Advertisement

Create Light Painted Typography From Scratch in Photoshop

by
Final product image
What You'll Be Creating
This tutorial was originally published in April 2011 as a Tuts+ Premium tutorial. It is now available free to view. Although this tutorial does not use the latest version of Adobe Photoshop, its techniques and process are still relevant. 

If you’ve ever attempted to write words using traditional light painting photography techniques, you probably know how challenging it can be to create words that are easy to read. In this tutorial, we will demonstrate how you can create a similar look without a camera and tripod. Let’s get started!

1. Sketch Out Your Composition

Step 1

Let’s start in Photoshop. Launch the program and create a new document. When creating everything from scratch, it’s always a good idea to make it really big. That way an A2 format can later be chopped up and cropped in any other format desired. We’re going to create a borderless illustration for an A2 and later crop it into an A3. So create a new document with these sizes: W: 42.5cm, H: 59.4cm, 300 dpi, CMYK.

We want the overall shape to form a heart, so draw a heart really quickly.

Sketch a heart

Step 2

Use the guideline to draw in your text with a tablet. Consider this a sketch. If you’re more comfortable doing this on paper, do it and scan it.

Write the letters out

Step 3

For this single step, I’m going to switch to Illustrator. I’m more comfortable with ol' Illy when it comes to lettering, but it’s entirely doable in Photoshop too. Once you’re done, Copy it (Command/Control-C).

Working in Illustrator

2. Create the Multiple Lines

Step 1

Paste it in Photoshop as a Path (Command/Control-V, select Path in the pop-up dialog).

Pasting back into Photoshop

Step 2

Select the Brush Tool (B) and change your brush to a 100% soft edged, 10 px diameter brush. Grab the Pen Tool (P), right-click and select Stroke Path. In the pop-up dialog, make sure Simulate Pressure is not checked and press OK.

Change to a soft edged brush

Step 3

Go to Filter > Blur > Motion Blur. Change the direction to a 60 degree angle and strength to 20. Press OK.

Apply Motion Blur

Step 4

Reduce the Opacity by approx. 50% and duplicate it. Apply a Layer Mask (Layer > Layer Mask > Reveal All) and start to hide away portions with a large, black, soft brush.

Apply a Layer Mask

Step 5

Grab the Pen Tool and trace your first light streak in Path Mode.

Trace the first light streak

Step 6

Just as you did before, stroke the path with a 10 px brush. You need to do this individually in order to keep the appearance realistic. Alternate between 5, 10 and 15 px brushes and various levels of Opacity.

Apply Stroke Path

Step 7

After you’ve applied it, you need to hide both ends of the line. Use a Layer Mask and draw with black on each end.

Draw black on each end

Step 8

Use the original lines only as a guide. Start to add thickness to the letters, but preserve a classic typeface look by keeping the top and bottom of the bowls thin, and the sides thick.

Use the original lines as a guide

Step 9

As you progress with the words, try to thicken the left side of each letter. Doing so will preserve the spacing between the letters.

Thicken the left side of each letter

Step 10

Remember to fade out each end of the lines, otherwise they won’t look real.

Fade out the ends

Step 11

Work your way through the letters until you have reached a similar result.

Half way through

3. Add Color

Step 1

By now, it’s a good idea to nail the colors of the project. Above all other layers, create a Gradient Map Adjustment Layer (Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Gradient Map) Use these colors: #000000; #54000c; #d69f0a; #fffee9.

Gradient Map

Step 2

Leave the Adjustment Layer always on top. Now that we’ve finished the lines, it’s time to add glows. Repeat the path creation process, but this time use a very large size (100–200 px) and enable Pressure Simulation. As a color, use a 50% gray (#8c8c8c). Change the Layer Style to Screen.

Apply Stroke Path

Step 3

Cover all the thicker portions of the letters with similar glows.

Cover all the thicker portions

Step 4

It’s time to add even thicker lines, but with Pressure Simulation enabled and white color. Use lines of varying widths (25–75 px).

Add even thicker lines

Step 5

Add thicker, soft white lines all over the letters.

Add thicker soft white lines

4. Add Flares to the Letters

Step 1

Download this flare image and place it in your project. Rotate it until the angles of the rays are at 90 degrees. Set the Layer Style to Screen.

Add a flare

Step 2

Duplicate the flare, and double its size. Rotate it by 45 degrees.

Duplicate the flare

Step 3

Go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur, and use approx. 30 px to soften the secondary flare.

Soften the secondary flare

Step 4

Duplicate this flare (both layers) and place it around the scene in points of interest.

Duplicate the flare

Step 5

Repeat the previous steps to achieve the same effect for the bottom text.

Repeat the previous steps

Step 6

Create a few more lines around the scene that follow the original path only to a certain point. Make them white, and of different Opacity levels.

Add further lines

5. Add Bokeh

Step 1

Open the blurry lights image and place it in the document. Set its Layer Style to Screen.

Add Bokeh to the composition

Step 2

Apply a Layer Mask and mask out portions of the image that have lights under the crop of the image. Make sure all the lights that are left aren’t sliced.

Apply a Layer Mask
Apply a Layer Mask

6. Enhance the Light

Step 1

In order to add a bit of contrast to the lights image, add a Black and White Gradient Map Adjustment Layer and make it a Clipping Mask for the lights image. Set its Layer Style to Overlay.

Add contrast

Step 2

Duplicate the lights image and apply it to different parts of the image. Use composites where you combine large dots with small.

Duplicate the lights image

Step 3

Apply the image to different points of interest. Try not to make it too heavy.

Apply the image to points of interest

Step 4

We’re now going to combine these lights with a custom brush to make our own. Create a new brush, and change the settings as seen below.

Create a New Brush

Step 5

Keep Shape Dynamics on and change the Scatter to 550.

Create a New Brush

Step 6

Enable Other Dynamics and change the settings.

Create a New Brush

Step 7

Use this brush to draw much finer blurry lights along the letters.

Apply the Brush

Step 8

Repeat this process.

Repeat the Process

7. Add Noise

Step 1

We’re now going to add some noise without damaging the colors and lighting. Choose a 50% gray and fill an entire blank layer with it. It will appear brown because it is underneath the Gradient Map Layer.

Fill a layer with gray

Step 2

Go to Filter > Noise > Add Noise and add a max amount noise filter.

Add Noise

Step 3

Blur it by 0.8 px (Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur).

Blur the noise

Step 4

Change the Layer Style to Vivid Light and Opacity to 5%.

Change the layer style

Step 5

And as one last adjustment, go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Photo Filter. Choose the red one.

Apply a Photo Filter

Awesome Work, You're Now Done!

Great work! Feel free to share your own end results in the comments to show others.

End Result
Advertisement