Today's posting to the Vector Halftone Week on the Astute Graphics blog is intended to provide technical inspiration rather than beautiful graphic styles. The versatility of the Phantasm CS live Effect Halftone tool is greatly magnified when combined with other live Effects – both standard Illustrator tools and other color tools found within Phantasm CS – and the graphic styles that follow intend to demonstrate this.

Software required:

Unfortunately, due to the advances in Illustrator's own live Effect tools such as Tweak and Roughen (both found in Effect > Distort & Transform), these Effects do not fully work in Illustrator CS3 or below. Also, Illustrator CS4 introduced a more advanced Appearance panel, including the ability to toggle the visibility of individual Effects on and off which greatly help the design process. However, other concepts can be applied in these older versions of Illustrator.

Skill level: Intermediate to high



Yesterday's video tutorial outlined the methods of working with the live Effect tools, including the Phantasm CS Halftone tool. It is advised that this tutorial is first watched before experimenting further with the Illustrator Graphic Styles supplied in this posting. Some advanced techniques have been devised and applied here, including adding some standard Distort & Transform Effects to Halftones, each controlling the individual halftone dots or shapes. Other techniques used include the adjustment of the Halftone color using Phantasm CS' other tools.

At the end of this article, it's possible to download the collection of Graphic Styles shown. These styles can then either be used directly in your own artwork, or adjusted and tweaked further to be better integrated into a design. Remember – control of graphic styles applied to objects is accomplished via the essential Appearance panel as well as the Graphic Styles panel. It may be just the concepts of combining Effects that inspire you further – in which case this article is a success!

If you create styles of your own based on Phantasm CS' tools, please let us know. We'd love to show them to the world, giving you full credit.


Arty Spiders Web

Arty Spiders Web Halftone Graphic Style

This Graphic Style, while perhaps of no immediate graphic design use, introduces two important concepts:

  • The application of Distort & Transform adjustments following a Halftone application – in this case Pucker & Bloat, Roughen and Free Distort (for the shadow which as achieved via a duplicate fill)
  • Adjusting the individual Halftone separation dot colors via the Phantasm CS Hue/Saturation tool using its color range drop-down menu and selecting Cyan, Magenta and Yellow and then altering the setting of each

Note that this whole effect is based on a single flat-filled circle.


Bang! Halftone Graphic Style

Applied to a single line of editable text, this is the first of three variations on yesterday's video tutorial. The application of a Warp live Effect, "Bulge", makes the result more dramatic, while a double application of the Roughen effect on the background provides a more convincing set of vector flames.


Crossword Halftone Graphic Style

Based on a single rectangle, this is effectively a live and random fill using the Character option for dots in the Halftone tool. New to this style is the use of the Round Corners live Effect found in the Stylize section. This can be applied to the individual characters in the Halftone pattern.

Note: requires Myriad Pro font, typically supplied with Adobe software.


Flash Halftone Graphic Style

The second variation on yesterday's video tutorial, this effect also features a Warp live Effect and is applied to a line of editable text. The background yellow flash effect is achieved by applying a combination of Phantasm CS Hue/Saturation, Roughen, Gaussian Blur and Grain live Effects on top of a Halftone. Impressive to realise it all remains completely dynamic when the underlying text is edited!


Glitter Halftone Graphic Style

The Graphic style achieved in yesterday's video tutorial. Please refer to the video for details of how it was constructed.

Modern Art

Modern Art Halftone Graphic Style

To make such an effect "manually" would normally take a fair amount of time, even with the use of standard Illustrator Effects. However, this is a deceivingly easy Graphic Style structure being based on a single circle with a 1dpi CMYK halftone applied. On top of this, each halftone dot is made into relatively random diamond shapes using the Roughen live Effect. These diamonds are then made into the comb results seen through the use of the standard Illustrator Zig Zig live Effect found in the Distort & Transform sub-menu.

Old Photo

Old Photo Halftone Graphic Style

RGB, requires Phantasm CS Studio or Publisher
This style is a shameless adaptation to Illustrator of the wonderful Photoshop How To Give Your Photos a Cool Retro Analog Effect tutorial by Chris Spooner found on his blog. His method of applying curves adjustments, overlaying color patches and color blocks and adding other lighting effects converted modern digital photography into what appeared to be an older, faded, color photograph.

Original photograph
This original tutorial provided a challenge to recreate this technique as a single Illustrator Graphic Style allowing any embedded image to be instantly aged and yet remain completely dynamic and editable. A sequence of live Effects were found to do the trick (the only omission over the original being the patches of blurring which was beyond a single Graphic Style in Illustrator), with Phantasm CS' Curves tool found in the Studio and Publisher editions an essential component. Phantasm CS Designer does not allow individual channel control in the Curves of Levels tools, hence why it couldn't be used.

Where the Halftone tool comes into play is creating a specific color degradation stage to the process. In Chris' original tutorial, some red blotchy patches were called for and overlaid with a Linear/Color Dodge transparency setting. The Phantasm CS Halftone tool was used to generate such an effect in combination with the Merge, Roughen, Round Corners and Gaussian Blur live Effects applied on top. To show the effect this generated prior to the Blur and transparency settings being applied, see the photo below:

Old Photo - Halftone detail

This demonstrates that the Halftone tool can be used for much more subtle and integral effects within an overall style.

It can't be denied that this is quite an involved Graphic Style, but it's worth investigation for a series of techniques which are combined together.

Speedy Text

Speedy Text Halftone Graphic Style

Undoubtably, this effect is not doing to win any design awards anytime soon. But it does represent a classic kitsch style attempting to represent speed. Based on a single line of editable text, several Halftone live Effects are applied and transformed to differing positions to generate the streak lines. This was the first style where the standard Pathfinder live Effects were used in combination with the Halftone tool – some variants of the Pathfinder Effects working more effectively than others.

Vector Noise

Vector Noise Halftone Graphic Style

Representing a more technical expriment into the uses of the vector Halftone tools, this example produces exactly what its title suggests. By applying a higher resolution halftone constructed of lines rather than dots where the underlying tint only adjusts the line's width, two Distort & Transform live Effects are applied thereafter to produce the end result, which appears nicely random.

Two variants are supplied as it was found that smaller objects benefitted from a finer effect.


Zoom Halftone Graphic Style

The third and final variation of yesterday's video tutorial, this zoom editable text effect combines the vector nature of the halftones with the raster-based effect swirl background effect. This background also features an underlying Halftone live Effect but is then further manipulated with Roughen, Radial Blur and Grain Effects.

Download the files

Do discover more and investigate the Effects demonstrated here, download the original Illustrator CS4 and CS5 files below (note thart a:

"Bang!", "Flash", "Glitter" and "Zoom" Graphic Styles – single ZIP archive, 6.3Mb

Old Photo Graphic Style – ZIP archive, 2.1Mb

All other Graphic Styles – single ZIP archive, 2.8Mb

Two of the free fonts also featured in the glitter text variations may be found here (note that Astute Graphics provides no assurances for these fonts – downloading and installing is done entirely at your own risk!):


Any questions?

For the sake of the length of this posting, more detailed descriptions of the workings of each Graphic Style was not possible. However, if you have technical queries about any aspect, please leave a reply below and we'll try to answer!

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