In this tutorial, we'll use Smart Objects to create a wavy text effect in Adobe Photoshop. We'll employ some water-inspired imagery, but these techniques could be applied to a variety of Photoshop text effects and visual directions. Let's get started!
The following items are used in this tutorial:
1. Setting Up the Text
First, create a New Document. This can be any size you prefer—think about whether you'd like your work to be print ready or at a resolution more appropriate for the web.
In this case, I'm going to work at 1700 x 1150 pixels.
Once you're happy with your settings, click OK.
Start by creating some text with the Text Tool. You're welcome to make the text say whatever you'd like.
In this case, I wrote out "Wavy Text" in the font Santoro Script. I did so in a light blue color.
Next, let's convert this Text Layer to a Smart Object.
To do so, select your Text Layer within your Layers panel. Right-Click (on PC) or Control-Click (on Mac) to open up a drop-down list.
Select Create Smart Object from this list.
Now, the text itself is preserved. We can add effects, but still go back and more easily adjust the text itself, if we need to.
There are a few ways that one could create a wavy text design. For example, we could use the Transform Tools, we could use different Distort Filters, and we could use the Warped Text Tools, too!
In this case, let's look at the Wave Filter.
First, select the layer that contains our Smart Object. Then, go to Filters > Distort > Wave.
There are a lot of options here—and I'd recommend digging right in and experimenting with them. Adjust the sliders to get a feel for what they do.
There are three types of waves: Sine, Triangle, and Square. We want Sine, in this case, as it looks like a wave.
We're also only going to use 2 Wave Generators.
The Wavelengths determine the distance between your "waves". You can define a minimum and a maximum for this.
In this case, I went with a Minimum of 217 and a Maximum of 425. These were the values that gave me what I was looking for in the preview.
The Amplitude determines the strength of your waves—do you want them to be really strong, or soft and subtle? Notice that, with the maximum at 999, things get really distorted! I went with a Minimum of 1 and a Maximum of 198.
Then, we have the Scale. This will affect the Height and Width of your waves. I went with 79% for my Horizontal Value and 34% for my Vertical Value—but, again, I recommend trying these values out for yourself. Play with the slider and take a look at how it affects your work. This is a great way to get a feel for how these things work. If your dimensions and font are different, you may prefer different values!
Once you're happy with your values, click OK.
I wanted to tweak mine a little further, so I went to Edit > Transform > Warp.
You'll notice the text reverts back to its old appearance while we're doing this—no worries! I wanted to turn the baseline of my text upwards, just to push some of the wavy look further. I also added a little extra curve towards the left-hand side.
Experiment with it! You might find that you want to add some tweaks to a different part of your text.
Our wavy text is starting to take shape now! However, I want to push this further with some additional effects—let's experiment!
2. Additional Effects
I decided I wanted to give the text an aesthetic that further plays into the idea of "waves", so I added both a Stroke (2 pixels) and a Drop Shadow (Distance 1, Size 6) to the text inside the Smart Object.
You can double-click to go back "inside" the Smart Object, if you'd like to! You'll see it's our original Text Layer.
Then, I went back to our document and placed some imagery within the text, using Clipping Masks.
I used this Wave Abstract Background as my base. Paste it into your document, then Select the Layer, and Right-Click (on PC) or Control-Click (on Mac). This will bring up a drop-down list—select Create Clipping Mask.
However, I didn't want to use the image as is. I duplicated my Clipping Mask, and decided to rearrange the image in a way that better reflected the wave shapes I'd created in the type.
Then, I added a gradient using the Gradient Tool—from a teal blue to a dark blue, again, as a Clipping Mask. The same method as prior applies here!
Set the Blending Mode to Color Burn, Opacity 76%.
I wanted to lighten up the top a little, so I added a light green color up here. To do so, I created a gradient, once again—but the gradient transitions from green to transparent.
You can change your gradient settings in the Options panel, when you have the Gradient Tool selected! Again, this Layer should be a Clipping Mask. The Blending Mode is set to Overlay, Opacity 32%.
If it feels awkwardly placed, you can Warp this gradient—via Edit > Transform > Warp—just as we did earlier, when tweaking our text. Keep the curvature of the type in mind.
Finally, using a light blue color, I made a Clipping Mask with the Blending Mode set to Lighten, Opacity 42%. This lightens things up a little bit!
Remove the Background Layer, so the background is transparent.
At this point, make sure to Save your work. We're going to use this file in a moment! I called mine wavy_text_base.psd.
3. Putting It All Together
Now, let's create another New Document the same size as our first.
Create a New Layer, in your Layers panel. Right-Click (on PC) or Control-Click (on Mac) and select Create Smart Object from the drop-down list.
Now, let's use the PSD we created earlier (I called mine wavy_text_base.psd) here.
Right-Click (on PC) or Control-Click (on Mac) on our Smart Object Layer. Then select Relink File.
Select the PSD file we made earlier, and it'll be visible within our new document.
Now, let's use Blending Modes to add some additional interest here.
First, I put my Smart Object Layer inside a folder, to keep things organized. I'm going to duplicate this folder several times, so I like to label my work, as well.
This first folder's Blending Mode is set to Pass Through/Normal, Opacity 40%.
Duplicate the folder twice. Set the Blending Mode on these two duplicates to Multiply, Opacity 100%.
I moved them slightly upwards and to the right, to give the text some depth. There's some interesting visual opacity here, too!
Duplicate the original folder once again. Set the Blending Mode on this duplicate to Screen.
Set the first screen folder to Opacity 80%. I moved this slightly upwards and to the right again, even more than the previous layers.
Finally, Duplicate the original folder one last time. We're going to set the Blending Mode on this duplicate to Screen, as well.
However, open up the folder and select the Smart Object. Apply a Gaussian Blur (Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur) at around 4 pixels. I just wanted a little bit of haze here; set the Opacity to 46%.
To wrap up, I added a gradient to the background, using the Gradient Tool. On a layer above the background (but below my type), I drew some bubbles using a Photoshop Bubble Stamp.
And There You Have It!
We've explored how to bend text in Photoshop to achieve a wavy text effect, as well as how to push this further with even more effects and considerations. I hope you've enjoyed exploring some of these possibilities with me!
Want to experiment with even more Photoshop text styles? Check out these fun, ready-to-go text effects!
Check out these beautiful watercolor effects! Easily add and edit your text via Smart Objects to create and apply these lovely effects—includes five different Photoshop templates to experiment with!
These text effects are so colorful and so fun! How about trying this one out with vector shapes too, to create some really interesting designs? It's as easy as editing the Smart Object in the included files.
There's so much to choose from here! These 3D text effects could fit a variety of projects, from film to gaming to a venue—they could make a great addition to any designer's library.
What a fun text effect, right? This one is perfect for birthdays and special occasions—imagine this text effect on invitations! If you love text effects, this is going to be a really fun one to play with.
Easily capture the look and feel of an old movie title with this text effect. Use Smart Objects to place and replace text in a snap! This is just one of many awesome Photoshop styles by ShinyPixel—check them out!
If you enjoyed this tutorial, here are some others to check out!
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