Editable Shadow Text in Illustrator

In this tutorial, we’re going to create a shadow for text by making a duplicate fill in the Appearance Panel, and use a Transform Effect to Move the shadow text’s position.

For Appearance Panel aficionados, the screenshot above gives you a visual head start. If you want to work with me from step 1, start below.

about type appearances

To create the shadow type, I stacked up two fills (one blue, one white) for this type object in the Appearance Panel. To do this, you need a little background information on how the Appearance Panel handles type. In the image above, you can see the difference between what the Appearance Panel displays when you have the characters selected (which you do by dragging the Type Tool over a word) vs. when you have the type object selected (which you do by clicking on type with the Selection Tool).

Step 1: Create a line of point type (I’m using Sneakers Script medium, found in Adobe Typekit) and open the Appearance Panel.

Step 2: Select the type by highlighting with the Type Tool. Notice in the Appearance Panel that the type object is represented by Type: No Appearance and below that, we are looking at the Characters appearance.

The selected characters have a black fill and a stroke set to none. (This is the default type appearance whenever you start typing in Illustrator.)

We’re about to get rid of the character’s appearance and change the appearance of the type object.

Step 3: Change the fill of the characters to None. The type is now invisible, but it’s still there!

Step 4: Click on the Appearance Panel at the top where it says Type: No Appearance. We’re switching over to working on the type object appearance now.

Notice when you do this, the type selection is no longer highlighted, it’s selected by the baseline (as in the image below), as if you had clicked it with the Selection Tool.

Step 5: The type object’s appearance is empty, so click on the Add New Fill button at the bottom of the Appearance Panel to add a fill.

Step 6: Click the Add New Fill button again to add a second fill. Both fills are black by default.

Step 7: Change the color of the two fills. The top fill is blue and the shadow fill is white. Because the white fill is underneath the blue fill, you can’t see it yet.


Step 8: Select the white Fill by clicking on it in the Appearance Panel, then click the Add New Effect button at the bottom of the panel and choose Distort & Transform > Transform…

Step 9: The Transform Effect panel pops up, under Move, set the amount you want to move the white shadow type fill. I’ve moved mine 3 points to the left and 2 points down. Be sure to check the Preview checkbox, so you can see the changes as you make them, before clicking OK.

Step 10: Add even more dimension to your type with a Blending Mode. In the example above, I selected the blue fill’s Opacity setting and changed the blending mode from Normal to Multiply.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this tutorial. The most important part of the steps above is remembering that the Appearance Panel treats type a little differently than you might expect. Type in the Appearance Panel has a dual nature: Characters and Type. Before creating more complex type effects like this one, you’ll need to change the default Characters Fill to None and add fills to the the Type object’s appearance.