How to Get Small Caps in Illustrator

By Elizabeth Mott

To typeset a line or paragraph of text in small caps in Adobe Illustrator, you substitute reduced-size capital letters for lowercase type, adding emphasis and a formal look to your work. Although you can painstakingly change the case and size of every lowercase letter to achieve this effect, manual substitution leaves you with thicker strokes on capital than on small-caps lettering, unbalancing the look of the text. When you use Adobe Illustrator, you can style your type quickly, using built-in functions that enable you to change the capitalization mode without altering your basic typesetting parameters.

Step 1

Open an Illustrator document and select the Type tool in the toolbar. Click on the artboard to create a point-text object or click and drag to define the boundaries for a piece of area type. Key in, paste or place your text.

Step 2

Press "Ctrl-A" or open the "Select" menu and choose "All" to highlight all the characters you typeset.

Step 3

Press "Ctrl-T" or open the "Window" menu's "Type" submenu and choose "Character" to reveal the Character panel. Open the fly-out menu at the top right corner of the Character panel and select the "Small Caps" option. The lowercase letters in your text change to small caps.

Step 4

Examine the text closely. If the widths of the strokes that define full-sized capital letters appear thicker than the strokes that make up small caps, your typeface doesn't include real small caps. To display them, Adobe Illustrator fabricates small caps out of reduced-size capital letters. Document-level preferences govern how much Illustrator scales down the size of capital letters to create faux small caps.

Step 5

Open the "File" menu and choose "Document Setup." Select the "Type" category from the drop-down menu at the top of the Document Setup dialog box and change the percentage to which Adobe Illustrator scales down capital letters when you assign the small-caps style using a typeface that doesn't contain them. By default, Adobe Illustrator sets them at 70 percent of the size of your type.

Step 6

Substitute an OpenType typeface that includes small caps. OpenType options display a blue letter "O" in front of their listings the Type menu and in the Character panel's Font menu. Although many OpenType typefaces include small caps within their vast character sets, some do not, so evaluate your type for stroke thickness to make sure your choice passes the test. Some PostScript Type 1 type families include small caps styles as separate style options.

Tips & Warnings

  • Use small caps sparingly. Although they're easier to read than long stretches of all caps or initial caps, they still exact a readability penalty in exchange for the elegance they confer on your work.
  • If you plan to use a small-caps style in many places within your Adobe Illustrator document, establish a character or paragraph style -- or both -- so you can apply your stylistic parameters quickly and change them globally with equal speed.
  • Avoid setting a line of text in capital letters and changing type sizes manually to create small caps. The result is as difficult to edit as it is to typeset.
  • Information in this article applies to Adobe Illustrator CC and Adobe Illustrator CS6. It may differ slightly or significantly with other versions or products.