Tutorial on How to Make a Simple, Elegant Drop Cap

Drop caps are a beautiful example of how typography can extend to even just a letter. While traditionally used in novels to start chapters, they also work well as logos or even just a way to test your skills in Illustrator! Use these steps to create a simple, but elegant drop cap.

1. Open Adobe Illustrator

You could create this in Adobe InDesign as well but for the sake of ease and general preference, I chose to work in Adobe Illustrator.

2. Create a file size of 8.5 inches x 11 inches
8.5x11 workspace
3. In your layers panel, call the current layer “Letter”
4. Type the letter ‘K’ in the font Snell Roundhand, in a point size of 390

I’m using the first letter of my name, so after practicing with the ‘K’ feel free to experiment with other letters to see what designs you can make!

5. Change the letter to have a dark blue fill in the color panel on your right (no outline) — CMYK: 100, 100, 25, 25
k in blue text

The main objective is to work in a monochromatic color palette, and to have a darker color as your base and a lighter color as your accent color, which will be explained later in the tutorial. I chose to use the color blue.

6. Copy and paste the ‘K’
7. In your layers panel, drag the new ‘K’ sublayer above your old one
8. Change the ‘K’ to have no fill and to have a light blue outline in the color panel on your right — CMYK: 100, 0, 0, 0
9. Move the outline of the ‘K’ over to the left, so that the outline overlaps the solid blue ‘K’, with small gaps of white where they do not line up
Screen Shot 2015-05-06 at 4.28.08 PM
10. Create a new layer and call it “Details”
11. Using the pen tool, create a curved shape, similar to an upside-down Nike swoosh above the top left part of the ‘K’ — create it in the same color as the solid letter

Screen Shot 2015-05-06 at 4.31.28 PM

Create this to have the same feel as the font, creating the idea as if it’s naturally supposed to be a part of the original text.

12. Match the steps taken with the letter outline — copy and paste the shape and pull that sublayer above the solid shape and change it to the light blue outline
13. Move the outlined shape to the left a little so they overlap
14. Create five different sized circles in the same solid dark blue
  • 1 circle: 0.0512 inches x 0.0512 inches
  • 1 circle: 0.0743 inches x 0.0743 inches
  • 1 circle: 0.1188 inches x 0.1188 inches
  • 1 circle: 0.1448 inches x 0.1448 inches
  • 1 circle: 0.1708 inches x 0.1708 inches

I chose to use circles for this to match the shapes and feel of the letter. If you pick a different font, different shapes might apply themselves better to the design. Feel free to mix it up as you experiment!

15. Copy and paste the four smallest circles so that there are duplicates of all of them, except for the largest sized circle
16. Position the circles at the curve of the bottom right part of the ‘K’ and have the largest one in the center and have the other circles mirror it on each side
  • start from largest in the center and go out to the smallest on each side to create a half-moon shape
Screen Shot 2015-05-06 at 4.34.26 PM Screen Shot 2015-05-06 at 4.35.06 PM
17. Group the circle together using the keys “Command” + “g”
18. Copy and paste the circles
19. Repeat the steps earlier to change them into outlines and move them over to the left just a little bit
20. Use the pen tool to create a line down the vertical part of the ‘K’
21. Use “no fill” and the same light blue as earlier
22. Have it follow the shape of the solid letter behind it but have it in the center of the outline of the ‘K’
23. Change the line thickness to 0.5 pt and then adjust the variable width profile to be “Width Profile 1,” the choice underneath where it says “uniform”

Screen Shot 2015-05-06 at 4.40.18 PM

24. Use the pen tool to create another line on the right side of the top diagonal line of the ‘K’ — using the light blue color with no fill
25. Change the line thickness to 0.5 pt and then adjust the variable width profile to be “Width Profile 1,” the choice underneath where it says “uniform”
26. Create a new layer and drag it down so that it is the bottom layer
27. Use the rectangle tool and create a square that is 5 inches x 5 inches in a pale blue — CMYK: 14, 0, 0, 5
28. Center the square behind the ‘K’ so that there is a little bit of the letter off of the square
29. Save your project and then you’re done!

Screen Shot 2015-05-06 at 4.46.05 PM

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