Neon Text Effect with Illustrator’s Appearance Panel

You can create all kinds of cool effects in Illustrator by outlining text into a solid shape and then adding or making various permanent alterations, but what if you want to keep your text editable? Let's find out!

You can create all kinds of cool effects in Illustrator by outlining text into a solid shape and then adding or making various permanent alterations, but what if you want to keep your text editable? In today’s Illustrator tutorial we’ll take a look at the hidden gems that we can find in the Appearance Panel and see how we can use these assets to build up layers of non-destructive effects on live type to build a neon text effect. After all is done, we’ll add it as a Graphic Style and then we can use it over and over again!

The effect we’ll be creating is this neon sign text style. It’s made up from multiple strokes in the Appearance Panel, some with extra modifications such as Gaussian Blur and Offset Path . The result is a cool looking neon sign effect on live text, so you can easily edit the text or even apply it to a new text with one single click once the effect is added a a Graphic Style!

You can also watch the video tutorial here: “How to Create a Neon Text Effect in Illustrator”

Create a new document, any size will do and add a dark funky image as a background. I went to pixabay and downloaded this cool photo of a concrete wall.

Then Select the Type Tool (T) and add the text of your choice. I used Myriad Pro Regular, Size around 241pt, Tracking 75.

We need to set the fill and stroke for the text to none!

Find the Appearance Panel (Window > Appearance) and now the fun begins! We will add several strokes in different colors, with different weights. So first we’ll add a new stroke by clicking on the “Add New Stroke” button on the bottom of the Appearance Panel.

Then we’ll alter the stroke settings, just click on the Stroke in the Panel and add following settings to the fly-out-menu:  Color White, 8pt, Limit 100, Dashed Line: 0pt, 25pt, 175pt.

Then we’ll add an effect to the text. Let’s blur the stroke with a Gaussian Blur. On the bottom of the Appearance Panel click on the “Add New Effect” button.

In the pop-up, set the blur Radius to 3 pixels. Click OK.

We need to offset the new stroke, so while the red stroke is still selected, go back to the bottom and click “Add New Effect” and select Path > Offset Path. In the pop-up, add 8px for the Offset amount.

Add another stroke, color yellow, Weight: 3pt, Cap and Corner: Rounded, Dashed Line: 0pt, 37pt, 129pt

Add another Offset Path of 14px.

Then we’ll add another stroke in green, Weight: 8pt, Dashed Line: 0pt, 16pt, 136pt.

And yet another Offset Path of 19px.

Then we’ll add a Gaussian Blur of 10px to the just added green stroke.

Now on top of the last stroke, we’ll add another stroke in the same green, set the Weight to 8pt, and the Dashed Line to 0pt, 36pt, 136pt.

To the newly added green stroke we’ll add another Offset Path of 23px.

Now we’ll add one last stroke in white with a weight of 2pt, rounded cap and corner and dashed line of 0pt, 36pt, 136pt.

We will offset the stroke as well, 23pt.

Then we’ll add another Gaussian Blur of 0.3px to it.

Now we are at the last step for the strokes and let’s add another one. Weight: 8pt, rounded, Dashed Line: 0pt, 25pt, 175pt.

Click on the bottom layer in the Appearance Panel and then add a new effect, select Style > Drop Shadow.

In the pop-up, set the mode to multiply, opacity to 59%, x offset to -16px, y offset to 5px and blur to 9px, color is black. Click Ok.

And that’s it 🙂

Here are all the layers we added to the Appearance Panel:

In order to use this style over and over again, we can add it to the Graphic Styles Panel. Open the Graphic Styles Panel under Window > Graphic Styles and then select the just created styled text and drag it into the panel. You can double-click it and give it a name.

Now when you type a new text, just keep the text highlighted and then click on the new graphic style in your Graphic Style Panel.

The coolest thing is that the text can still be double clicked and edited. You can also create multiple neon text styles and add them as Graphic Styles. There are no limits!

Share your love

Simona Pfreundner has been teaching Adobe Creative Suite since 2008 through written tutorials, instructional video courses and classroom teaching. With 15 years experience in the graphic design field as an agency, in-house and freelance designer, her love for art and drawing has enabled her develop an approachable and intuitive style of teaching that helps people learn graphic design software in a fun and easy way.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.