How to Curve Text in Illustrator: A Step-By-Step Guide

How to Curve Text in Illustrator: A Step-By-Step Guide

6 min read
Blue letters on a bowed path on a purple-lilac background

Ah, the warpy, wavy wonder of curved text. Whether it's a simple arc for a basic logo or an edgy editorial layout you're channeling straight from the design deities, curving text in your designs is essential.

Every designer needs to know how to curve text—it's one of the first things we learn! In case you're learning for the first time or just need a refresher, we've packed the tutorial below with everything you need to get ahead of the curve.

In this Illustrator tutorial, we'll guide you through how to add a curve to text in Adobe Illustrator using the warp effect, as well as how to write text onto a curved path. We'll also walk you through how to curve text in Vectornator in case you're looking for a simpler alternative. Last but not least, we'll seal off the tutorial with some examples to get your creative juices flowing.

Circular arranged text on a white background

What Does It Mean to Curve Text?

Well, it's pretty straightforward. It literally means to take a regular, straight line of text and make it into a curved shape such as an arc, circle, or wave.

Creating this effect is also sometimes referred to as bending text. So if you're wondering how to bend text in Illustrator or how to curve text in Illustrator, you're in the right place!

When to Use Curved text

Curving text is a common function in graphic design. In some cases, it will be necessary to fit the text inside a shape such as a logo. In other cases, it can bring some imagination and excitement to a basic design.

You'll find yourself curving text for all kinds of projects like:

  • Shaping text to fit badges and logos
  • Shaping text to fit packaging design
  • Creating intriguing editorial designs
  • Designing killer web pages and user interfaces
  • Integrating text into an illustration.

How to Curve Text in Adobe Illustrator: Step-By-Step

Below, we'll walk you through two different methods for how to curve text in Adobe Illustrator. One method uses an effect, and the other method uses the type on path tool. Luckily, both are pretty straightforward- and fun. Playing with effects in Illustrator is always a blast, so let's get to it.

Text on a white background arranged in a wave

How to Add a Curve Effect to Text

Creating this effect is very simple! All you need to do is:

  • Open your Illustrator project and have the text that you intend to curve ready.
  • Select the text with your selection tool, found on the left-hand menu bar.
  • Now, in your top menu bar, navigate to Effect--> Warp.
  • When you hover over "Warp" in your effects menu, a list of warp options will appear. Each of them refers to the shape your text will be transformed into.
  • From your list of warp options, select "Arc."
  • A dialog box will now appear with further warp options based on the shape you have selected.
  • In this dialog box, you can adjust the default settings in order to create the desired look.
  • You'll be able to edit "Style," "Bend," and "Distortion.”
  • "Style" refers to the shape you've chosen. In this case, it should read "Arc," but if you wanted to, you could change the shape of the text from here.
  • The “Bend” slider allows you to choose which direction you wish to curve the text in. Moving it to the left will bend the text downwards, and moving to the right will bend the text upwards.
  • You’ll notice that you have the option to select “Horizontal” or “Vertical” for your bend. Each has a vastly different effect, as seen below.
  • Under "Distortion," you'll see two slider bars: one vertical and one horizontal. You can adjust these to twist and shape the text into intriguing distortions.
  • You can preview your adjustments and, once you're happy, hit "Ok."

How to Write Text into a Curved Path

Instead of adding an effect to text, in this method, we'll be using the path tool and the type tool to type into a curved path.

This method isn't as straightforward as adding an effect; however, it's not terribly complex either. The cool thing about this method is that it gives you more freedom to shape the text to your exact specifications.

You can get more creative with this one and create any shape imaginable with the type on path tool.

  • Open your Illustrator project.
  • Navigate to the ellipse tool in the toolbar on your left-hand side.
  • Draw a circle with the tool. You can create a perfect circle by holding down "shift" while you drag the circle.
  • Now, navigate to the "Text" tool in your toolbar. Hold the button down to expose the text tool options. You'll be able to choose from "Vertical Type" or "Type on a path."
  • Select the "Type On A Path Tool."
  • Next, click the circle you just created.
  • Your cursor will now be activated for you to type. As you type, the text will mold to the path of the circle.

In these steps, we used the example of a circle; however, you can use the same method to type on the path of any shape. You can even use the pen tool to create a custom shape directly from your imagination. That's why this method gives you more creative freedom.

Try an Illustrator Alternative: How to Curve Text in Vectornator

Vectornator has tons of features for crafting and refining typography- all super simple to use!

If you enjoy using a variety of design tools or you're looking for something simpler to Illustrator yet just as powerful, try creating the same project in Vectornator and see how you enjoy it.

This method is quite similar to the method for typing on a path in Illustrator. Let's walk you through it:

  • Start by creating your shape, for example, a circle.

Graphic design software UI

Once you're happy with the shape, activate the Text Tool.

  • Drag out the text box and type your desired text inside.
  • Make the necessary adjustments to your text using the Text options in the Inspector, until you're happy with how it looks.

Graphic design software UI
  • Now, select both the circle and the text.
  • Navigate to the Path Tab. At the very bottom of this tab, you'll see the Place Text on Path button.
Graphic design software UI
  • Et voilà! Your text will now mold to the shape of the circle. Easy-breezy!

Graphic design software UI

You can use this method to place text on any path from a basic shape to a custom shape you have drawn. Have fun with it!

You can watch this quick tutorial video on how to curve text in Vectornator on our Instagram channel.

Learn more about the text and the type menuon our Learning Hub for both Mac and iPad.

Observe the Curve: Check Out These Cool Examples

Need some inspiration? We’ve curated a few of our favorite examples of curved text in action below.

Swirly Whirly

Oh, the possibilities. You probably wouldn’t create something like this often, but it’s cool to see something edgy in action. You can build some pretty cool images entirely out of text, whether that’s a simple spiral or a full-on illustration.

Bulgy Wulgee

This effect could also be considered “curved” and is also created using the warp tool in Adobe Illustrator. You can create a bulge in your text by selecting the text and navigating to Effects-> Warp-> Bulge. You could also play with the warp effects “Arc Lower” and “Arc Upper” to give the text an inward or outward curve effect.

Add Bend to Bland

Curved text is a nice touch to bring to minimalist designs; it adds intrigue while maintaining elegance.

Under-Water Wavy Wonder

The text is integrated so beautifully into the image on this poster. Just by adding a subtle curve, it moves with the flow of the artwork, creating excellent cohesion.

Final Thoughts

We hope this Adobe Illustrator tutorial has helped you in some way. Serving the digital art and graphic design community is our number one goal, so never hesitate to head over to our Instagram and let us know in the DMs if there is a specific tutorial you'd like to see in our Learning Hub. We got you.

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Blue letters on a bowed path on a purple-lilac background
Blue letters on a bowed path on a purple-lilac background

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