In the real world neon tubes are produced by blending glass tubes into shapes and adding neon with gases. In the Illustrator world neon tubes are produced by simplifying a path and adding stroke colors with Gaussian blur. Let’s learn how to produce our own glowing neon open sign in Illustrator CS5.

STEP ONE:

Open a new Document File > New, name it “Open Neon Sign”, and give it a size of 500px by 200px.

Now, go to the LAYERS palette Window > Layers (F7) and rename “Layer 1” as, “background”.
Select the Rectangle Tool (M) and draw a 500px by 200px black rectangle to cover our white art-board.
Step One
Lock this layer.

STEP TWO:

Create a New Layer; name it “border”. Double-click the Rounded Rectangle Tool to open the Rounded Rectangle dialog box and enter the following settings:
Step Two
Set the fill to none and the stroke to white.

STEP THREE:

Our rounded rectangle is going to be the border of our sign; therefore, it needs to have a smooth neon tube appearance. In order to achieve this select our rounded rectangle, go to Object > Path > Simplify, and enter the following settings:
Step Three

STEP FOUR:

Now we need to create two more rounded rectangles. Instead of duplicating the layer or creating more rounded rectangles, we are going to use the APPEARANCE palette. The APPEARANCE palette will help us to speed up the process by eliminating the need of drawing similar shapes.
To open the APPEARANCE palette press (SHIFT + F6).

Make sure our rounded rectangle is selected. In our APPEARANCE palette select Stroke, and then click on the Duplicate Selected Item button. Click one more time the Duplicate Selected Item button to obtain three separate strokes.
Step Four

STEP FIVE:

At the APPEARANCE palette click the eye icon for the last two strokes to toggle off their visibility.
Step Five A
Select the first stroke, change its width to 8 points and change its color to a vibrant blue. I used: C= 80%, M= 15%, Y= 0%, K= 0%.
Step Five B

STEP SIX:

To give the glowing effect to our stroke go to Effect > Blur > Gaussian Blur and set the Radius to 6 pixels:
Step Six

STEP SEVEN:

At the APPEARANCE palette toggle on the visibility of our second stroke. Change its width to 4 points and change its color to a light blue. I used: C= 35%, M= 0%, Y= 0%, K= 0%.
Step Seven

STEP EIGHT:

To conclude, at the APPEARANCE palette toggle on the visibility of our third stroke. Make sure its width is set to 1 point and change its color to a lighter blue. I used: C= 15%, M= 0%, Y= 0%, K= 0%.
Step Eight

STEP NINE:

It’s time to add our OPEN text. Go to the LAYERS palette (F7) lock the “border” layer and create a New Layer.  Name this new layer: “text”.

Pick an oblique typeface of your choice (the font that I used is included inside the downloadable files at the end of this tutorial).
Select the Type Tool (T) and type the word OPEN at about 150 points.
Step Nine A

Now, we need to convert our text to editable single paths. With the Selection Tool (V) select our text and go to Type > Create Outlines. Then, go to Object > Ungroup.
Step Nine B
As you can see, now each letter is independent from the rest.

STEP TEN:

Select all the letters (Mac: Command + A / PC: Control + A) and remove their fill color. Add a 1 point vibrant red stroke. The stroke color value that I used is: C= 0%, M= 100%, Y= 100%, K= 5%.
Step Ten

STEP ELEVEN:

Using the same techniques we applied to our rounded rectangle, select all the letters and apply steps three to eight.
Step Eleven

STEP TWELVE:

Notice how easily is to build up more details when we know how to apply the technique step by step.
Step Twelve - Final Result

Congratulations, now you know how to apply a neon effect to any path! It’s your turn to experiment and create a new neon sign. Remember, [i]t is better to create than to learn! Creating is the essence of life.” – Julius Caesar.

Download Source Files