How to Use the Adobe Illustrator Type Tools

There are several tools for creating type, all found on the Illustrator toolbar, and each with a different function. The tools are grouped as one button on the toolbar; to access them, hold down the left mouse button on the current type tool. To practice with this and the other tools, create a blank Illustrator document. Before using the tools, open the character and paragraph palettes by going to the Window > Type menu. These palettes will allow you to format the text you create.

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The Type Tool

Select the type tool


Select the type tool in the toolbar, which has an icon of a capital “T.” You can also use the keyboard shortcut t to select the tool. To create a single word or line of text, simply click on the stage. A blinking cursor will note you can now type. Type anything you like, which will create a new type layer in your document. Switch to the selection tool (keyboard shortcut v) and the type layer will automatically be selected. You can now adjust the typeface, size, leading, kerning, tracking and alignment of the text using the palettes we opened earlier. You can also change the type color by selecting a color in the swatches or color palettes (both available through the “window” menu). These palettes and settings apply to all of the type tools we will use in this lesson.

In addition to selecting a font size in the character palette, you can manually resize type by dragging any of the white squares on the corners and sides of the box surrounding the type, with the selection tool. Hold down shift to keep the type proportions correct.

You can also use the type tool to create a block of text constrained within a box. To do this, hold down the left mouse button when you click the type tool on the stage and drag a box to the size of the text area you would like. Holding down the shift key will create a perfect square. When you let go of the mouse button, you can then type within the box. This feature is perfect for setting up columns of text. Unlike with a single line of text, dragging the white resize boxes of a text area will change the size of that area, not the text itself.

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The Area Type Tool

Type in an area fully justified
Type in an area, fully justified.

The “area type tool” is for constraining type within a path, allowing you to create blocks of text in any shape. Start by creating a path with one of the shape tools or the pen tool. For practice, select the ellipse tool from the toolbar and click and drag on the stage to create a circle. Next, select the area type tool from the toolbar by holding down the left mouse button on the type tool T, revealing each of the type tools.

Click on any of the sides or lines of a path with the area type tool, which will bring up a blinking cursor and turn your path into a text area. Now, any text you type or paste will be constrained by the shape and size of the path. 

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The Type on a Path Tool

Type on a path


Unlike the area type tool that constrains text within a path, the type on a path tool keeps text on a path. Start by creating a path using the pen tool. Then, select the type on a path tool from the toolbar. Click on the path to bring up a blinking cursor, and any text you type will remain on the line (and curves) of the path.

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The Vertical Type Tools

Vertical type


The 3 vertical type tools serve the same function as the tools we have gone over, but display type vertically instead of horizontally. Follow the steps of each of the previous type tools using the corresponding vertical tools: the vertical type tool, the vertical area type tool and the vertical type on a path tool. Once you have mastered these and the other type tools, text can be created in any shape or form.