By: Jennifer Kirk
If you're gung-ho about DIYing a professional looking table number display, this one is for you! Here is the inside scoop into discovering gorgeous free fonts and whipping up something pretty in Adobe Illustrator.
If you don't already have Adobe Illustrator on your system, head here to download a free trial copy, then install it on your computer.
Download the free font Peoni Patterns and install to your fonts collection on your computer (make sure the font is 'activated' -- usually this is automatic when installing new fonts).
Start up the program Adobe Illustrator. From the menu, select File > New. A dialogue box will open up on the screen. Name your document. We chose 'Graphic Table Numbers.' Input the number of tables at your wedding in the field 'Number of Artboards' (We did 4 just as an example). Set the width of your artboards to 4 inches and height to 6 inches. Click 'OK'.
Your document should now be filled with artboards. Next, from the Toolbar, click on the 'T', or Text icon. Click in any area on the first artboard and hold down on mouse. Drag down and to the right to create a text box. Click inside the box and type the number '1'.
First locate the Character Palette, which is typically to the right of your artboards. Next, move the mouse over to the Toolbar and click on the black arrow at the very top, the Selection Tool. With the Selection Tool, click on your text box to select it -- you will see a blue outline around it. This is how you know an item is selected. Next, change the font and size of your number by choosing size and typeface options from the dropdown menu in the Character Palette. We used the free font Ultra for our numbers.
Note: If your text box is too small, your number will not appear if you size it larger than the text box. To make the text box larger, select it with the Selection Tool, then click and hold one of the tiny blue squares found in each of the four corners. Drag outward to make the text box bigger. Your number should now be visible.
When the number is to your liking, select the text box by clicking on it with your Selection Tool, then choose from the menu, Edit > Copy to create a duplicate, then Edit > Paste onto the second artboard. Change the number ‘1’ by switching to the Text (‘T’ icon) tool from the toolbar. Delete the number ‘1’ in the duplicate and type in the number '2'. Repeat this process for the remainder of your table numbers. When finished, make sure all the numbers are centered on each artboard. Use the Selection tool (black arrow) to move your numbers around.
Find the Layers palette on the right side of the screen. This is usually below the Character palette. All the table numbers are on Layer 1. You won’t want to accidentally modify the numbers you just typed in and carefully positioned, so create a separate layer just for the patterns. To do this, click in the upper right of the Layers Palette and choose New Layer. Name it 'Pattern' and Click OK.
Next, if you look at Layer 1 in the Layers Palette, you will see an empty box to the right of the little eye icon. Click in the empty, gray box to lock Layer 1. You should see a padlock icon now. This will prevent your table numbers in Layer 1 from being modified.
Making sure you are working on Layer 2 (should be highlighted in the Layers Palette), choose the font Peoni Patterns from the drop down list of fonts in the Character Palette. Next, click on the ‘T' or 'Text' tool in the toolbar. Create a new text box on your first artboard. Each letter of the alphabet corresponds with a specific pattern. Reference this chart for patterns.
When you find the pattern you want to use as your background, create a text box and type in the corresponding letter for the pattern (eg. type in ‘g’ for the scallop pattern). You will need to turn this pattern into a graphic (instead of an editable font). Do this by choosing the Selection tool from the toolbar, select the text box with your pattern in it, then choose Type > Create Outlines from the menu. Now that this pattern snippet is no longer an editable font, it will be much easier to duplicate into a pattern.
Select your pattern and adjust its color to by clicking on a Swatch from the Colors Palette, or use the Color Sliders for a custom mix. We created a palette of our own colors by drawing squares (using the Rectangle Tool from the toolbar) and adjusting the CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black) sliders for each one. You can then grab one of these colors for your pattern. With the Selection Tool, click on your pattern to select it, then press 'I' on your keyboard to switch to the eyedropper tool, then click on one of your colors.
When you're happy with the color of your pattern, click on it with the Selection Tool, then Edit > Copy to create a duplicate, then Edit > Paste in Place. Hold down the Shift key while moving the duplicate pattern to the right (using the Selection Tool) so that it stays horizontally aligned with the original. You can also nudge the two pattern snippets together with the left and right arrows on your keyboard to create a seamless pattern. Repeat copying and pasting in place to create an entire row, using the arrows on your keyboard to line the patterns up precisely. For more accuracy, you can zoom in by going View > Zoom In, or you can click on the Magnifier icon in the Toolbar.
When one row of patterns is complete, group it together (this will make it easier to move around) by choosing from the menu Object > Group Object.
Extra: If you want to scale your pattern down or make it larger, click on it with the Selection Tool, hold down the Shift key while simultaneously clicking and dragging outward (or inward if you want to scale down) the tiny blue box in the bottom right corner.
Copy and paste this entire group to create a second row. Move this below row one to create a seamless pattern. Repeat until the entire artboard is filled. Select all rows of patterns and choose Object > Group Object to group everything together. It’s okay if the patterns run past the edge of the artboard because only items within the artboard will print.
Now you can duplicate the entire pattern onto your other table numbers, or create a new pattern by repeating steps 7-10. When finished, choose File > Print to print your table numbers.