In this tutorial we will learn how to create a comic text effect using the Halftone effect of the Phantasm plug-in, some native effects and the Actions feature. This is a very useful feature that helps to speed up the processes immensely. For example, a sequence of 37 actions and the use of multiple effects with lots of parameters, takes less than 5 seconds. Let's get started!

Step 1

Before you begin to create an Action, we need to go through all the steps manually, choose the effects and their parameters, create graphics styles, and think over the sequence and logic of action, which may be automated. Let's create the inscription "ZAP!" using the Type Tool (T). Here I used the Peace Sans font, it is a free font that you can use for commercial purposes. I suggest you use it and set the font size to = 150pt. If done in this way, you will be able to fully replicate my result, using the parameters and effects options mentioned below.

Remove the fill of the text by pressing the / key or the corresponding icon in the Tools panel, then add a new red fill in the Appearance panel (Window > Appearance).

Step 2

Apply the warp effect to this fill (Effect > Warp > Arc…) and set the parameters shown in the picture below.

Go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform… and set 90% for Horizontal Scale option.

Open the Graphic Styles panel (Window > Graphic Styles) and save the new style with the title "Red".

Step 3

Copy the word and paste it in front (Cmd / Ctrl + C, Cmd / Ctrl + F), then replace the red fill with a Linear Gradient Fill, which consists of several shades of gray color.

Raster dotted patterns are common for comic style. This effect can be easily implemented with the help of Phantasm. Apply the Phantasm Halftone effect to the Gradient Fill (Effect > Phantasm > Halftone …) and set the parameters shown in the picture below.

For the Color option, choose a neutral gray color in the Color Picker dialog box, then apply the Multiply blending mode to the fill in the Appearance panel.

Save this style in the Graphic Styles panel, name it "Dots".

Step 4

Now let's hide the dots of the Phantasm Halftone effect that overlap the letters. Duplicate the lower red word and place it above all the objects.

Providing you haven't copied anything new, then the red word should have been left on the clipboard. Now simply press Cmd / Ctrl + F to perform this action. Understanding this is very important for the subsequent creation of the Action and its proper operation. Go to Object > Expand Appearance (for outlining of the upper text) then go to Object > Compound path > Make (Cmd / Ctrl + 8)

 

Select all (Cmd / Ctrl + A) and create a Clipping Mask (Object > Clipping Mask > Make (Cmd / Ctrl + 7)).

Now lock the clipping mask group (Object > Lock > Selection (Cmd / Ctrl + 2)). The previous action is also very important, and follows the logic of the action.

Step 5

Paste the contents of the clipboard (red text) back in (Cmd / Ctrl + B) and replace the red color with black.

Go to Effect > Path > Offset Path… and set the Offset option at 8px.

Go to Effect> Distort & Transform> Transform … and set the horizontal and vertical offset values as shown below. This will create the effect of voluminous text.

Save the style of the black object in the Graphic Styles panel and name it "Black".

Lock the black object (Object > Lock > Selection (Cmd / Ctrl + 2).

Step 6

Once again, paste the clipboard contents (red text) back in (Cmd / Ctrl + B). Then apply to the lower object the Clear Appearance command in the fly-out menu of the Appearance panel.

Remove the fill of the text by pressing the / key or the corresponding button in the Tools panel. Then add a new yellow fill to it in the Appearance panel.

Step 7

Next, go to Effect > Convert to Shape > Ellipse… and set the values shown in the picture below.

Go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Zig Zag … and set the effect parameters as shown below.

Now go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform… reduce the value of Vertical Scale and shift the ellipse up, changing the vertical offset value.

Save the style of yellow object in the Graphic Styles panel. Name it "Yellow".

Copy the yellow object and then lock it (Object > Lock > Selection (Cmd / Ctrl + 2)).

Step 8

Paste the yellow object back in (Cmd / Ctrl + B) and go to Object > Arrange > Bring Forward (Cmd / Ctrl +]). Now replace the yellow fill with a radial gradient, which consists of several shades of gray color as shown below.

Apply the Phantasm Halftone effect to the Gradient Fill (Effect > Phantasm > Halftone…) and set the parameters shown in the picture below.

For the Color option choose light brown color in the Color Picker dialog box. Save this style in the Graphic Styles panel and name it "Dots_2".

Step 9

Paste the contents of the clipboard (yellow object) to the front (Cmd / Ctrl + F).

Go to Object > Expand Appearance, select all (Cmd / Ctrl + A) and create a clipping mask (Object> Clipping Mask > Make (Cmd / Ctrl + 7)).

Now lock the clipping mask group (Object > Lock > Selection (Cmd / Ctrl + 2)).

Step 10

Paste the contents of the clipboard (yellow object) back in (Cmd / Ctrl + B) one more time. Then go to Object > Expand Appearance and apply to the object a black stroke of 10px weight and Limit: 10.

Step 11

Now create the shape of a cloud. Take the Ellipse Tool (L) and create a few circles of different diameters with a white fill and a black stroke, make it 4px weight like the one shown below.

Select all the circles and press Unite in the Pathfinder panel (Window > Pathfinder).

Save the cloud as "Scatter Brush" in the Brushes panel (Window > Brushes). The brush settings that were used are shown in the picture below.

Now delete the cloud that's located on the artboard as we no longer need it.

Step 12

Next, go back to the comic text, and paste the contents of the clipboard (yellow object) back in (Cmd / Ctrl + B) for the last time. Now apply to the lower object the Clear Appearance command (found in the fly-out menu of the Appearance panel).

Remove the fill of the text by pressing the / key or the corresponding icon in the Tools panel, then adding to it the new black stroke (1px weight) in the Appearance panel.

Go to Effect > Convert to Shape > Ellipse… and set the values as shown in the picture below.

 

Next, go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform… and set the vertical offset value in order to slightly shift up an ellipse.

Apply the previously created cloud scatter brush to an object.

Save this style in the Graphic Styles panel. Name it "Clouds".

Your Comic "ZAP!" is created and all the necessary graphic styles are saved! You can now proceed to creating an action.

Step 13

Delete all the objects created in the previous steps and write "ZAP!" again. Then open the Action panel (Window> Actions) and create a new set by pressing the corresponding button in the panel. Name this set "Comic Bubbles".

Click on the Create New Action button in the Actions panel and name it, “ZAP”, then press the Record button.

Select the text and go through the following steps with it, these will be automatically recorded in the Action:

  • Apply "Red" graphic style
  • Cmd/Ctrl + C (Copy)
  • Cmd/Ctrl + F (Paste in front)
  • Apply "Dots" graphic style
  • Cmd/Ctrl + F (Paste in front)
  • Object > Expand Appearance. Unfortunately, this action is not automatically recorded to the Action. For recording, choose Insert Menu Ite' in the fly-out menu of the Actions panel, then proceed to Object > Expand Appearance again.
  • Cmd/Ctrl + 8 (Make Compound Path)
  • Cmd/Ctrl + A (Select All)
  • Cmd/Ctrl + 7 (Make Clipping Mask)
  • Cmd/Ctrl + 2 (Lock Selection)
  • Cmd/Ctrl + B (Paste in Back)
  • Apply "Black" graphic style
  • Cmd/Ctrl + 2 (Lock Selection)
  • Cmd/Ctrl + B (Paste in Back)
  • Apply Clear Appearance in the fly-out menu of the Appearance panel
  • Apply "Yellow" graphic style
  • Cmd/Ctrl + C (Copy)
  • Cmd/Ctrl + 2 (Lock Selection)
  • Cmd/Ctrl + B (Paste in Back)
  • Cmd/Ctrl + ] (Bring Forward)
  • Apply "Dots_2" graphic style
  • Cmd/Ctrl + F (Paste in front)
  • Object > Expand Appearance and for recording choose Insert Menu Item in the fly-out menu of the Actions panel. Proceed to Object > Expand Appearance again.
  • Cmd/Ctrl + A (Select All)
  • Cmd/Ctrl + 7 (Make Clipping Mask)
  • Cmd/Ctrl + 2 (Lock Selection)
  • Cmd/Ctrl + B (Paste in Back)
  • Object > Expand Appearance and for recording choose 'Insert Menu Item' in the fly-out menu of the Actions panel. Proceed to Object > Expand Appearance again.
  • Set black stroke color
  • Set 10px for stroke weight and 10 for Miter Limit
  • Cmd/Ctrl + B (Paste in Back)
  • Apply Clear Appearance in the fly-out menu of the Appearance panel
  • Apply "Clouds" graphic style
  • Opt/Alt + Cmd/Ctrl + 2 (Unlock All)
  • Cmd/Ctrl + A (Select All)
  • Cmd/Ctrl + G (Group)
  • Shift + Cmd/Ctrl + A (Deselect)

Now click on Stop button in the Actions panel.

Ok, we did a good job. Now let's check out how it works. Delete everything in the artboard, and print the word "ZAP!" again, then keeping it selected, click on the Play button in the Actions panel.

Everything works fine. It took only a few seconds for the Action to work through the sequence of 37 commands and apply the desired effects. To save the ZAP Action, select the Comic Bubbles set and choose Save Actions in the fly-out menu of the Actions panel. Now you have a handy tool to create a short comic text in Adobe Illustrator in seconds!

In the next tutorial we will create color variations of comic text with both the actions feature and Phantasm.

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