In this tutorial we look at how you can integrate typography with photos to create an impressive 3D effect. You’ll see this sort of effect on advertising and poster art, but it’s not as complicated to achieve as it first appears.
I’ll show you how to create the effect for this Melbourne poster from scratch in Adobe Photoshop, and finish up the poster design in Adobe InDesign.
Ready to get started? Fantastic, let’s go!
1. What You’ll Need for this Tutorial
To create the merged text/photo effect, you have to select your photo and font carefully. The effect is achieved by splitting parts of an image from the background, but it helps if the photo has several successive layers of perspective. A cityscape is a great choice for this sort of project, as some buildings will be nearer to the photographer and others progressively further away.
For this tutorial we’ll be using:
- this Melbourne cityscape photo - no longer available
- this Bebas Neue font
Download the photo and download and install the font onto your computer. You’ll also need access to both Adobe Photoshop and Adobe InDesign.
2. Map Out Your Design
The first step to creating the 3D effect is to map out your design, using the same scale and text formatting that you’ll use in the final design. This will allow you to see exactly where you will need to cut out parts of the photo to sit in front of the letters.
Open the Melbourne photo up in Adobe Photoshop.
From the Layers panel, duplicate the Background layer and rename it Original Cityscape.
Go to Image > Image Rotation and select 90° CW.
Select the Type Tool (T) and drag onto the canvas to create a text frame. Type in ‘MEL’. Open the Character panel (Window > Character) and set the Font to Bebas Neue, Bold, Size 535 pt and increase the Tracking to 40. Set the Color to White.
Position the text frame as closely as possible to what I’ve done here.
Copy and Paste the text frame, positioning it below in the location shown, and editing the text to read ‘BOU’.
Paste again, and edit the text to read ‘RNE’. Position it below, in the location shown.
Create a new folder in the Layers panel, name it Typography, and drag all the text layers to sit inside the folder.
Then lock the folder.
File > Print a copy of the image to your home computer. You don’t need to print the whole photo, just the section that contains the text.
Then take out a pen or pencil and start to shade in the areas of the text where you can spot buildings crossing behind the text. The aim is to allow buildings to be able to peek over the left edge of the letters, creating a layered, 3D effect.
Look for areas of the image that will allow you to loop the letters around larger buildings, as I’ve done with the ‘O’ and ‘U’ here.
This will serve as a rough ‘map’ of the image to have in front of you. You might find that you diverge a little from this once you start editing on the computer, but it’s really useful to have to hand. Keep this in front of you on your desk while you work, as a reference.
3. Create the Cut-Out Effect in Photoshop
Head back to your Photoshop document. Zoom right into the ‘MEL’ section of the image to get a really good look at all the details.
Take a look at the letter ‘M’ and what you’ve mapped out on your print-out. Get a good picture of which sections of the photo you want to bring in front of the letter, and then switch off the visibility of the Typography folder in the Layers panel.
Take the Polygonal Lasso Tool (L) and skirt around the edges of the building you want to cut out, staying as close as possible to the true edge of the building. Bring the lasso round to meet the first point and then click on the Refine Edge button at the top of the workspace, in the Controls panel.
Click on Smart Radius and subtly adjust to make the lasso tighter to the building edge. You want the edge to be as close as possible to the silhouette of the building. Move the Shift Edge slider if needed, and add a very tiny Smooth (approximately 1) and Feather (approximately 0.2).
You can also use the Erase Refinements and Refine Edge Tools to make the lasso as perfect as possible.
Then when you’re happy, click OK. Hit Control-C (Windows) or Command-C (Mac) to copy the selection, and then Control-V (Windows) or Command-V (Mac) to paste it onto a new layer.
By moving the layer above the Typography folder and making the folder visible, you can see how this has pulled the building forward to sit over the top of the ‘M’.
Now repeat the process with the next building mapped out on your print-out. Switch off the visibility of the Typography folder and click on the Original Cityscape layer to activate it.
Use the Lasso Tool (L) to pick out the next section of building, and then click on Refine Edge again. Depending on the level of contrast in different parts of the photo, you may need to apply slightly different levels of Radius, Smooth, Feather and Shift Edge to pick out the true silhouette of the building.
Copy and Paste the selection onto a new layer, and move the layer up above the Typography folder. You can see here how I’ve made the selection a bit too large...
... so I simply take the Lasso Tool (L), draw a path around the section I want to get rid of, and hit Delete.
To tidy up sections of the cut-out layers that look a little fuzzy, first click on the relevant layer in the Layers panel, and then use the Lasso Tool (L) to isolate sections sitting outside the building edge, and hit Delete.
If there are parts of the cut-out buildings that are not easily selected but look a little ‘off’, you can use the Color Range function (Select > Color Range) to click on particular tones, such as the slightly pinkish tone around the edge of this building, to select them.
Refine the selection in the Color Range window that opens, and then click OK and hit Delete to get rid of the selection. You can also click on the Refine Edge button, as before, to further refine the path.
To really make the effect look 3D, we’ll need to add a subtle drop-shadow to each cut-out section. To do this, click on the layer containing the pasted building, and then double-click on the layer to open the Layer Style window.
Click on Drop Shadow at the bottom of the left-hand menu. Bring the Opacity down to around 45% and adjust the angle so that the shadow sits more over the white letter below.
Adjust Distance, Spread and Size to make the shadow very subtle. Then click OK.
Repeat for the other pasted layer, adding a subtle Drop Shadow.
Deselect Use Global Light to allow you to have more flexibility over the direction of the shadow.
You can see how the effect is starting to take shape.
Continue to work your way across the image, pulling out sections of building using the Lasso Tool (L) and Refine Edge function.
Paste onto new layers, and Delete unwanted sections of the pasted selection.
Add a Drop Shadow to each selection too.
Pull out more detailed parts of buildings, like spires and towers, in the same way too.
Use your print-out to guide you on cutting out larger sections of buildings to allow the ‘O’ and 'U' to loop around.
Continue moving down the image, to ‘RNE’.
Use the same method—selecting, copying, pasting, deleting unwanted sections, and then adding a drop shadow.
When you’ve finished the whole image and you’re happy with the result, head up to File > Save As. Save the image as a PSD file.
4. Refine the Poster Design in InDesign
Once you’ve created your 3D image you can use it in all sorts of projects. Here, we’ll look at how you can move the image over into InDesign and create a tourism poster design.
Minimize Photoshop and open up Adobe InDesign.
Go to File > New > Document. Keep the Intent set to Print and Number of Pages to 1. Deselect Facing Pages.
Choose A3 for the Page Size and add Margins of 15 mm to all sides. Include a Bleed of 5 mm too. Click OK.
Expand the Layers panel (Window > Layers) and double-click on Layer 1 to rename it Graphics. Create a second new layer and rename it Border.
Lock the Border layer and click on the Graphics layer.
Select the Rectangle Frame Tool (F) and drag onto the page to create an image frame that extends up to the edge of the bleed on all sides.
File > Place, choose your saved PSD file and click Open. Allow the image to fill the frame, with the text roughly central.
Take the Type Tool (T) and drag onto the page to create a small text frame above the ‘EL’ characters towards the top left of the page.
Type in ‘VISIT’ and, from either the Character panel (Window > Type & Tables > Character) or the top Controls panel, set the Font to Bebas Neue Regular, Size 45 pt, Tracking 100 and Font Color to [Paper].
Expand the Swatches panel (Window > Color > Swatches) and click on the New Swatch button at the bottom of the panel. Edit the swatch to C=20 M=54 Y=80 K=9 and click OK.
Copy and Paste the ‘VISIT’ text frame, positioning it below ‘RN’. Edit the text to read ‘THIS SUMMER’, reduce the Font Size slightly and adjust the Font Color to your new orange swatch.
Use the Line Tool (\) to add horizontal straight lines to the right of ‘VISIT’ and left of ‘THIS SUMMER’, extending them past the edge of the page. Set the top line with a [Paper] Stroke Color and the bottom line in your new orange swatch.
Return to the Layers panel and lock the Graphics layer. Unlock the Border layer.
Take the Rectangle Tool (M) and create a shape on the page that fits snugly against the margin line. Set the Stroke Color to [Paper].
Then head up to Object > Corner Options and add a rounded corner 2 mm in Size to each corner of the rectangle.
Then go to Object > Effects > Transparency and reduce the Opacity of the shape to 55%.
Use the Scissors Tool (C) to cut the rectangle and delete sections so that only the top left and bottom right sections of the border remain.
And you’re done! Your poster design is finished, and it’s looking awesome. Great work!
All that’s left to do is export it ready for printing.
Go to File > Export. Choose Adobe PDF (Print) from the Format drop-down menu.
From the Adobe PDF Preset menu at the top of the window that opens, choose [Press Quality].
Click on the Marks and Bleeds option from the left-hand menu, and click to select All Printer’s Marks and Use Document’s Bleed Settings.
Click OK to create your print-ready document. You can send this straight off to the printers!
Conclusion: Your Finished 3D Poster
Awesome work—you’ve created this dramatic 3D effect, combining type with a cityscape photo, and it’s looking great.
This is a really effective technique for adding drama and interest to advertising, posters and other visuals. Let’s recap the basic steps for integrating type with photos:
- Spend some time choosing the right photo and typeface for the job—layered, detailed photos often work best, so cityscapes are a perfect choice. Your font should be strong enough to stand out against the photo, and simple, slim shapes often work best to allow you to loop edges around buildings.
- Map out the design before you start editing—lay out the design in Photoshop and make a print-out. Use a pen or pencil to identify areas which will need to be cut out.
- Cut out areas of the photo bit by bit, copying each selection onto a new layer.
- Refine the design by tidying up fuzzy edges and adding a subtle drop-shadow for an authentic 3D effect.
- Save your image and import it into InDesign to create a more developed poster design.