Add a Dash of Drama to Your Text
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PHOTOSHOP You can subscribe to various packages at www.adobe.com. 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.