I initially meant to keep this tutorial short but I soon found
myself on a quest for realism so not only will you learn how to create
the realistic LCD lettering display but you’ll
also see how to create the interface that accompanies it. Let’s get
1. Find the right typeface
To give your display a modern look, you’ll want to choose a typeface
from your collection or from the web, that has a high-tech look. I chose
typeface available at dafont.com for the purposes of this tutorial.
Practically any typeface from the LCD category at the site can work for this
tutorial though. Be sure to install the typeface before moving on to the
Since installing typefaces is a pretty broad topic, I’m not going to
touch on it here. Rather, consult your operating system’s Help system
for more info.
2. Create the background display
Create a new document and customize the dimensions to the size of the
display you ultimately want to use. For my example, I used the dimension
of 650 pixels for width and 250 pixels for height.
Next, disable the stroke color and set the fill color (by
double-clicking the fill box in the toolbar) to the following values
shown in the RGB fields or enter HEX color value 606649.
Select the Rectangle tool and create a rectangle that matches the
dimensions of your document. For precision, click in an empty area of
your document with the tool and enter width and height values and click
OK; position the rectangle as desired.
If you’ve ever closely observed an LCD
display of this type, you may have noticed it has a somewhat grainy
texture. To simulate this, select the rectangle and choose the Grain
effect (Effect > Texture > Grain) from the menu bar. Use the
values shown and click OK.
Name this layer “Background” and lock it.
3. Highlight the display
Create a new layer named “Highlight” above the Background layer. Use the
Rectangle tool to create another rectangle with the same dimensions as
the one you just created. Position the new rectangle directly over the
original; use Smart Guides (View > Smart Guides) to help with
Apply a gradient fill to the rectangle; I’m using the default black
and white gradient.
In the Gradient panel, set the gradient type to Radial and set both
colors (by double-clicking them) to white. Lower the opacity of the
right color box to 0. Here’s where I’m at so far.
The gradient as it is currently looks needs adjustment so that the
highlight looks more natural. Use the Gradient tool to adjust the
direction and spread of the gradient. In the image below, I’ve zoomed
out so you can see the starting point (in the center of the circle) of
the gradient as well as the ending point (toward the lower right of the
If the highlight is a little intense, as mine was, lower the opacity
of the white color box in the gradient. I dropped the value from 100%
Lock this layer before moving on to Step 4.
4. Create the base text
Create a new layer and name it “Shadow”. This layer will hold the text
that appears behind non-active LCD elements.
I’m creating a clock display, so I’ll set down 4 of the 8 digits with a
colon separator between. I’m using the number 8 as it features all of
the vertical and horizontal pieces that make up all of the other numbers
and letters. This text is set at 150 points (using the Digital-7
typeface) and uses the color values shown below.
In addition to these characters, I’ve added in other elements for
Once you’ve got everything positioned and laid out where you want,
select everything and make a copy (Edit > Copy) of it. Open the
Transparency panel and set the blending mode to Multiply and drop the
Opacity value to 15%.
Lock this layer and move on to Step 5.
5. Setting up the display
Create a new layer above the Shadow layer and name it “Display”. Paste
the text (and other elements you may have created) into this layer using
Edit > Paste in Front. For my display, I’ve set the time to 2:34.25.
Because I eliminated the first number of the larger 4 digits, I had to
use the Selection tool to reposition them.
I now need to get rid of all but 1 day of the week and decide
whether there’s an alarm set and whether it’s AM or PM. To do this, I’ll
select everything and go to Type > Create Outlines. Once you apply
this command, your text (at least on this layer) will no longer be
editable. Apply the Ungroup command (Object > Ungroup) to make
selecting individual letters easier. Next, use the Selection tool to get
rid of unwanted letters/details.
This next bit is optional but I feel it adds a little more realism
to the display. Select all of your remaining elements and apply an Outer
Glow effect (Effect > Stylize > Outer Glow) using the values
So, hey, you can stop right here and be on your merry way with a
cool looking display or you can move on and see how to make the glossy
interface that encases this LCD beast.
6. Making the frame
Still with me? Awesome. Lock the Display layer and create a new layer,
named “Frame” above it. In this layer, use the Rectangle tool to draw
out yet another rectangle that matches the dimensions of the others
you’ve drawn. Fill this rectangle with black.
With the rectangle still selected, apply the Offset Path command
(Object > Path > Offset Path) and use the values shown to create a
smaller copy of the rectangle.
Select this smaller rectangle along with the larger rectangle and
click the Divide command on the Pathfinder panel.
Most Pathfinder command group results together so use the Ungroup
command (Object > Ungroup) to, well, ungroup them. Click in an empty
area of your document and then use the Selection tool to click the
interior rectangle. Apply a white fill to this.
7. Getting glossy
Set the Stroke color in the toolbar to black and the Fill color to
nothing. Select the Pen tool – yes, the scary Pen tool – and create a
path similar to what you see below. It’s important that you start and
end the path outside of the rectangles.
Now make sure you only have the path selected and then apply the
Divide Objects Below command (Object > Path > Divide Objects
Below). The path will disappear but you’ll see it’s divided the two
rectangles. Click in an empty area of your document and use the
Selection tool to delete the bottom portion of the white rectangle.
This will be familiar. Apply a gradient fill to the remaining white
shape; the type of gradient is Linear. Both colors in gradient are set
to white with the opacity of one color set to 0%. The gradient’s
direction should be vertical with the white showing at the bottom of
this shape and the transparent portion at the top. Adjust with the
Gradient tool if necessary.
The gloss is a little intense so, with the shape/gradient still
selected, lower the opacity of the other color box to 25%.
With the “glass” part done, let’s turn our attention to the frame.
Use the Selection tool to select the top part of the black frame
(highlighted in yellow below). Make a copy of this and paste it directly
over the original using Edit > Paste in Front. Apply a gradient fill
to this. If you’re lucky, the gradient should be oriented correctly on
this piece. If not, make adjustments with the Gradient tool and/or
8. Adding depth
One final step is to add some depth inside of the frame. Lock the Frame
layer and create a new layer below it named “Depth”. Here’s what your
Layers panel should look like at this point.
On this layer, create two thin rectangles filled with a dark color; I
simply used black. One of the rectangle’s is vertical and spans the
interior height of the display. The other is horizontal and spans the
length of the display. Use Smart Guides (View > Smart Guides) to
position the rectangles as shown below.
Apply a Gaussian Blur effect to the two rectangles using the values
The effect may cause some gaps on the left of the vertical rectangle
and on top of the horizontal rectangle. To hide this, use the arrow
keys on your keyboard to reposition. If necessary, adjust the length of
the rectangles as well to hide any other anomalies. And there you have
- If you have trouble saving the Digital-7 font in your file, due to
licensing restrictions, convert all the characters in your file that
uses this font to outlines using Type > Create Outlines.