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Create Vibrant Typography in a Rough Cartoon Style

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Today we are going to take a look at a well-known type of typography treatment. You will not only get an idea of how to create cool typography, but you will also learn how to give it a nice cartoon touch. So let's see what we're dealing with!

You will find the Photoshop PSD file in a directory labeled "source" that came in the ZIP file that you downloaded with this tutorial. You may wish to look through it briefly before we begin.


Ok, now let's take a look what we're going to use here:

Step 1

Let's start with a very large canvas of 300px/inch resolution, I would recommend that you use the A4 format. Now choose the right font and text that you want to type. I used the sentence "No More Turning Back" typed with Trajan Pro. Remember that the more words you use, the longer this will take.

First type "Turning", and as shown below. Select the T and give it a desired size. Then, type out the rest of letters.

Step 2

When you're done with the first word, remember to frame it with two guide lines. This will help you to clearly define the edges of your typography.

Now create a new layer, and type "No More". Place it as shown below. Make sure everything is set between your two guide lines. Then on new layer type "Back" and place it below the word "Turning"; stretch it to fit the rest of your type.

Step 3

Now that you're done with the text, add the Floral Shapes to your Photoshop folder. Select the Custom Shape Tool and in its options check Large Thumbnail. You will then be able to see all the floral shapes as large thumbnails. This will really help you to choose the proper elements.

The second image below shows all the elements that I chose to fill the letter N.

Step 4

Your first step should be to identify repetitive letters. In this case, I chose the letter N that is repeated 3 times. This way you don’t have to spend too much time customizing each letter individually. Remember, at this point you should only be working in black and white.

Now we can start adding shapes to our letters using the Custom Shape Tool. Add your items as shown below and touch them up as you proceed to remove any unnecessary outlying shapes or unwanted elements. You can also rotate items to ensure the best fit.

Step 5

At this point, organization is key. Placing your letters into groups will help you save time. As you can see below we have duplicated the letter N several times and re-sized where necessary.

Now repeat steps 4 and 5 for all your letters. You can speed things up a bit by reusing specific areas of your letters (notice the letters N and K for instance, by flipping our shapes horizontally we’ve managed to reduce the time we’ve had to spend working on those letters). In addition, you can save further time by rearranging your shapes slightly from letter to letter to create something completely new.

The close ups below demonstrate how I used 10 repeating elements for all the letters but by changing the order in which they appear, it’s practically unnoticeable.

Step 6

Once you have added all the shapes to your letters, it is now time to take this illustration to the next level by adding even more swirls to them. This is done using more custom shapes. You will need to take some time to find just the right type of swirls to use. This is really important because they will help to make your illustration really stand out. In the steps below we used red to demonstrate what was going on, please use black instead. Make sure that each shape fits its character appropriately and use layer masks to remove any unwanted areas. Feel free to experiment here and come up with your own unique results.

Step 7

At this point you can start adding even more detail to your illustration. Below you can see how I began to work in some extra swirls and tear drops.

Step 8

Keep adding shapes to your illustration until you are pleased with the results.

Step 9

Each shape that you add should make your illustration even more elaborate. At this point your text should start to flow together as shown below.

Step 10

At this point we’re just filling in gaps between the letters. This will make the illustration a bit messy but it will make the illustration more organic.
To create a new swirly drop as Shape Layer, go to the Layers Palette, lower the Flow of this drop from 100% to 0%. Go to its Blending Options and select Stroke. Make the size as big as you want, I put mine to 2 or 3.

Step 11

Grab the Custom Shape Tool and make a black drop. Use the Pen Tool to create a new layer, change your color to white. Make sure Pen Tool options are set to Shape Layers. Then draw a curvy path on the left bottom side. Duplicate this drop as many times as you want and fill some blanks in your illustration, and now we're done with the black and white typography.

Step 12

The illustration at this point is looking really nice at this point. You could stop right here if this is the effect that you are looking for. I’m not quite satisfied however so now I am going to add some more effects to give it a nice cartoon style look.

Let's start by merging all the letters and shapes together (don't merge it with background!). Name this layer "Text". Now create new layer, hold Command, left-click on "Text" layer's thumbnail to call the selection, and fill it with purple (#8d5e9a) color in this new layer, name it "purple text". You should get something that looks similar to first image below. Now turn off the "Text" layer.

Grab Burn Tool (use Midtones) and paint in various spots on this purple text (2nd image below). Get it dirty a little. Now in 3rd image below, use a similar technique but this time with the Dodge Tool (use Midtones and you can give also a touch of Highlights - but do not overdo, Highlight can ruin the composition, so be careful). Finally, go to the 4th image below and add some layer styles to give it a nice textured look.

Step 13

Now repeat the previous step, but this time do it with green. Call the selection of this type, fill it with green #b7ce0f (on new layer). Name this layer "green text" and place it above "purple text". Now Burn it first and then Dodge it as shown in the 1st image below. Then add some layer styles as previously, but in this case with a green touch.

Step 14

When you're done, and both texts are on each other, zoom closer. Grab hard Brush Tool (all settings at 100%). Create a Layer Mask in "green text" layer. Now paint with black on layer mask, where you want to add the drips. This is the rough cartoon style that I wanted to bring up to you and basically it's about the cool colors and harsh stroke effects.

Step 15

Now create new layer below both "green text" and "purple text" layers, name it "fills". Right-click on the "purple text" layer and select Copy Layer Style, then right-click on "fills" layer and select Paste Layer Style. Now go to "fills" Blending Options and you should see that the layer styles from "purple text" were applied here. You should have Bevel and Emboss option checked with the same settings. Now what you need to do is to add to these layer styles Stroke of Size: 2 and Position: Outside, with color black.

Now grab Brush Tool (all settings up to 100%, hardest), choose the same color as in step 12, when we were filling purple text (#8d5e9a). Using a hard brush, paint on the "fills" layer. Paint over the drip spots to fully fill them. Refer to images below; you should get the idea of what is this all about.

As you paint with the purple color on this "fills" layer, the layer styles are being automatically applied to the shape you're painting. That means you can easily finish the purple drips, cause the stroke, color, and depth is being given as you paint with the brush.

Step 16

This is the way you need to create all of the drips. Remember to paint below the text layers on "fills" layer. Be creative and finish up the drips with some cool shaps on each letter.

Step 17

Now let's add some splatter and place it below one of the letters. Use the same color (as in drips) #8d5e9a, grab the Custom Shape Tool, and pick a splatty shape. Create it as Shape Layer below text layers, and use Command+T > Distort to give it a nice perspective. Name this layer "splatter".

Hold Command, left click on "splatter" layer's thumbnail to bring up the selection of it. Create new layer above "splatter", right click and select Stroke Selection, then as Width type in 2 or 3px, and as Color choose white or very delicate, light purple. For Location, select Inside (2nd image below). Next grab the Move Tool and hit the up arrow on keyboard around 2-3 times to move this stroke up a little bit. Then go to Layer > Layer Mask > Hide All, to get the stroke fully masked. Then grab the Brush Tool, set Hardness to 0% and Flow to 5%. Pick white color, and gently paint on the layer mask of this stroked layer. In the 3rd image below will give you some guidance on where to paint to add a nice lights to this splatter.

Step 18

As you still have the Brush Tool with previous settings selected, create new layer above the "splatter" and pick a dark purple color. Then paint under the letter "A" (the one which stays on your splatter) - 1st image below.

When you're done, select layers: "fills"+"purple text"+"green text" drag them to the new layer icon to create duplicates and merge these 3 duplicates. Name this layer "reflection". Now hit Command+T and select Flip Horizontal. Place this text exactly below your original one (to make it look like a reflection). Then go to Layer > Layer Mask > Hide All, and this will mask the whole "reflection" layer. Now pay attention on the 2nd image below. Bring up the selection of "splatter" layer, and then select the Layer Mask of "reflection" layer. Using a very soft, white brush, paint inside the selection and on Layer Mask to reveal a little bit of the "reflection" layer.

Step 19

Now let's take care of the background. Go to the bottom of Layers Palette, create new layer above the white background layer and fill it with light grey #bebdbd. Then add Layer Mask to it and paint with soft black brush in the left corner to reveal some of the white background (1st image below). Next create a New Adjustment Layer - Curves above the previous layer. And we will now colorize the background with Curve values:
RGB - Input: 163 Output: 202

Red - Input: 191 Output: 196

Green - Input: 189 Output: 199

Blue - Input: 183 Output: 208
Finally, grab a very soft Brush (Flow 5% / Hardness 0%) pick white, and create new layer above Curves adjustment layer. Then paint in the middle; make your brush diameter from small to bigger, so the center should look like a white radial gradient. Merge all these background layers that we just made and name it "background texture" (but remember leave the standard, white Background layer untouched).

Step 20

I found a very cool watercolor texture to put here. So if you get the same image or similar one, make sure it's fairly big to fit your whole canvas. Then bring it into your project. Place this texture above "background texture" layer. Make this texture black and white, so simply hit Command+Shift+U to Desaturate. Change its Blending Mode to Overlay, and your image should look like the 1st one below.
Now you see the right corner seems to be a little bit too dark, so add Layer Mask to "background texture" layer and paint on it with white, soft brush in bottom right corner to get rid of the oversaturated texture (2nd image below).

Step 21

Now switch back to the text layers. Merge "fills"+"purple text"+"green text" layers (you can also include the "splatter" for merging if you want, this doesn’t make a big difference). Before you merge them, it's good to make backup of all the text layers, so don't forget about it. When you're done, name this merged layer "text" and go to Layer > Adjustments > Brightness and Contrast. Darken this layer a little bit (1st image below).

Next, bring up the selection of this "text" layer and create new layer above. Go to Select > Modify > Feather and set the value around 3-4px (2nd image below). Then fill this new layer with white (3rd image below). Name this layer "glow".

Step 22

Now carefully: hit Command+D to deselect (1st image below), and bring up the selection of "text" layer once again (2nd image below). Select "glow" layer and hit Delete on keyboard. You should get something similar to 3rd image below. In comparison to how the text looked before and after adding glow. Now it looks like the text was lightened from the white light behind, and that's exactly what we wanted to achieve.

You can use soft Eraser and erase some parts of the glow if it doesn't match somewhere.

Step 23

We’re getting close to the end now. We just need to add a few final adjustments. Add the 4 following Adjustment Layers on the top of Layers Palette. Start with:

  1. Black and White, use similar or the same values as I did, and change layer's Blending Mode to Soft Light
  2. Gradient Map, select the "Violet, Orange" preset, change layer's Blending Mode to Soft Light and lower the Opacity to 20%
  3. Curves, color correction using following values:

    RGB - Input: 193 Output: 184

    Red - Input: - Output: -

    Green - Input: 183 Output: 181

    Blue - Input: 182 Output: 189
  4. Color Balance, adjust the final color, make it a nice warm tone


Well, we are finally finished. Remember, the final adjustments are very, very important so that it matches the illustration’s colors. I hope this tutorial has shown you how to work with typography so that you can create some cool ideas of your own.

P.S. In case you'd have some problems with creating the letters/shapes, I've included a special folder in the psd file with each black letter separated and merged with shape elements, so you can use it if you want. Have fun folks!

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