Using the Word Processor from Outer Space

Using the Word Processor from Outer Space

If you think of the Illustrator type capabilities as an extended word-processing program, you’re in the right ballpark; people frequently mention Illustrator’s amazing typographical control. The basics of type (such as fonts, size, and alignment) work much the same in Illustrator as they do in most software programs. But Illustrator also packs some advanced typographical capabilities — such as saving files in three of the most universally recognized file formats (EPS, GIF, and JPEG). What sets this program apart from the rest is that you can do wonderful things with type and use it just about anywhere.

Controlling type in Illustrator

Illustrator has a variety of places where you can work with type options: the Type menu, the Character palette, the Paragraph palette, the Character Style palette, the Paragraph style palette, and the OpenType palette. 95 percent of what you need, however, resides in the Character and Paragraph palettes, shown in Figure. These two palettes are essential knowledge for Illustrator users; so is a good grasp (so to speak) of the Type tool(s) in the Toolbox.

Click To expand
Figure: The Character and the Paragraph palettes.

The Type tool(s)

You don’t need anything but the Type tool to create type (as shown in Figure) — although the Type tool by itself won’t let you change anything about your type.

Click To expand
Figure: Creating point type in Illustrator.

Several type tools hide behind the standard Type tool. While they’re convenient for quickly creating type on a path, area type, or vertically-oriented type, you can get away with using only the standard Type tool, if you know a few clever shortcuts. To make type on a path with the standard Type tool, just click any open path with it — the type flows on the path. To make type flow within an area, just click a closed path with the standard Type tool , and your type fills the path. See the sections, “Typing on a Path” and “Typing inside a Path,” later in this chapter for more details.

Starting with the Type tool, follow these steps to create type:

  1. Choose the Type tool (which looks like a letter T) from the Illustrator Toolbox.

  2. Click where you want the text to start.

    A flashing insertion point appears. (If you accidentally click and drag at this point, you create a text box that contains your type. For more information on the text box, see the next series of steps.)

  3. Start typing.

This process is the most basic way to create type. What you actually do in the preceding steps is create point type, which is a single line of type that doesn’t wrap (move to the next line) automatically. You have to press Enter (Windows) or Return (Mac) if you want to add a line beneath this line; otherwise, the line you’re typing continues to infinity.

You can also create rectangle type (type that’s confined within a rectangular area) with the Type tool, as shown in Figure. Just follow these steps:

Click To expand
Figure: Creating rectangle type in Illustrator.
  1. Choose the Type tool from the Illustrator Toolbox.

  2. Click and drag with the Type tool.

    As you drag, a rectangular marquee grows from the cursor. You can only type text inside the area of the marquee.

  3. Release the mouse button.

    A flashing insertion point appears in the upper-right corner of the text box.

  4. Start typing.

    As you reach the right edge of the text box, the text wraps to the next line.

In both cases, you create a type object. You can treat this type object like any other Illustrator object. (After you select it, the familiar path and point symbols show up to indicate the selection.)


With both point type and rectangle type, you can always get to the next line by pressing Enter (Windows) or Return (Mac) on the keyboard.

The Character palette

The Character palette, found by selecting Window→Type→Character, is the place where you make changes to individual characters (letters, numbers, and punctuation). Figure shows the Character palette with all the pieces labeled.

Figure: The Character palette in Illustrator.

To make text changes by using the Character palette, you first need to select the text you want to change. You can select text in three ways:

  • Click the text with a selection arrow. This action selects all the text in the text object. Even though the text isn’t highlighted (rather, it has a simple underline, or the outline of a rectangle), you can still change the size, font, and alignment.

  • Click and drag the Type tool across the type that you want to select. When you click and drag, a black box appears behind the selected text to indicate that the text is selected. This is what Illustrator means by highlighting. Only highlighted text is changed. But watch out! If you click and drag too far away from your targeted text, you make a new text box instead of selecting the text.


    Pay attention to the Type tool’s cursor; it always alerts you about what the tool is going to do. When the cursor is in position to create a new text box, a dotted rectangle appears around it. If it’s in the right place to select text, the dotted rectangle disappears. To select text, click and drag when you see only the I-beam text tool cursor with no box around it.

  • Double- or triple-click with the Type tool. Double-clicking a word selects the entire word. Triple-clicking selects the entire paragraph in which the word appears.

The Paragraph palette

The Paragraph palette (shown in Figure) is the place to make type changes that affect whole paragraphs. If you haven’t dealt with this feature in other software, you may be in for a bit of a tussle. To view the palette, choose Window→Type→Paragraph. Then things start to get a little strange.

Figure: The Paragraph palette in Illustrator.

To Illustrator, a paragraph consists of the type contained between returns. Even if you type only one letter, press Enter (Windows) or Return (Mac), and type another letter, Illustrator considers that each of those letters as a paragraph.

You don’t have to select an entire paragraph for the Paragraph palette functions to make changes. Paragraph palette changes affect the entire paragraph, regardless of what you select. For instance, even if you highlight only a single letter, changing a paragraph option affects the entire paragraph, not just that single character. In fact, you don’t even need to select anything to make paragraph changes — just click the paragraph you want to change with the Type tool (you see a blinking insertion point where you click), and paragraph changes affect the entire paragraph. All of the options in the Paragraph palette are designed to affect an entire paragraph regardless of the selection.

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