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How to Create a Light Bulb Text Effect in Adobe Illustrator

Final product image
What You’ll Be Creating

In the following steps you will learn how to create a light bulb text effect in Adobe Illustrator. 

For starters you will learn how to set up a simple grid and how to create the main shape using basic tools and the live corners feature. Next, you’ll learn how to take full advantage of the Appearance panel and how to make your work easier using the Transform effect. Moving on, you will learn how to add subtle shading and highlights using basic blending techniques. Finally, you’ll learn how to save and use patterns, pattern brushes, and graphic styles.

For more inspiration on how to adjust or improve your final text effect, you can find plenty of resources at GraphicRiver.

1. How to Create a New Document and Set Up a Grid

Hit Control-N to create a new document. Select Pixels from the Units drop-down menu, enter 850 in the width box and 600 in the height box, and then click that Advanced button. Select RGB, Screen (72ppi) and make sure that the Align New Objects to Pixel Grid box is unchecked before you click OK.

Enable the Grid (View > Show Grid) and the Snap to Grid (View > Snap to Grid). You will need a grid every 1 px, so simply go to Edit > Preferences > Guides > Grid, and enter 1 in the Gridline every box and 1 in the Subdivisions box. Try not to get discouraged by all that grid—it will make your work easier, and keep in mind that you can easily enable or disable it using the Control-“ keyboard shortcut.

You can learn more about Illustrator’s grid system and how it can make your work easier in this short tutorial from Andrei Stefan: Understanding Adobe Illustrator’s Grid System.

You should also open the Info panel (Window > Info) for a live preview with the size and position of your shapes. Don’t forget to set the unit of measurement to pixels from Edit > Preferences > Units > General. All these options will significantly increase your work speed.

setup grid

2. How to Create the Main Shape

Step 1

Pick the Rectangle Tool (M) and focus on your toolbar. Remove the color from the stroke, select the fill, and set its color to R=244 G=167 B=32. Move to your artboard and simply create a 148 x 28 px rectangle.

Make sure that your shape remains selected and focus on the Appearance panel (Window > Appearance). Expand the existing fill, click that Opacity piece of text to open the Transparency fly-out panel, and lower the Opacity to 20%.

rectangle

Step 2

Focus on the left side of your rectangle, pick the Add Anchor Point Tool (+), and add two new anchor points exactly as shown in the first image—use the grid as a reference.

Keep focusing on the left side of your rectangle and switch to the Direct Selection Tool (A). Select the top left anchor point and drag it 2 px down, and then select the bottom left anchor point and drag it 2 px up. In the end, your shape should look like the second image.

add anchor point

Step 3

Keep focusing on your shape and make sure that the Direct Selection Tool (A) is still active. Select the two anchor points highlighted by the blue circles, move to the top bar, and set the Corners to 5 px. Next, select the two anchor points highlighted by the orange circles, and this time enter 13 px in that same Corners box.

In the end, your shape should look like the second image. Keep in mind that this will be the main light bulb shape as you are about to use it plenty of times in the following steps.

live corners

3. How to Create the Inside Pieces

Step 1

Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create a 115 x 14 px, place it exactly as shown in the first image, and focus on the Appearance panel.

Remove the color from the fill and select the stroke. Set its color to R=243 G=202 B=103 and then click that Stroke piece of text to open the Stroke fly-out panel. Make sure that the Weight is set to 1 pt and check the Align Stroke to Inside button. Next, go to Effect > Stylize > Rounded Corners. Enter a 7 px Radius, click the OK button, and then go to Object > Path > Outline Stroke.

Reselect the Rectangle Tool (M), create a 109 x 4 px shape, place it as shown in the second image, and focus on the Appearance panel. Make sure that there’s no color set for the fill, add that same 1 pt yellow stroke, and don’t forget to align it to inside. Once you’re done, go to Effect > Stylize > Rounded Corners. This time, enter a 2 px Radius, click the OK button, and go again to Object > Path > Outline Stroke.

rounded corners

Step 2

Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create a 12 x 10 px shape and place it exactly as shown in the first image. Make sure that there’s no fill color set for this shape, and then select the stroke. Set its color to R=121 G=96 B=42, increase the Weight to 3 pt, and don’t forget to check the Align Stroke to Inside button. Next, go to Effect > Stylize > Rounded Corners. Enter a 5 px Radius, click the OK button, and then go to Object > Path > Outline Stroke.

Make sure that the resulting shape remains selected, keep focusing on the Appearance panel, and add a second fill using the Add New Fill button. Select this new fill, set the color to black (R=0 G=0 B=0), lower its Opacity to 40%, and change the Blending Mode to Soft Light. Then go to Effect > Path > Offset Path. Enter a -1 px Offset and then click the OK button.

add new fill

Step 3

Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create a 9 x 12 px shape, fill it with R=121 G=96 B=42, and place it as shown in the following image. Keep focusing on this new rectangle and pick the Direct Selection Tool (A). Select the right anchor points, move to the top bar, and enter 3 px in that Corners box. In the end, your shape should look like the second image. Make sure that it remains selected and focus on the Appearance panel.

Using that same Add New Fill button, add a second fill and select it. Set the color to R=145 G=120 B=64 and then go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform. Drag the Scale-Horizontal slider to 70% and the Scale-Vertical slider to 90%, and don’t forget to check the middle left reference point. Then click the OK button.

Keep focusing on the Appearance panel, add a third fill, and select it. Set the color to R=166 G=135 B=78 and then go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform. Drag the Scale-Horizontal slider to 40% and the Scale-Vertical slider to 80%, and don’t forget to check the middle left reference point. Then click the OK button.

transform effect

4. How to Add Highlights

Step 1

Go to Edit > Preferences > General and make sure that the Keyboard Increment is set to 1 px.

Select your main shape, make a copy in front (Control-C > Control-F), and bring it to front (Shift-Control-]). Select this copy, move it 1 px down and 1 px to the left using the arrow buttons on your keyboard, and then duplicate it (Control-C > Control-F). Select this second copy and move it only 1 px down. Reselect both copies made in this step, open the Pathfinder panel (Window > Pathfinder), and click the Minus Front button.

Make sure that the resulting shape is selected and focus on the Appearance panel. First, replace the existing fill color with R=235 G=178 B=40, and then increase its Opacity to 70%.

keyboard increment

Step 2

Reselect your main shape, make a new copy in front (Control-C > Control-F), and bring it to front (Shift-Control-]). Select this copy, move it 3 px down and 1 px to the left, and then duplicate it (Control-C > Control-F). Select this second copy and move it 3 px down. Reselect both copies made in this step and click the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder panel.

Make sure that the resulting shape is selected and focus on the Appearance panel. First, replace the existing fill color with R=235 G=178 B=40, and then increase its Opacity to 50%.

pathfinder panel

Step 3

Reselect your main shape, make a new copy in front (Control-C > Control-F), and bring it to front (Shift-Control-]). Select this copy, move it 1 px up and 1 px to the left, and then duplicate it (Control-C > Control-F). Select this second copy and move it 3 px up. Reselect both copies made in this step and click the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder panel.

Make sure that the resulting shape is selected and focus on the Appearance panel. First, replace the existing fill color with R=235 G=178 B=40, and then increase its Opacity to 30%.

minus front

Step 4

Reselect your main shape. This time make two copies in front (Control-C > Control-F) and bring both to front (Shift-Control-]). Select the top copy and move it 1 px up and 1 px to the left. Reselect both copies made in this step and click the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder panel.

Make sure that the resulting shape is selected and focus on the Appearance panel. First, replace the existing fill color with R=235 G=178 B=40, and then increase its Opacity to 70%.

minus front

5. How to Create a Blend

Step 1

Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create a 155 x 28 px shape and place it exactly as shown in the following image. It should completely cover your existing shapes. Fill this new rectangle with R=149 G=96 B=55 and then go to Effect > Stylize > Rounded Corners. Enter a 13 px Radius, click the OK button, and then go to Object > Expand Appearance.

brown shape

Step 2

Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create a 128 x 4 px shape and place it exactly as shown in the following image. Fill this new rectangle with R=224 G=157 B=34 and then go to Effect > Stylize > Rounded Corners. Enter a 2 px Radius, click the OK button, and then go to Object > Expand Appearance.

orange shape

Step 3

Focus on your toolbar and simply double click on the Blend Tool to open the Blend Options window. Select Specified Steps from the Spacing drop-down menu and simply enter 15 in that white box.

Reselect the brown and yellow rounded rectangles made in the last two steps and hit Alt-Control-B to create your new blend. In the end things should look like the second image. Make sure that your blend is selected and send it back using the Shift-Control-[ keyboard shortcut.

blend

6. How to Add More Highlights

Step 1

Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create a 145 x 8 px shape and place it about as shown in the first image. Fill it with white and then go to Effect > Stylize > Rounded Corners. Enter a 4 px Radius, click the OK button, and then go to Object > Expand Appearance.

Make sure that the resulting shape remains selected, focus on the Appearance panel, and select the existing fill. Lower its Opacity to 50% and change the Blending Mode to Soft Light.

white shape

Step 2

Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create a 145 x 2 px shape and place it about as shown in the first image. Fill it with white and then go to Effect > Stylize > Rounded Corners. Enter a 1 px Radius, click the OK button, and then go to Object > Expand Appearance.

Make sure that the resulting shape remains selected, focus on the Appearance panel, and select the existing fill. Lower its Opacity to 30% and change the Blending Mode to Soft Light.

white shape

Step 3

Using the Ellipse Tool (L), create a 14 x 3 px shape and place it about as shown in the first image. Fill this squeezed circle with R=235 G=178 B=40 and then go to Effect > Warp > Arc. Enter the attribute shown in the following image, click the OK button, and then go to Object > Expand Appearance.

Make sure that the resulting shape remains selected, focus on the Appearance panel, select the existing fill, and lower its Opacity to 30%.

warp

7. How to Create the Screw Cap

Step 1

Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create 5 x 24 px shape, fill it with R=39 G=49 B=48, and place it as shown in the first image. Keep focusing on this new rectangle and pick the Direct Selection Tool (A). Select the left anchor points, move to the top bar, and enter 1 px in that Corners box. In the end, your shape should look like the second image.

Switch to the Rounded Rectangle Tool, and create three 4 x 24 px shapes and a 3 x 20 px shape. Place these new rounded rectangles as shown in the third image and fill them all with R=39 G=49 B=48. You can always adjust the roundness of these rounded rectangles using that same Corners box from the top bar.

dark shapes

Step 2

Select the five dark shapes made in the previous step and focus on the Appearance panel.

Add a second fill and select it. Set the color to R=79 G=89 B=86 and then go Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform. Enter the attributes shown in the left window (in the following image), click OK, and return to the Appearance panel.

Add a third fill and select it. Set its color to R=114 G=113 B=108 and go again to Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform. Enter the attributes shown in the right window and then click the OK button.

new fill

Step 3

Make sure that your five dark shapes are still selected and keep focusing on the Appearance panel.

Add a fourth fill and select it. Set the color to R=174 G=177 B=155, lower the Opacity to 75%, and then go Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform. Enter the attributes shown in the left window (in the following image), click OK, and return to the Appearance panel.

Add one final fill and select it. Set its color to white (R=255 G=255 B=255), change the Blending Mode to Soft Light, and go again to Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform. Enter the attributes shown in the right window and then click the OK button.

new fill

Step 4

Using the Rounded Rectangle Tool, add five rounded rectangles as shown in the first image. Set the fill color for these new shapes to R=234 G=221 B=191, lower their Opacity to 50%, and change the Blending Mode to Soft Light.

Switch to the Pen Tool (P) and create the five shapes shown in the second image. Set the fill color for these new shapes to R=255 G=244 B=161, lower their Opacity to 70%, and change the Blending Mode to Soft Light.

highlights

Step 5

Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create a 4 x 24 px shape and place it as shown in the first image. Fill it with R=244 G=167 B=32, lower its Opacity to 30%, and change the Blending Mode to Soft Light.

Next, create a 3 x 24 px shape and place it as shown in the second image. Fill it with R=244 G=167 B=32, lower its Opacity to 40%, and change the Blending Mode to Soft Light.

Using the same tool, create 2 x 24 px shape and place it as shown in the third image. Fill it with R=244 G=167 B=32, lower its Opacity to 50%, and change the Blending Mode to Soft Light.

Finally, create a 1 x 24 px shape and place it as shown in the fourth image. Fill it with R=214 G=137 B=2 and lower its Opacity to 40%.

glow

Step 6

Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create a 4 x 16 px shape, fill it with R=8 G=10 B=10, and place it as shown in the first image.

Focus on the left side of this new rectangle and pick the Direct Selection Tool (A). Select the top anchor point and move it 5 px down, and then select the bottom anchor point and move it 5 px up. Next, select both left anchor points, move to the top bar, and enter 3 px in that Corners box. In the end, your shape should look like the third image.

trapezoid

Step 7

Make sure that your newest shape remains selected and focus on the Appearance panel. Add a second fill and select it. Set the color to R=75 G=64 B=59 and then go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform. Enter the attributes shown in the left window, don’t forget to check the middle right reference point, and then click the OK button.

Return to the Appearance panel and add a third fill for your selected shape. Select this new fill, make it white, lower its Opacity to 50%, change the Blending Mode to Soft Light, and then go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform. Enter the attributes shown in the right window, don’t forget to check the middle right reference point, and then click the OK button.

new fills

8. How to Add a Stroke and Duplicate

Step 1

Reselect your main shape, focus on the Appearance panel and select the stroke. Set its color to R=244 G=167 B=32, make sure that the Weight is set to 1 px and don’t forget to check the Round Join and Align Stroke to Outside buttons. Once you’re done, go to Object > Path > Outline Stroke.

outline stroke

Step 2

Select all the shapes made so far, duplicate them, and place the copies about as shown in the following image.

duplicate

9. How to Create a Pattern Brush

Step 1

Focus on the top light bulb. Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create an 83 x 40 px shape and place it exactly as shown in the first image. Fill this new rectangle with a random blue and lower its Opacity to about 50%.

Using the same tool and Appearance attributes, create a 5 x 40 px rectangle and place it as shown in the second image.

blue rectangles

Step 2

Select all the shapes that make up your top light bulb along with the blue rectangle that lies above it, and pick the Shape Builder Tool (Shift-M). Hold the Alt button on your keyboard and simply drag a somewhat vertical path from the top to the bottom edges of that blue rectangle. This move will quickly remove that blue rectangle along with all the shapes that lie behind it, and in the end things should look like the second image.

shape builder tool

Step 3

Using the Direct Selection Tool (A), select all the shapes highlighted in the first image and simply drag them inside the Swatches panel (Window > Swatches) to save them as a pattern. Deselect the shapes from your artboard and select that pattern from the Swatches panel (Window > Swatches). Open the fly-out menu from the Swatches panel and go to Swatch Options…. Rename your pattern “StartTile” and then click the OK button.

Select the shapes highlighted in the second image and save them as a second pattern. Select this new pattern and rename it “EndTile“. Once you have both patterns, you can remove those sets of shapes from your artboard.

pattern

Step 4

Select the remaining shapes and pick that same Shape Builder Tool (Shift-M). This time hold the Shift and the Alt buttons on your keyboard and drag two simple selections to the left and right of that blue rectangle, as shown in the following images.

shape builder tool

Step 5

Remove that blue rectangle. Select the remaining shapes, open the Brushes panel (Window > Brushes), and click that New Brush button. Check the Pattern Brush box and click the OK button. Pick a name for your pattern, make sure that the attributes are set as shown below, and then focus on the Tile boxes.

Simply open the Start Tile and add your “StartTile” pattern, and then open the End Tile and add your “EndTile” pattern. Once you’re done, click the OK button and your new pattern brush will show up in the Brushes panel.

pattern brush

10. How to Create a Background

Step 1

Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create an 852 x 602 px shape, fill it with R=102 G=59 B=67, and make sure that it covers your entire artboard.

Keep this rectangle selected and focus on the Appearance panel. Add a second fill, make it black, lower its Opacity to 3%, change the Blending Mode to Multiply, and then go to Effect > Artistic > Film Grain. Enter the attributes shown below, and then click the OK button.

film grain

Step 2

Make sure that your large rectangle is still selected, and keep focusing on the Appearance panel. Add a third fill, select it, and set the color to R=255 G=200 B=0. Lower its Opacity to 10%, change the Blending Mode to Multiply, and then go to Effect > Artistic > Sponge. Enter the attributes shown below and click the OK button.

sponge

11. How to Create the Text Effect

Step 1

Pick the Type Tool (T) and open the Character panel (Window > Type > Character). Select the Neons font, and set the size to 155 pt and the tracking to 150.

Simply click on your artboard and add the “TURN ON” piece of text. Make it white and lower its Opacity to about 30% using the Transparency panel (Window > Transparency).

text

Step 2

Using the Pen Tool (P) and the piece of text as a reference, draw a simple path that makes up the “T” about as shown in the first image. Make sure that there’s no fill color set for this path, select the stroke, and simply add your pattern brush from the Brushes panel.

Return to the Appearance panel, make sure that the entire path is selected (simply click that “Path” piece of text from the top of the panel), and go to Effect > Stylize > Rounded Corners. Enter a 17.5 px Radius and click the OK button.

path

Step 3

Make sure that your “T” path is still selected, keep focusing on the Appearance panel, and add a second stroke using the Add New Stroke button.

Select the new stroke and drag it below the existing one. Set its color to R=255 G=184 B=25, lower the Opacity to 10%, and then open that Stroke fly-out panel. First, set the Weight to 34 pt, and then check Width Profile 3 from that Profile drop-down menu.

yellow stroke

Step 4

Make sure that your “T” path is still selected and keep focusing on the Appearance panel. Select that yellow stroke and duplicate it using the Duplicate Selected Item button. Select the newly added stroke, increase the Weight to 40 pt and the Opacity to 15%, and then go to Effect > Blur > Gaussian Blur. Set the Radius to 15 px and click the OK button.

With your “T” path still selected, open the Graphic Styles panel (Window > Graphic Styles) and simply click that New Graphic Style button.

gaussian blur

Step 5

Pick the Pen Tool (P) and create the other text paths about as shown in the first image. Once you’re done, select all these paths and simply apply your graphic style from the Graphic Styles panel. In some cases you might have to adjust the radius for that Rounded Corners effect or simply remove it. For these specific paths, you will have to increase the Radius to 35 px for that “U” path and completely remove the Rounded Corners effect for that “O” path.

graphic styles

Step 6

Select the rectangle that makes up your background, make a copy in front (Control-C > Control-F), and bring it to front (Shift-Control-]). Make sure that this copy remains selected and focus on the Appearance panel.

First, remove the black and yellow fills and then select the remaining fill. Change its Blending Mode to Soft Light and replace the existing color with the radial gradient shown below. Keep in mind that the yellow zero from the gradient image stands for Opacity percentage.

radial gradient

Congratulations! You’re Done!

Here is how it should look. I hope you’ve enjoyed this tutorial and can apply these techniques in your future projects.

Feel free to adjust the final design and make it your own. You might find some great sources of inspiration on GraphicRiver, with interesting solutions to improve your design.

final product