Add a Dash of Drama to Your Text

Maximum PC - - R&D - –IAN EVENDEN


PHO­TO­SHOP You can sub­scribe to var­i­ous pack­ages at Al­ter­na­tively, use Pho­to­shop

El­e­ments or GIMP. TEXT IS FINE. IT’S OK. There’s plenty of it in this mag­a­zine—but, with apolo­gies to the vast de­sign and sub-edit­ing de­part­ments, it’s not very ex­cit­ing.

It doesn’t have to be this way, how­ever. With a bit of Pho­to­shop know-how (there’s noth­ing too CC-spe­cific here; it could be done in Pho­to­shop El­e­ments or GIMP, for that mat­ter), you can whip up ex­cit­ing-look­ing text snip­pets that, if kept sim­ple enough, could be used for a logo or as an eye­catch­ing header for a news­let­ter.

The trick we’re us­ing is a Layer Mask, which en­ables you to af­fect how trans­par­ent a layer is by painting di­rectly on the layer. Much of the time, this changes be­tween 0 and 100 per­cent opaque, but with a soft-edged brush, you can have semi-trans­par­ent ar­eas that look nat­u­ral.

The Layer Mask isn’t just used to make type more in­ter­est­ing; it’s an es­sen­tial Pho­to­shop skill used for cre­at­ing all sorts of ef­fects. Mas­ter this, and a whole world of ad­vanced tech­niques opens up. So, let’s mask! 1 FIND YOUR PIC­TURE Find­ing an ap­pro­pri­ate source pic­ture may mean trawl­ing through pub­lic do­main photo sites—or an in­struc­tive af­ter­noon with a DSLR and matches in a well-ven­ti­lated garage—but what we’re look­ing for is some col­ored smoke, or an ex­plo­sion of dry pow­der, or even some­thing like the Crab Neb­ula, a su­per­nova rem­nant left over from a mas­sive star that ex­ploded in 1054. What­ever you choose, it needs curlicues, off­shoots, fil­a­ments, or even ten­drils for you to wind in front of your text. 2 SPIN CY­CLE It’s worth con­sid­er­ing whether your text is go­ing to run per­fectly hor­i­zon­tally or not. If it is, you can ro­tate your im­age (dou­ble-click the back­ground layer to make it a float­ing one, then use “Free Trans­form” from the “Edit” menu), so that part of it also runs hor­i­zon­tally [ Im­age A]. This will make things eas­ier later. 3 ADD YOUR TEXT Once you’ve cho­sen your im­age and got it ready in Pho­to­shop, the next step is to write your text. It’s best to keep it short, as not only does this al­low you to make the type larger, but it makes it eas­ier for read­ers to rec­og­nize the word, even if it’s par­tially ob­scured. Se­lect a clear, read­able font for the same rea­son, in­crease the point size so it fills the im­age, and type away. Once you’re fin­ished, use the Move tool to put it roughly where you want it—drag it to the cen­ter of the im­age, and au­to­matic guides ap­pear (as long as you have Smart Guides en­abled in “View > Show”) to make it eas­ier to per­fectly cen­tral­ize it [ Im­age B]. 4 MASKED SE­LEC­TION Pho­to­shop makes Layer Masks from se­lec­tions, so make sure your text layer is se­lected, and choose an au­to­matic se­lec­tion tool—we chose the Magic Wand [ Im­age C]. Se­lect your first let­ter, then hold Shift to se­lect the other let­ters. Now, when you click the “Add Layer Mask” but­ton at the bot­tom of the Lay­ers palette—it looks like a dark rec­tan­gle with a pale cir­cle in it—you’ll see the mask ap­pear next to the layer thumb­nail in the palette.

5 PAINT IT BLACK A cu­ri­ous prop­erty of Layer Masks is that, if you paint on them us­ing black, they melt away, turn­ing into holes through which the un­der­ly­ing layer can be seen. Make sure the mask is se­lected in the layer’s en­try in the Lay­ers palette, then choose a scat­tered brush from the Brushes palette or the drop-down at the top-left. Make it a suit­able size, and you can cre­ate a splat­tered mud ef­fect. The Brush Set­tings panel—from the “Win­dow” menu— is use­ful to con­trol the amount of scat­ter, and avoid build­ing up a re­peat­ing pat­tern, which would look un­nat­u­ral [ Im­age D]. 6 FADE AWAY To bring parts of the back­ground im­age in front of the text, you’ve got a couple of op­tions. You can carry on painting on the Layer Mask with a va­ri­ety of round brushes [ Im­age E], carv­ing away por­tions of text to let the un­der­ly­ing layer through, and giv­ing the im­pres­sion they are in front. If you do this, de­crease the opac­ity of your text layer us­ing the slider on the Lay­ers palette to make it eas­ier to see the back­ground layer be­neath. This way, you can fol­low the con­tours of the smoke, pow­der, in­ter­stel­lar plasma, or what­ever. If painting with black re­moves parts of the im­age, painting with white has the op­po­site ef­fect. You can re­set Pho­to­shop’s col­ors to black and white by click­ing the small black/white over­lap­ping squares above the main color swatches, and switch them us­ing the 90-de­gree curved ar­row. Bring the opac­ity slider up to 100% to see the full ef­fect, or leave it slightly faded if it looks good that way. 7 SE­LECT AND COPY The al­ter­na­tive method is to slice your im­age up us­ing se­lec­tions and lay­ers. Se­lect the ar­eas of your back­ground im­age that need to be in front of the text—we used the Pen tool to draw a path, then con­verted the path into a se­lec­tion us­ing “Load Path as a Se­lec­tion” from the bot­tom of the Paths palette, but you might be lucky enough to be able to use some­thing like the Quick Se­lec­tion tool with­out it go­ing crazy and se­lect­ing half the im­age; it de­pends on the photo —and choose “Layer > New > Layer via copy” [ Im­age F]. This copies the se­lected pix­els to a new layer, which you can then drag to the top of the stack in the Lay­ers palette, mov­ing it in front of your text, and partly ob­scur­ing it. 8 FIN­ISH­ING TOUCHES Lastly, save your work as a PSD file so you can come back and edit it later, and use “Layer > Flat­ten” to merge all the lay­ers into one, be­fore ex­port­ing it as a JPG or PNG for print­ing or shar­ing.

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