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How to Write in the Sand in Adobe Photoshop

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What You'll Be Creating

Did you know that you can draw in the sand in Photoshop? Layer Styles make it pretty easy, actually. In this tutorial I’ll show you how to create a sand text effect in Photoshop. We’re not going to use any special sand writing font, but instead we’ll play with the layer style settings to keep the effect easy to replicate and modify.

But if you want to save time, you can use Envato Elements instead. A subscription to Envato Elements gives you access to millions of creative assets, including this sand Photoshop action. This action will turn any text into sand typography in seconds—you just need to click "play"!

sand text effect psdsand text effect psdsand text effect psd

Tutorial Assets

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

What You Will Learn in This Sand Text Effect Photoshop Tutorial

  • How to create sand typography without a sand writing font
  • How to draw in the sand in Photoshop
  • How to create a sand texture for Photoshop

Follow along with us over on our Envato Tuts+ YouTube channel:

1. Load the Nature Patterns Set

Open the Patterns panel, open its menu, and select Legacy Patterns and More—this will load the older patterns to the pattern library.

Loading the Nature Patterns SetLoading the Nature Patterns SetLoading the Nature Patterns Set

2. Create the Background for Your Sand Typography

Step 1

Open the SoilSand0204 image, and then go to Image > Adjustments > Color Balance. With the Midtones option under Tone Balance selected, change the Color Levels' values to 8, -1, and -26.

Adjusting the Color BalanceAdjusting the Color BalanceAdjusting the Color Balance

Step 2

Click the Highlights option, and change its Color Levels' values to 5, -1, and -5. This will adjust the coloring of the sand texture.

Adjusting the Color BalanceAdjusting the Color BalanceAdjusting the Color Balance

Step 3

Right-click the background layer and select Duplicate Layer.

Duplicating the Background LayerDuplicating the Background LayerDuplicating the Background Layer

Step 4

Go to Image > Adjustments > Levels, and change the Gamma value to 0.80 to darken the texture a little bit.

Adjusting the LevelsAdjusting the LevelsAdjusting the Levels

3. Create the Text Without a Sand Font

Step 1

Create the text in All Caps using the font GelPen Medium. The font Size is 350 pt, the Tracking value is 100, the color is #6c6760, and if you're creating more than one line of text, make sure to adjust the Leading value as needed. Here, it is set to 300 pt.

Creating the TextCreating the TextCreating the Text
Although it's not a special sand font, it will work great for this purpose.
text propertiestext propertiestext properties

Step 2

Change the text layer's Blend Mode to Soft Light, and then duplicate it.

Changing the Blend ModeChanging the Blend ModeChanging the Blend Mode

4. Style the Text Layers

Step 1

Double-click the original text layer to apply an Inner Shadow effect using the following values:

  • Uncheck the Use Global Light box
  • Angle: -180
  • Distance: 20
  • Size: 20
Inner ShadowInner ShadowInner Shadow

This will add a simple inner shadow effect.

ResultResultResult

Step 2

Double-click the copy text layer to apply the following Layer Style:

  • Technique: Chisel Hard
  • Direction: Down
  • Size: 70
  • Check the Anti-aliased box
  • Shadow Mode - Opacity: 100%
Bevel and EmbossBevel and EmbossBevel and Emboss

Step 3

In the Contour settings, create your own contour this way:

ContourContourContour
how to create log contourhow to create log contourhow to create log contour

This will help define the inner text shape.

ResultResultResult

5. Add Sand Around the Letters

Step 1

Right-click any of the text layers and choose Create Work Path. Create a new layer on top of all layers, call it 1, and pick the Brush Tool.

Work PathWork PathWork Path
work pathwork pathwork path

Step 2

Open the Brush panel (Window > Brush), choose a hard round brush tip, and modify its settings as shown below:

Brush Tip Shape

Brush Tip ShapeBrush Tip ShapeBrush Tip Shape

Step 3

Shape Dynamics

Shape DynamicsShape DynamicsShape Dynamics

Step 4

Pick the Direct Selection Tool (A), right-click the path, and choose Stroke Path.

Choose Brush from the Tool drop-down menu, and click OK. Then hit Enter/Return to get rid of the work path.

Stroke the Work PathStroke the Work PathStroke the Work Path
stroke textstroke textstroke text

6. Modify the Edges' Stroke

Step 1

Command-click the stroke layer (layer 1)'s thumbnail to create a selection.

Create a SelectionCreate a SelectionCreate a Selection
selection resultselection resultselection result

Step 2

Go to Select > Modify > Contract, and type in 3.

Modify the SelectionModify the SelectionModify the Selection

Step 3

Go to Select > Modify > Feather, and type in 2.

Modify the SelectionModify the SelectionModify the Selection

Step 4

Make the stroke layer invisible by clicking the eye icon next to it, then select the Background copy layer.

Modify the SelectionModify the SelectionModify the Selection

Step 5

Press Command-J to duplicate the selection into a new layer. It will be called Layer 1 by default. Drag Layer 1 on top of all layers.

Modify the StrokeModify the StrokeModify the Stroke

7. Style the Modified Stroke

Step 1

Double-click Layer 1 to apply the following Layer Style:

  • Check the Anti-aliased box
  • Highlight Mode: Soft Light
  • Color: #ffe1ba
  • Shadow Mode: Linear Burn
  • Color: #d0c1ab
Bevel and EmbossBevel and EmbossBevel and Emboss

Step 2

Use the default Contour values.

ContourContourContour

Step 3

  • Pattern: Spiky Bush
PatternPatternPattern

Step 4

This will style the stroke.

ResultResultResult

8. Create a Transition Area

Step 1

To help blend the stroke with the sand texture more seamlessly, we're going to add a transition area that feathers out to make the effect look more natural, so create a selection based on layer 1 again.

Create a SelectionCreate a SelectionCreate a Selection
selection resultselection resultselection result

Step 2

Go to Select > Modify > Expand, and type in 7.

Modify the SelectionModify the SelectionModify the Selection

Step 3

Go to Select > Modify > Feather, and type in 5.

Modify the SelectionModify the SelectionModify the Selection

Step 4

Command-Shift-click a text layer's thumbnail to add it to the selection you have, so that the selection doesn't have any empty areas inside.

Modify the SelectionModify the SelectionModify the Selection

Step 5

Select the original Background layer, and then press Command-J to duplicate the selection on a new layer. That layer will be called Layer 2. Drag it on top of both Background layers and right below the original text layer.

Modify the Transition AreaModify the Transition AreaModify the Transition Area

Step 6

Double-click Layer 2 to apply a Drop Shadow effect using the values below:

  • Blend Mode: Linear Burn
  • Color: #e8e3dc
  • Uncheck the Use Global Light box
  • Angle: 139
  • Distance: 19
  • Size: 18
Drop ShadowDrop ShadowDrop Shadow

You can see how this is starting to blend in more nicely.

ResultResultResult

9. Create the Raised Sand's Stroke

Step 1

Pick the Brush Tool and open the Brush panel again. With the hard round tip still selected, modify the settings as shown below:

Brush Tip Shape

Brush Tip ShapeBrush Tip ShapeBrush Tip Shape

Step 2

Shape Dynamics

Shape DynamicsShape DynamicsShape Dynamics

Step 3

Scattering

ScatteringScatteringScattering

Step 4

Right-click the text layer and choose Create Work Path, create a new layer below the original text layer and call it Stroke Shadow, pick the Direct Selection Tool, and set the Foreground color to #404040.

Create the Work PathCreate the Work PathCreate the Work Path

Step 5

Stroke the path just like you did before, and don't forget to get rid of the work path afterwards.

Stroke the Work PathStroke the Work PathStroke the Work Path

10. Modify and Style the Raised Sand's Stroke

Step 1

Command-click the Stroke Shadow layer's thumbnail to create a selection.

create selectioncreate selectioncreate selection

Step 2

Select the Background copy layer, press Command-J, rename the duplicated layer to Stroke, and then drag it on top of the Stroke Shadow layer.

Duplicate the Selected AreaDuplicate the Selected AreaDuplicate the Selected Area

Step 3

Right-click Layer 1, choose Copy Layer Style, and then right-click the Stroke layer, and choose Paste Layer Style to style the raised sand stroke.

Apply Layer StyleApply Layer StyleApply Layer Style

11. Modify the Raised Sand's Shadow

Step 1

Select the Stroke Shadow layer, and then go to Filter > Blur > Motion Blur. Change the Angle to -30 and the Distance to 20.

Motion BlurMotion BlurMotion Blur

Step 2

Change the Stroke Shadow layer's Blend Mode to Linear Light, and then press Control-T and add 10 to both the X and Y values to move the shadow diagonally.

Modify the Stroke ShadowModify the Stroke ShadowModify the Stroke Shadow
move shadow diagonallymove shadow diagonallymove shadow diagonally
shadow resultshadow resultshadow result

Step 3

Command-click the text layer's thumbnail to create a selection, make sure that the Stroke Shadow layer is still the active one, and then hit Delete to get rid of the shadow's inner parts. Go to Select > Deselect when done.

Modify the Stroke ShadowModify the Stroke ShadowModify the Stroke Shadow
inner shadow removedinner shadow removedinner shadow removed

12. Add the Starfish

Step 1

Open the image with the starfish, press W, and click Select Subject. Copy the selected area.

Select the StarfishSelect the StarfishSelect the Starfish
starfish selectedstarfish selectedstarfish selected

Step 2

Back in the original document, go to Edit > Paste, and place the starfish's layer on top of all layers. Go to Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation, and change the Saturation to -18 to tone the color vibrancy down a bit.

position the starfishposition the starfishposition the starfish
Adjust the HueSaturationAdjust the HueSaturationAdjust the HueSaturation

Step 3

Double-click the starfish's layer to apply the following Layer Style:

  • Opacity: 35%
  • Uncheck the Use Global Light box
  • Angle: -30
Inner ShadowInner ShadowInner Shadow

Step 4

  • Blend Mode: Multiply
  • Opacity: 55%
  • Color: #d8d2ca
  • Size: 16
Outer GlowOuter GlowOuter Glow

Step 5

  • Blend Mode: Linear Light
  • Color: #404040
  • Uncheck the Use Global Light box
  • Angle: 138
  • Noise: 20
Drop ShadowDrop ShadowDrop Shadow

This will add a simple shadow to the starfish.

ResultResultResult

Step 7

Now use the same method as before to add sand around the starfish. To create a Work Path from an image, Control-click its thumbnail, and then go to the Paths tab and click Make Work Path from Selection.

Then stroke the selection on a new layer under the starfish, and turn it into a selection to duplicate a part of the background copy layer. Paste the Layer Style to it, and add a motion blur to the shadow.

create work path from imagecreate work path from imagecreate work path from image
starfish effectstarfish effectstarfish effect

Step 8

If you want to make the sand effect subtler, group both of these new layers and add a Layer Mask to it. Paint on the layer mask with black using a soft brush to remove some of the sand.

add layer maskadd layer maskadd layer mask
less sandless sandless sand

13. Adjust the Colors

Step 1

Click the Create new fill or adjustment layer icon down the Layers panel and choose Curves.

CurvesCurvesCurves

Step 2

Adjust the curves as shown below. You can also click the little hand with arrows icon then click and drag in the image to modify the brightness as you like.

CurvesCurvesCurves
curves resultcurves resultcurves result

Step 3

Click the Create new fill or adjustment layer icon again and choose Solid Color.

Solid ColorSolid ColorSolid Color

Step 4

Use the color #b1a99c, change the layer's Blend Mode to Color Burn and its Opacity to 20%.

Solid ColorSolid ColorSolid Color
solid color resultsolid color resultsolid color result

14. Apply the Lighting Filter

Step 1

Press Control-Alt-Shift-E to create a merged layer on top. Change its name to Final

Lighting EffectsLighting EffectsLighting Effects

Step 2

Go to Filter > Render > Lighting, choose the Spot light, then move and scale it around as you like.

Lighting EffectsLighting EffectsLighting Effects

Step 3

Change the rest of the settings as shown below. The colors used in RGB are:

  • Color: 246, 242, 234
  • Colorize: 247, 240, 223
Lighting EffectsLighting EffectsLighting Effects

15. Add the Foam

Step 1

Place the WaterFoam0018 image on top of all layers and change its Blend Mode to Screen, then go to Image > Adjustments > Desaturate (if your layer is a Smart Object, right-click it and select Rasterize Layer first). Move the foam downwards as needed, then, you can pick the Eraser Tool (E) with a soft round tip, and remove any parts you don't like.

Adding the FoamAdding the FoamAdding the Foam
change mode to screenchange mode to screenchange mode to screen
foam resultfoam resultfoam result

Step 2

Create a new layer below the foam layer and call it Water. Pick the Lasso Selection Tool then draw a selection following the foam's edges, leaving some distance away from it. Fill that selection with the color #b2b3ad.

draw the waterdraw the waterdraw the water
fill the waterfill the waterfill the water

Step 3

Go to Select > Deselect. Change the Water layer's Blend Mode to Multiply and its Opacity to 20%.

Adding the FoamAdding the FoamAdding the Foam
change blend mode to multiplychange blend mode to multiplychange blend mode to multiply

Step 4

Go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur, and change the Radius to 5.

Gaussian BlurGaussian BlurGaussian Blur
gaussian blur effectgaussian blur effectgaussian blur effect

Step 5

Duplicate the Water layer, then change the copy's Opacity to 15. Drag the copy down some more to create a darker layer in between the Water layer and the foam layer.

lower the opacitylower the opacitylower the opacity
Adding the FoamAdding the FoamAdding the Foam

Step 6

The brush tip will give you a different result each time you use it. So you can always try it a couple of times until you get a result you like if needed.

Getting Different Stroke OutcomesGetting Different Stroke OutcomesGetting Different Stroke Outcomes

Congratulations! You're Done

Now you know how to write in the sand in Photoshop!

In this tutorial, we modified a sand texture background, and then we created and styled the text to add an inner shadow and some depth.

Then, we modified a couple of brushes to create stroke layers to achieve the outer sand and raised sand parts, as well as a simple transition stroke to help blend the text with the sand nicely. We styled all the layers and modified them to create a sand-like appearance and add the shadows.

We then added a simple starfish to the scene using the same techniques to blend it in, and we used a couple of adjustment layers to enhance the coloring and the brightness of the final outcome.

Then we added foam, and finally we merged the rest of the layers to apply a lighting filter to get the final result.

sand text effect photoshopsand text effect photoshopsand text effect photoshop

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You can create a variety of text effects in Photoshop, but it requires time and skill. With Envato Elements, you can achieve the same effects faster and with guaranteed results!

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Sand Photoshop ActionSand Photoshop ActionSand Photoshop Action

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Retro 3D Text Effect Action PSDRetro 3D Text Effect Action PSDRetro 3D Text Effect Action PSD

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CyberPunk Text EffectCyberPunk Text EffectCyberPunk Text Effect

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Secret Text EffectSecret Text EffectSecret Text Effect

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