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The Envelope Distort Command in Adobe CS5 Illustrator

In Adobe Creative Suite 5 (Adobe CS5) Illustrator the Envelope Distort command is used to arch text and apply other creative distortions to an Illustrator object. To use the Envelope Distort command, you can use a preset warp (the easiest method), a grid, or a top object to determine the amount and type of distortion. In this section, we discuss all three methods.

Using the preset warps

Experimenting with warp presets is a little more interesting if you have a word or an object selected before trying them out. To warp an object or some text to a preset style, follow these steps:

  1. Select the text or object that you want to distort and then choose Object→Envelope Distort→Make with Warp.

    The Warp Options dialog box appears.

  2. Choose a warp style from the Style drop-down list and then specify any other options you want.

  3. Click OK to apply the distortion.

If you want to experiment with warping but also want to revert to the original at any time, choose Effect→Warp. You later change or delete the warp effect by double-clicking it in the Appearance panel or by dragging the effect to the trash can in the Appearance panel.

Reshaping with a mesh grid

You can assign a grid to an object so that you can drag different points and create your own, custom distortion.

Custom distortion using a mesh grid.
Custom distortion using a mesh grid.

Follow these steps to apply a mesh grid:

  1. Using the Select tool, select the text or object that you want to distort and then choose Object→Envelope Distort→Make with Mesh.

    The Envelope Mesh dialog box appears.

  2. Specify the number of rows and columns you want the mesh to contain and then click OK.

  3. Drag any anchor point on the mesh grid with the Direct Selection tool to reshape the object.

    To delete anchor points on the mesh grid, select an anchor point by using the Direct Selection tool and press the Delete key.

    You can also use the Mesh tool to edit and delete points when using a mesh grid on objects.

Reshaping an object with a different object

To form letters into the shape of an oval or to distort selected objects into another object, use this technique:

  1. Create text that you want to distort.

  2. Create the object you want to use as the envelope (the object to be used to define the distortion).

  3. Choose Object→Arrange to ensure that the envelope object is on top.

    Position the shape over the text.
    Position the shape over the text.
  4. Select the text and Shift-click to select the envelope object.

  5. Choose Object→Envelope Distort→Make with Top Object.

    The underlying object is distorted to fit the shape of the top (envelope) object.

Choose Effect→Distort and Transform→Free Distort to take advantage of the Free Distort dialog box. Effects can be edited or undone at any time by clicking or deleting the Free Distort effect from the Appearance menu.

Distort an object from the Free Distort dialog box.
Distort an object from the Free Distort dialog box.
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