Illustrator CS + Text Styles

markatos's picture

Hey. Do any of you know whether you can create a text style that has three layers of type?

I am designing a DVD menu system and each menu item has a top layer, a middle outline layer, and a bottom offset layer for a drop shadow effect. I have to translate this system into three languages and it's turning out to be a big pain in the ••• to edit three type layers for every item x three languages!

I tried making a text style but it only works on one layer of type.

Any suggestions?


Thomas Phinney's picture

I think maybe you're going at the problem backwards.

There's no reason you need to use more than one layer for this. Use a stroke on the type, and use Illustrator's own drop shadow capabilities.

The stroke will tend to erode the type. If Illustrator doesn't have the option to simply place the stroke behind the object (not sure), you can set the path offset to half the stroke thickness, and that should eliminate the problem.



Thomas Phinney's picture

Same way as if it were outlines. Go to path - offset. (Is that on the effects menu? I forget.)

There are a surprising number of things that work on live text these days, in Adobe apps.


markatos's picture

> I wish it were that easy tom, but I can't find how to stroke the > letter the way you recommended.

beejay's picture

Peter --

In illustrator
set three layers, but don't create outlines.
You can still use your Character palette
to change the font, the size, etc.

In your three-item cluster ...

1. Top, non-eroded
2. Outline
3. Drop shadow, nudged 1 pt down, 1 pt. right

copy the three-item cluster each time you need it.

Now, to change the words ...
use your 'A' or Type tool and click on the
mass of three elements and it'll select the
top one by default. Make the changes to the top layer, then immediately
LOCK that top version. (OBJECT > LOCK)
Repeat on Layer 2 with the Type Tool.
Repeat on layer 3.

Then Unlock ALL and move the cluster
around as a GROUP.


easier demonstrated :-)

markatos's picture

> Thanks bj, that is what I figured out. Would be sweet to do that with > one layer, but letters get mangled. I looked into what tom was > talking about but that yielded unsatisfactory results. At least for > me.

Anyways, gotta sludge forward.

Thomas Phinney's picture

I did actually try it before I recommended it, so I can swear that it works.

Type the text.

Select the text block with the regular pointer.

Add a stroke by double-clicking on the stroke icon in the tool palette (or typing shift-x). If needed, adjust stroke thickness and color using the stroke palette, and text fill color using the fill palette.

Still with the text block(s) selected, go to Effect - Path - Offset Path, and set the offset to half the stroke thickness.

Maintaining selection, go to Effect - Stylize - Drop Shadow and add your drop shadow.

You know have the entire effect working on the live text in one layer.


markatos's picture

> set the offset to half the stroke thickness.

that's where I was going wrong. that works pretty well. the drop shadow is a tad different than the "paste behind" method, but all in all I will keep this in mind next time around (almost done with this gig).

One thing I am slightly annoyed with...if I do what you did and then make a new character style, the effects aren't retained. Tell the Illustrator folks to work on that one.

Thanks for all your help folks.

Thomas Phinney's picture

Incidentally, InDesign is a little easier and slicker for this sort of thing. They have the option to put the stroke behind the text (no resorting to the offset hack), and you can stick all this stuff into character or paragraph styles. Sweet.


Mark Simonson's picture

You could record all the steps as an action. It wouldn't be quite as quick as applying a style, but would probably save some time, at least.

Mark Simonson's picture

Huh. I've been playing around with this in Illustrator and you can do exactly what you want.

The key is to modify the appearance of the text by selecting it as an object (using the arrow tool), not as text (using the text tool). When it is in object mode, you can change the stacking order of the stroke and fill in the appearance palette. You can't when the text is selected as text.

Doing it this way means that the effects will apply to the whole text block, but that would only be a problem if you wanted to use the style within a text block. It doesn't sound like that's the case.

You change the stacking order of the strokes and fills by dragging them up and down in the Appearance palette. Also, you can add as many strokes and fills as needed and modify them with the Effects menu. With the appropriate stroke or fill selected in the Appearance palette, use Effects -> Distort & Transform -> Transform to do the dropshadow effect.

markatos's picture

What version of AI are you using? When I click on a text object with an arrow, the appearance pallet just says, "Type: Characters, Default Transparency"

If I double click on "Type" I then open up the specific attributes of the objects appearance. It is true, I can move the stroke and the fill around, BUT they snap back to their previous positions and I am all of a sudden using the type tool and not the arrow.

What am I missing?

Mark Simonson's picture

I tried it in both 10 and CS and it works the same. Try this:

1. Set some large text.
2. Switch to the solid arrow tool. (The text should now be selected as an object.)
3. In the Appearance palette, do Add New Stroke and set the stroke thickness to 6 points and the color to red (to make it easier to see what's going on).
4. Illustrator automatically adds an empty Fill layer to the appearance palette. Click on it and change it to yellow.
5. In the Appearance palette, drag the yellow Fill layer to above the Stroke layer. You now have the Fill in front of the Stroke, just as if you had pasted a stroked copy of the text behind the filled text.
6. Switch to the text tool again, select the text and type something else to see that it worked.

Of course, use whatever attributes you want for colors, etc. The ones I chose were just to show how it works.

To add a dropshadow:

1. Swith back to the solid arrow tool. Make sure the text block is selected.
2. In the Appearance palette, do Add New Stroke.
3. Change the color of the new stroke to black.
3. Rearrange the layers in the Appearance palette so the new stroke is below the other stroke and fill.
4. With the new stroke selected in the Appearance palette, do Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform. Type 3 pt and -3 pt in the Move area of the dialog box and click OK.

Now you've got a dropshadow. Here's what mine looks like:


Here's the Illustrator CS file:

application/postscriptfoo2 (444.2 k)

You can also change the stroke characteristics, transparency, etc. Just be sure to select the proper component in the Appearance palette first.

Once you have everything set up, you can drag the appearance into the Style palette so it can be applied to other text.

Mark Simonson's picture

Here, I've added a dark fill shadow offset behind the yellow, and changed the Transform parameters for the black dropshadow to .5pt down and right, with 20 copies:


Oh, and I changed the font, too. This is zoomed in to 200%.

This is live text. I can still change the font, adjust spacing and kerning, or type some other word, etc.

markatos's picture

<font class="dontLookLikeCrap">Mark,

Who you calling a foo! ;)

You have officially opened up a whole new realm for me in Illustrator (and I've been using this app for 4 years). I wasn't adding the stroke through the Appearance pallete before. That's why I couldn't get it to work.

It would be really nice if AI could then create a text style from this, but for some reason the strokes and effects don't translate.

Either way this is a perfect solution. Just wished I would have known this two days ago.

Thanks for looking into this.



Mark Simonson's picture

You have officially opened up a whole new realm for me in Illustrator (and I've been using this app for 4 years).

Same here (except I've been using it since version 1.0). I kinda knew this was possible but hadn't really investigated it fully until you asked. I think all this carries over to After Effects intact, but I haven't had time to try it.

dan's picture

One thing to note. The styles you saved in Illustrator 10 won't work for Illustrator CS, you have to recreate them.

lescab's picture

Thanks Peter for alerting me to this thread!
My book ( was completed just as Adobe released Illustrator CS. I was able to acknowledge--somewhat in passing--that the new AI version had 3-D extrude tools, but I couldn't say more.

I just played around with Appearance and 3D extrude with ambient shading in AI CS and yes, they add a whole new dimension. It's a miracle!

There are a few problems, though. The shading gets put in as bands that are too low res. Each band is an individual object which makes editing difficult (too many points flying around) and gets us into issues of trapping if we're doing this for publication.

Also, I tried a couple of layers of fills and strokes followed by a 3D extrude and when it was done, 3 of my letters ended up behind the top fill layer, so this is a bug, I presume.

The revision of my book--eventually--will have to cover these new AI features, though! However, I'm thinking that I would still very likely build my own shadows because there's always a superficial feeling to out-of-the-box features like these. But maybe
I'm just futilely trying to resist progress.

Mark Simonson's picture

Also, one caveat about the "cast shadow" effect I did in the second sample... It's made of individual copies of the black stroke layer, so if you zoom in or print it out you would see tiny stair steps. One way around this is to increase the number of steps and reduce the distance between them. The other would be to not rely on such a short cut and actually draw it. The 3-d extrude can do it too, but it tends to be a little imprecise for this kind of shadow and the artwork you get when you expand the appearance is a little, I don't know, messy.

beejay's picture

great tips here.

I like the stairstep method, but often, it can work with just 2 stairs. It depends on the shapes

If you do a 20 stairstep and you do
have extra stairs, you can delete
stairs 2-19 and get a straight line from 1 to 20.

the most efficient way to delete is to open lasso the
extra points, hit delete, then Pathfinder > Unite
and move to the next staircase. :-)

here is a pdf _ should be openable in Illustrator.

type.pdf (99.1 k)

Mark Simonson's picture

A handy technique, BJ. But there probably isn't a way to do it with live text.

Mark Simonson's picture

Also, I checked and all this neat stuff does carry over to After Effects. If it matters.

franz's picture

It does! Whee! I wish I had known this three weeks ago..

markatos's picture

seriously one of the most informative threads here. don't know if it is possible but I think it would be great to have a forum just for advanced workflow techniques.

but that maybe another site altogether

Mark Simonson's picture


...and thanks to Peter for asking about it in the first place.

Miss Tiffany's picture

ok. i'm curious. how do you offset the stroke without turning the type to outlines?

Miss Tiffany's picture

You, Mark Simonson, are amazing. I was always afraid of the appearance window. Now I know I have wasted many hours.

Miss Tiffany's picture

Leslie --- more important than the 3D extrude (because I do agree that it has less of a manual feel for whatever reason) is showing people how to appreciate the use of "appearances" in illustrator. i don't remember reading about those in your book. i hope i'm not sticking my foot in it.

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