How To Create a “Fauxsaic” Mosaic Text Effect (Illustrator & Photoshop Tutorial)

Hello everyone this is Chris from Spoon Graphics back with another video tutorial Today I'm going to take you through a process I've come up with for creating a mosaic tile effect, using a mix of Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop

This kind of tiled effect has been quite trendy over recent years, made popular by Nick Misani and his 'Fauxsaics' series, where he would produce illustrations of the place names he traveled to in the style of the kind of classic mosaic tile art found in hotel foyers and subway stations Those Fauxsaics are painstakingly created by hand by drawing each individual tile, but my process uses the power of Adobe Illustrator to achieve a similar look We'll then transfer the art over to Photoshop to help boost the realism with texturing and the must-have pair of superimposed feet Create a new Illustrator document to get started It can be any size, but make sure to set the units to Pixels to simplify the measurements

I think this mosaic effect works best with script type, so lay out your wording with a nice flowing typeface I'm using one of my favourites named Smoothy We can't actually use the text element itself, but we can use it for reference to redraw the type out of individual paths Reduce the opacity to 50% then lock it to avoid accidentally moving it out of place Grab the Pen tool and switch the default fill to a stroke

Begin tracing the shape of the letters by clicking and dragging the bezier handles to form a smooth path Whenever you reach a point where your pen stroke would reverse back along itself, instead end the path by clicking on some empty space while holding the CMD key (or CTRL key on Windows), then start a new path for the next segment Making sure you have Smart Guides enabled under the View menu will make it easy to snap to the existing paths Deselect the path at the end of the letter and start a new path for the next letter, or letters if several are joined in a continuous cursive stroke When you're done, you'll have the full wording made out of lines

Unlock the original text element and delete it Select the Rectangle tool and draw a small square on the artboard about 10px in size Make sure it has just a black fill with no stroke Go to Object > Path > Offset Path and enter 1px Give this new shape a lighter grey fill, such as the third lightest swatch in the preset folder of grey tones in the Swatches panel

Switch over to the Selection tool and draw a selection across the shapes to make sure they're both selected, then click the New Brush icon in the Brushes panel Select Pattern Brush Configure the corner setting to Auto-Overlap for both the inner and outer corners, then change the Colorization Method to Tints before hitting OK These square graphics can now be deleted Draw a selection across all the paths that form the wording, then click the newly created tile brush in the Brushes panel

Switch to the Stroke panel and adjust the stroke weight to alter the scaling of the tiles I'm using 05pt The stacking order of some of the paths can be adjusted to help the stroke flow better Select each one in turn and use the Arrange > Send to Back option to place them underneath the subsequent paths

Select all the paths again, then change the stroke colour to a cyan blue swatch Head to Object > Path > Offset Path to begin filling out the design with more tiles Turn on the Preview, then increase the offset size until the new outline of tiles aligns perfectly with the right spacing Go to Object > Path > Offset Path again and hit OK straight away on the same settings Change the stroke colour of this outline back to black

Add 4 or 5 more offset paths of black to outline the text, using the same offset each time You could even continue adding more using different stroke colours and stroke weights if you wanted to produce a more intricate design Hold the Shift key and add all the paths with a blue stroke colour to the selection Use the Arrange > Bring to Front command so they're not obscured by the black outlines This Illustrator technique saves loads of time compared to drawing all the tiles by hand, but you'll notice it does cause some glitches where there's some acute angles in the path

These glitches can be fixed by clipping and modifying each path Use the Scissors tool to snip the point that's causing the problem The pattern brush will stop trying to navigate around the sharp corner and will instead end at the open points You then need to extend the open end to cover the gap that's left, but it's difficult to select the point you want when they're both stacked on top of each other The easiest method I found was to use the Scissors to snip the path a little further up too, then delete a small portion

You can then select the Pen tool and easily click the point and extend it Look out for the little pen icon with the line that indicates you're continuing an open path Extend this path so it covers any unsightly areas with a neat tile pattern Wherever there's a glitchy area, there will be multiple points to fix where that path has been offset numerous times Work through the entire design and edit the paths of any weird looking tiles

When you extend the path, try to follow the curvature of the letter so the tiles run parallel with no gaps You can also fill any small gaps with new paths Draw a line, then apply the tile brush and set it to the correct stroke weight Use the CMD+Shift+[ shortcut for Arrange > Send to Back to place these individual paths underneath everything else, so they're only visible in the gaps The artwork is now made up of hundreds of tiny mosaic tiles

They might not realistically flow like a real mosaic design in some places, but the process is much less time consuming than drawing them all by hand They do all look a bit too uniform though, so there's a couple of tweaks that will help add some realism Draw a selection around everything, then go to Object > Expand Appearance to convert all those tiles into individual shapes Use the Direct Selection tool to select just one black tile, then go to Select > Same > Fill Color Zoom right in to get a close look at the tiles in detail then go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Roughen

Configure the settings to 3% Size and 10 Detail, with the default Relative and Corner options checked Next, go to Effect > Stylize > Round Corners and enter 025px These effects don't do much for the realism up close, but when zoomed out the irregularities help reduce the uniform appearance Use the Direct Selection tool to select a blue tile and use the Select > Same > Fill Color menu to select them all, then apply the same Roughen and Round Corners effects

Another trick to make the artwork look less computer generated is to mix up the fill colours to add some subtle variances To save some time for this next step we'll use a third party script called Random Select, which I'll link down in the description To install the script, save and close the document, then navigate to the Application files for Adobe Illustrator and head to Presets > Scripts and dump the JSX file in there More detailed guides on how to install a script can be found with a quick Google search Reboot Illustrator when you're done

Make a selection of all the black tiles again using the Select > Same > Fill Color menu, then go to File > Scripts > Random Select Hit OK on the default value of 50%, which will leave you with a selection of half the elements This script saves you from the tedious task of randomly clicking individual tiles, but it can be a bit CPU intensive Sit back and bear the unresponsiveness until it has finished processing You can then choose a slightly lighter or darker fill colour to subtly mix up the tones

Do the same with the blue tiles, by selecting one with the Direct Selection tool, then Select > Same > Fill Color menu, followed by the Random Select script Double click the fill colour in the toolbar and choose a lighter blue hue in the colour picker We can quickly fill out the background with a simple tile pattern Hexagon tiles look pretty good to help them contrast against the squares Select the Polygon tool and zoom in to the artwork

Hold the Shift key to keep the polygon straight, then eyeball its size relative to the other tiles Give this shape a lighter grey fill Drag the shape off the artboard into some empty space while we process it into a pattern Start by dragging a copy vertically by holding the ALT key Align it perfectly along the bottom edge

To create a gap, go to Object > Transform > Move Enter 05px in the Vertical box Select both these shapes and make a duplicate Offset them so the hexagon pattern will tessellate

It can be difficult to line them up exactly, so hit CMD+Y to turn on Outline Mode to accurately match up the paths, then hit the ENTER key shortcut to bring up the Move command Use 05px in the Horizontal box this time Make a duplicate of all four shapes and line them up again to continue the pattern The Smart Guides will get the idea the second time and begin snapping the duplicates to help continue the pattern with the correct spacing

Once it does this, you can use the CMD+D shortcut for Transform Again to quickly fill out a short line Select all the shapes that form the line and duplicate them vertically Use the CMD+D shortcut to extend this pattern into a square Draw a selection around all these shapes and add the Roughen and Round Corners effects to distort them slightly, the roughen settings can be reduced to 1% so it doesn't mess up the shape too much Use the Random Select script to then change the colour of half the tiles to a slightly lighter shade to add some variances in colour

This square sample is large enough so it won't show up any obvious repetition when used as a pattern To make it seamlessly repeat, duplicate all the shapes to extend the pattern to the right Turn on Rulers via the View menu or CMD+R shortcut and add a guide to identify the point between the two groups of shapes Make duplicates of the shapes vertically too, making sure to add a guide between them If the spacing is correct, you shouldn't be able to see where the pattern repeats if it wasn't for the guides

Draw a selection around all the polygon shapes and go to Object > Expand Appearance Grab the rectangle tool and pick out a recognisable point in the upper left, then snap a rectangle to this point and extend it to the same point in the pattern in the upper right, lower left and lower right portions Draw a selection around all the shapes again, including this new rectangle, then hit the Crop button in the Pathfinder panel Convert this tile into a Pattern swatch under the Object > Pattern Make menu, where you can check it repeats seamlessly before hitting the Done button in the header If not, press CMD+Z to undo and try lining up the rectangle again

The polygon pattern can now be deleted, because an infinite area can be filled with the same pattern by applying the newly created swatch as a fill to any shape Use the Arrange > Send to Back menu to place it underneath the main mosaic artwork Currently the grout colour of the polygon tiles is just the colour of the artboard showing through, to customise this, Copy then Paste Behind a duplicate of the shape, then change the fill colour That's all the work in Illustrator done Copy and Paste it over to Photoshop for some finishing touches

The vector artwork will probably translate to quite a small pixel canvas so use the Crop tool to enlarge the document and scale up the pasted graphic The first Photoshop improvement is to add a Gradient adjustment layer, using a simple black to white gradient set to flow diagonally across the canvas Change the blending mode of this layer to Soft Light to add a subtle cast of light Tiled floors in subways are often grubby and grimy, so download and open one of my free Dirt Textures from Spoon Graphics Select All, Copy and Paste the texture into the working document, the scale it to size using the CMD+T shortcut for Transform

Go to Image > Adjustments > Invert so the texture is black on white Change the blending mode to Multiply to allow the artwork to show through the dirty marks Alter the opacity of the texture layer to around 35% A Fauxsaic piece just wouldn't be complete without a pair of feet to make the image look like it's a photo that's been taken looking down at a floor Download and open a relevant photograph of some feet

There are some freebies available on Unsplahcom, but this particular shot is named 'Foot and legs seen from above' by Yayha on Shutterstock Open the image and zoom right in, then use the Pen tool to carefully cut out the feet and legs from the original background Click and drag the bezier curves to roughly match the outline while staying a few pixels within the subject to avoid capturing any of the background in the selection Once you're done, right click and choose Make Selection

Adding a little featuring of 05-1px helps reduce the hard fake looking edge of a clipped image Copy and paste the selection into the main document, then transform, scale and position the legs within the lower centre Create a new layer below the feet clipping, then hold the CMD or CTRL key and click the layer thumbnail of the feet image layer to load its selection Hit ALT+Backspace to fill this selection with black

Use the CMD+T shortcut for Transform, then right click and choose Perspective Drag the lowermost handle to the left to extend this black silhouette to represent a shadow Apply a Gaussian Blur of 15px, then reduce the opacity to around 30% The final result is a pretty realistic looking Fauxsaic piece that depicts your own type art as a tiled floor, without tediously hand drawing every individual tile by hand! Instead, a simple pattern brush in Illustrator creates the basic layout, then it's tidied up and modified with various adjustments to eliminate the computer generated appearance to make it seem like a dirty old floor in a real photograph So if you enjoyed this tutorial or learnt anything new, be sure to give the video a like and subscribe to the Spoon Graphics YouTube channel to stick around for more

Have a browse around my Spoon Graphics website for more design inspiration, and join my mailing list to get all my free resources in one go and to receive notifications of all my future content As always thank you very much for watching, and I'll see you the in the next one


  1. Hi Chris! Thank you very much for sharing your process. I’m working on my “Fauxsaic” Mosaic Effect by following your tutorial. Everything comes out just like I wanted. I just need the link for random selection script for Adobe Illustrator. If you can provide that, would be very helpful. Thank you and keep sharing your work process!

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