Creating Type Spirals

I was helping someone understand type on a path and how to arch, warp, & bend text when I thought of this really cool idea. The following tutorial will show you how to build interesting spiral shapes with a simple string of letters using Adobe Illustrator and the Warp Effect Arc.

Example of the Final Product

Type Spiral Tutorial Final Example

Tutorial Details

Program: Adobe Illustrator CS3
Difficulty: Beginner
Topics Covered: Warp Effect, Smart Guides, Rotate Tool
Estimated Completion Time: 15-20 minutes
Required Files: None

Step 1
Create a new document and create a text box with the Type tool(T). Type out just one line of text and choose a font.

Step 2
For this example, I am using the letter ‘f’ set in Rockwell Regular. Starting point size is not important as the effect is percentage based and will work the same whether you start with 12pt. or 200pt. type.

Type Spiral Tutorial Step 02

Step 3
Switch back to the Selection tool(V) then click on Effect > Warp > Arc.

Type Spiral Tutorial Step 03

Step 4
Adjust the Bend to 70% and the Horizontal Distortion to 100% then check the Preview box to see the results. Depending on your letters you might want to move the Bend to 60% or 80%.

Type Spiral Tutorial Step 04

Step 5
Click OK when your Arc looks right. This is the arm of your spiral. Then click on Object > Expand Appearance.

Type Spiral Tutorial Step 05

Step 6
If Smart Guides are off, click on View > Smart Guides.

Type Spiral Tutorial Step 06

Step 7
Switch to the Rotate tool(R ) and hover over your object. Your looking for the single anchor point where everything bends in together. The Smart Guides should snap you to it.

Type Spiral Tutorial Step 07

Step 8
Option + click on the anchor point to move the rotate point and bring up the rotate dialog. Use 20 degrees for the rotation and click Copy.

Type Spiral Tutorial Step 08

Step 9
Use the keyboard shortcut Command + D to transform the new object again.

Type Spiral Tutorial Step 09

Step 10
Continue to hit Command + D sixteen more times to complete the spiral.

Type Spiral Tutorial Step 10

Step 11
Use the keyboard shortcut Command + A to select all of the individual objects. Then click Window > Pathfinder > Add.

Type Spiral Tutorial Step 11

Type Spiral Tutorial Step 11 Part 2

Step 12
The last step is to click Expand in the Pathfinder palette to unify everything into one object.

Type Spiral Tutorial Step 12


As always, play with the settings and see what you come up with. Changing the amount of rotation is a quick way to come up with different looks. Then there is your type choice. The more decorative your typeface to begin with, the more intricate the resulting spiral will look. Here are two more examples I came up with just playing around.

Type Spiral Tutorial - More Examples

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