Graphic Design / Interactive Design / Fine & Applied Arts / Parkland College

Graphic Design Exercises
Illustrator: Envelope Distort


To learn advanced Illustrator drawing techniques. To learn Illustrator's envelope distort feature by recreating the following art:


Illustrator can distort an object by forcing it into an "envelope." In this example, we will make shapes to contain type. Then we will apply an "envelope distort" to the type. The result accurately evokes typography from the Psychedelic era because of the font choice as well as the color selections.

*Technical note: Contrary to popular wisdom, the MORE anchor points in the envelope, the more accurate the distortion.


prepping for the exercise

  1. turn on "Mojo" using Font Agent Pro
  2. download above picture (RMB on picture above)
  3. launch Illustrator, file > new (CMYK), save as ""
  4. file > place "history.gif" (place as template)
  5. practice Illustrator's navigation shortcuts (download Illustrator keyboard shortcuts)

creating the art in illustrator

  1. set stroke to black and fill to none
  2. choose the direct selection tool, then choose the pen tool (this way you'll have access to the direct select tool while drawing)
  3. draw curve to represent gutter; make adjustments (if necessary)
  4. make stroke 5pt; object > path > outline stroke
  5. draw box to represent edge of type; select all
  6. window > pathfiner: minus back (note: box is above curve)
  7. object > ungroup (cmd + shift + G)
  8. hide template layer

creating the distortion

  1. type tool: type "graphic design" and "history" (as separate objects)
  2. spec "Mojo" (size is not relevant)
  3. copy type, position on pasteboard (for safety)
  4. send type to back (cmd + shift + [ )
  5. select top object and "graphic design"
  6. object > envelope distort > make with top object
  7. object > paths > add anchor points (repeat as needed)
  8. view > outline (cmd + Y)
  9. object > envelope distort > edit contents (note object is "live")
  10. change color of type
  11. view > preview (cmd + Y)
  12. object > envelope distort > edit envelope (or click icons in control)
  13. repeat with other object
  14. save


  1. file > save as (format=PDF)
  2. object > expand
  3. delete unused art
  4. add your name and the exercise number to the file
  5. print a proof for grading
  6. file your graded proof in your Process Book for individual review

Last updated: 3/27/17 ■ Webmaster: Paul Young