Creating a Retro Badge in illustrator

RetroVectors is one of the awesome places to learn lots of cool techniques in Illustrator. One of the tutorials that I’d spent time learning was their ’40s ’50s ’60s badges. This tutorial will touch on creating compound paths in Illustrator which is a very useful process. I’m going to take one of the ’50s badges from the set you can download in the ’40s ’50s ’60s section of the site and show you how it’s done.

Open up the resource file and you’ll see the badge I have picked out.


The version of the badge in the resource folder has not been flattened. This is essential for the technique I’ll be showing here, so before I get into the ‘distress’ part of this tutorial I’ll show you how to compress all the vector paths into compound paths that can have complex effects applied to them.

The badge in the resource file is made up of black and white parts. The first thing is to flatten the artwork down.

Select all of your artwork (if you have any live text in your own designs outline the type… Top menu > Type > Create Outlines)

Now outline all the strokes in the artwork by following the menu below.


Now open the Pathfinder palette if it’s not already open and with all the artwork still selected click ‘divide’. This flattens the artwork.


Now with the Direct Selection tool you can click inside any area of black then go to the top menu and select the same fill colour.


With all the black selected go again to the top menu and create a compound path…


If you expand the group layer in the layers palette you’ll see that all the paths that made up the black in the artwork are now combined as one path. All the white content is still made up of separate elements. Now using the Direct Selection Tool repeat the last two steps for the white. Now you should have just two compound paths. Make sure in the layers palette that the white compound path is above the black compound path.


Now use the selection tool and select the artwork. Both white and black will be selected so you’ll need to go to the top menu > Object > Ungroup. Then you’ll be able to select each colour separately. Now add some colour.


Now the fun begins. Bring across the texture on the other art board and place it over the artwork and colour it white. This will give you an idea of what the finished result will be like. When you have it in a position you like, copy it (Top Menu > Edit > Copy) – This places the texture on the clipboard so you can paste it in to the document again and use it for the next colour.

Using the Direct Selection tool, hold down the shift key and select the light colour in the centre of the artwork. With both texture and colour selected click the ‘Minus Front’ button in the Pathfinder Palette.


You should then have something that looks like below. The final effect is more subtle that the original texture so bear this in mind when choosing textures.


Then bring the texture back from the clipboard and paste in place – Top Menu > Edit > Paste in Place and repeat the same process for the second colour.


This technique means you can now place the finished result over any colour and the background colour will show through and provide a realistic distressed effect.