Adobe Illustrator & Photoshop tutorial: Create urban type

Create a trendy logo using traditional and digital media

There’s no doubt about it, London is hip. In this tutorial Holland-based designer Bram Vanhaeren shows his admiration by creating a new piece that draws on all that’s great about the city – taking inspiration from last year's Olympics, underground club scenes, and the vista from up high.

This masterclass is about giving your typography illustration a fresh touch and experimenting with traditional and digital media, mixing patterns and textures to give your work an extra personal spark. For this tutorial you will need basic Illustrator and Photoshop skills, as well as some watercolour paint.

Afterwards, you should have acquired hands-on techniques you can use on work ranging from typography and editorial to photo manipulation.

Time to complete

2-3 hours


Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator

Project Files

Please visit the desktop site to download the project files.


Open a new document in Illustrator. Type your text with any font you like – I chose Avant Garde Bold. Select your text and go to Type > Create Outlines. Now you can adjust each letter separately.


Move your text around until it’s sitting in the position you want. I placed some red squares, which helped me to line the text up, and removed them once I found the right composition.

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To complete the typography, connect the letters using the Pen tool (P) to draw the connection you desire. In this case we just need a couple of oblique rectangles. You can use Pathfinder to merge them all together. Now we have our finished typography to work with.


In this Step we’re going to add a fade effect on some of our letters. First, create two white triangles. Take the Pen tool (P), and create a triangle with flat side on top, and sharp side downwards. Duplicate this shape and place the triangles straddling one side of the letter.


Go to Object > Blend > Blend Options > Specified Steps > 20. Press W to use the Blend tool and click on both triangles. It should render the result immediately.

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Experiment with this technique, using different kinds of shapes to create unique shading in your vector-based illustrations. This is my result.


Open a new document in Photoshop by hitting Cmd/Ctrl + N – if you plan to get this printed later, try an A3 or A2 file at 300dpi. If you just want to experiment, keep it at 800 x 600 pixels and 72dpi resolution. I always start with a dirty paper texture background, to give it an extra touch. Drag your work from Illustrator to your Photoshop document and Rasterize your vector layer (in the Layer menu).


Select your text by holding Cmd/Ctrl and clicking on the layer in the Layers palette. Copy this selection and paste it to the background texture layer to get rid of the white background. Your typography should now be part of the texture. Change the Blend Mode to Multiply, so the white parts disappear in the background. This must be done in Photoshop because the blending mode we’ve chosen means we can’t remove the triangles from the text with the Pathfinder.

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For the next Step we’re going to make a new pattern. In Photoshop, open a new document at 50 x 50 pixels with a transparent or white background. Make a cross with the Line tool (U). Next, hit Cmd/Ctrl + A to select all and Edit > Define Pattern. I have a lot of patterns to play with: big crosses, small crosses, dots, lines, squares and so on – they’re all very useful. Also try more lines and other shapes to create patterns.


Fill a circle with your pattern by going to Edit > Fill and selecting your pattern. Go to Edit > Transform > Warp and pull on a corner to add depth. Place this behind some of your letters. Play with your options to come up with a good solution.


At the moment we don’t have much colour. To fix this, I made a shape in Illustrator with the Pen tool (P), which I will use as a base to create some extra colour by adding gradients and textures.

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An original solution to fill this shape is to use random images. For example, take a photo of a leather sofa, cut out your shape from the image and you have an abstract black texture to fill your work with.


After adding some more abstract shapes filled with textures, I want to give this a spacey look (you can find amazing space images on the NASA site at Drop them on top of your work and set your Blending Option to Screen to create a lovely colour effect.


So far we’ve experimented with shapes, gradients, patterns and pictures. After some more playing around, this is what I got. I suggest you do the same thing, using techniques you’ve learned in this tutorial to fill up the work a little more.

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To add some traditional elements, I took a paper and some old watercolours to paint brushstrokes. You can find tonnes of Photoshop brushes online, but nothing is as unique as your own creation. 


After you’ve painted your brushstrokes, scan or photograph the result. Next, open the document in Photoshop, select one of your strokes and go to Edit > Define Brush Preset. Add the brushes to your work and play around with more tools, such as Twirl and Wave distortions.