retro text title

Create a Retro Text Effect in Illustrator

Whip out your favorite retro 8-track or cassette! Grab your Aquanet hair spray. Put on some neon spandex! We are diving into the 80’s! One of the most memorable part of the 80’s was the awesome retro text effects they had. It’s the rise of the digital age! The bright colors and the terrible printed backgrounds were something very distinct then. But it sticks in the mind! In this tutorial we will look at how to create chrome and neon text in Adobe Illustrator!




open new document

First you are going to want to start up Illustrator and Open a New Document (CTRL/CMD + N). Your artboard size can be whatever size you see fit. In this tutorial I will be laying it out as 1000px x 1000px.

Next you are going to need your text for your styles. For the chrome lettering it’s always good to have a heavy block-like font. I am using Crayfish AS Titan Bold which you can get from FontsGeek. Second part is your neon text. For this you want something standard weight and for this I am using a script font Mariah Regular where you can grab it from ffonts.net.

create your layers

Now we are going to go into our layers panel and add/name our layers. You will want your Background Layer, your Chrome Layer, and a Neon Layer on top. Color your Background layer black and lock your layer. This will prevent you from putting your work on it. Click on the Chrome Layer and we will begin working on that part.

add retro text and outline

Type in your lettering in your block font of your choice. To make it easy to see have your text colored in white. Once you get the word down go ahead and turn it into an Outline (CMD/CTRL + SHIFT + O). This will allow us to start creating some of our effects.

add in chrome gradient preset

Now go into your Swatch Panel and click on the upper right part of the panel and scroll down to Open Swatch Library -> Gradients ->Metals. Select Chrome and have your chrome adjusted to 90 degrees in the Gradient Panel.

offset your path

Now that we have our basic coloring now it’s time to give it a little more dimension. Select Object -> Path -> Offset Patch and it will pop up the panel. Depending on the size of the lettering will depend on your offset. In this case I made the offset 7pts, I left the Joins as Miter to give it the rigid edges and the miter limit to 4. Click Ok. You might notice this might overlap some of your other letters so while the offset path is still selected let’s move it to the back (CMD/CTRL + SHIFT + [ ).

change fill to silver gradient

Now with the Offset still selected you can go back into your Gradient Swatch and select Silver.

add in 1pt stroke 80k

Now that we have the Offset colored go ahead and click on the inner text and add in a 1pt stroke and have it colored at 80% Black only.

add in slight inner glow

With the lettering still selected go into Effects -> Stylize -> Inner Glow. This will pop up a panel. Make sure it’s set to multiply, The color can be what ever fits best with your layout. In this case 80 k and 0 values on CMY. 75% Opacity. 5pt blur (for this you don’t need to much). Make sure it’s Edge and click OK.

final look

So now that we have the chrome part completed it’s time to start working on the Neon effect! For this we are going to be using inner and outer glows for this effect.

add in your script and rotate

Go into your Neon Layer and Type in your word in the script font of your choice. I am going to be coloring it pink so in the color panel I am making it 80 M and the values of CYK be 0. Go ahead and tilt your text to slightly overlap the chrome text using the Rotate Tool (R).

merge your text

Now that we have this positioned in the right spot let’s go ahead and break up the text to make it an outline (CMD/CTRL + SHIFT + O ). With the outline still selected go into your Pathfinder Tool and select Merge.

inner glow to retro text

Next we will apply an Inner Glow effect to the text by going into Effect -> Stylize -> Inner Glow. Make sure your color is at the full strength in vibrancy. Multiply, Opacity 75%, Blur 3pt and click OK.

outer glow

And lastly we are going to add in an Outer Glow. Go into Effect -> Stylize -> Outer Glow. Make sure the mode is set to Screen. Color being the same as the Inner Glow and drop the Opacity to about 50% with the Blur at 3. This is supposed to be a little lighter in look than the inner glow.

Final eighties

And there you have it! Two approaches to some of the most popular text styles in the 80’s. You can using them together or separate them out and use by themselves.

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