Custom Shadow Textures in Illustrator

In This Lesson...

  • Updated lesson plan
  • An easy way to make your custom lettering stand out
  • Shadow texture breakdown

A Change of Plans

At the end of the last Type Builder lesson, I hinted at introducing a tool for hand lettering on the fly in Adobe Illustrator. I was referring to the 'Blob Brush' tool, but after some initial planning for the post, I decided to delay the 'Blob Brush' breakdown because the lesson was becoming a bit more complicated than I'd hoped for.

Custom Shadow Textures

With that out of the way, allow me to introduce today's topic: How to make custom shadow textures for your type in Illustrator!

The process for making custom shadow textures is simple, but it's a high impact effect that's certain to add a touch of class to your vector lettering.

In this lesson I'll lay out a quick, step-by-step guide then provide a few examples of custom made shadow textures to get your creative wheels turning.

Follow Along!

For this breakdown, I'll be using a typeface I designed called BoHammer Script, but your own vector lettering samples (along with typefaces from your Illustrator library) will work just as well.

Here we go!


  • Create two layers in Illustrator: Type Layer and Shadow Layer.


  • Type Layer will have the word you're using. Select the word, then copy and paste in place on the Shadow Layer.
  • Next, make the word a compound path and lock the Shadow Layer.


  • Now, select your word in the Type Layer and perform an offset path from the 'Object' dropdown menu (play with the offset amount to find your desired effect).
  • Copy the newly offset letters, delete, paste in back, group, and change the color to match the composition's background.
  • Then, lock the Type Layer.


  • Unlock the Shadow Layer, select your word, and position to your liking.
  • This will give you your first look at how the shadow will appear.


  • Now it's time to create the texture for your shadow. For this example, I'll be making a crosshatching texture.
  • The opportunities for textures and patterns are endless.


  • Working in the Shadow Layer, I'll draw a diagonal line at 45 degrees somewhere on the artboard.
  • Then, I'll copy and paste a new line and drag it to the other side of the artboard.
  • Shift-select the original line, and create a 'Blend' between the two.


  • To achieve the crosshatching look, simply copy the blend, paste in place, and reflect vertically.
  • Then, select both blends, group, copy, delete, and paste in back.


  • Now position the crosshatching texture behind the shadow word.
  • Select both, right click, and choose 'Make Clipping Mask.'


  • Congrats! You just custom built a one of a kind shadow texture for your lettering.


If you're more of a visual learner, here's a quick video that shows the whole process from start to finish:



Finally, here are a few more examples to help inspire some creative thinking:

Next Time on Type Builder

Did you know that you can use an existing typeface as a guide for your hand lettering? In the next lesson I'll explain how I draw serifs on top of sans-serif type to create beautiful, custom letterforms.

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Micah Bowers

My objective is simple: Make things better. I design for people. People are the heart and soul of a thriving business. When your message is clearer, more creative, and above all, authentic, people will notice. I unite Branding, Custom Type, & Large Format Graphics to help businesses thrive.