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How to Write in the Sand in Adobe Photoshop

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Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

Adobe Photoshop's Layer Styles are one of the quickest, yet most effective ways of achieving many different effects. This tutorial will show you how to combine the power of Layer Styles along with a couple of textures, brushes, and selection options to create a realistic-looking sand writing text effect.

Tutorial Assets

The following assets were used during the production of this tutorial.

1. Load the Nature Patterns Set

Go to Edit > Preset Manager, and choose Patterns from the Preset Type drop down menu. Then, click the little arrow to the right of the Preset Type drop down menu, and click Nature Patterns in the middle of the pop-up menu. When the dialog box appears after that, just click Append.

Loading the Nature Patterns Set

2. Create the Background

Step 1

Open the SoilSand0204 image, then go to Image > Adjustments > Color Balance. With the Midtones option under Tone Balance selected, change the Color Levels' values to 8, -1, and -26.

Adjusting the Color Balance

Step 2

Click the Highlights option, and change its Color Levels' values to 5, -1, and -5. This will adjust the coloring of the sand texture.

Adjusting the Color Balance

Step 3

Duplicate the Background layer.

Duplicating the Background Layer

Step 4

Go to Image > Adjustments > Levels, and change the Gamma value to 0.80 to darken up the texture a little bit.

Adjusting the Levels

3. Create the Text

Step 1

Create the text in All Caps using the font GelPen Medium. The font Size is 350 pt, the Tracking value is 100, the color is #6c6760, and if you're creating more than one line of text, make sure to adjust the Leading value as needed. Here, it is set to 300 pt.

Creating the Text

Step 2

Change the text layer's Blend Mode to Soft Light then duplicate it.

Changing the Blend Mode

4. Style the Text Layers

Step 1

Double-click the original text layer to apply an Inner Shadow effect using the following values:

  • Uncheck the Use Global Light box
  • Angle: -180
  • Distance: 20
  • Size: 20
Inner Shadow

Step 2

This will add a simple inner shadow effect.

Result

Double-click the copy text layer to apply the following Layer Style:

Step 3

  • Technique: Chisel Hard
  • Direction: Down
  • Size: 70
  • Check the Anti-aliased box
  • Shadow Mode - Opacity: 100%
Bevel and Emboss

Step 4

  • Contour : Log
  • Check the Anti-aliased box.
Contour

Step 5

This will help define the inner text shape.

Result

5. Create the Outer Edges' Brush and Stroking the Text

Step 1

Right-click any of the text layers and choose Create Work Path. Create a new layer on top of all layers, call it 1, and pick the Brush Tool.

Work Path

Step 2

Open the Brush panel (Window > Brush), choose a hard round brush tip, and modify its Settings as shown below:

Brush Tip Shape

Brush Tip Shape

Step 3

Shape Dynamics

Shape Dynamics

Step 4

Pick the Direct Selection Tool (A), right-click the path, and choose Stroke Path.

Choose Brush from the Tool drop down menu, and click OK. Then hit Enter/Return to get rid of the work path.

Stroke the Work Path

6. Modify the Edges' Stroke

Step 1

Command-click the stroke layer (layer 1)'s thumbnail to create a selection.

Create a Selection

Step 2

Go to Select > Modify > Contract, and type in 3.

Modify the Selection

Step 3

Go to Select > Modify > Feather, and type in 2.

Modify the Selection

Step 4

Make the stroke layer invisible by clicking the eye icon next to it, then select the Background copy layer.

Modify the Selection

Step 5

Press Command-J to duplicate the selection into a new layer. It will be called Layer 1 by default. Drag Layer 1 on top of all layers.

Modify the Stroke

7. Style the Modified Stroke

Double-click Layer 1 to apply the following Layer Style:

Step 1

  • Check the Anti-aliased box
  • Highlight Mode: Soft Light
  • Color: #ffe1ba
  • Shadow Mode: Linear Burn
  • Color: #d0c1ab
Bevel and Emboss

Step 2

Use the default Contour values.

Contour

Step 3

  • Pattern : Spiky Bush
Pattern

Step 4

This will style the stroke.

Result

8. Create the Transition Area

Step 1

To help blend the stroke with the sand texture more seamlessly, we're going to add a transition area that feathers out to make the effect look more natural, so create a selection based on layer 1 again.

Create a Selection

Step 2

Go to Select > Modify > Expand, and type in 7.

Modify the Selection

Step 3

Go to Select > Modify > Feather, and type in 5.

Modify the Selection

Step 4

Command-Shift-click a text layer's thumbnail to add it to the selection you have, so that the selection doesn't have any empty areas inside.

Modify the Selection

Step 5

Select the original Background layer, then press Command-J to duplicate the selection in a new layer. That layer will be called Layer 2. Drag it on top of both Background layers and right below the original text layer.

Modify the Transition Area

Step 6

Double-click Layer 2 to apply a Drop Shadow effect using the values below:

  • Blend Mode: Linear Burn
  • Color: #e8e3dc
  • Uncheck the Use Global Light box
  • Angle: 139
  • Distance: 19
  • Size: 18
Drop Shadow

Step 7

You can see how this is starting to blend in more nicely.

Result

9 Create the Raised Sand's Stroke

Step 1

Pick the Brush Tool and open the Brush panel again. With the hard round tip still selected, modify the Settings as shown below:

Brush Tip Shape

Brush Tip Shape

Step 2

Shape Dynamics

Shape Dynamics

Step 3

Scattering

Scattering

Step 4

Right-click a text layer and choose Create Work Path, create a new layer below the original text layer and call it Stroke Shadow, pick the Direct Selection Tool, and set the Foreground color to #404040.

Create the Work Path

Step 5

Stroke the path just like you did before, and don't forget to get rid of the work path afterwards.

Stroke the Work Path

10. Modify and Style the Raised Sand's Stroke

Step 1

Command-click the Stroke Shadow layer's thumbnail to create a selection.

Create Selection

Step 2

Select the Background copy layer, press Command-J, rename the duplicated layer to Stroke, then drag it on top of the Stroke Shadow layer.

Duplicate the Selected Area

Step 3

Right click Layer 1, choose Copy Layer Style, then right-click the Stroke layer, and choose Paste Layer Style to style the raised sand stroke.

Apply Layer Style

11. Modify the Raised Sand's Shadow

Step 1

Select the Stroke Shadow layer, then go to Filter > Blur > Motion Blur. Change the Angle to -30 and the Distance to 20.

Motion Blur

Step 2

Change the Stroke Shadow layer's Blend Mode to Linear Light, then, using the Move Tool (V), click-drag the shadow to place it so that it extends diagonally away from the sand.

Modify the Stroke Shadow

Step 3

Command-click a text layer's thumbnail to create a selection, make sure that the Stroke Shadow layer is still the active one, then hit Delete to get rid of the shadow's inner parts. Go to Select > Deselect when done.

Modify the Stroke Shadow

12. Add the Starfish

Step 1

Open the Red Seastar Isolated On White Background image, use the Magic Wand Tool to select the white area around it, and invert the selection by going to Select > Inverse. Then go to Edit > Copy to copy the selected star.

Select the Starfish

Step 2

Back to the original document, go to Edit > Paste, and place the starfish's layer on top of all layers. go to Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation, and change the Saturation to -15 to tone the color vibrancy down a bit.

Adjust the HueSaturation

Step 3

Double click the starfish's layer to apply the following Layer Style:

  • Opacity: 35%
  • Uncheck the Use Global Light box
  • Angle: -30
Inner Shadow

Step 4

  • Blend Mode: Multiply
  • Opacity: 55%
  • Color: #d8d2ca
  • Size: 16
Outer Glow

Step 5

  • Blend Mode: Linear Light
  • Color: #404040
  • Uncheck the Use Global Light box
  • Angle: 138
  • Noise: 20
Drop Shadow

Step 6

This will add a simple shadow to the starfish.

Result

Step 7

What you'll need to do next, is use the same brush modified in Step 8 to manually add some sand to the starfish's edges, then follow the Steps 9-1 to 10-2 to modify and style the stroke and its shadow. And finally, Command-click the starfish layer's thumbnail to create a selection, select the starfish stroke shadow layer, and hit Delete to get rid of the shadow inside it.

Adding the Sand to the Starfish

13. Adjust the Colors

Step 1

Click the Create new fill or adjustment layer icon down the Layers panel and choose Curves.

Curves

Step 2

Adjust the curves as shown below. You can also click the little hand with arrows icon then click and drag in the image to modify the brightness as you like.

Curves

Step 3

Click the Create new fill or adjustment layer icon again and choose Solid Color.

Solid Color

Step 4

Use the color #b1a99c, change the layer's Blend Mode to Color Burn and its Opacity to 20%.

Solid Color

14. Add the Foam

Step 1

Place the WaterFoam0018 image on top of all layers and change its Blend Mode to Screen, then go to Image > Adjustments > Desaturate. Move the foam downwards as needed, then, you can pick the Eraser Tool (E) with a soft round tip, and remove any parts you don't like.

Adding the Foam

Step 2

Create a new layer below the foam layer and call it Water. Pick the Lasso Selection Tool then draw a selection following the foam's edges, leaving some distance away from it. Fill that selection with the color #b2b3ad.

Adding the Foam

Step 3

Go to Select > Deselect. Change the Water layer's Blend Mode to Multiply and its Opacity to 20%.

Adding the Foam

Step 4

Go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur, and change the Radius to 5.

Gaussian Blur

Step 5

Duplicate the Water layer, then change the copy's Opacity to 15. Drag the copy down some more to create a darker layer in between the Water layer and the foam layer.

Adding the Foam

15. Apply the Lighting Filter

Step 1

Select all layers except for the foam and Water layers, duplicate them, then go to Layer > Merge Layers. Rename the merged layer to Final.

Lighting Effects

Step 2

Go to Filter > Render > Lighting, choose the Spot light, then move and scale it around as you like.

Lighting Effects

Step 3

Change the rest of the settings as shown below. The colors used in RGB are:

  • Color: 246, 242, 234
  • Colorize: 247, 240, 223
Lighting Effects

Step 4

The brush tip will give you a different result each time you use it. So you can always try it a couple of times until you get a result you like if needed.

Getting Different Stroke Outcomes

Congratulations! You're Done.

In this tutorial, a sand texture background was modified, and the text was created and styled to add the inner shadow and some depth.

Then, a couple of brushes were modified to create a couple of stroke layers to achieve the outer sand and raised sand parts, as well as a simple transition stroke to help blend the text with the sand nicely. All created layers were styled and modified to create the sand-like appearance and add the shadows.

A simple starfish was then added to the scene using the same techniques to blend it in, and a couple of adjustment layers were added to enhance the coloring and the brightness of the final outcome.

The foam was then added as well, and the rest of the layers were merged to apply a lighting filter to get the final result.

Hope you enjoyed the tutorial and found the tips and tricks used helpful. Please feel free to leave your comments below, and share your outcome with us.

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