How to Make the Broken Glass Effect in Illustrator

Written by ken burnside Google
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Broken glass effects are used to increase the impact of a text in flyers and movie posters. They portray a possibly violent mood, or a sense of urgency. One example of this effect is the original logo of Urban Outfitters. Adobe Illustrator's Object menu, and a creative use of the "Divide Objects Below" menu item, allow you to achieve this effect easily.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy


  1. 1

    Type the text you want to modify; if your type is going to be on two lines, it's useful to make each line a separate text box. Be sure to use a thick, bold font.

  2. 2

    Adjust the tracking (the space between the letters of your text) using the "Tracking" option on the "Character" palette; you can get to this palette by clicking the "Character" link at the top of the window. "Tracking" is the second option on the right-hand side, and the presets of -25 or -50 will probably work fine. You may also want to vary the size of individual letters in your text.

  3. 3

    Copy your text and paste it outside the artboard's printable area; the next step will render the text on the artboard impossible to edit.

  4. 4

    Select the text on the artboard and then click the "Type" menu and select "Create Outlines." This will convert your text into Illustrator objects.

  5. 5

    Create a new layer by clicking the "New Layer" icon at the bottom of the "Layers" palette, and click the "Pen" tool. Draw a number of isosceles triangles over the text, with the narrow ends pointing in toward the centre of your text objects. You'll probably want eight to 10 triangles of slightly varying widths.

  6. 6

    Click one of the triangles you created, and then click the "Object" menu. Select "Path" and from the sub-menu select "Divide Objects Below." Each time you do this, one of your triangles will disappear, and the object underneath it will be sliced along the edges. You'll repeat this step for each triangle; due to a quirk of Illustrator, you can't do this by selecting all the triangles at once.

  7. 7

    Click the "Selection" tool and select a part of your text---you'll notice that it is broken up into small pieces. Drag the pieces out a little bit to open up some gaps. You'll be able to nudge parts of the design around to get exactly the effect you want.

Tips and warnings

  • You can get the same effect with the "Knife" tool; if you're making only a few slices in a logo, the "Knife" tool may be faster. For the shattered-glass look, the triangles technique is about as fast, and less likely to give curved "slice" lines accidentally.

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