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How to Create a Glitch Effect Poster in Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop

This post is part of a series called How to Make Glitch Art.
How to Create a Set of Glitches in Adobe Photoshop
How to Create an Editable Animated RGB Glitch Effect in Adobe Photoshop
Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

The glitch effect is a major trend in 2018 and is quickly becoming a desirable effect that creates a nostalgic feel related to VHS. Here is an easy technique to create a unique glitch!

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What You Will Need to Create the Poster

  • Access to Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator. If you don't have the software, you can download a trial from the Adobe Website.
  • The fonts Archivo Black and Archivo from Google Fonts. 

Install the fonts and you are ready to start! 

1. How to Create the Base of the Glitch in Adobe Illustrator

In order to apply the Displacement Tool in Photoshop, we need to create a file to disperse. Using the Blend Tool in Illustrator, we will create some shapes to use later in Photoshop.

Step 1

In Illustrator, go to File > New. Name the document Displace. Set the Width to 1270 px and Height to 1600 px. Set the Color Mode to RGB and the Resolution to 72 Pixels/Inch if you are planning on keeping the final image for web. Hit OK.

Create a new Illustrator file

Step 2

Select the Ellipse Tool (L) and create two circles, one big and one small. Any size works as long as we cover most of the Artboard. To create even circles, press Shift-Option and proceed to create a circle. Select no fill color and a black stroke. 

Create two circles using the Ellipse Tool

Step 3

To create an interesting shape, let’s add some anchor points to the circle. On the toolbar, select the Add Anchor Point Tool (+) and click in between the points already in both circles. 

Add anchor points to both circles

Step 4

Using the Direct Selection Tool (A), click on the points around the circle and move them around to create an organic shape. Feel free to do as much as you like—I suggest changing the shape to more than just a circle for the result to take on something more interesting. 

Create an organic shape by moving the points we created on the step above

Step 5

On the toolbar, select the Blend Tool (W) and click on any point of the smaller shape and then on any point of the bigger shape. We want to create multiple lines between the shapes, so double click on the Blend Tool (W) on the toolbar. In the Blend Options window, click on the Preview box to see what we are doing live. Set the Spacing to Specified Distance of 3 px. Click OK.

Use the blend tool to link both shapes

Step 6

Duplicate the shape by holding Option and dragging the shape. I am resizing the shape slightly to fit the whole Artboard.

Resize the shapes to fit the artboard

Step 7

We are ready to proceed! Head over to File > Export and select and save the file in a folder that is easy to find. Save the file as a PSD and check the Use Artboards box. Under Range: type the number of the Artbox. It should be 1 unless you’ve created multiple artboards. Click OK. A Photoshop Export Options window will open. I am saving the file as RGB and Resolution at 72

Save the artboard as a PSD file

2. How to Use the Displace Tool

Step 1

In Photoshop, go to File > New. Name the document Glitch_Effect. Set the Width to 1270 px and Height to 1600 px. Set the Resolution to 72 Pixels/Inch. Click OK.

Create a Photoshop file

Step 2

Using the Type Tool (T), let’s create something to use the Displace.psd file we created. Type TEST COPY. I am using Archivo Black, but any typeface will do. Try to fill the whole page. Duplicate the text Layer by pressing Command-J. Right-click on the layer and select Rasterize Type.

Add any text using the type tool

Step 3

While selecting the rasterized layer, head over to Filter > Distort > Displace. Under Horizontal Scale and Vertical Scale, type 100. Set Displacement Map to Stretch to fit and Undefined Areas to Repeat Edge Pixels. Click OK and an import window will appear. Look for the PSD file we saved in Illustrator at the beginning of this tutorial. Click Open. Feel free to experiment with the settings to see what other different shapes you can get. 

Use the Displace effect with the PSD file we saved earlier from Illustrator

3. How to Create a Glitch

Step 1

Duplicate the displaced layer. Go to Filter > Distort > Wave. In the Wave options window, we can play with the different settings. Under Type select Square, and set Number of Generators to 1. Now head over to the Scale and set it to 100%. We can play with the Wavelength and Amplitude. There is no right or wrong in this part; you can use the small view to see the final effect. I used the settings below. Click OK.

Add a Wave effect to the displaced layer

Step 2

Let’s duplicate the layer we worked on in the step above and repeat the Wave effect but this time with different settings. I clicked on the eye icon in the Layers panel to see the effect. Go to Filter > Distort > Wave. You might notice some of the lines have now turned horizontal—this won’t be the same for everybody, but you can keep applying this effect as many times you want. Click OK when you are done.

Duplicate the layer and add a Wave effect again

Step 3

Let’s activate the two layers we just worked on and create a composite in which they can both work together. We can use the Rectangular Marquee Tool (M) from the toolbar to select different areas on each layer and delete any parts that are conflicting.

Use the Marquee Tool to delete parts that are too busy on the composition

Step 4

Let’s add a background by going to the Layers panel, clicking on Create New Fill or Adjustment Layer, and adding a Solid Color layer. I am using the color #2c2b2a. Move the layer under the displacement layers. To inverse the colors of the layer, press Command-I

Add a dark background and invert the displaced layers

Step 5

It's looking slightly busy, so we can use the Marquee Tool (M) to select and delete certain parts of the composition. I moved the composition to the bottom right of the artboard and deleted about an inch off the left side to leave space for the copy. I also lowered the Opacity of the first displacement layer to 30% to add dimension.

Move the composition to make space for the text

4. How to Add Text

Step 1

Let’s add some fitting text to the poster. Using the Text Tool (T), type troubleshoot at 170 pt in Archivo Black. Duplicate this layer on the Layers panel and Right click > Rasterize Type. Hide the original text layer, and let’s work on the rasterized layer. 

Add a new text layer

Step 2

While selecting the rasterized layer, head over to Filter > Distort > Displace. Set Horizontal Scale to 20 and Vertical Scale to 10. Set Displacement Map to Stretch to fit and Undefined Areas to Repeat Edge Pixels. Click OK and an import window will appear. Look for the PSD file we saved in Illustrator at the beginning of this tutorial. Click on Open. 

Use the Displace effect on the text layer

Step 3

Using the Lasso Tool (L), we can delete different areas of the troubleshoot layer. This is to make the elements look random and achieve a disordered look.

Use the Lasso tool to create a random shape to delete

Step 4

Feel free to move the elements around to fit them on the artboard. Duplicate the troubleshoot type layer one more time and rasterize it. Feel free to invert the color by pressing Command-I so that you can see the composition in the live view. 

This time, we will apply the Wave effect. Go to Filter > Distort > Wave. I am using the settings below as I would like the letters to be slightly deconstructed. I placed the result on the left side margin of the flyer. 

Duplicate the text layer and use the Wave effect

Step 5

Let’s add a few more words related to glitches using the Text Tool (T). I added “troubleshoot system reboot esc exit” very randomly. I also used Archivo Regular at 24 pt. Duplicate this layer by pressing Command-J and Right Click > Rasterize Type.

Using the Text tool add a few words related to computers

Step 6

While selecting the rasterized layer, head over to Filter > Distort > Displace. Set Horizontal Scale to 3 and Vertical Scale to 6. Set Displacement Map to Stretch to fit and Undefined Areas to Repeat Edge Pixels. Click OK and an import window will appear. Look for the PSD file we saved in Illustrator at the beginning of this tutorial. Click on Open. 

I moved and resized the text box slightly while using the original text box for clarity, as shown in the image below. Feel free to use the Marquee Tool (M) to create harmony between all the elements. 

Use the Displace effect on the words added on the step above

Step 7

I decided to add an extra text layer in Chinese and repeat the steps above to reflect universality. I am typing “步步高升” vertically, which is a good luck saying during New Year. I am using Kozuka Gothic Pr6N, which should be available with your Adobe software. But feel free to use any typeface! This time, I am adding some color: #ec5c6c.

I decided to add foreign language letters for a futuristic flare

Step 8

Remember that the outcome of this piece will be different for everyone as the Wave and Displacement effects have a plethora of settings. You can duplicate and apply the effects multiple times on the same layer as I’ve done with the text and the displacement layers. So there is no right or wrong—experimentation is encouraged!. Add your own spin! 

Feel free to experiment with the layers by duplicating them and applying the displacement effect multiple times

5. Saving the File for Web

Step 1

Head over to File > Save and save the file as you would normally. 

Save the artwork as a PSD file

Step 2

Head over to File > Save for Web or Shift-Option-Command-S. Select the file type you want to save the document in; I am choosing JPEG and setting 100 for Quality. Under Image size, you can change the pixel size of the image if you have any size constraints. 

On the bottom left-hand side, you can see a preview of the size of the file. This is useful when there are size constraints on a website and you need to lower the quality or the size of the image. 

Click on Save… to choose the location in the new window, and click on Save again.

Save the file for web

Awesome! You've Finished This Tutorial! 

In this tutorial, we've covered a major trend for 2018 that shows no sign of disappearing! Today we've learned to:

  • Use the Blend tool in Illustrator.
  • Integrate the Displace effect to create a dispersed look.
  • Achieve a glitch effect by combining the Displace effect and Wave effect.
  • Last but not least, experiment with different tools! 

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