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Create a One-Layer Retro Text Effect in Adobe Photoshop

This post is part of a series called Retro Text Effect Tutorials.
Quick Tip: How to Create a Memphis Style Text Effect in Adobe InDesign
Create a 3D Retro Text Effect Using Layer Styles in Adobe Photoshop
Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

The latest Photoshop update comes with a couple of pretty awesome new layer style features, such as multiple layer style instances and stroke overprint. This tutorial will show you how to use those features to create a one-layer-only, retro text effect. Let's get started!

Tutorial Assets

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

1. Create the Background

Step 1

Create a new 950 x 950 px document, and duplicate the Background layer twice. Change the second copy's Fill value to 0.

Duplicate the Background Layer

Step 2

Double click the Background copy layer to apply a Gradient Overlay effect with the following settings:

  • Style: Radial
  • Scale: 150%
  • Click the Gradient box to create the gradient using the colors #ede6cf to the left and #e1c194 to the right.
Gradient Overlay

This will apply the main gradient fill.

Gradient Fill

Step 3

Double click the Background copy 2 layer to apply a Pattern Overlay effect with the following settings:

  • Blend Mode: Soft Light
  • Pattern: Sawtooth
Pattern Overlay

This will add a subtle chevron pattern to the gradient fill.

Background Pattern

2. Create the Text

Step 1

Create the text using the font Intro Inline Regular, the Size 200 pt, and any color you like since we'll be using a Color Overlay effect later on.

If you are adding more than one line of text, open the Character panel (Window > Character), and change the Leading value to 190 pt.

Create the Text

Step 2

In order to space out the letters evenly, you'll need to place the cursor between each two letters you want to adjust, and type in a suitable Tracking value.

The values used here are:

  • W/O, O/N: -50
  • D/E, E/R: 100
  • F/U, U/L: 150
Adjust the Tracking Values

3. Add the Stroke and Use the Stroke Overprint

Double click the text layer to apply the following layer style:

Step 1

Add a Stroke with these settings:

  • Size: 3
  • Position: Inside
  • Opacity: 48%
  • Color: #fffaf3
  • Check the Overprint box
Stroke Overprint

Step 2

The Overprint option is a new improvement to the Stroke effect.

What it does is that it allows the translucent inner stroke's fill (with an Opacity value less than 100%) to blend with the color of the shape or text it is applied to.

Stroke with Overprint

Step 3

When the Overprint option is unchecked, the shape or text fill will be completely knocked out, and the background behind the translucent stroke will be shown instead.

Stroke without Overprint

4. Add Multiple Layer Effect Instances

Step 1

A couple of effects have a little + icon to their right (the Stroke, Inner Shadow, Color Overlay, Gradient Overlay and Drop Shadow effects).

When you click that + icon, you can add up to 10 instances per layer of the effect next to it.

So if you click the + icon next to the Stroke effect, you'll notice that another tab of Stroke will appear below the one you already have, with the same settings and values applied.

Add another Stroke Effect Instance

Step 2

Click the second Stroke effect instance to activate it, and use the following settings for it:

  • Position: Outside
  • Opacity: 100%
  • Color: #ffffff
Second Stroke Instance

You'll see that this applies another stroke effect to the text, without the need to use another separate layer or layer style.

Two Strokes Applied

5. Add the Inner Shadows

Step 1

Add an Inner Shadow with these settings:

  • Color: #ab6b18
  • Opacity: 80%
  • Distance: 8
  • Size: 5
Inner Shadow

Step 2

Add another instance of the Inner Shadow effect with these settings:

  • Color: #d9953d
  • Uncheck the Use Global Light box
  • Angle: 63
  • Distance: 11

This will enable you to add inner shadows with different Angle values using only one layer, and the same layer style.

Second Inner Shadow Instance

6. Add the Inner Glow and Color Overlay Effects

Step 1

Add an Inner Glow with these settings:

  • Blend Mode: Color Burn
  • Opacity: 100%
  • Noise: 100%
  • Color: #e7dabc
  • Source: Center
  • Size: 35
Inner Glow

Step 2

Add a Color Overlay with these settings:

  • Color: #d09c2d
Color Overlay

7. Add the Drop Shadows

Step 1

Add a Drop Shadow with these settings:

  • Color: #394485
  • Opacity: 100%
  • Distance: 8
  • Spread: 100
  • Size: 4
Drop Shadow Instance 1

Step 2

Add another instance of the Drop Shadow effect with these settings:

  • Color: #4e85c2
  • Uncheck the Use Global Light box
  • Angle: 119
  • Distance: 17
Drop Shadow Instance 2

Step 3

Add a third instance of the Drop Shadow effect with these settings:

  • Color: #2d6db5
  • Opacity: 61%
  • Angle: 121
  • Distance: 26
Drop Shadow Instance 3

Step 4

Add a fourth instance of the Drop Shadow effect with these settings:

  • Color: #c1a89a
  • Opacity: 35%
  • Angle: 41
  • Distance: 13
  • Spread: 47
  • Size: 9
Drop Shadow Instance 4

Step 5

Add a fifth instance of the Drop Shadow effect. This instance will be very similar to the fourth one, so instead of clicking any Drop Shadow's + icon, make sure to click the + icon next to the fourth Drop Shadow instance.

This will create a fifth instance below the fourth one, with exactly the same settings. Change the following ones:

  • Angle: 130
  • Distance: 38
Drop Shadow Instance 5

And voila! There you have it. A pretty complex retro text effect created using only one text layer and one layer style.

Styled Text

You'll also find all the effect instances added to the layer effects list of the layer.

Effects List

8. A Few Other New Options

Step 1

In addition to the + icon, you'll also see a set of new icons at the bottom left corner of the Layer Style box. The first one to the left is the fx icon.

When you click the fx icon, you'll get a menu with a few options, as well as all the layer effect names, which you can click to add the effects as well as new instances.

The fx Icon

Step 2

The Delete Hidden Effects option will get rid of all the unused or inactive effects and instances. You can click an effect's name from the fx menu to show or add it back any time you like.

Delete Hidden Effects

Step 3

The Show All Effects option will show all the effects, whether they are used or not.

Show All Effects

Step 4

The Reset to Default List option will simply set everything back to its default, including getting rid of any added effect instances.

Reset to Default List

Step 5

The Move effect up and Move effect down icons can be used to change the order of the effect instances, and the Delete effect icon will remove the selected effect or instance.

Move Up and Down and Delete Icons

9. Add the Texture

Once you're done with the layer style, place the Grungy paper texture v.5 image on top of the text layer, resize it as needed, and place it as you like.

Then, change its layer's Blend Mode to Linear Burn, and its Opacity to 50%.

Add the Texture

Congratulations! You're Done

In this tutorial, we created a simple gradient with a subtle pattern background.

Then we created a text layer, and adjusted a couple of its settings such as the leading and tracking values.

After that, we used a couple of layer effects, along with the new layer style features, to create a retro text effect.

Finally, we added a simple grungy texture to finish off the effect.

Please feel free to leave your comments, suggestions, and outcomes below.

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