Daniel Scott smiles at the camera and inbetween his hands is the text: how to curve text in Adobe Illustrator

How to Curve Text in Illustrator

Daniel Scott


Hi, everyone!

In this post, we’ll be looking at the Type on a Path tool and testing some cool techniques on curving text. This is great for designing logos, infographics, posters, among many other projects that you will tackle in your daily work.

The lessons covered here are based on a new course I am very excited about - my new Adobe Illustrator Course Essentials for Beginners, an awesome update on the previous Essentials Course. It’s packed with amazing new content and lots of real-world graphic design projects that will give your portfolio that professional look you need to rocket launch your career as a designer! 

When you become a BYOL member, you gain access to this course as well as my 30+ additional courses on Photoshop, Illustrator, Lightroom, Premiere Pro, Webflow, and more. As a BYOL member you will also enjoy personalized support, earn certificates, and tackle exciting community challenges. Head here to sign-up!

Illustrator heroes, suit up and let’s start learning!

Drawing a Path in Illustrator with the Curvature Tool

First, we must create the path – or typography baseline – upon which our curved text will flow through. For this, we have a blank document and we’ll be using the Curvature tool, it’ll soon become your best friend!

highlighted curvature tool in toolbar in Adobe Illustrator

You can start working with the Curvature Tool by selecting it from the left toolbar.

With the Curvature tool selected, we just point and click to build the path we need for our curved text. When you’re happy with the result, all you do is hit the Escape key on your keyboard to break it.

highlighted path with black fill drawn with the curvature tool in Adobe Illustrator

You can use the Escape key to stop creating your path on the last set anchor point.

As we can see, we have an active Fill on our path and no stroke defined. What we need to do is to swap these around so we end up with a clean visible reference for our text. We can do it quickly by clicking on that double arrow next to the Fill and Stroke settings on the left toolbar.

highlighted swap between fill and stroke icon in Adobe Illustrator

Swapping between Fill and Stroke will quickly change the designed path

Placing text on a Path

We have our curved path ready for text placement, so let’s start typing! We can use either the  Type on a Path tool or the basic Type tool, it will automatically switch to Type on a Path mode when placed over a path. We can use the shortcut key “T” or click and hold the Type tool on the left toolbar to expand it and then select Type on a Path.

highlighted type on a path tool  in toolbar in Adobe Illustrator

The Type on a Path tool can be selected on the left toolbar.

Once selected, we move the cursor to the path we’ve drawn and click upon it to begin adding text. As we can see below, the icon displays a specific shape: that type and curvature symbol shows us that we will be typing on a path. If you have the basic Type tool selected, the cursor will change from its default to this so you can understand which feature is active.

highlighted type on a path tool’s cursor over curved path in Adobe Illustrator.

The Type tool default cursor changes to Type on a Path when placed over a path.

There are some tips on working with the Type on a Path tool that will make it easier for us to place and edit the text we’re using on our projects. Let’s have a look at them and see how we can improve our curved text skills.

The text will start where we first click. We must choose carefully where the text will begin on our path. We can edit it afterwards, but if we start right, we will save lots of time down the road. If we click somewhere close to the middle of our path, this is what will happen:

highlighted lorem ipsum placeholder text placed in curved path in Adobe Illustrator.

Placeholder text (Lorem Ipsum) will fill your path from the starting point you click on.

Let’s say we want the text to fill the entire path. We can edit this first placement or we can start right and save time, so we go back and we click over the first anchor point. By doing this, we’re telling Illustrator that we want to use the whole path length to set our text.

highlighted first anchor point in curved path with placeholder text in Adobe Illustrator.

By clicking on the first anchor point, text placement will fill the entire path.


If this step isn’t working, go to the Menu bar on top of your workspace, click on View and make sure that Smart Guides are active – you’ll see the check icon next to it. You can also use the shortcut Command + U on a Mac or Control + U on a PC.

highlighted smart guides option from view menu in Adobe Illustrator.

Keeping Smart Guides active will help you with your creating and editing work.

Typography is key to visual communication and adds extra layers of meaning, impact, and style to most designs. Dive into the World of Composition and Representation to understand the science and visual techniques behind the work designers do.

Editing Text placed on a Path

Time to learn how to best edit our curved text messages. Let’s remove the “Lorem Ipsum” placeholder text by selecting it and simply start typing our message. For this tutorial, we’ll go for “All new recipe”.

text “all new recipe” placed over curved path in Adobe Illustrator.

“Lorem Ipsum” is great for mockups. You can replace it anytime with your own text.

Next, we’ll select a cool font for our text and scale it up a bit. You can either use the Properties Panel on the right of your workspace or the new Contextual Bar, available on the latest versions of Illustrator. We’ll set the font to Acier BAT, with a size of 90 points, and centered on our path.

highlighted contextual bar set for type editing in Adobe Illustrator

The contextual bar is a new dynamic feature that keeps the tool's properties close at hand.

Editing Type on a Path with the Direct Selection tool

To further edit our curved text, we’ll be using the Direct Selection tool. You can find it on your left Toolbox or use the shortcut key “A” on both Mac and PC.

We’ve aligned our text to the left and we want to move it just a bit away from the edge. Let’s bring the cursor close to the line that marks the left limit and (this is the moment we go surgical) adjust until it turns from white to black. That’s when we can move our text. Well, we’re not actually moving the text, we’re adjusting its limits.

highlighted curved path’s limit in Adobe Illustrator

When the Direct Selection cursor identifies one of the path’s limits it turns black.

Now we click and drag the text along the path until we are happy with its placement. Illustrator gives us a live preview as we do it.

preview of text adjustment over curved path in Adobe Illustrator.

The preview helps us visualize the changes as we adjust our text placement on the path.

This is pretty cool, huh? Let’s move back in time a little so we can observe one more thing.

highlighted curved path limits in Adobe Illustrator.

Adjusting the path’s limits will help us balance the text inside the path.

As we can see, there are three vertical limits along the path where our text was placed. All of them can be influenced by the Direct Selection tool and this is what we need to remember: the first and the last define the available space on the path for our text; the one in the middle allows us to flip it. This can be very useful when we are working with circular paths.

preview of text over curved path horizontal flipping in Adobe Illustrator.

We can flip the text horizontally to adjust it to the design we’re creating.

Editing a curved path with the Direct Selection tool

We’ve seen how we can type and edit text on a path. Now let’s learn how to adjust the path itself so we can give the text a whole new impact on our design. We’ll continue with the Direct Selection tool, but this time we will click on the path – and not the text or its limits – to change it. When we do this, direction lines become available (those cool handles from the Pen and Curvature tools) and we can manipulate them to bring a new shape to our path.

highlighted anchor point handle from curved path in Adobe Illustrator

We can use the Direct Selection tool to edit our path’s initial shape.

Pro tip: We can switch to Outline view with the shortcut Command + Y on a Mac or Control + Y on a PC to have a cleaner look at the path’s stroke and easily observe the changes we’re making to it.

highlighted text placed in curved path inside outline mode in Adobe Illustrator.

Like in an x-ray image, Outline mode offers a structural view of our design.

Type on a Path Options

We’re not done yet! Let’s consider a rather “extreme” shape so we can observe some other options that Type on a Path has for us. We can find them on our top Menu bar, by clicking on Type, Type on a Path, and Type on a Path Options…

highlighted type on a path options feature selected in Adobe Illustrator.

Type on a path had some additional options to dynamically transform the text flow.

The first thing we do is turn on “Preview” so we can verify in real time the changes we’re making. Next, we have a look at all the sweet stuff we can manipulate.

Checking the “Flip” box will turn the path upside down, close to what we manually, a few steps back.

“Effect” will transform your type and affect the way it flows along the path. You should try those out with different shapes and curve intensity, some of them are great.

stair step effect preview on text on a curved path in Adobe Illustrator.

Explore the Type on a Path Effect option to add extra impact to your designs.

Interested in testing your knowledge of Typography? Do you know what a typeface is? Check out this article on the Anatomy of Type from the Interaction Design Foundation and become a Pro in this art of Typography!

Here are the options you’ll likely use the most:

  • “Align to Path”, as it says, aligns our text to the path following the typography rules of alignment:

    • “Baseline” will follow the font type’s baseline, ignoring ascenders and descenders.

    • “Center” will center the font along the path, as if splitting it in half.

    • “Descender” will align the descenders with the baseline, placing the text above it.

    • “Ascender” will align the tip of the ascenders with the baseline, placing the text beneath it.

Descender alignment to path in Adobe Illustrator.

The Descender effect will align the text’s descenders with the baseline.

“Spacing” allows us to set the spacing between characters. “Auto” works great, but we may need to fine tune according to our project’s design.

Spacing settings inside type on a path options dialog box and preview in Adobe Illustrator.

The Spacing option allows us to adjust the text along the path and account for better legibility.

How to copy a path

The best way would be to copy it when we first draw it, but sometimes I take the long road so we can feel how things happen when we’re not working under controlled circumstances. So, let’s imagine we have just finished a curved text for a website banner and our client calls and asks us to add some extra motion to the design. How do we do it?

With our Direct Selection tool, we press and hold the Shift key and select all the path’s anchor points. Next, we Copy (Command + C on a Mac or Control + C on a PC) and Paste (Command + V on a Mac and Control + V on a PC) the path. All we must do next is to click and drag the new path to its place. We can repeat the Copy and Paste process to add another path to the project.

Now we can style them a bit, arrange, and group all these elements to form an awesome curved text banner for our client’s website!

words All New Recipe typed on a path decorated with curved outlines in Adobe Illustrator.

Paths are great to add curved text or smooth decorations to your designs.

And that’s it! Now we know how easy it is to curve text in Illustrator with the Type on a Path tool, avoid boring designs (don’t overdo it, though), and amaze everyone with your new skills!

 What’s Next?

Go further into Illustrator at Bring Your Own Laptop and explore the course this post was based on - Adobe Illustrator Essentials as well as my 30+ additional courses on Photoshop, Illustrator, Lightroom, Premiere Pro, Webflow, and more. As a BYOL member you will also enjoy personalized support, earn certificates, and tackle exciting community challenges. Head here to sign-up!

See you in class! – Dan