Neon effects can add a burst of bright fluorescent colour to your text and shapes because they create a really realistic neon look when used on dark backgrounds. Here’s how to create your own neon effect quickly in Adobe Illustrator…
Creating your shapes and text
When choosing what to apply this effect to, think about what neon lights look like in real life. As neon is primarily used as an outline of shapes or words, we want to make sure any shape or text we use is purely an outline.
In this example we’ll be using text. But you can also apply the same principles to shapes once you get the hang of how to create the effect. I also would recommend working on a dark background while creating your neon look, to view the effect coming together as you work.
Firstly, type your text – in any font or size you like! In this preview, my text will be around size 150pt, on a background of 1080×540, which gives a nice large font size to work with. Then, select a colour for your neon effect. Bright colours work best, but feel free to experiment with whichever colour you prefer!
When applying colour, make sure it’s applied to the outline stroke, rather than fill colour. To change where the colour is applied, you can click the small arrow next to your colour picker box – simple.
You’ll want a nice bold stroke, so increase the stroke thickness to around 4-6pt. Next you can turn the text into a shape, rather than a text box. To do this (with your text selected), click object > expand > OK. Make sure you do this twice to fill your text shape with colour. Afterwards, name this group of shapes ‘Group 2’ in your layers panel.
Add a lighter layer
Now, you’ll want to create the bright neon which runs through the centre of your text. So, firstly select your text shapes, and copy (cmd + C/ctrl + C) and paste them in place (cmd + shift + V/ctrl + shift + V). Name this new copy of your shapes ‘Group 1’ and drag them to the top of your layer.
Click your colour picker, and change the colour of this new group of shapes to almost white, but with a hint of the original colour.
With ‘group 1’ still selected, it’s time to shrink the outline. To do this, select effects < path < offset path. And to make the text path smaller, the offset value needs to be negative. -2 should give you a new path which runs through the centre of your original text, but depending on how thick your outline is, this value may be slightly different.
We are aiming for a lighter version of your text running through the centre, as seen in the image below.
We now have two layers, which will form the base of our neon text. But now we want to add some glow!
Let there be light!
Select Layer 1 and copy (cmd + C/ctrl + C) and paste in place (cmd + shift + V/ctrl + shift + V), then name this ‘group 3’ and drag it to the bottom of your layers panel. With layer 3 still selected, you’ll want to add the glow, so click effect > blur > Gaussian blur. And adjust the radius value to around 18; you should have a faint glow around your text now.
Next, select ‘group 2’ and add another Gaussian blur effect to this layer (effect > blur > Gaussian blur). This time, set the radius value to around two – which should give you the coloured glow of your neon.
Your neon text should be starting to take shape now, but there’s still time to add a bit more of a realistic touch. And to start with, add some shadow.
Into the shadows
Select ‘group 2’ and copy this group (cmd + C/ctrl + C) and paste in place (cmd + shift + V/ctrl + shift + V). Name this new group Layer 4, and drag it to the bottom of your layer panel. Then go to your colour panel and change the fill to black (#000000).
Easy shadow added! This shadow will be subtle for now, but as we finish our effect it will help give the neon a little more depth once we complete the effect.
The final glow down
For the final glow, select layer 2 and paste in place once again. This time, name the newly pasted shapes ‘group 5’ and drag this to the bottom of your layer panel.
Before adding new effects, delete the previous Gaussian blur. To do this, simply click the bin icon next to the effect in the appearance panel.
Then, offset the path of ‘group 5’. So again, go to effect < path < offset path. This time, we’re creating a bubble around the outside of our shapes. To do this yourself, set the value to around +7, or a number which gives a similar look to the image below.
Next, add a new Gaussian blur to this group with a radius of around 18. And to finish off, go to your properties panel and adjust the opacity of ‘group 5’ to around 65-75%.
And that’s it! Depending on the size of your font (or shapes), you may need to tweak the blur values – but feel free to experiment. This effect works really well when you place your text on top of photography to create a more realistic image.
Now you know what to do, why not make your own and tag us on Instagram? Just use our handle: @connective3_agency to show us your creative creations!