How to Type on a Path in Illustrator

Place your text in a circle or any other non-line path

It's easy to add text to a circle in Illustrator—draw a circle, choose the Path Text Tool, click the circle, and type. The tricky part comes when you want to add two phrases and have one right side up at the top of the circle and one right side up at the bottom of the circle. In this article, we show you how to type on a path in Illustrator.

Instructions in this article use Illustrator CC 2017 but apply to any modern version (including Illustrator CC 2020) since this has been a long-established feature.

How to Type on a Path in Illustrator

Type-on-a-path tools follow the edge of an open or closed path. The outline of the shape is used as the baseline for the text. The baseline is the invisible line on which characters sit.

While the baseline may differ from typeface to typeface, it's consistent within a typeface. Rounded letters such as "e" may extend slightly below the baseline. The only character in the alphabet that sits squarely on the baseline is the "x."

  1. Press and hold the Shift key and draw a circle with the Ellipse tool. It doesn't matter what color the stroke or fill is because they both disappear when you click with the text tool.

    To draw a perfect circle outwards from the center, press Option+Shift on a Mac or Alt+Shift on Windows.

  2. Select the Text tool drop-down menu and choose the Type on a Path Tool.

    Illustrator with the Text Tool highlighted
  3. Open the Type panel and select Paragraph (Window > Type > Paragraph). Alternatively, click the Align Center button in the Panel Options. This step sets the justification to center.

  4. Click the top center of the circle. A flashing input cursor appears. When you enter the text, it's center-aligned as you type.

    The cursor is placed at the top of the circle and the Paragrah panel showing Align Center is open.
  5. With the Type panel open, ​click the Character tab. Choose a font and size, then enter the text for the top of the circle. The text runs along the top of the circle. The stroke on the shape is used as the baseline for the text.

    The Text is entered and formatted using the open Character panel.
  6. Switch to the Direct Selection tool, click once on the circle, then copy it to the clipboard.

    To paste the object in front of the current object, select Edit > Paste in Front. It will look the same (except the text appears heavier because the new one is pasted on top of the original).

    A screenshot of Illustrator with the Paste In Front command highlighted

    To make things simple, open the Layers panel and rename one of the layers to indicate it's the front copy.

  7. Before flipping the text, open the Layers panel and turn off the visibility of the bottom layer. Switch to the Type Tool, select the text, and enter the new text.

  8. Select Type > Type on a Path > Type on a Path Options to open the Path Options dialog box. Choose Rainbow for the Effect, and for Align to Path, choose Ascender. The Ascender is the highest part of the lettering and places the text outside the circle.

  9. Check the Flip box, then check Preview so you can see how it will look. Spacing can also be adjusted here. Click OK.

    The Rainbow option doesn't distort the text.

    Illustrator with the Type on a Path Options window highlighted
  10. Click away from the text to deselect it and choose the Selection Tool in the toolbox. You'll see a handle at the top of the shape and two handles at the bottom.

    The top handle moves the text along the path as you drag it but, depending on how you drag the handle, the text may move inside the circle. If you roll the cursor over this handle, it switches to a Rotate cursor. The two handles at the bottom are the ones you should use. These handles rotate the object instead of moving the text. When finished, turn on the visibility of the hidden layer.

    The text is changed and rotated to the bottom of the circle.
  11. Drag a relevant symbol from the Symbols palette, and drag to resize it to fit the circle, and you're done.

The completed exercise with graphic is shown.
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