Create Light Painted Typography From Scratch in Photoshop


Get a free year on Tuts+ this month when you purchase a Siteground hosting plan from $3.95/mo

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!

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 quick.

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.

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/Ctrl + C)

Step 4

Paste it in Photoshop as a Path. (Command/Ctrl + V, select ‘Path’ in pop-up dialog).

Step 5

Select the Brush Tool (B) and change your brush to a 100% soft edged, 10px 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.

Step 6

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

Step 7

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.

Step 8

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

Step 9

Just as you did before, stroke the path with a 10px 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.

Step 10

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.

Step 11

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 sides thick.

Step 12

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

Step 13

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

Step 14

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

Step 15

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.

Step 16

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 (100-200px) and enable Pressure Simulation. As a color, use a 50% gray (#8c8c8c). Change the Layer Style to ‘Screen’.

Step 17

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

Step 18

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

Step 19

Add thicker, soft white lines all over the letters.

Step 20

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 Stlye to Screen.

Step 21

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

Step 22

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

Step 23

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

Step 24

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

Step 25

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.

Step 26

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

Step 27

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.

Step 28

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’.

Step 29

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

Step 30

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

Step 31

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.

Step 32

Keep Shape Dynamics on and change the Scatter to 550.

Step 33

Enable Other Dynamics and change the settings.

Step 34

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

Step 35

Repeat this process

Step 36

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.

Step 37

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

Step 38

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

Step 39

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

Step 40

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

Final Image