How to Create Custom Name Wall Art Templates using Adobe Illustrator
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Are you a creative soul who wants to take your digital product game to the next level and start selling custom wall art on platforms like Shopify or Etsy? Or maybe you are already a pro seller, but you are looking for ways to offer your customers more personalized options without burning out from increased workload?
This guide will show you how to create hundreds of custom wall art designs in a matter of minutes by combining templates, data merge, and batch exporting. With these three tools, you can save yourself a ton of time and effort while still offering unique, one-of-a-kind designs to your customers.
Creating a Custom Template
Alrighty, let's get started creating a custom template for your wall art! First, you'll want to choose the type of wall art you want to create a template for. Here’s just a few ideas to help get those creative juices flowing.
- Personalized Family Name Wall Art
- Custom Wedding Date Wall Art
- Personalized Quote Prints
- Personalized Nursery Wall Art
- Custom Zodiac Sign Prints
If you already have your templates, just jump forward to the variable data merge section below.
Once you have an idea of what you want to create, it's time to fire up Adobe Illustrator and get to work. Open a new document and create an artboard using one of the preset sizes or customize your own custom size artboard. From here, you can import your image/s (which can either be used as a variable or a constant design image depending on how you want to use your templates) or create a background from scratch.
Now it's time to add text using the trusty text tool, get creative and customize your fonts, colors, and appearance settings to match the aesthetic of your wall art. The appearance here is all that really matters as the text itself is just a placeholder, however you do want to keep in mind the average or maximum characters a placeholder will have when replaced by the variable.
For example if you are doing custom names you don’t want to base your designs off of the name Ben, when you could be using the template for much longer names like Benjamin, Elizabeth or Muhammad.
Using Variable Data Merge - Text Variable only Method
Let’s use the example of a triptych Wall Art Print Set with a custom First Initial and Name in the center and an image on either side. The images in this instance would remain set as is and the text artboard in the center would be customisable by the customer.
Open your Digital Wall Art Template for this product, now that you have designed the color palette and aesthetics of the font we need to bind them to variables.
Select the first initial - in this example it’s the “A” then select Make Object Dynamic in the Variables window. This will default to Variable1, you can change this to your own custom variable identifier if you like or leave as is. Next repeat this step for the Name placeholder on the middle artboard, again change the variable identifier if you prefer.
Now it's time to create your Google Sheets template (or Excel or Numbers if you prefer)
Open a new spreadsheet, name it as a template that you will identify with this type of data merge as you can use this spreadsheet for multiple different templates with the same variable needs.
In A1 type in the initial variable identifier either [variable1] or [firstinitial] remember not to include spaces between words or numbers in this section.
In B1 repeat for the variable identifier of the Name variable
In the column below - B2 and down - you will type or copy and paste the names that your customers have requested.
If you don’t have any requests yet because you are just starting your custom wall art shop you can do a search for the first 100 most popular names and use them.
This is a good way to start because you can save them and use them if a customer requests one that is on the list without having to create it when they order it. It is also a good way to get examples to use in listing images and videos to show customers what names could look like in this design.
Next you will want to use a formula to extract just the first initial of each name to put into the A column so that you don’t have to manually go down the list and type out each letter. In A2 type in the following formula [ =LEFT(B2,1) ] once you have that cell done simple click on the bottom right corner of the cell where the little dot is and either drag to the bottom of your list or to speed things up just double click on the dot and it should fill automatically to the bottom of the list of names in the cells to the right.
Save your sheet as a comma separated value file [csv] then in adobe illustrator load the variable library into your template file. To do this, open the variable window, select the hamburger menu - the three horizontal lines in the top right corner - and select the load variable library. Choose the csv file you just created.
In the top center of the Variable Window select the first Data Set, preview through your data set by using the left and right arrow buttons beside the drop down menu to check that none of the names exceed your artboard. Now we can Batch export using actions.
Export using batch actions
If you haven’t already set up an action for saving your artboards as PDF yet you can follow the instructions below.
Please Note: You only need to set this up once and can be used in any future adobe illustrator project or template.
Record Save As PDF Action
Open the Action Panel by going Window > Actions
Select Create New Action in the Actions panel.
Enter an action name, for this we will call it Save As PDF, select an action set, and set a function key if you wish to but we don’t need to use this for batch exporting so you can leave it as none.
Select Record when ready. The recording button in the Actions panel turns red when it is recording your actions.
Go through the process of saving artboards as PDF when you have completed the save as action click on the variables window and select the right arrow to go to the next data set then press stop recording.
Remember this only has to be set up once and can be used in any template in the future that you want to save as a PDF.
Batch Save As PDF Action
Choose Batch from the Actions panel menu. Click the hamburger menu top right corner the three horizontal lines.
For Play, select the action you want to play which in this case it is Exporting, Save as PDF.
For Source, choose the Data Sets to play the action on each data set in the current file.
For Destination, Select Override Acin “Save” and then choose a location to save your pdfs, create a folder to keep all the PDFs together - it will make renaming them easier later.
File name, choose from the three options, I just keep it set to Data set name as I use a quick method to rename all the files to a more customer friendly file name structure than illustrator offers here.
Lastly specify how you want Illustrator to handle errors during the batch process. If you select Log Errors to File, select Save As, and name the error file.
For the most part you will not need to change too much in this window in the future other than the choose file location option for different product designs.
Batch Rename Files - On Windows Computers
Now that you have hundreds of custom name PDFs created you will want to make them easy to find which one is for Elizabeth and which one is for Edward etc. This is really easy to do on windows.
In the folder with all the Data Set generated PDFs go into the address bar, type in cmd and press enter then you past in the following commandren "Data Set 1.pdf" "new_custom_name.pdf"
So what you can do is in the same google sheets file, create a new blank sheet like this below
Data Set 1
ren "Data Set 1.pdf" "New_custom_Name.pdf"
Now because you have created this in the same google sheets file as the original data set file you can reference the custom name column in the new name column and data set 1 will match with the first name on the original list.
In the rename command column you will put in the formula as below
Then you just copy all the rename commands at the same time and paste them into the cmd window and press enter and it will auto rename all 100 files in seconds.
Setting up the templates for both AI and google sheets does take a little bit of time but once they are created they can be used over and over again and are really easy to update.
If you want more ways to ways to increase your digital product potential with Variable Data Merge in Adobe Illustrator you can find all my variable data merge related articles here