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Deke's Techniques is a collection of short Photoshop and Illustrator projects and creative effects that can be completed in ten minutes or less. The series is taught by computer graphics guru Deke McClelland, and presented in his signature step-by-step style. The intent is to reveal how various Photoshop and Illustrator features can be combined and leveraged in real-world examples so that they can be applied to creative projects right away.
Hey gang! This is Deke McClelland. Welcome to Deke's Techniques! This week I'm going to show you how to create an ambigram--and here's the idea. I've got these three words of text here. I think it's pretty easy to make out the top and bottom words. That middle word is a lot trickier; that's my name. But you may wonder why in the world these treatments are so tortured. Well, I had to hand draw all of these characters because after all, I wanted to make sure that they read exactly the same right side up or upside down. And that is the very nature of an ambigram. Now, if you're interested in creating these kinds of things, might I recommend that you do a Google search for "ambigram generator." There's a bunch of them out there.
They'll probably deliver the results in the Gothic script. And I went ahead and created a kind of variation on that script, a futuristic variation, as you can see here, in order to create my name. Now in this video I'm going to show you the most legible of the bunch, which is the word "adobe." We're going to completely hand draw this text in just a matter of minutes. It's a heck of a technique. We're going to pull it off inside of Illustrator. Here, let me show you exactly how it works. Here are those same three ambigrams. I just wanted to show them to you on screen so you could have a look.
Now, we're going to take a stab at creating the top one. I have this base file here opened up inside of Illustrator, and we're going to create the whole darn thing from scratch. And we'll start by pressing Ctrl+R, or Command+R on a Mac, to bring up the rulers. We need to lay a vertical guideline through the center of the artboard, so go ahead and drag a guide out from the vertical ruler. And you should be able to click on it to select it. Notice it's selected there inside the illustration. If you're having problems selecting your guide, then go up to the View menu, choose Guides, and then turn off the Lock Guides command. Next, we want to align that guy to the center of the artboard.
With the guide selected once again, go up here to the control panel and click on this align option and set it to Align to Artboard and then click on the Horizontal Align Center icon in order to nail that guideline to the center of the artboard. I'll press Ctrl+R, or Command+R on the Mac, to hide the rulers. And then, just so I don't mess it up, I might as well lock that guide down by up to the View menu, choosing Guides, and then turning on the Lock Guides command. Next, grab the Rectangle tool, which you can get by pressing the M key, and click somewhere inside the artwork in order to bring up the Rectangle dialog box.
I'll dial in a Width value of 100 points, and to duplicate that same value into the Height field, you just have to click on the word Height like so. Then click OK. Now, then currently, for me anyway, both the fill and stroke are set to none. I want to be able to see this object. Go up to the control panel, click on the Stroke option, and then select black from the swatches panel. Then press the Enter key in order to hide the panel. Now I want to center that square on the guideline, so I'll switch to my Black Arrow tool, which I can get by pressing the V key, and then I'll go ahead and drag that center point until it snaps into alignment.
Now I'm going to drag the bottom-left point, but before you do, make sure that your bounding box is turned off, please, by going up to the View menu, and choosing the Hide Bounding Box command. If you see Show Bounding Box, then you know the bounding box is already turned off. Then go ahead and drag that bottom- left point so it snaps into alignment with the bottom-right point, and then press and hold the Alt key, or the Option key on the Mac, and release in order to create a clone. Now at this point, we're going to be nudging the square from the keyboard. You may want to go ahead and check your keyboard increments by pressing Ctrl+K, or Command+K on the Mac, to bring up the Preferences dialog box, and then just check that the Keyboard Increment is set to 1 pt.
If it's not, dial in 1 pt and click OK. Then press Shift+Right Arrow three times, like so, to nudge that square 30 points to the right. Go ahead and duplicate it again by dragging from the bottom-left point until it snaps into alignment with the bottom-right point. Press and hold the Alt key, or the Option key on the Mac, to release. That will create a clone. And then press Shift+Right Arrow one, two, three times, once again. Just one more step to rough things in. Go ahead and grab your White Arrow tool, which you can get by pressing the A key, click on the left side of the very first rectangle, and press the Backspace key, or the Delete key on the Mac, in order to get rid of that side.
Then marquee those two left-hand anchor points and drag them while pressing the Shift key until they snap into alignment with your guide. Those are the basic shapes, believe it or not. Now let's turn them into something, by switching back to the Black Arrow tool. Go ahead and partially marquee those three shapes to select them. Then go up to the Object menu, choose Compound Path, and choose Make. And that just goes ahead and combines them into a single path outline, in so far as Illustrator is concerned, which just makes them easier to manage. Now we're going to apply a couple of dynamic effects.
So go up to the Effect menu, choose Distort & Transform, and choose the Transform command. Now this is the command that turns this thing into an ambigram. I know so far these boxes don't even look like letters, but they will very soon. And we'll be able to better see how those shapes transform into letters if you dial in a Rotate value of 180, then click on the left-hand point in this little reference point matrix right there, and increase the number of copies to 1. Then turn on the Preview check box, and you'll see what you're doing is rotating those boxes into the left- hand side of the illustration.
Now, it looks like we're flipping them, but we're actually rotating them, which is very important. The rotation is what you want for an ambigram. Then go ahead and click OK to accept that effect. Now to round off the corners. Go up to the Effect menu once again, choose Stylize, and choose the Round Corners command. Now I want you to dial in a Radius value of 25 pts, if you're following along with me, and click OK. Now we need to finesse these letters just a little bit. Double-click on any one of the path outlines in order to enter the group isolation mode, which is where we're at right now.
Then I want you to press the A key in order to switch to the White Arrow tool, click the left side of this second square, then press Ctrl+C in order to copy it--that's Command+C on the Mac--and Ctrl+F--that's Command+F on the Mac--to paste it in front. I want you to click off that line. Then click back on it, like so, in order to select it, and nudge it up 25 points. And you can do that by pressing Shift+ Up Arrow once, twice, and then pressing the up arrow key one, two, three, four, five times.
Then do the opposite for the bottom point. Press Shift+Down Arrow twice and then the down arrow key by itself one, two, three, four, five times. And you'll know that you've achieved absolute symmetry because the left and right sides of this middle rounded square will line up with each other. Next thing we're going to do is reshape this E a little bit. Press the P key in order to select the Pen tool. Notice I've got my Smart Guides on. Yours will appear in green on your screen. Go ahead and click when you see the word "Intersect" right there, at the center of that path outline.
Then I want you to press the A key to switch back to the White Arrow tool, click off the shape, click on that bottom-right segment to select it. Then press the Backspace key, or the Delete key on a Mac. Marquee this bottom point in order to select it and nudge it 25 points to the left, press Shift+Left Arrow twice in a row. Then press the left arrow key by itself, one, two, three, four, five times. Press the P key to switch back to the Pen tool. Click at this point and then Shift+ Click like so, in order to draw something that very closely resembles an E. Not quite what I'm looking for though.
So I'll go ahead and press the A key in order to switch to the White Arrow tool. I'll click on that point to make sure it's selected, and I'll press Shift+Right Arrow twice in a row, then the right arrow key by itself, one, two, three, four, five times. Now we have to add these arcing segments, both inside the B and on the top and bottom of this D, and we'll do that by breaking apart a circle. So go ahead and switch from the Rectangle tool to the Ellipse tool and click somewhere inside the illustration. And we want a circle that measures 50 x 50 points. Then go ahead and click OK.
Let's go ahead and switch to the Scissors tool, which is available from the Eraser Tool flyout menu, and click on each one of these points like so, in order to divide this shape into four separate arcs. Now I want you to grab your Black Arrow tool and grab the upper-right arc like so, and drag it until it snaps into alignment with the top of that vertical line. Now we need the bottom-left arc. Go ahead and drag it out. Drag it by its top point so it snaps into alignment with the bottom of that vertical line. And then finally, go ahead and get that top-left arc, drag it by its right-hand point, until it snaps into alignment with the point on the E. The remaining arc we don't need, so just go ahead and select it and delete it.
And we've now managed to spell the word "adobe." Now press the Escape key in order to exit the isolation mode and go ahead and click anywhere in the path outlines in order to select them. To finish off the effect, go to the Object menu and choose the Group command--or you can press Ctrl+G, Command+G on the Mac. Then go up to the Window menu and choose Appearance in order to switch over to the Appearance panel. Notice that the group is active. We need to add a couple of strokes, so click on this little Add New Stroke icon in the bottom-left corner of the panel, and with the stroke active here inside the Color panel, go ahead and click on that black swatch in the bottom-right corner of the panel in order to stroke the letters with black.
And let's dial in a Stroke value of 20 pts, like so. And I want some rounded caps, so I'll click on the word "Stroke" here and I'll switch to round caps, toward the top of the pop-up panel. Go ahead and click on the existing one, click on Add New Stroke once again. I'm going to reduce the line weight to 10 points this time around. And, with the stroke active, here inside the Color panel, if you're following along with me, you want to choose HSB from the panel flyout menu. And let's go ahead and dial in a Hue value of 210. We want a Saturation value of 25 and a Brightness value of 75%, like so.
And I decided to offset this stroke just a little bit, and I did so by going up to the Effect menu, choosing Distort & Transform, and choosing the Transform command once again, and I dialed in a Horizontal value of -2, a Vertical value of -2 as well. You can turn on the Preview check box to see what kind of a difference that makes. It goes ahead and nudges that stroke independently of the rest of the paths. Click OK in order to accept that modification. The Transform effect should be applied to the stroke by itself, by the way. And there we have it: that is the final ambigram. Congratulations! Now just to get a sense of how ambigram-y these things are, I'm going to switch back to that illustration that contains three ambigrams in all.
I'll switch over to the Layers panel for a moment, click in the little circular meatball to target the layer, and then I'll return to the Appearance panel. And notice that I have a Transform effect set up in advance. I'm going to go ahead and press Ctrl+H, or Command+H on the Mac, to hide my selection edges. Then I'll turn on that Transform effect. And what the effect is doing is rotating the entire layer 180 degrees. And you can see that "lynda.com," my name, and the word "adobe" all read the same way they did just a moment ago. And that, my friends, is how you create an ambigram inside Illustrator.
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