We received a question this week that comes from the craft & hobby segment. A customer asked one of our technicians how to create "Chevron text". This is a natural response to the explosion of Chevron patterned decals and garments in the market. Chevrons have been popular in fashion and personal items for a couple of years now and seem to have tremendous longevity. Chevron patterns are increasingly being used for custom apparel involving text and graphics.

So a beginning garment decorator or sign maker might well wonder where they get those Chevron fonts. You may have wondered the same thing. How do you create Chevron text? The simple answer is; you don't. But if it was that simple, this would be the shortest article on the SignWarehouse blog. Of course there's more to it. How do you create chevron patterned text? Can you make your own if the material you want isn't available? What are the design pitfalls of working with patterns and text, and how do I avoid them?

Chevrons on T-Shirt vinyl: Cut it Out!

So first the simple answer. Where do you get Chevron fonts for T-shirts? There is no default Chevron fill for your Flexi or LXi fonts. There are other pattern fills including bricks and diamond plate, but no Chevrons. At least not yet. So Chevron fonts have to be created some other way. For Chevrons on shirts, the easiest option is to design your text or image using standard fonts and do like your Mama told you. Cut it out. Specifically, from Chevron patterned heat transfer film (aka T-shirt Vinyl).

Fig 1: The standard EnduraTex Style Chevron patter is great for small to medium sized text and graphics.
Fig 1: The standard EnduraTex Style Chevron pattern is great for small to medium sized text and graphics.

SignWarehouse offers a wide array of Chevron pattern options under our EnduraTex Style product line. EnduraTex Style is a high quality polyurethane film suitable for application on cotton, polyester, cotton-poly blends, acrylic, Lycra and similar fabrics. The applied graphics have a very soft hand and a matte finish that makes them look and feel like part of a custom-made garment. We offer 11 different Chevron patterns in a combination of seven different colors and two pattern sizes. The different sized patterns are designed to accommodate large and small text. If you're using small to medium-sized fonts, choose the standard pattern (Fig1). For larger graphics you can use the new Large Chevron patterns available in Black, Red, and Hot Pink (link). A large chevron pattern on a small font may not be legible. More on that in the Design tips.

The best way to apply the film is with a heat press. If you're unfamiliar with T-shirt vinyl, you may need a primer. Click here to get the step by step design and application instructions. If you don't have a heat press, you can still use this with your household iron. It's not as efficient, but it can be done. By the way, EnduraTex film isn't just for T-shirts. These heat transfer films can be applied to various textile surfaces including canvas bags, mouse pads, and even sneakers. Click here for ideas on non-apparel applications for heat transfer film. You can press your Chevron letters on a bunch of different products. Speaking of non-apparel applications, what about vinyl decals? If you need that Chevron text on vinyl, you'll need to you'll have to design and print your own.

DIY Chevron Text: Print your Own!

If you have a digital printer, you can make your own Chevron vinyl or Chevron text. You can even print your own Chevron heat transfer film using Logical Color DarkJET or RGP inkjet transfer paper. All you have to do is create the pattern and print it. You can create the Chevron pattern fill to print only the chevron patterned text. Or, if you have a large format printer, you can print a whole sheet of custom Chevron vinyl. Either way, you'll have to start by creating the chevron pattern. There are several ways to do this. FlexiSign Pro and LXi Master Plus have a handy feature called Step and Repeat. You'll find it at the bottom of the Effects/Arrange menu.

To use this feature to create a pattern, you have to start with basic shape; in this case, a single chevron. There are many ways to do this using the shape and design tools in Flexi or LXi.

  • You can use the path tools to simply draw the shape from scratch with six nodes connected by straight paths. Getting these paths perfectly aligned to make parallel shapes is harder than it sounds, so you should turn on your grid and use the snap to grid function to force some uniform widths on your paths. Using the grid and path tools, you can create a chevron is about ten seconds.
  • You could simply draw a rectangle, duplicate it, then rotate them at 45° angles into a crossing pattern. Then draw another rectangle to use as a clipping path and use the weld tools to clip off any overhang from the intersecting rectangles. Voila, a single Chevron. There's more than one way to skin a cat. There's also more than one way to create a chevron. Creating Chevron patterns is much more pleasant.
Fig 2: Use the step-and-repeat tool to turn one Chevron into a pattern. 
Fig 2: You can use the step-and-repeat tool to turn one Chevron into a pattern and edit the negative space.

Once you have your chevron, select it and click on Arrange, then Step and Repeat. The Step and Repeat dialog box allows you to determine the number of rows and columns and the spaces between them (Fig 2). Obviously, you'll need to set the space between the columns at zero. The amount of space between rows will determine how much negative space you have in your chevron pattern. Click the green arrow or press enter to accept the pattern. They select them all and weld the individual chevrons into one pattern to make it easier to mange on your workspace. Select the color fill and enlarge or reduce as needed. Now you have a chevron pattern you can print to create your own Chevron vinyl. If all you want is chevron text, you're halfway there. Your new Chevron background will be used with Flexi's mask tools to create the fill for your font.

TIP. Save the Chevron background file at this stage so you can use it in the future with different text elements.

Fig 3: Use the Arrange/Mask tool to insert your Chevron pattern into your font.
Fig 3: Use the Arrange/Mask tool to insert your Chevron pattern into your font.

To create the Chevron text, all you have to do is type your text, position it over the Chevron pattern, select them both, then click Arrange/mask (Fig 3). This turns the text into a mask through which the Chevron pattern is visible. The great thing about this is the fact that the text is still editable, so you can change the letters or the font and keep the pattern.

Fig 4. Duplicate the outline, then align them both to create a solid two-color fill with a stroke.
Fig 4. Duplicate the outline, then align them both to create an opaque, two-color Chevron fill with a stroke.

TIP. Masking the background pattern leaves the negative space transparent. That means your text will be semi-transparent with no stroke. Trying to add a stroke using the Fill-Stroke editor adds a stroke to the Chevrons, but not the text. To outline the text and make it more legible, use the Effects/Outlines tool twice. The first outline will provide the fill for the negative space so your text is no longer semi-transparent. Then separate that outline and create another one with the color you want for the stroke. Position the first on top of the second and align the centers (Arrange/Align/Both centers) to create a solid two-color Chevron effect with a stroke to set the text apart from the background (Fig 4).

Design considerations

As noted above, there are some practical design considerations to keep in mind with Chevrons as a font fill. These apply whether you cut your Chevrons out of EnduraTex Style heat transfer film or design your own custom chevron font fill. Whether it's on a shirt or a decal, a fancy font doesn't work if you can't read it. That's why the second outline is suggested above. It creates a solid stroke that retains the shapes of the letters. A chevron fill without a stroke breaks up the letters' shapes and renders them illegible and meaningless.

Fig 5: Use contrast to make your Chevron filled text legible and effective.
Fig 5: Use contrast to make your Chevron filled text legible.

Even if you add a stroke, you need to be mindful of another basic design principle. The first of the four (C-R-A-P) Joshua Tree design principles is Contrast. A Chevron-filled font on a busy background can be confusing and self-defeating. Try to place it on a simple background that stands in contrast to the hectic energy of the Chevron fill. You can enhance this further with color temperature contrast. If your Chevron fill is composed of warm colors (say, Red and Yellow), put the text on a cool background; perhaps a light blue or bluish green. It doesn't have to be a solid spot color. You can get away with a simple gradient, as illustrated here (FIG 5). Just make sure to avoid a busy background.

By the way, this applies to any patterned film or background, whether it's zebra, Aztec, or whatever the next fashion phase might be. Use good design principles to keep the fancy fill from becoming a functional failure. Chevron text doesn't exist, and there aren't Chevron pattern fills in Flexi yet, but you can create the same effect simply by using pre-made Chevron patterned heat transfer film for shirts, bags, tennis shoes and textile applications. If you're a DIY kind of guy, you'll enjoy designing your own chevron fills using the impressive array of design tools in FlexiSign or LXI Master Plus. And remember, the most important design tool is your good sense of effective composition. Arrange the elements around it to make your Chevron text bold and effective.