A picture may be worth a thousand words but a word made of pictures may be worth even more. Here’s how to create eye-catching text by popping a picture inside letterforms, using Adobe Photoshop Elements 8. 

Set the size of the canvas
The first step is to create a new document. Choose File > New > Blank File. 

Choosing the canvas size can be tricky. It’s better to scale down than up, so base the height of your canvas on the height of your smallest source picture. The width of your canvas should be as wide as the word you’re using. It’s best to err on the large side and crop later. 

Once you’ve entered the canvas size, set the Background Contents to Transparent and click OK. 

One letter at a time
Now it’s time to place a picture inside the text. Use the Text tool to create a letter, convert the letter to a mask, and paste your picture inside the mask. Tackle your word one letter at a time. 

1. Lick the Text tool and, in the Options bar, choose the font and the font style. Now set the font size to the same pixel height as your canvas or at least as large as the height of the image you’re using. Type your first letter and then tweak the font size if necessary. The maximum font size you can choose is 1,296 points. You can get bigger text, however. 

Click your text once to highlight it, and you’ll see a bounding box. Next, click one of the control handles in any of the corners; in the Options bar, you’ll see fields for horizontal and vertical scale. Simply enter the same percentage into each field (for example, 175 per cent) and then click Return or the green checkmark. Alternately, you can use the handles to scale and transform the letter.

2. Choose Layer > Simplify Layer. This will convert the vector text to a bitmap.

3. Go to Layers (Window > Layers), and you’ll see a layer containing your letter, in addition to a locked background layer. Make a selection of the letter by C-clicking the layer thumbnail. This selection will function as a mask. It’s very important that you maintain this selection, so take care to avoid accidentally clicking on your canvas.

4. Choose Layer > New > Layer. Give the layer an appropriate name, then click OK. The selection will be carried over to the new layer. 

5. Open the picture you want to insert into the current letter. Choose Select > All and then Edit > Copy. Return to your document and choose Edit > Paste Into Selection to paste the picture into the letterform. 

6. Click and drag the picture’s corner control handles to resize the picture for a better fit, then drag the picture into place within the letter. Once you are happy with the positioning, press Return. (Please note: this will crop the picture within the letter selection. You will not be able to resize or reposition the picture within the letter beyond this step unless you intend to distort the picture.) 

7. Go back to Layers. Click both your original text layer and the locked background layer, and then choose Layer > Delete Layers
to get rid of them. What now remains is your new letter, filled with your image, on a transparent background. 

Put it together
Once you’ve finished your first letter, repeat the process with more letters to complete your word. You may want to use the same font size and place each new letter to the right of the preceding text in your document, alternatively you may choose irregular lettering. You might also want to toggle the visibility of your completed letters to avoid confusion as you work. 

Once you are done you can crop the canvas to delete the excess space. You can now export your letterform-effect word for use online, in printed flyers and newsletters, or anywhere else you want to make an impact with colourful, creative text.