Threaded Type on Paths in Adobe Illustrator

Thread text on path shapes to create unique magazine layout designs.

Text layout doesn’t have to be boring. Designer David Carson became famous using unique typographic effects, one of which was flowing text in an unusual way. In many magazines, text not only conveys information but joins the photos and colors to become art and part of the style of the magazine as well. Here’s a way to thread text on paths, which has many possibilities once you get the basic concept.


Open a new Illustrator file and place a raster image, or open a vector image. This will provide as the background to our mock magazine layout. Optionally, pick one which curves or straight lines to flow the text around.

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Next, let’s create a path the text will initially flow on. You can create Circle, or us the Pen tool, but for this example I drew a curvy line with the Pencil tool. Optionally, make the Stroke black to see it; make the Fill None.

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Now we’ll insert the text. Click-and-hold the Text tool to bring out the other options. Click the Type On a Path tool. Click on the path where you want to have the text begin to flow.

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Go to File>Place and select a Microsoft Word document or another text document to insert. Once it is selected, click Place. Click OK in the next dialog. The text will flow from the point we selected.

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Select the text you want to change (font style, size, for example) and change it by selecting a new style with the Control Palette. I changed the title to a little bit bigger size font for emphasis.


Now let’s flow the text from the path to another area. With the Selection tool, click the little red box in the lower right-hand corner of the path. Where we click next, the text will begin where it was cut off from our path (assuming your path was too short for the entire text document’s contents). Click-and-drag an area to have the text flow into a rectangle shaped text box.

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To make a unique text flow, with the Selection tool, hover over a corner of the new text box and click-and-drag to rotate it. If there is still text to be flowed, click the red box again, this time in the new text box. Click-and-drag to make one or two more text boxes, repeating the steps to link the threaded text.

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With the Selection tool, click-and-drag the boxes or paths to move the text to your liking. What’s cool about this technique is that the text flows automatically if you insert or delete text. For example, if you added more to the title, the text would flow to the next text box. There are many possibilities with flowing threaded text: try flowing text from a Circle to a Spiral, or from two block paragraphs into a wave shape drawn with the Pencil tool. All of these can create unique and unusual magazine-style layouts.

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