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In this Design Tutorial we are going to be creating a custom typography piece. We will be using custom brushes, light effects, and more to achieve the end result. The techniques we will cover can be applied to any type, so let’s fire up Photoshop and get started!
Here is a preview of the image that we are going to be creating today:
Searching for a good typeface is a great place to start a project like this. In most cases you can find a suitable typeface, but sometimes you may have to create one yourself to get what you need. For the purpose of this tutorial however, I am going to be using a font called Code, which is available as a free download from Font Fabric.
Once you have downloaded the typeface, start up Photoshop and create a new 11” x 8.5” document that is 300 dpi and set to RGB mode. Using the new font that you have downloaded, type out a few words in the center of the document. There are two styles that come inside of the folder – light and bold. We will be using both of them.
I have types out a phrase that just popped into my head, and have broken up the type onto three lines. The middle line will be Code Bold while the first and third lines use the light style. Center these vertically and save your work.
Create a new layer above the bold type and load up the Smoke Brushes from Brusheezy.com. These have also been provided for you with the resources for convenience. Once you have done that, use a variety of different smoke brushes and paint over the letters in the word ‘BOLD’ as shown in the image below:
With the smoke brushes layer selected, hold down the Command Key and click on the word ‘BOLD’ to activate the marching ants:
Next, press Command+J while you have the smoke brushes layer still selected. This should duplicate the smoke brushes within the shape of the letters. Turn off the visibility of the smoke brushes layer as well as the original ‘BOLD’ text layer to see the results. You can then delete the smoke brushes layer and keep the duplicate we have just made along with the original text.
Create a new layer at the top of the Layers Palette and select your Gradient Tool (G). Once you have done that, make sure that you have a radial gradient – solid white that fades to transparent. Your settings should look like the image below:
On the new layer you have created, make a radial gradient with the settings from above. Duplicate this layer a few times and place them around the image in the areas indicated here:
Create a new layer at the top of your Layers Palette and switch to your Gradient Tool (G). Next, apply the following settings to your radial gradient:
Once you have these colors set, click and drag outwards from the middle of the canvas to create the gradient and then change the Blending Mode of this layer to Linear Burn.
Next, change the Blending Mode of the original ‘BOLD’ text to Screen. Double click on this layer and apply the following settings for the Drop Shadow Layer Style:
After applying the settings your image should look similar to this:
Double click the ‘Let’s Grow’ text and apply a Gradient Overlay as well as a Satin Layer Style. The settings for the Satin effect can be left alone, and for the Gradient Overlay we do want a black and white gradient, but check off the box that says ‘Reverse’ as shown here:
Hold the Control Key and click on this layer after applying the style and select ‘Copy Layer Style’. Next, Control + Click on the ‘Together’ text layer and select ‘Paste Layer Style’ to apply the same settings to this text. The difference here is that we want to go back into the Gradient Overlay option and un-check the box that says ‘Reverse’. The reason we are doing this is so the text will fade slightly from the middle outwards. You may have to nudge the ‘Together’ type down a bit just so it’s not hidden beneath the shadow.
Select the ‘Lights’ layer from earlier, and while holding the Shift Key, select the bottom text layer so that you have all of the layers selected with the exception of the color gradient and the background as shown below:
Press Command+G to put all of these layers into a Group Folder and rename it something like ‘All Text’.
After putting these layers into a new Group Folder, drag the entire folder down to the New Layer icon at the bottom of the Layers Palette to create a duplicate.
Turn off the visibility of the original Group Folder and open up the copy to reveal the layers contained inside. You will notice that we have a few text layers in this duplicate folder, and what we want to do from here is hold the Control Key and click on each of these text layers before rasterizing the text.
The reason we want to rasterize the text is so that we can further manipulate it. Some options aren’t available if you are working directly with the text layer.
Next, select the Pen Tool (P) and draw a path around the upper left of the ‘Let’s Grow’ text as shown below:
After closing the path, hold the Control Key and click on part of the path. You should then see a dropdown menu that will offer you a couple of options, and we want to go with ‘Make Selection’.
Before the selection is active, you will see one more menu where you can simply click ‘OK’ to accept the changes and activate your selection.
Now that you have an active selection, make sure you are on the ‘Let’s Grow’ layer that is now rasterized, and press Command+J to duplicate this layer within the selection area. It should create a new layer above the rasterized type. Nudge this layer over to the left a few pixels, and then up a few pixels, and you should have something like the image below:
We are now going to repeat this step in a few more places to create similar fragments that are nudged above and to the left of the raster text layer.
Again, repeat this step for the ‘Together’ type, which has also been rasterized. After making a few more breaks and nudging them around this is what we have:
Load up the Space Brushes from the resources folder and with a solid white color selected, create a new layer at the top of the Layers Palette and make a few brush strokes to add a bit of texture. Lower the opacity of these brushes to around 30% and make sure to save your work!
Duplicate the ‘Smoke Fill Layer’ that we created at the beginning of the tutorial. This is the layer that contains the smoke brushes in the shape of the word ‘BOLD’. Double click on the copy and apply the following Layer Styles:
For the inner glow effect I am using #A2DCFF as the color, but any shade of light blue will work. Once you have applied these settings you should be left with something that resembles the image below:
Open up the Space Texture from the resources folder and bring it into your document. You may have to scale the image up to fill out the canvas, but once you have you can place it at the top of the Layers Palette, just above the blue gradient layer. Also, reduce the opacity to about 80% and change the Blending Mode to Overlay.
Next we are going to open an image of a fish that I found at Stock Xchange Photos. Once you open the image you will see it is essentially one fish in three different positions, which is good because it will help add some variety to our image.
Double click on the ‘Background’ layer and hit ‘OK’ to unlock it. With your Marquee Tool (M) selected drag a selection around any three of the fish:
Press Command+J to duplicate your selection onto a new layer. Once you have done that, turn off the original image layer below:
Now all you have to do is switch over to your Magic Wand Tool (W) and select part of the white area that remains around the fish. Simply delete this white and then bring the first fish over into your Photoshop document.
Repeat this step for the other two fish so that you now have all three in your Photoshop document. What we want to do here is spread them out, rotate them, make some larger than others, just to make it more convincing. I have placed one of the fish in the upper left hand corner and tried to spread out the others. After you play around with the positioning of the fish, apply a 10-12 px Gaussian Blur to a large fish in the foreground to give the illusion of depth. This is what I have done to the fish in the upper left hand corner of my document. Also, for the fish that appear smaller and further away, lower the opacity to create some atmospheric depth as well.
You may notice from the image that I have also placed two of the fish below the text layer. There is no right or wrong way to do this part so play around with it for a few minutes trying out some different things.
Now we will open up the underwater photo and bring it into our Photoshop document. We will have to do a Free Transform to scale the image down a bit as it is pretty large. We are going to place it beneath the space image and change the Blending Mode to Overlay. Once you have done that, reduce the opacity to about 60-62% as shown in the image below:
You should now have something like this:
Next we are going to add an Adjustment Layer by clicking on the icon at the bottom of the Layers Palette where I have indicated in the image below:
After clicking on the icon, choose ‘Brightness/Contrast’ and apply the following settings:
Now I want to add some final details to this piece before wrapping things up so what we are going to do next is create a custom brush. The goal here is to make a brush that resembles a bubble and then we are going to modify the settings to our liking.
Create a new document that is 200×200 pixels wide and 72dpi. On a new layer, create a circle using the Marquee Tool (M) that is just about the size of the entire canvas and fill it with black. You will have to turn off the visibility of the Background Layer so that you can see the shape.
Double click on the ellipse layer to bring up the Layer Styles Dialog Box and apply an Inner Glow with the following settings:
Once you have done that, also apply a Gradient Overlay with these settings:
While the dialog box is still open, click and drag the gradient on the circle slightly up and towards the left.
Go to Image>Adjustments>Curves and create three new points and position them as shown in the image below:
You should now have something like this:
Next, go to Layer>New Adjustment Layer>Invert to invert the shading of the layer.
This is what the result looks like:
Click off of the layers to ensure that none of them are selected and then go to Edit>Define Brush Preset. Once you select this you will be prompted with a dialog box that shows a preview of your newly created brush and there is also an area where you can name the brush. Call the brush ‘Bubble Brush’ and click OK to confirm.
Switch back to your underwater type document and create a new layer at the top of your Layers Palette. Once you have done that, press F5 to bring up the Brushes Palette. Press B to switch to your Brush Tool so that you can make a selection from the palette. If you scroll all the way to the bottom you should see your Bubble Brush. Select the brush and then click on Brush Tip Shape and apply the following settings:
Next, select Shape Dynamics and input these settings:
After applying the Shape Dynamics setting we need to adjust the Scatter setting and input the following values:
Press F5 once again to close the Brushes Palette and now, using your bracket keys you can simply enlarge or decrease the size of the Bubble Brush and prepare to paint in some bubbles!
I subtly add a few bubbles near the mouths of each of the fish that are floating by. Create a new layer for each set of bubbles so that you have more control over the settings and more importantly, the opacity.
Below I am showing where I have placed my bubbles and also what I have the opacity set to for each group.
Once you are satisfied with the results, save your work and take a moment to view the nice image we have created. Thank you very much for following along and I hope you have learned some useful techniques along the way!
You can view the final outcome below. I hope that you enjoyed this tutorial and would love to hear your feedback on the techniques and outcome.
Eric is a Graphic Designer, specializing in Print and Web Design. He's a graduate of the New England Institute of Art in Boston and has over 4 years of professional and freelance work experience. He lives in Brooklyn, New York working as a Graphic Designer and he has been featured in Advanced Photoshop Magazine, The Art of Fashion Art Exhibit and Artists In The Station Art Exhibit. Visit Eric's portfolio at ericvasquez.net.
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