with Warp, Make with Mesh, and Make with Top Object. I’ll show you what each option can do. 

1. Make with Warp

There are many preset text effects from this option. If you click on the Style drop-down menu, you’ll see 15 style options to distort the text. 

This is what each style looks like. 

Step 1: Choose a style and choose Horizontal or Vertical. Check the Preview box to see how the text looks as you adjust the settings. If you choose Vertical, it’ll look like this. 

Ok, let’s stick with the Horizontal version in this example. 

Step 2: Move the slider to adjust the Bend value. The further you drag the slider from the center, the larger the arc. If you drag it left (negative value), the text will arc in the opposite direction. 

Step 3: Adjust the horizontal and vertical Distortion. There’s no rule on this, just have fun with it. Click OK when you’re happy with the result. 

2. Make with Mesh

This option allows you to distort the text freely because there isn’t any preset style. You’ll be dragging the anchor points to distort the text. 

Step 1: Select the Make with Mesh option, and input the columns and rows. Click OK

The more number you put, the more anchor points you get, which means the more detail distort you can make. 

Step 2: Choose the Direct Selection Tool (A) from the toolbar. When you click on the text, you’ll see anchor points.

Step 3: Click and drag the anchor points to distort the text. 

3. Make with Top Object

You can wrap the text in a shape using this method. 

Step 1: Create a shape, right-click and select Arrange > Bring to Front (Shift + Command + ]). 

Step 2: Place the shape on top of the text. Select both the text and shape, go to the overhead menu and choose Object > Envelope Distort > Make with Top Object.  

You can use any other shape as long as it’s a closed path. 

Distort & Transform (2 Options)

Although you could apply all options from this effect on text, let’s focus on the text shape distort, rather than text effects. So I’ll be showing you two options from Distort & Transform for distorting the text. 

1. Free Distort 

Step 1: Select the text and go to the overhead menu Effect > Transform & Distort > Free Distort

It’ll open this small working panel and you’ll see four editable anchor points. 

Step 2: Move the anchor points to distort the text. 

Click OK when you’re done.

2. Twist 

You can twist the text by angle. Simply select Effect > Transform & Distort > Twist, and input the angle value. Super easy! 

Feel free to try other Distort & Transform options and see what you’ll get 🙂 

Conclusion

See? Those awesome text effects you saw on others’ works aren’t magic, you just need to find the right command to make it happen. If you’re just getting started, I’d recommend the Make with Warp option from Envelope Distort. 

Among all the methods I showed you in this tutorial, probably the Make with Mesh option is the most complicated one because there’s no preset and you’ll need to do it manually. The good thing is, it gives you a lot of freedom to get creative with the distortion. 

About June Escalada
Graduated from Creative Advertising major, worked more than eight years as a graphic designer focusing in branding and Illustration. Yes, Adobe Illustrator is my best friend and I’m passionate about art and design.

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