Regular fonts for article or advertising spreads are fine for continuity but there are times when you want to push the boat out a little in terms of producing something that looks a little more exciting and creative. That’s where the world of Layer styles and texture overlays comes in. With these two handy tools you can create and customise text for use in headlines or as graphics. There are two things you need, firstly a background to place the text on, although you can just use a white background if you want. Secondly, the texture for the text. In this tutorial we’re going to use a rusty metal texture and then by adjusting the layer properties, give it a three dimensional feel. The text texture should be fairly high resolution otherwise the pattern will repeat itself and you may have an unsightly join. For that reason, a texture 2400px wide is recommended as this will give you 8” width at 300dpi.
Create the background
If you are just going to create the text on a white background then press Cmd+N and enter the width and height in pixels. Something like 2700x1400 will give you plenty of room to play with. Alternatively, load a textured background, something that is uniform. This tutorial uses a metal texture 3000x1965px.
Store the texture
In order to use a texture with Layer styles you must first import it into Photoshop. So, load the actual texture. Make sure it is ready to use in terms of contrast and sharpness, then go to Edit> Define Pattern. Call this Rusty texture and click on OK. Close the texture file and reselect the background.
Apply the texture
Here’s where the fun begins. Double click on the text layer in the Layers Palette to open the Layer Style menu. Put a tick in the Pattern Overlay box on the left and then click on this to select it. A default pattern pops up. Instead, click on the down arrow next to the Pattern.
Position and scale
This shows all the available textures. Click on the one you saved earlier. As the texture is probably bigger than size of the lettering move the cursor over the letters, without closing the Layer Style box, and drag the texture so that you are happy with where it sits inside the lettering. If there’s a distinct join it’s worth using the Scale function to make it bigger so it fits better.
Make it 3D
To start making this look three dimensional, put a tick in Bevel and Emboss and select it. Set the Depth to 200% and the Size to 18px to make it stand out. The highlights in the Shading section create half the effect here. It’s worth changing the Highlight Mode colour to something more rusty coloured rather than just white.
At the moment it’s too flat and plastic looking so the next step is to enhance the shadows. Select the Inner Shadow, set the Distance at 8px, the Size at 10px. It’s worth trying the light source angle in a few places to see which gives a more three dimensional effect. Here it’s set to 152 degrees.
Integrate with background
So it’s looking more 3D now, but it doesn’t integrate that well with the background as yet. Let’s change that by selecting the Drop Shadow and entering values of Distance: 5px, Spread: 8% and Size: 10px. The light direction needs to be from above so the shadow is downwards to match with the lighting already used.
Define the outline
The edge of the text is a bit fuzzy at this point so the way to make it sharper is to add and Outer Glow to it. Select that option in the Layer Style box and change the colour to that kind of dirty brown, rusty colour. Increase the Range in the Quality section to 75% to blend it more in with the shadow. Don’t use it at 100%.
Position the text on the road, then duplicate this layer, call it ‘Shadow’ and move under the text layer. Go to Levels and set the Output levels as 0 and 0 to turn it black. Duplicate the Shadow layer and call it ‘Dark area’. Toggle the visibility for that layer off for now. Select the Shadow layer again and move it left and slightly up.
Brighten the texture
This next stage is optional, but as it stands it adds extra highlights to the inside of the lettering. Change the Blend Mode to Color Dodge and the Opacity to 20%. In the Elements area, increase the Size to 30px. If your texture is quite dark then instead of this, use a Normal Blend mode at 75% Opacity as this will brighten it up.
Roughen it up
Now it’s time to really roughen up what this looks like. Select the Bevel and Emboss option and put a tick in the Texture box and select it. In the Elements area click on the down arrow to select the available Patterns and pick out the rusty metal texture again.
Change the depth
At this point the texture is too much because it’s being added to the surface of what’s there. So, use the Depth slider to reduce it down so that the effect is more subtle and the texture appears more like it is being worn away from the surface of the lettering. Something around -40% should be good.
Rasterize the layer
Check all the parameters you’ve entered so far and tweak anything you’re now happy with. Then click on OK to apply it. Go to Type> Rasterize Type so we can now paint on this layer. Select the Brush Tool with a Size of 15px and a Hardness of 100%. The interesting thing is that it doesn’t matter what colour you have selected now.
Adjust the text
Now paint around the edges of the text to make it look more square and as if it has been hammered out. Where ever you paint, the layer style will appear. If something doesn’t look right use Cmd-Z to undo it. The idea is to mess up the smooth lines of the font so it looks much more organic and custom-painted.
Round it off
To complete the image you can now paint extra bits of scrap metal either around the text, underneath it so that it appears to be on a shelf, or that pieces have flaked off. For splinters of the text reduce the Brush size to 10px, to add a platform underneath it increase the size to 20px. Crop the text and background to size and flatten the layers when finished.
Make the background 3D as well
The result so far is 3D text on a steel background. If you want to make the background 3D as well then create step back to before you flattened the layers and cropped. Create a duplicate of the Heavy metal layer and call it Extras. Use the Eraser to remove all the text. It’s helpful to toggle the visibility of the Heavy metal layer here. Keep the Outer Glow and Drop Shadow, but remove the Inner Shadow, Inner Glow and Pattern Overlay. In the Texture under Bevel and Emboss, change it to a new pattern – this uses a metal ring sheet. Also add a Color Overlay and select a grey-metal colour. Then select the Brush tool and paint all round the existing text.