Colorful Image Typography


In this tutorial, we’re going to make a typographic poster from a simple photo using Photoshop techniques. I haven’t done something like this before despite the fact that I started doing typography both in GIMP and Photoshop. Filling out an image with different fonts appears so cool to me and it inspires me to do one.

The described effects look nice on portraits or any other images with good contrast and light background, but you can easily adjust the contrast and make the background lighter using the different tools and filters in Photoshop.

Step 1 : Choose your photo

In Adobe Photoshop, open your chosen image and adjust the contrast (Image>Adjustments>Brightness/Contrast…). The image used can be downloaded HERE.

Step 2 : Create various text brushes

Create a new document (File>New) in a size that’s smaller than your photo: the specifics don’t really matter. Press D to set the Foreground color to black. Use the Type tool (T) to type several different words in various fonts and sizes (in this case we used a person’s name). One at a time, draw a selection around each word with the Rectangular Marquee tool (M), and from the Edit menu, choose Define Brush Preset. Name each brush in the Brush Name dialog and click OK.

Step 3 : Selecting the shadows

Switch back to the photograph (Background layer). From the Select menu, choose Color Range. From the Select drop-down menu in the Color Range dialog, choose Shadows and click OK. (In our example, nothing in the background was selected. If parts of the background are selected in your photo, see the next step for removing those selected areas.)

Then, press Command-J (PC: Ctrl-J) to copy the selected pixels onto a new layer. Press Command-J (PC: Ctrl-J) to copy the selected pixels onto a new layer. Click back on the Background layer in the Layers panel to activate it.

Step 4 : Selecting the Midtones

Go back to the Select menu and choose Color Range again. From the Select drop-down menu in the Color Range dialog, choose Midtones and click OK. If (as in this example) some of the background is selected, use the Lasso tool (L) with the Option key (PC: Alt key) held down to circle the areas you don’t want selected. Then, press Command-J (PC: Ctrl-J) to copy the selected pixels onto a new layer.

Step 5 : Fill the layers with black and gray

Click the Eye icon next to the Background layer in the Layers panel to hide that layer from view. Click on the midtones layer (Layer 2) and from the Edit menu choose Fill. Use 50% Gray, check the Preserve Transparency box, and click OK. Then, activate the shadow layer (Layer 1) and use the Fill command again, except this time use Black with Preserve Transparency checked. You should have a very basic portrait made from black and 50% gray.

Step 6 : Fine-tune the results and merge down layers

If necessary, show the original Background (click where the Eye icon used to be) and use the Brush tool (B) to paint with black on the shadow layer, gray on the midtones layer, or use the Eraser tool (E) to completely remove areas. (Note: For gray, click on the Foreground color swatch, enter R:128, G:128, and B:128 in the Color Picker, and click OK.) In this example, we added a little more definition to the ears by painting with gray on the midtones layer. Once you’re satisfied, click on the top layer (the shadow layer) and press Command-E (PC: Ctrl-E) to merge it with the midtones layer.

Step 7 : Adjust brush settings and apply some texts

Click the Create a New Layer icon at the bottom of the Layers panel. Press D to set your default colors. Press Command-Delete (PC: Ctrl-Backspace) to fill the new layer with white. Choose one of your custom brushes from the Brush Picker in the Options Bar, and in the Brushes panel (Window>Brushes), click on the words “Brush Tip Shape.” Adjust the Spacing so there’s space between each word. Under Shape Dynamics, vary the size and rotation of the brush. As you paint on the white layer, experiment with the Shape Dynamics. Repeat with your other custom brushes. For now, just get some “text paint” on the layer—we’ll continue painting in a moment.

Step 8 : Copy the image

Create a new layer and drag it above the black-and-gray portrait layer. Press Command-Delete (PC: Ctrl-Backspace) to fill it with white. This will provide a white background behind our image. Hide all the layers except the black-and-gray portrait layer, and then click on that layer to make it active. Press Command-A (PC: Ctrl-A) to Select All and then Command-C (PC: Ctrl-C) to Copy.

Step 9 : Paste image into the layer mask

Show all layers and activate the layer with the painted words. Click on the Add Layer Mask icon at the bottom of the Layers panel to add a layer mask. Hold down Option (PC: Alt) and click on the layer mask thumbnail (this will hide the painted text and show just the mask). Press Command-V (PC: Ctrl-V) to paste the copied pixels onto the mask. Press Command-D (PC: Ctrl-D) to Deselect. Press Command-I (PC: Ctrl-I) to Invert the mask (your mask should look like a negative of the black-and-gray pixel image that you pasted).

Step 10 : Add more texts with varying brushes

Activate the painted text layer (not the mask) by clicking on the layer thumbnail, and continue painting using the different custom brushes you created. You can also continue to experiment with the brush settings for Size, Spacing, and Shape Dynamics. (Although you don’t need a pressure sensitive pen for this technique, it sure helps!)

Step 11 : Add a new layer with random texts

The painted text will only appear inside the white and gray areas of the mask. To add a bit more randomness to the portrait, add a new layer above the painted text layer. Then use the same text brushes to add a few words here and there outside the boundaries of the mask.

Step 12 : Apply Gradient

With the image with layer mask active, click the New fill icon below the layers palette then select Gradient…Choose the yellow, red, blue gradient in the selection box, click Ok. Set blend mode to Overlay.

And here’s the final result:

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