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How to Create a Wavy Text Effect in Photoshop

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Final product imageFinal product imageFinal product image
What You'll Be Creating

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!

Tutorial Assets

 The following items are used in this tutorial:

Looking for more font choices? Any of the script fonts from this article would work perfectly:

1. Setting Up the Text

Step 1

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.

Creating a New DocumentCreating a New DocumentCreating a New Document

Step 2

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. 

Setting Initial TextSetting Initial TextSetting Initial Text

Step 3

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.

Creating a Smart ObjectCreating a Smart ObjectCreating a Smart Object

Step 4

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.

Photoshop Wave FilterPhotoshop Wave FilterPhotoshop Wave Filter

Step 5

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.

Wave FilterWave FilterWave Filter

Step 6

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. 

Warping Text in PhotoshopWarping Text in PhotoshopWarping Text in Photoshop

Step 7

Our wavy text is starting to take shape now! However, I want to push this further with some additional effects—let's experiment!

Work in ProgressWork in ProgressWork in Progress

2. Additional Effects

Step 1

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. 

Adding a Shadow and StrokeAdding a Shadow and StrokeAdding a Shadow and Stroke

Step 2

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. 

Clipping MasksClipping MasksClipping Masks

Step 3

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%.

Adding a GradientAdding a GradientAdding a Gradient

Step 4

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. 

Adding an OverlayAdding an OverlayAdding an Overlay

Step 5

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. 

Work in ProgressWork in ProgressWork in Progress

3. Putting It All Together

Step 1

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.

Setting up a New DocumentSetting up a New DocumentSetting up a New Document

Step 2

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.

Relinking a Smart ObjectRelinking a Smart ObjectRelinking a Smart Object

Step 3

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%.

Blending ModesBlending ModesBlending Modes

Step 4

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!

Duplicating Text EffectsDuplicating Text EffectsDuplicating Text Effects

Step 5

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. 

Screen Blending ModeScreen Blending ModeScreen Blending Mode

Step 6

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%.

Screen Blending ModeScreen Blending ModeScreen Blending Mode

Step 7

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.

Adding Background ElementsAdding Background ElementsAdding Background Elements

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!

Sample of Final Wavy Text EffectSample of Final Wavy Text EffectSample of Final Wavy Text Effect

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