Dashed Iron Man Balloons

How to create dashed-line Iron Man style balloons in Illustrator.

Anthony writes:

“I’m no novice when it’s comes to illustrator but there’s one thing I still can’t wrap my head around and that’s styles. Take for example the Iron Man Balloons with it’s sort of bit toothed look. How would a letterer go about creating this? Looking a bit deeper it seems like you need edges, corners, inside corners, and etc. along with proportional stretching but every time I go to create them it doesn’t work. I’ve generally got this done for creating type but not for balloons. Maybe it’s just a free form drawing thing but I’m not sure either way. Thanks Mr. Fontastic!”

Ah, that’s because it’s a Comicraft Trade Secret (TM)! Sorry.

Well, ooookay… it’s actually just embarrasingly simple, and we’d rather you think we were magical geniuses or that we spend three hours crafting every balloon. But even more than that, we like to be known as kind and generous. Kind and Generous Lettering Geniuses — how about that? Anyways, here ya go…

The Iron Man balloon is comprised of three layers, of which the middle one has a dashed (broken) stroke.

Step 2

First draw an oval using the oval tool (click on the box tool in the Toolbox and drag to the right to select it). Draw four boxes where the corners would be, and rotate them each 45 degrees.

Step 3

Bring the oval to Front (command-shift-]), then select the whole unit and click “Minus Back” in the Pathfinder palette (circled in green). Give this object a thick black stroke.

Step 4

Copy (command-c) and Paste in Front (command-f) to create a copy of the object directly on top of the original. Give this object a thinner white (or color!) stroke with varying values in the “Dashed Line” fields. Experiment to find settings you like — also try clicking the different “Cap” and “Join” boxes to get different effects!.

Step 5

Copy and Paste in Front again, and give the third object an even thinner solid black stroke (or no stroke at all).

Step 6

Draw the tail, and voila! Instant dashed balloon. You can enlarge and reduce this balloon all over the place, and the dashed bits will move around accordingly.

Step 7

We used other combinations of dashed strokes to create the balloons for Ghost Rider 2099, Calibretto in Battle Chasers, and Ant Man (which is just the Iron Man one without the top layer :-). Experiment to create your own concoctions!

— Rich and JG