I am loving the recent 80s revival in design and now in media. Netflix’s series “Stranger Things” features an amazing title sequence with some excellent retro typography. In this tutorial, I am going to show you how to recreate the Stranger Things text effect that is featured in the show’s title sequence and promotional images in Illustrator.

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Step 1: Set up your background. The color you use here is very important as it will determine the glow of the letters in later steps. Set the color to C:67%, M:82%, Y: 79%, K: 96%. If you find that your letters don’t look right as you progress, it’s because your background color isn’t right.

Stranger Things text effect Illustrator

Step 2: The actual font used in the title sequence is called ITC Benguiat and can be purchased for around $39. There is also a less expensive font that is fairly similar called Baldessare published by Scriptorium. Or you can use any font you want. I am using Baldessare for this tutorial. Go ahead and type out your message.

Stranger Things text effect Illustrator

Step 3: Now, in a perfect world, our words would be the same number of letters as the original design, but they do not have to be. Before we move on though, I want you to look at your lettering. In my case, the font needs to be a little bit wider, so I am going to expand my type and make it a little fatter. With the type expanded, I go to Object > Path > Offset path. For my design, 1pt is just enough.

Stranger Things text effect Illustrator

Step 4: Before we move on to the effects, look at your text. There will be some areas that may need adjustment. If you look at my example, the “R” and “A” are joined at the bottom, which is perfect. But, there is too much space between the “A” and “N”.

Stranger Things text effect Illustrator

Step 5: I am going to manually go through and adjust the spacing. Before I do this though, I am going to select all of the letters, remove the fill color and add a stroke (leaving it white for now). I’ve also drawn some guides and increased the size of the first and last letter in my top word. Also, make sure you have the stroke aligned to the outside.

Stranger Things text effect Illustrator

Step 6: There are a few items to note. When you bring the letters close, you will see some overlap, which is quite noticeable with the outlines. Wherever you have letters that overlap like this, simply click them both and “Unite” them through the pathfinder.

Stranger Things text effect Illustrator

Step 7: Using the rectangle tool, draw out a rectangle above the top word. Make a copy and move it down to where it is about through the middle of the bottom word. Make sure the left and right portions of the bottom rectangle are the same width.

Stranger Things text effect Illustrator

Step 8: Now that we have the text set up, it’s on to the effects. First thing to do is make a copy of the text layer. I am going to expand the stroke for this layer (Object > Expand appearance).

Step 9: Change the color of your letters to #AD1F24. Change the Transparency mode to Color Dodge at 100%.

Stranger Things text effect Illustrator

Step 10: Lets go ahead and set up some custom brushes for the glowing effect. Start by drawing out a circle. Set the fill color to #EE3226. If you click and hold on the pen tool, you will find the “convert anchor point tool”. Select this tool.

Stranger Things text effect IllustratorStranger Things text effect Illustrator
Step 11: With your circle selected, use the convert anchor point to click on the left and right nodes, which will convert them to a point.

Stranger Things text effect Illustrator

Step 12: Select the whole circle and drag the top bar down a bit so that it isn’t so tall.

Stranger Things text effect Illustrator

Step 13: Make a copy (ctrl + C) and paste in front (Ctrl + F), then resize the copied shape to make it smaller than the original. If you hold down Shift + Alt as you resize, it will keep the smaller shape directly in the middle of the larger one.

Stranger Things text effect Illustrator

Step 14: Select the larger shape and lower the Opacity to 0%. Go to Object > Blend > Blend Options. Set the Spacing to Specified Steps and the number to around 20. Hit OK.

Stranger Things text effect Illustrator

Step 15: Select both the large and small shapes and go to Object > Blend > Make.

Stranger Things text effect Illustrator

Step 16: Bring the blend over to your letters and re-size so that the inner part of it is just a little larger than the lines of your letters.

Stranger Things text effect Illustrator

Step 17: Open your Brushes panel and drag the blur over to it. You will get a pop-up asking what type of brush, select “Art Brush” and click OK. Leave the settings at default and click OK.

Stranger Things text effect Illustrator

Step 18: Select the original blur shape and change the color to the same as the background: C:67%, M:82%, Y: 79%, K: 96%. Create a new art brush with the dark blend.

Stranger Things text effect Illustrator

Step 19: Make one more copy of the blur and change the color to # F5A485. Create another new art brush.

Stranger Things text effect Illustrator

Step 20: Select the original red blur brush. Se the Transparency mode to Overlay at 80% and start drawing lines over the lettering. This is a subtle process that we are going to build up, so you won’t see too much of a change to start with. I am basically just drawing over the longest portions of the lettering. You can see where I am making my lines on the “T” here.

Stranger Things text effect Illustrator

Step 21: Go through all of your lettering adding more lines with the red blur brush.

Stranger Things text effect Illustrator

Step 22: Create a new layer above this blurred brush layer. Using the black blur brush, accentuate some of the lettering where your red brush didn’t go over. This will create some shading. These strokes will be set to “Color Burn” at 55%.

Stranger Things text effect Illustrator

Step 23: Finally, using the light colored brush, look at your lettering to determine where the lightest parts are and selectively draw over them. Set these brush strokes to Hard Light at 100%. Also, lower the stroke weight to .25 so the lines fit inside the width of the letter stroke.

Stranger Things text effect Illustrator

Keep going until you have randomly put some highlights throughout the lettering. You can do as much or as little as you like.

Stranger Things text effect Illustrator

Step 24: Create a layer under all of the other text effect layers. Off to the side, draw a circle, copy and paste and re-size smaller like we did for the brushes. Set the color of both to # D0351F. Set the larger circle to 0% Opacity and the smaller one at 100%. Select both circle and create a blend like you did before. If you notice banding in the blend (like in the image below), then go back to the blend options and increase the number of steps until you no longer see the banding.

Stranger Things text effect Illustrator

Step 25: Change the Transparency mode to Color Dodge and lower the Opacity to 25%. Move this blend under your lettering and make a few copies of it. Flatten some of them a little bit to more of an oval shape. Also make some of them larger/smaller. This is going to give us the cloudy glow behind the letters. You can see below that I made quite a few copies and scattered them around.

Stranger Things text effect Illustrator

Step 26: Make a copy of one of the blurs and create a new layer ABOVE all the other layers. Paste the blend in and keep the color and Color Dodge, but lower the Opacity to 15-18%. For this one, I have only placed 3, but you can use as many or as little as you want.

Stranger Things text effect Illustrator

So, if you are going to keep the design small, you can stop here, but if you are wanting to add in the texture, you will need to go a few more steps.

Step 27: If you pull up your swatch library, click on the menu and “Open Swatch Library…” The default library that comes with Illustrator should have Patterns > Basic Graphics > BasicGraphics_Textures. Click on it to open this library.

Stranger Things texture Illustrator

Step 28: Look for the one called “Mezzotint”

Step 29: Click and drag it to an empty area on the artboard.  This will allow us to edit the pattern’s color and size. Using the direct select tool (A) select one of the black bits, then go to Select > Same > Fill & Strroke. If you look at your color, you can see the objects are in Grayscale. Change the color mode to CMYK and change the fill color of these objects to # 3F0000.

Stranger Things texture Illustrator

Step 30: Lower the size of the swatch a bit and then drag it back over to the Swatches panel. This will create a new pattern.

Stranger Things texture Illustrator

Step 31: On a layer above all the others, draw a square over your text. Apply your new texture to it. You can see the texture is still a little too large.

Stranger Things texture Illustrator

Step 32: Right click on the object you applied the texture to and click on Transform > Scale. Make sure only “Patterns” is selected and change the % down until the texture is about the same size as the image below. For mine, 17% was the size. Hit OK.

Stranger Things texture Illustrator

Step 33: Change the Transparency to “Overlay” and you see you have some good texture now.

Stranger Things texture Illustrator

Stranger Things texture Illustrator

Stranger Things texture Illustrator

Stranger Things texture Illustrator

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