How To Create a Realistic Chalk Lettering Effect

Hello everyone this is Chris from Spoon Graphics back with another video tutorial Today we're going to take a look at creating a chalk lettering effect, just like the trendy menus you see in bars and cafes, or the quote murals all over Pinterest

I don't know about you, but I don't have a massive blackboard, a pack of chalk, or the skills to create a hand lettered mural by hand, but we can make use of other tools both on and offline to produce a realistic chalk based design Spoiler alert! We end up using pencil and paper to make this effect, so if you were looking for a quick Photoshop based technique, unfortunately this isn't the video for you However, if you want to produce an authentic looking effect and you don't mind putting in some manual work, this process will achieve the best results Other than actually drawing your artwork with chalk in the first place! We'll use the digital power of Adobe Illustrator to plan out our typographic quote design with fonts, which allows us to experiment and move elements around, which isn't something you can do with chalk, without rubbing it out and starting again To achieve the most realistic effect possible, we'll then make use of some analogue tools to capture the natural irregularities of hand made art So begin by opening up Adobe Illustrator and create a new document I'm going for an A4 layout since we use metric paper formats over here, but choose Letter if that's the size of paper in your printer If you browse Pinterest for some chalk lettering inspiration, you'll notice they often use a range of type styles, including serif, sans-serif and slab-serif fonts

Pick out a collection to work with from your font library and set them out with the Type tool in some empty space around the artboard The fonts that I'm using are all new to my collection from a recent Design Cuts deal I picked up If you follow my newsletter you might have even picked it up yourself, otherwise any typeface choices will do Select the best weights and styles for each of your fonts Geometric sans-serif typefaces in particular also work well with high tracking to space out the letters

As well as a collection of fonts, we also need a passage of text to work with This might be a menu, song lyrics, or a famous quote like the one I'm using that reads “Success is no accident It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do” Except I've shortened it slightly by chopping off the last line Using the Selection tool, hold the ALT key and drag a copy of one of your fonts onto the main artboard Change its wording to the first portion of your quote and scale it to size Click the Envelope Distort icon in the top toolbar to apply an effect Choose Arc Lower from the menu and change the Bend to -20%

Since this design is trying to mimic hand drawn artwork, we an get away with stretching the text out of shape to better suit the composition Drag a different font element from your selection and edit the wording to continue the quote Select both text elements but give the first an extra click to make it the key object Click the Horizontal Align Centre option from the Align panel to centre them up The line tool can be used to add a simple embellishment to fill out some space

Switch the default black fill to a stroke, then hold the Shift tool while dragging from one point to another Configure the stroke settings to 3pt with the round cap option ALT and drag a copy of this line across to the other side, also holding Shift to restrain the angle Shift+Click the original, then right click and select Group Add the text to the selection with the Shift key, then give the text element a second click to make it the key object

Align the group of lines to the text with the Horizontal Align Centre button Make a copy of a different font to continue to the next portion of the quote Scale up the text to match the width of the design so far To make sure everything is scaled accurately, press CMD+R to turn on Rulers, then drag out guides to reflect the edges of the type Continue fleshing out your quote design with a range of fonts

You can add some visual interest with further envelope distorts Apply an Arc Lower effect to one element with 20% bend, then an Arc Upper effect with -20% bend so they fit together when stacked on top of each other Unlike when working with real chalk, you can use the power of digital design software to scale and move elements around to find the perfect composition Another simple embellishment can be created with the Stroke panel Draw a dividing line across the artboard, then configure it with a black stroke with round cap ends

Check the Dashed Line option and enter zero for the dash but around 15pt gap, then increase the stroke weight to produce a series of evenly spaced dots Groups of elements can also be distorted with an Envelope Distort, but when adding it to solid objects, you'll find the option under the Object > Envelope Distort > Make with Warp menu Once your quote is fully laid out, refine the composition by scaling and nudging elements so it all fits onto the page Real chalk lettering pieces often have vintage style effects applied to the text itself We can replicate this in Adobe Illustrator with some simple adjustments

Select the first type element and go to Object > Expand to permanently apply the Envelope Distort effect Then head to Object > Path > Offset Path Configure the settings into the minus figures while watching the preview to see an inner outline within the letter shapes Change the fill colour of these new inner shapes to white, then use the shortcuts CMD+C and CMD+F to copy and paste in front a duplicate Under the Swatch panel, choose Open Swatch Library > Patterns > Basic Graphics > Basic Graphics Lines

Choose one of the horizontal line patterns to fill these inner shapes with an interesting vintage style effect These line patterns can also be used to create a drop shadow effect Select another text element and press CMD+C then CMD+B to Paste in Back Nudge it down and to the right slightly, then change the fill to a line pattern To change the direction of the lines, go to Object > Transform > Rotate

Then uncheck the Transform Objects option, leaving the rotation effect being just applied to the pattern fill Alter the angle to -45 degrees Continue adding these finishing touches to the other type elements within the layout Once you're done, draw a selection around everything and reduce the opacity to around 10% Hit CMD+P to print it out

So far we've used digital design software to help lay out a cool typography composition To create a realistic and authentic looking hand made appearance, we need to separate ourselves from the computer and venture into real life! To continue with the next step we need to find a primitive tool used by early mankind known as a Pencil We'll use it to trace the print out and combine the hand made look with the precision of the digitally made type design Whilst this step does take a long time, and will probably induce finger cramps and repetitive strain injury, it's the natural scribbles that gives the final effect an authentic appearance, since this is the exact same way those chalk murals are created, with the exception that it's chalk rather than graphite You'll also want to keep a pencil sharpener to hand to replenish the tip after a bout of scribbling before outlining the next word

This is the stage where you'll wish you never bothered adding all those fancy and intricate text effects that you now have to tediously trace by hand! When the artwork has been completely traced, pop it in the scanner then we'll teleport back into the grid Download a blackboard texture, like this one I picked up from DeviantArt A link is down in the description area Open it into Adobe Photoshop, where we'll work for the remainder of this tutorial Use the shortcut CMD+J to duplicate the layer twice

Turn off the top layer and select the first copy Go to Filter > Blur > Average Turn on the top layer and go to Filter > Other > High Pass Enter 200px then change the layers blending mode to Overlay Shift Click the layer below it then press CMD+E to merge them together

Toggle this layer on and off to see the difference this equalization step made to the texture Usually chalk murals are seen on a black background, so add a Black and White adjustment layer to remove the green hue Go to Image > Image Rotation > 90 degrees Clockwise to reformat the canvas to suit the layout of the type quote To darken the blackboard background, add a new layer, fill it with black with the CMD+Backspace shortcut then change the blending mode to Overlay Drag this layer underneath the Black and White adjustment layer

Open the scanned image into Photoshop and rotate it to the right way up if necessary Use the Crop tool to trim it down, then Copy and Paste it into the blackboard document and scale it to size Head to Image > Adjustments > Invert, then change the blending mode to Screen, which will render the now black background transparent Use the shortcut CMD+L to adjust the levels Drag the highlights slider towards the left to brighten the text to further replicate a chalked appearance

The irregularities and the texture created by tracing the text by hand with a pencil perfectly replicates how the artwork would have been drawn with chalk, which beats any digital effect we could have tried to create directly in Photoshop It was quite a tedious process, but I think the result is definitely worth it So I hope you have fun creating chalk effect lettering murals of your own If you enjoyed the tutorial or learnt anything new be sure to subscribe to the Spoon Graphics YouTube channel to stick around for more Subscribe to my newsletter at spoon

graphics if you want to hear about deals like that font bundle I mentioned, along with notifications about all my other tutorials, articles and free design resources that I share So as always thank you very much for watching, and I'll see you in the next one

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