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How to Create a Stencil Banner Text Effect in Adobe Photoshop

Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

Warping objects is a fantastic way of achieving some great, realistic effects. This tutorial will show you how to use shape properties, smart objects, textures, layer styles, and brushes to create a simple, stencil banner text effect. Then, you'll get to use the Warp command to make the final result look more realistic and give it some more depth. Let's get started!

Tutorial Assets

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

  • Lintsec Regular font.
  • Cardboard texture stock by YmntleStock.
  • Unrestricted Neutral grunge 7 by DivsM-stock.
  • Soft Wallpaper pattern by Atle Mo.
  • Concrete wall 3 pattern by Atle Mo.
  • You'll also need to load a default Photoshop brush set. So go to Edit > Presets > Preset Manager, and choose Brushes from the Preset Type dropdown menu. Then click the little arrow to the right of the Preset Type dropdown menu, and click Square Brushes near the bottom of the pop-up menu. When the dialog box appears after that, just click Append, and you’ll get the Square Brushes set.

1. Creating the Background

Step 1

Create a new 909 x 620 px document, and set the Resolution to 200.

Place the Cardboard texture stock image on top of the Background layer, resize it as needed, and merge it with the Background layer when done. Then duplicate it, and go to Filter > Convert for Smart Filters.

Background Smart Object

Step 2

Click the Create new fill or adjustment layer icon at the bottom of the Layers panel and choose Levels.


Step 3

Click the Clip adjustment to layer icon at the bottom of the Properties panel and change the Shadows value to 15.

Levels Values

Step 4

Click the Create new fill or adjustment layer icon again and add a Color Balance adjustment layer. Click the Clip adjustment to layer icon, make sure the Tones option is set to Midtones, and then change the values to -45, 0, and 2.

Color Balance Values

2. Creating and Positioning the Rectangles and the Text

Step 1

Pick the Rectangle Tool, and create a 140 x 200 px rectangle using the color #edebdf.

Create Rectangle Shape

Step 2

Pick the Ellipse Tool, and choose the Subtract Front Shape option in the Options bar. Then click the Geometry Options icon, and set the Fixed Size's W and H values to 7.

What you'll need to do next is click and drag slightly to create two holes at the top of the rectangle. You can use some guides to help you position the circles as well, but that's not necessary.

Subtract Ellipses

Step 3

Create the text in All Caps, each letter in a separate layer, using the font Lintsec Regular, the Size 43 pt, and the color Black.

Create Text Layers

Step 4

Place the first letter's layer below the rectangle shape's layer you created, rename the rectangle layer to whatever letter is below it, and then select both layers.

Pick the Move Tool, and click the Align vertical centers and Align horizontal centers icons in the Options bar.

Align Centers

Step 5

Duplicate the rectangle layer, move the copy on top of another letter, and repeat the rest of the steps until each letter has a rectangle.

Duplicate and Position Rectangles

3. Creating the Final Stencil Shapes and the Shadow Layers

Step 1

Select all the text layers you have, and go to Type > Convert to Shape (or right-click one of them and choose Convert to Shape).

Convert Text to Shapes

Step 2

Select each letter's layer and its rectangle layer, and go to Layer > Combine Shapes > Subtract Shapes at Overlap. This will merge both layers into one, and subtract the letter from the rectangle, creating the stencil shape.

Create the Stencil Shape

Step 3

Repeat that for the rest of the letters you have.

Final Stencil Shapes

Step 4

Duplicate each shape layer, place the copy below the original, and double-click the copy's thumbnail to change its color to #afaba3.

Once you're done, select each shape layer you have, right-click it, and choose Convert to Smart Object. This will make the Transforming and Warping that we'll be performing next non-destructive and editable.

Convert to Smart Objects

Step 5

Select each copy shape layer, and then go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur, and change the Radius to 3.

Gaussian Blur

Step 6

After you apply the Gaussian Blur, change the copy (shadow) layers' Blend Mode to Multiply, and the Opacity to 85%.

Shadow Blend Mode and Opacity

This will finish up creating the stencil and shadow layers.

Stencil and Shadow Layers

4. Styling the Stencil Layers and Warping the Shadows' Shapes

Step 1

Double-click the first letter's stencil shape layer to add a Pattern Overlay effect using the following values:

  • Blend Mode: Multiply
  • Opacity: 50%
  • Pattern: Soft Wallpaper
Pattern Overlay

Step 2

Right-click the styled layer, and choose Copy Layer Style. Then select the rest of the stencil layers, right-click any of them, and choose Paste Layer Style. This will apply the Pattern Overlay effect to the rest of the layers.

Copy and Paste Layer Style

Step 3

Select each stencil layer with its shadow layer, and then go to Edit > Free Transform. Rotate, move, and resize the selected layers as you like, and tap the Return key to accept the changes. Do the same for the rest of the letters until you like how they're placed.

Transform Stencil and Shadow Layers

Step 4

Next, for each shadow layer, select it, and then go to Edit > Transform > Warp, and play around with the shadow shape a little bit by clicking and dragging the mesh areas, control points, and/or handles.

Warp Shadow

Step 5

Take your time with this step, and don't be afraid to try different things and modify the shape more than once until you like the result you get. Hit the Return key when done to accept the changes.

Modify Warped Shadow Shape

Using the Warp command to create the shadows instead of the Drop Shadow effect gives us much more control over the final result, and helps us achieve a more realistic and interesting final effect.

Warped Shadow Result

5. Adding a Gradient Overlay

Step 1

This is a subtle, optional step, but it helps enhance the final lighting.

Double-click the first letter's stencil shape layer, and apply a Gradient Overlay effect using a Black to White gradient fill, and change the other values as follows:

  • Blend Mode: Soft Light
  • Opacity: 10%
  • Angle: 20
Gradient Overlay

Step 2

Apply the same effect to the rest of the letters, but make sure to change the Angle value depending on the direction of the letter's shadow you modified earlier. You can do that while you're still under the Gradient Overlay tab, by clicking and dragging the gradient fill over the letter until you like how it looks.

Move Gradient Overlay

Once you're done applying the Gradient Overlay effect to each letter, you should end up with something like this:

Applying Gradient Overlay Result

6. Adding the Texture to the Stencil Shapes

Step 1

Place the Unrestricted Neutral grunge 7 image on top of all layers, and resize it as needed.

Letters Texture

Step 2

Press and hold the Command and Shift keys, and click each stencil shape layer's thumbnail to create a selection.

Stencil Cards Selection

Step 3

Click the Add layer mask icon at the bottom of the Layers panel. This will use the selection to create a mask that applies the texture to the stencil shapes only.

Add Layer Mask

Step 4

Change the texture layer's Blend Mode to Color Burn and its Opacity to 25%.

Texture Layer Blend Mode and Opacity

7. Creating the Twine's Paths

Step 1

Create a new layer on top of all layers and call it Twine. Pick the Pen Tool and choose the Path option in the Options bar.

What you'll need to do next is create the paths where you want to add the twine. You can click to add corner anchor points, and click and drag to create curves. Keep in mind that the path created doesn't have to be perfect, as you can pick the Direct Selection Tool (A) at any time later to adjust the anchor points or the direction handles.

Pen Tool

Step 2

The simplest way to create the paths is to click and drag where you want the path to start, and then click and drag where you want it to end.

To separate the paths, press and hold the Command key, and click outside the path you've finished creating so that it won't be connected to the path you'll create after it.

Creating the Twine Paths

Once you're done creating the paths, all the stencil shapes should be connected.

Twine Paths

8. Modifying the Twine's Brushes and Stroking the Paths

Step 1

Set the Foreground color to #afaba2, pick the Brush Tool, and open the Brush panel (Window > Brush). Under the Brush Tip Shape tab, modify the settings as below:

Brush Tip Shape

Step 2

Hit the Return key once to stroke the path with the modified brush tip.

Alternatively, you can pick the Direct Selection Tool (A), right-click the work path, and choose Stroke Path. Then, choose Brush from the Tool drop-down menu, make sure that the Simulate Pressure box is unchecked, and click OK.

Stroke Twine Path

Step 3

Under Brush Tip Shape in the Brush panel, choose the Hard Square 10 pixels brush tip, and modify its settings as shown below:

Brush Tip Shape

Step 4

Click the Shape Dynamics tab, change the values as shown below, and make sure to set the Angle Jitter Control value to Direction. This will make the brush tip's angle follow the path's direction.

Shape Dynamics

Step 5

Create a new layer on top of the Twine layer, call it Stripes, and stroke the path with the new brush tip.

Pick the Direct Selection Tool (A) and hit the Return key to get rid of the work path.

Stroke the Stripes

Step 6

Command-click the Twine layer's thumbnail to create a selection, select the Stripes layer, press the Command-J keys to duplicate the selection in a new layer, rename the copy layer to Stripes, and delete the original Stripes layer.

Duplicating the Stripes

Step 7

Change the Stripes layer's Fill value to 0, then duplicate the Twine layer, drag the copy below the original and rename it Twine Shadow.

Twine Shadow Layer

9. Styling the Twine and the Stripes Layers

Double-click the Twine layer to apply the following layer style:

Step 1

Add a Bevel and Emboss with these settings:

  • Size: 14
Bevel and Emboss

Step 2

Add a Texture with these settings:

  • Pattern: Concrete wall 3
  • Depth: 71%

Step 3

Add a Color Overlay with these settings:

  • Color: #f5f2ed

You can use any other color you like as well.

Color Overlay

This will style the twine.

Styled Twine

Step 4

Double-click the Stripes layer to apply a Color Overlay effect by changing the Blend Mode to Multiply, and using any color you like as well. Here, the color used is #ea4342.

Color Overlay

This will color the stripes.

Colored Stripes

10. Modifying the Twine's Shadow

Step 1

Select the Twine Shadow layer, and pick the Rectangular Marquee Tool. Select a piece of the twine, and go to Edit > Transform > Warp.

Select Twine Piece

Step 2

Transform the shadow using the Warp command just like you did for the original stencil shapes' shadows. Once you're done, go to Select > Deselect (Command-D) to get rid of the selection.

Warp Twine Shadow

Step 3

Repeat the same steps to select and warp each piece's shadow. It is better to keep the shadow a bit subtle for the little pieces connecting the stencil cards.

Warp Small Twine Pieces Shadow

11. Adding Vignette to the Final Result

Step 1

Click the Create a new fill or adjustment layer icon and choose Gradient.

Gradient Adjustment Layer

Step 2

Use a Transparent to Fill gradient with the colors #e3e1d5 to the left and #595959 to the right. Change the Style to Radial and the Scale to 450.

Gradient Fill Options

Step 3

Make sure that the Gradient layer is on top of all layers, and change its Blend Mode to Linear Burn.

Gradient Blend Mode

Step 4

Select the Background copy layer, go to Filter > Blur Gallery > Iris Blur, and change the Blur value under the Blur Tools panel to the right to 5.

You can change the shape of the ellipse by clicking and dragging the four dots that are connected by the line, and modify the Transition Area by clicking and dragging the four larger dots between the center pin and the outer blur line.

Iris Blur

This will add a simple vignetting effect to the final result.

Vignetted Result

Congratulations! You're Done

In this tutorial, we used a cardboard texture for the background, and adjusted its coloring and brightness.

Then, we used a couple of shape tools and options to create the main card shape, added the text, converted it to shapes, and merged it with the card shapes to get the final stencil shapes. We then duplicated those shapes to create the shadows, and converted all the shape layers into Smart Objects. We styled the layers, and used the Transform and Warp commands to move them around and reshape them, before adding a simple texture.

After that, we used the Pen Tool to create the twine's path, modified a couple of simple brushes to stroke the paths and add the stripes, and styled the stroked parts to add texture and color. We also warped the twine's shadow to match the cards' shadow.

Finally, we used a Gradient adjustment layer and the Iris Blur filter to add some vignetting to the final result.

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

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