How to Deform Objects Using Envelope Distort with Warp in Illustrator

In today’s tutorial we’ll talk about all the methods of deformation of objects with the help of the Envelope Distort feature. Hopefully, this tutorial will broaden your options and will save you plenty of time in the future.


Final Image

Envelope Distort in Adobe Illustrator

Tutorial Details

  • Program: Adobe Illustrator CS3 – CS5
  • Estimated Completion Time: 30 minutes
  • Difficulty: Beginner

Envelope Distort with Warp

To demonstrate this feature, let’s create a rectangle filled with a random color.

Envelope Distort in Adobe Illustrator

Select the rectangle, then go to Object > Envelope Distort > Make with Warp….

Envelope Distort in Adobe Illustrator

As a result of these actions, the Warp Options dialog box opens, where you can select the type of effect and set its parameters. Tick the “Preview” option to watch the changes that occur with the object.

Envelope Distort in Adobe Illustrator

Adobe Illustrator has a total of 15 styles of distortion that you can choose from in the drop-down menu.

Envelope Distort in Adobe Illustrator

After applying the command Make with Warp… we have the access to the distortion parameters on the Control panel as long as you choose the Edit Envelope mode.

Envelope Distort in Adobe Illustrator

Envelope Distort in Adobe Illustrator

By clicking on the Envelope Options button, you get access to all the commands that are in the Envelope Distort group. In the open dialog box, tick Distort Linear Gradient and set 100 for the Fidelity parameter. This parameter corresponds to the quality of gradient distortion.

Envelope Distort in Adobe Illustrator

To edit the source object, for example to change its fill, we need to enable the Edit Contents mode.

Envelope Distort in Adobe Illustrator

Now let’s fill the rectangle with a linear gradient. As you can see, the gradient has also deformed according to the chosen style of distortion. This property of the Envelope Distort allows us to obtain gradients of any shape. In this example, we got a conical gradient.

Envelope Distort in Adobe Illustrator

Now let’s switch back to the Edit Envelope mode.

Envelope Distort in Adobe Illustrator

Container or envelope in which there is an object represents a Gradient Mesh. This allows us to edit its mesh points with the Direction Tool (A); at the same time the gradient fill will also be distorted.

Envelope Distort in Adobe Illustrator

For various reasons, you may need to convert the envelope object into a simpler vector object. Such a requirement, for example, is known to the contributors of microstock websites. Select the envelope object, then go to Object > Expand or Object > Envelope Distort > Expand.

Envelope Distort in Adobe Illustrator

As a result, we got a couple of groups and Clipping path.

Envelope Distort in Adobe Illustrator

We don’t need such a complex structure, so go to Object > Clipping Mask > Release, then to Object > Path > Clean Up….

Envelope Distort in Adobe Illustrator

Now ungroup the resulting object two times (Cmd / Ctrl Shift G twice). As you can see, we have got a simple gradient mesh.

Envelope Distort in Adobe Illustrator

In case of conversion of the object with solid color we will obtain a group with one vector object, which will have an excessive amount of extra points.

Envelope Distort in Adobe Illustrator

Please memorize this unpleasant feature; we will soon get back to this.


Warp Effects

Warp Effects in Adobe Illustrator have the same styles as the Make with Warp command. To apply these effects, go to Effect > Warp > ….

Envelope Distort in Adobe Illustrator
Envelope Distort in Adobe Illustrator

However, there are two fundamental differences between the effect and a similar command. First, if we apply to the shape distorted by the effect a linear gradient, we will see that it cannot be distorted. If you want to distort the gradient fill, then use the Make with Warp command (Object > Envelope Distort > Make with Warp …).

Envelope Distort in Adobe Illustrator

Second, after applying the command Object > Expand we will not get extra points which is an advantage of using this effect.

Envelope Distort in Adobe Illustrator

Envelope Distort with Mesh

To apply this command to the object go to Object > Envelope Distort > Make with Mesh….

Envelope Distort in Adobe Illustrator

Now set the number of columns and rows in the open dialog box. I believe that the amount of cells should not be large, in order not to complicate the process of further editing. You can always add more mesh points with the help of the Mesh Tool (U).

Envelope Distort in Adobe Illustrator

To create the desired shape, we need to move the mesh points, and manage their handles with the help of the Direct Selection Tool (A).

Envelope Distort in Adobe Illustrator

If the attempt fails, go to Object > Envelope Distort > Release. As a result of this action, we will get an undistorted original object and the gradient mesh with grey filling.

Envelope Distort in Adobe Illustrator

Delete the gradient mesh and try again. By the way, the command Object > Envelope Distort > Release works on a similar principle with all the commands of the Envelope Distort.


Envelope Distort with Top Object

Let’s create a text object with the help of the Type Tool (T) and an arbitrary shape using the Pen Tool (P). This object of grey color should necessarily lie above the text object; otherwise the focus fails.

Envelope Distort in Adobe Illustrator

Select both objects, then go to Object > Envelope Distort > Make with Top Object.

Envelope Distort in Adobe Illustrator

Note that the text object remains editable.

Envelope Distort in Adobe Illustrator

In addition, you will be able to edit the nodes of the container which, as it is in all cases, is a gradient mesh.

Envelope Distort in Adobe Illustrator

I used the Envelope Distort with Mesh to create the northern lights effect.

Envelope Distort in Adobe Illustrator

Now understanding the nature of the Envelope Distort in Illustrator, you can easily obtain the desired shape of objects, gradient fills, and text objects. See you next time!


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