Tutorial: Editable Neon type in Adobe Illustrator

This one’s for the LinkedIn Adobe Illustrator Group. I appreciate the tips and advice I get there and wanted to give back. In response to a Photoshop/Illustrator post by Creative Beacon (another great resource), I wanted to demonstrate how to create an editable version completely in Illustrator using the Appearance palette.  I read or watched a demo on this somewhere else but I couldn’t remember where so I’ve reconstructed it based on what I remember as well as echoing Creative Beacon’s effect. I’m using CS4, but this is probably possible all the way back to Illustrator 9 or 10 (maybe even before—the Appearance palette has been around for a long time though it’s functionality really got a boost in CS3).

STEP 1: Draw a box. In the Appearance palette, set the fill and stroke to none.

STEP 2: From the flyout menu in the Appearance palette (or the button in the lower left corner of the Appearance palette, choose “Add Stroke”. Set it to 3 points. Choose a light color

STEP 3: In the Effect menu, choose Blur–> Gaussian Blur (set to preference)

STEP 4: In the Effect menu choose Stylize–> Outer glow (set to your preference.

STEP 5:In the Effect menu choose Stylize–> Round Corners. The radius setting will need to be adjust when the style is applied to text.


STEP 6: Drag the neon square onto the Graphic Styles palette.


STEP 7: Delete the square and with the type tool selected, choose a bold, sans serif type face. I’m using Museo Sans 900. You may want to set the tracking to 20 or larger to accommodate the glow. Type a word or phrase at around 100 pts. The effect of the style will change based on font and size so you may need to play with the settings.


STEP 8: With the textbox selected click on your new neon style in the graphic styles palette.  Voila! You have editable neon text. Now you can…


STEP 9: Change the word…

STEP 10: Change the typeface.

STEP 10 B:  Change the colors from the Edit menu. Choose Edit Colors –> Recolor Artwork. After you’re finished, drag the recolorized artwork onto the Graphic Styles palette to create another style.


Make sure you have “Scale Strokes & Effects” checked in the Preferences dialogue box (command + K, or Illustrator –>Preferences) if you plan on scaling your text. As the text grows or shrinks, the effect ratios may change and you may need to jump in to the Appearance palette to make adjustments. If you have various standard sizes, simply create multiple copies of the style, name them by point size (i.e. Neon 100pt, Neon 50 pt) and adjust to taste.

To enhance the highlight, add a thinner stroke on top of the original set to white or a much-lighter tint of the original stroke color.

That’s it, but you can probably see all kinds of ways to extend the concepts. To extend the re-usability one more step, delete everything from your artboard, then Save As into the Graphic Styles folder inside Applications –> Adobe Illustrator –>Presets–>en_US–>Graphic Styles. I’m using a Mac, a PC is probably similar though the path nodes may be differently designated. That way it will show up in your Graphic Styles library and you can load it whenever you need it without reinventing the wheel.

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