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Create a Retro Text Effect and Character Illustration

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Designers often create line art in Illustrator and then bring it into Photoshop to add color and effects. In this tutorial we will use Photoshop to create a retro text effect and character illustration with some pre-existing artwork that you can down with the tutorial source files. Let's get started!

Step 1

Open the 'psdtut_BASE.psd'. Within your layers tab there should be a 'cadet' group layer with all the various illustration elements. Be sure to briefly familarize yourself with all the components. Let's hide all the layers we don't need for now except for cadet, cannon, and background.

Step 2

Select the 'Background' layer and press Command/Ctrl + I to invert it.

Step 3

Create a group folder above the'darks' layer and move the cannon_lines layer in that group. Command/Ctrl + Click on the 'cadet' layer to create a marquee selection. Click on the Layer Mask tool to cover any cannon lines obstructing the cadet figure.

Step 4

Let's commence with the coloring starting with the cadet figure. Click on the Adjustment layers at the bottom of the layers tab. Create a Gradient Map and clip mask it to the cadet layer by pressing ALT + Command/Ctrl + G. The slider colors for the gradient map are #007ea2, #bef5ff.

Step 5

We are going to repeat the Clip Masked Gradient Map technique for a bit. We will also be using Layers masks to reveal the coloring softly. To do this, select the gradient map layer mask and invert them, then reveal the map with a soft white brush, airbrush settings on. You can also use the gradient tool. The following series of images will include the gradient map hex color codes and a view in 'Quick Mask Mode' used as a guide to give an idea of how much is being revealed. Remember these don't have to be followed strictly. Use your own descretion to determine how much or little gradient mapping you want to reveal. #00569f, #fffbd8

Step 6

#290a59, #528dcf

Step 7

#470070, #0075a0

Step 8

#5000a1, #087bb6

Step 9

#250031, #fe0675

Step 10

Now we'll do the same for the cannon layer.

#0a3559, #e3fff9

Step 11

#290085, #1d81ab

Step 12

#0a3f6b, #7d1ad0

Step 13

#250031, #fe0675

*Note* Remember to stay organized! By now you should have quite a few layers accumulating in the Layers tab already. This tutorial will get busier and busier with content as you move forward so it's best to organize your material with Group and Sub Group folders whenever necessary. Use the Reference PSD file (psdtut_REF.psd) to get a sense of how much organization is recommended.

Step 14

Create a clip masked Color Fill Adjustment Layer to the 'darks' layer. We want the shading to blend a bit more closely to our color palette so lets give a dark blue hue, #0d4061.

Step 15

Let's add some highlights. Create some layers and use some airbrushing to create soft highlights on the cadet figure. Play around with opacity, flow, and hardness percentages to get varying brush effects. Use a soft eraser whenever you feel like you've over done it.

Step 16

Do the same for the cannon layer. Use a small brush for small spotlighting and adjust the master opacity of your highlight layer(s) to either 'screen' or 'overlay'. You can also apply a white outer glow layer style to further accentuate a glowy appearance.

Step 17

Find the 'cadet_lines_black' layer. Place it in a group folder called 'glows'. Duplicate the layer with Command/Ctrl + J and invert (Command/Ctrl + I). Lastly apply an outer glow with the default color. Follow the parameters indicated in the image below.

Step 18

Next we apply an inverted layer mask by ALT + Clicking the layer mask tool at the bottom of the layers tab. Reveal with a soft brush. Again, a screen cap of Quick Mask Mode is used as a guide to indicate how much reveal of the layer has been done. We will be using this guide whenever layer masking needs to be shown throughout this tutorial.

Step 19

Repeat that process this time with an outer glow color #00eaff

Step 20

Let's give the glass on the helmet a glowing outline. Use the pen tool to trace the shape (be sure its on 'paths' mode). Right click in the path and select 'Make Selection'. Make sure you follow the parameters shown below, and hit OK. Select the marquee tool, right click and select 'Stroke'. Lastly, apply some layer masking.

Step 21

Make a new layer in the glows folder. Find the cadet layer and Command/Ctrl + Click to create the marquee selection. Command/Ctrl + C to copy the layer and paste it into the new layer you created.

Step 22

Set the layer Master Fill to 0% and give it an inner glow color, #c600f8. Follow the fx parameters shown below.

Step 23

Next we add a layer mask and hide with a black brush or eraser. But before we do, we must flatten the inner glow layer. To do this, let's create a new layer and merge the two together with Command/Ctrl + E. Without getting to much into the actual physics of it, the reason for doing this is layer styles readjust once the shape of the object is manipulated in any way whether you erase or use a layer mask. By merging with a blank layer, that flattens the layer style which prevents the aforementioned from happening. Set the Blend Mode to 'Screen'.

Step 24

Apply an inverted layer mask and reveal accordingly.

Step 25

Now we will repeat what we did in steps 17-19 for the cannon_lines group. Duplicate the cannon_lines layer, invert the duplicate, and apply an outer glow color, #aee9ff. Use a layer mask to reveal it in various areas.

Step 26

Repeat with color #00eaff.

Step 27

Create a new layer and name it 'pinkoutline'. Find the 'cannon' layer and Command/Ctrl + CLICK to create a marquee. Create a stroke and give it an outer glow, #ff00f0, and a color overlay, #fee6ff.

Step 28

Go to the 'interface' group and apply an outer glow, #22ffc3, and a color overlay, #c7ffe8.

Step 29

You should have something similar to the image below. Take everything that you've done so far and place them within a group folder if you haven't done so already. Create another group folder named 'takeshi'. This will be the group, which will contain your typography treatment.

Step 30

In this next phase, we will be working in illustrator. Open the 'psdtut_type.ai' file. (For those of you who don't have Illustrator, there is a PSD file that consists of the typeface treatment. Just skip to step 55)

Step 31

With the selection tool (V), ALT + Click + Drag the Japanese character to duplicate it.

Step 32

Select one the characters and make it a lighter shade of grey, K-18%. (We will be using CMYK color sliders for this exercise)

Step 33

Select the light grey character. Go to the top menu and click on Effects > 3d > Extrude & Bevel. Follow the parameters in the dialogue box shown below.

Step 34

Repeat step 33 for the duplicate character, only this time, select 'Wireframe' in the Surface drop down menu.

Step 35

Select both extrusions and click on Object > Expand Appearance.

Step 36

Set the stroke color of the wireframe to absolute black, C, M, Y, and K at 100% and make all the lines 1 pt thick. Rename its group layer 'Wireframe'.

Step 37

We now have to fix up the solid extrusion. First, select it and ungroup (Shift + Command/Ctrl + G) all objects until the layers no longer expand.

Step 38

All that should remain now are a bunch of clip masks that are called 'group'. Lock the Wireframe group. Now select all the layers named 'Group'. Release the Clip Masks by pressing ALT + Command/Ctrl + 7. Select one of the blank path layers. At the top menu, click on Select > Same > Fill Color. This should select all the blank path layers. Press Delete.

Step 39

You'll notice that some areas of the extrusion might be different shades. This is because they are all they're own shape. Let's combine the shapes together with the Unite Tool under the Pathfinder tab. (Shift + Command/Ctrl + F9). Select one of the separated extrusions and unite them. See the instructions below for further clarification.

Step 40

Now do the same for the other extrusions. Do them one at a time, we don't want them all to be one, uniform shape.

Step 41

Now we will fix any incomplete extrusions. Choose the Direct select tool and click + drag corner anchor points to close out the gaps as shown below. Be sure Smart Guides are on (Command/Ctrl + U)

Step 42

You can also fix any other gaps by using the pen tool as shown below.

Step 43

Now we'll add some gradients. Pick an extruded shape and select the Gradient tool. Find the Gradient Tab and click on the gradient slider to activate it. With the gradient tool click and drag to get the angle of color gradation to your liking.

Step 44

Do the same for the other extruded shapes. Remember to do it one at a time and not simultaneously.

Step 45

Select the objects of the extruded type and duplicate them (ALT + Click + Drag).

Step 46

Group and Lock the original type. Select all the gradient shapes in the duplicate using Select > Same > Fill Color at the top menu.

Step 47

Go to the pathfinder tab and Option + Click the Unite tool to make them compound shapes. Click Expand.

Step 48

Now select the whole type again and this time Option + Click on 'Minus Front' in the Pathfinder tab. Make sure your layer orders are correct and you should have a result like the one shown below. Remember to click on 'Expand'.

Step 49

Remove the color fill and give the shapes a 1 pt black outline.

Step 50

Unlock and ungroup the original type. Group the gradient extrusions together. Select the flat typeface and give it a black color fill.

Step 51

With black typface still selected, go to the top menu and click on Object > Path > Offset Path. Give it an offset of about -20 px. Fix any odd corners with the Delete Anchor Point under the Pen Tool options.

Step 52

Remove the color fill in the offset shape and give it a 14 pt white stroke. Under the Stroke tab menu set the corner to 'round join'.

Step 53

With the offset still selected, go to Object > Path > Outline Stroke which will make it a shape. Give the new shape an offset of -6 px and make it black.

Step 54

You should now have a complete 'kit of parts' to begin creating your text manipulation in Photoshop. Piece all the parts together as shown below and place them all in separate layers. There should be 6 in total. Go to File > Export. Export the file as a PSD. Follow the parameters shown below in the dialogue box.

Step 55

Open the Photoshop file and select all the layers by Shift + Click. Drag the selected layers over to the illustration file to place them in the canvas.

Step 56

Make sure all the type material is in the 'takeshi' folder and center them on the canvas as shown. Invert the wireframe and outlines to white. Create a white 2 to 3px outline around the 'type' layer in a separate layer via marquee selection, as shown in step 27. Name it 'outline'.

Step 57

We'll now do a similar coloring treatment that we did with the initial illustration earlier in this tutorial. We will be using Gradient Maps and Layer Masking. Once again, Quick Mask Mode is shown as a guide for how much masking has been done. Let's start with a gradient map of #ff00ba, and #1200ff.

Step 58

#000000, #001df8

Step 59

#0054ff, #89f0ff

Step 60

Go to the wireframe layer and give it a color overlay, #faffa5, and an outer glow, #fff500.

Step 61

Apply some layer masking.

Step 62

Select the 'extrusion outline' layer and give it an outer glow, #f225ff, and apply some layer masking.

Step 63

Duplicate the outlines and repeat step 62 with an outer glow of #00ffe4. Place all the treatment done so far in a sub group folder called 'extrude'.

Step 64

Select the 'type' layer. Now Command/Ctrl + Click to create a marquee selection and Fill it with color, #fb0c67.

Step 65

Create a Gradient Map Adjustment Layer and Clip Mask it (ALT + Command/Ctrl + G) to the 'type' layer. Add an inverted layer mask to reveal with a soft white brush. Below I have also included a screen cap of the Gradient Editor dialogue box to see how the sliders have also been affected.

Colors: #b2008e, #fffc00, #00c0ff

Step 66

Repeat Step 65 with hex colors #b3008b, #ff8a00, #9cff00

Step 67

Now we'll add a gradient fill with some transparency, by adding some 0% opacity stops. Follow the Gradient Editor dialogue box below. You can also move the gradient fill around the canvas, however this is only possible while having the 'Gradient Fill' dialogue box up. DO NOT also have the Gradient Editor box open while doing this. Hex Colors: #ffc989, #ffffff, #f7fb7e

Step 68

Duplicate the clip mask gradient map a couple more times and move them along the typeface surface. Remember to have the Gradient Fill box open in order to move around the canvas.

Step 69

Let's bring back some of that pink color that is now lost behind those gradient maps we just created. Duplicate the 'type' layer (Command/Ctrl + J). Move the original 'type' layer above all the recently created Gradient Maps and apply an inverted layer mask to softly reveal with a white brush (Quick Mask Mode is shown here again). Once done, give the layer an outer glow, #ff0066.

Step 70

Let's repeat the steps 67 and 68 but with a radial Gradient Fill. Hex Colors:#ffffff, #ffd74c. This will create some spotlighting on the type surface. Place all the work done on the type layer in a folder called 'Kanji'.

Step 71

Hide the 'inner pipe' layer. Now, select the 'pipe' layer and add the following Layer Styles:

Color overlay: #ff0006
Drop Shadow: #3e0050
Inner Glow: #4c2200

Step 72

Make a new layer. Create a 1 px white outline around the pipe. Give it a default outer glow and use a layer mask to hide/reveal.

Step 73

Select the 'inner pipe' layer and apply an outer glow, #fffadc , and color overlay, #ff9899.

Step 74

Duplicate the 'pipe' layer and give it the same attributes as the 'type' layer in steps 64 and 69. A fill, #fb0c67, with an outer glow, ##ff0066.

Step 75

Duplicate the 'inner pipe' layer. Change the color overlay to white, #ffffff. Use a layer mask with a harder brush this time to accentuate some highlights. Place all the work done on the pipe and inner pipe layers in a Group folder.

Step 76

Select the outline layer and give it an outer glow, #f225ff. Add an inverted layer masks and reveal with a soft brush.

Step 77

Let's add some highlights on the corners of some areas with a soft airbrush.

Step 78

Now let's create a shadow of the cadet and cannon onto the type. Unhide the cadet group. Shift + Command/Ctrl + Click on the orginal cadet and cannon layers to create a combined marquee selection.

Step 79

Hide the cadet group. Make a new layer above the 'kanji' sub folder and fill the marquee selection with black. Give it a color overlay, #6e0050.

Step 80

Now we want to keep the shadow within the boundary of the typeface. Command/Ctrl + Click on the 'type' layer to create a marquee. Then click on the layer mask tool.

Step 81

Duplicate the shadow and delete the layer mask. Place it above your pipe folder. Repeat step 80 to have a shadow over the pipe layer. Use the arrow keys on your keyboard to nudge the shadow a bit. This will create a subtle illusion of depth.

Step 82

Let's have the text reflect off of the Cadet illustration. Hide all the layers except for the takeshi group. Be sure to hide the cadet shadows as well. Go to File > Save As and select PNG as the extension. When the PNG Options box comes up, leave Interlace as 'None' and hit OK.

Step 83

Open the PNG file and copy + paste it in the PSD. Go to the top menu and click Filter > Liquify (Shift + Command/Ctrl + X).

Step 84

In the Liquify dialogue box, start to click + drag to morph the flattened type. Use the transparent image underneath as guide for it to conform to the cadet/cannon illustration. Try and achieve a result similar to the one below.

Step 85

Place the liquified text in a new group. As done in step 78, create a marquee around the cadet/cannon illustration and create a layer mask for the group.

Step 86

Add a Clip Masked Gradient Map to the liquified text, #0054b2 and #00fcff. Set the Blend Mode to Screen and the Master Opactiy Setting to 81%.

Step 87

Add an inverted layer mask to the liquified text layer and use a soft brush to reveal.

Step 88

Now lets create some atmospherics with a series of Gradiet fill Adjustment Layers. Create a new folder called 'atmosphere' and place it behind everything else. Follow the parameters provided in the images. Linear Gradient fill: #10004a, #10004a.

Step 89

Radial Gradient Fill: #00f0ff, #e400ff

Step 90

Radial Gradient Fill: #00ff90, #b9feff, #e200fd

Step 91

Let's create a reflection of cadet to emphasize the ground plane. Hide all groups except for the 'cadet' group. Repeat step 82 to create a PNG.

Step 92

Open the PNG file and copy and paste it in the PSD. Press Command/Ctrl + T to show the transform box, right click, and select 'Flip Vertical'.

Step 93

Move the flattened illustration to the bottom of the canvas so that the soles of the boots touch. Set the layer Blend Mode to Screen, give it a color overlay of #00067b with Blend Mode: Multiply 29%, and add a layer mask to make it fade out at the bottom (No Quick Mask Mode is shown here).

Step 94

Let's add one more layer of atmospheric ambience. Create a Gradient Adjustment Layer above all your other layers and select the default Transparent Rainbow Gradient. Adjust the parameters to your liking.

Step 95

Set the Blend Mode to Overlay and give it a master opacity to 33%. If you would like to mask away certain areas, use the technique first shown in step 23, otherwise you will displace the color arrangement of the gradient as you mask away.

Step 96

Why not add a bit of "bling" to this illustration. To create a sparkle, simple use the line tool (Toggle Shift + U and set to 'Fill Pixels') to create an 'X' in a new layer. Fade the ends with a soft eraser and add an outer glow. Lastly, use a soft brush to add some glare at the center. Add these sparingly throughout your illustration.

Final Image

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