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How to Create a Newspaper Ransom Note Text Effect in Adobe Photoshop

This post is part of a series called Communication Week.
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Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

This tutorial will show you how to use a bunch of fonts, shapes, textures, and a brush tip, to create a newspaper-cut ransom note text effect in Adobe Photoshop. Let's get started!

This text effect was inspired by the many Layer Styles available on GraphicRiver.

Tutorial Assets

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

1. How to Create the Background and Text Layers

Step 1

Create a new 1000 x 1000 px document, click the Create new fill or adjustment layer icon at the bottom of the Layers panel, choose Solid Color, and use the color fill #f6f6f6.

Solid Color

Step 2

Create the text, each letter in a separate layer, and use as many different fonts and font sizes as you like, but make sure to set the Color to #565656.

Place each letter in a group that has its name, and put each word's letters in a group with the word's name.

Create the Text

Step 3

After that, you'll need to add some letters, before and/or after each of the letters you have, to make the effect look more realistic, since letters are not usually found separately in newspapers.

Add Random Letters

2. How to Add Shapes and Dummy Text Blocks

Step 1

Pick the Rectangle Tool, and create lines below some of the letters you have.

If you make any additions to any text you have, put the letter's layer along with those additions' layer(s) in a new group inside the original letter's group.

This will help keep things organized and easier to work with.

Add Line Shapes

Step 2

To add dummy text to any of the letters you have, pick the Type Tool, click-drag a box below the letters you want to add the dummy text to, and go to Type > Paste Lorem Ipsum.

Change the font and font size to whatever values you like.

Paste Lorem Ipsum

Step 3

You can remove parts of the dummy text if you add it to multiple letters, to avoid having repeated blocks of text.

Remove Some of the Dummy Text

Step 4

Another thing you can do is use the Rectangle Tool to add boxes behind the letters. If you do so, set the box's fill color to #565656 and the text color to #ececec.

Add Boxes

3. How to Add Layer Masks

Step 1

Pick the Lasso Tool, select a letter group, and draw a selection around the letter you need to show, which is the letter in the group's name.

Try to shape the selection like a torn piece of paper.

Here is where adding the random letters to the original comes in handy, as you can include parts of them to make the effect look more realistic.

Make a Selection

Step 2

After creating the selection, click the Add layer mask icon at the bottom of the Layers panel.

Add Layer Mask

Step 3

Repeat that to mask the rest of the letter groups. You can adjust the mask whenever needed, so don't worry about making it perfect now.

Mask the Remaining Letter Groups

4. How to Add a Basic Paper Texture

Step 1

Place the Paper Grain Texture image at the bottom of the first letter's group, and resize it as needed.

Add the Paper Grain Texture

Step 2

Change the Blend Mode of the layer or group on top of the Paper Grain Texture's layer to Linear Burn.

Change the Blend Mode

Step 3

Duplicate the Paper Grain Texture layer, and repeat the steps to add it to the remaining letters.

Add the Texture to the Remaining Letters

Step 4

If you need to move a group's mask after adding the texture, you can unlink the mask from the group by clicking the link icon between their thumbnails, and then move the mask and relink it to the group once again.

Move the Layer Mask

5. How to Add a Crumpled Paper Texture

Step 1

Place the Paper Texture (1) at the top of the first letter's group, resize it as needed, and change its layer's Blend Mode to Multiply.

Add the Paper Texture 1 Image

Step 2

Duplicate the texture and add it to the rest of the letter groups.

Duplicate for the Remaining Letters

6. How to Create a Torn Edges Brush Tip

Pick the Brush Tool and open the Brush panel.

Choose the Chalk 23 pixels tip, and use these settings:

Brush Tip Shape

Brush Tip Shape

Shape Dynamics

Shape Dynamics

7. How to Create a Work Path From a Selection

Step 1

Command-click the first letter group's mask thumbnail to create a selection.

Create a Selection

Step 2

Open the Paths panel, and click the Make work path from selection icon at the bottom of the panel.

Make Work Path from Selection

8. How to Stroke a Work Path

Step 1

Make sure that the Brush Tool is active with the modified tip, and that the first letter group's mask thumbnail is selected, and set the Foreground Color to Black.

Prepare to Stroke the Work Path

Step 2

Hit the Return key to stroke the path with the brush tip, and add the torn edges effect to the mask.

Stroke the Work Path

Step 3

Repeat that for the rest of the letters you have.

Once you're done, pick the Direct Selection Tool (A), and hit the Return key one last time to get rid of the work path.

Stroke the Remaining Letters Masks

9. How to Add White Torn Edges

Step 1

To make the effect more realistic, we are going to add some white edges to the torn ones we already have.

Start by adding the paper texture (2) image below the first letter's group, and make sure it's placed outside it.

Add the paper texture 2 Image

Step 2

Press-hold the Option key, and click-drag the letter group's mask to the paper texture (2) layer to duplicate it.

Duplicate the Layer Mask

Step 3

Pick the Move Tool, and use the Right and Down Arrow Keys to slightly nudge the paper texture (2) image away from the letter's paper.

Step 4

Again, repeat for the remaining letters.

Repeat for the Remaining Letters

10. How to Add a Drop Shadow

Step 1

Double-click the first latter's paper texture (2) layer to apply a Drop Shadow effect with these settings:

  • Opacity: 35%
  • Distance: 3
  • Size: 7
Drop Shadow

Step 2

Right-click the styled layer, choose Copy Layer Style, select all the other paper texture (2) layers, right-click any of them, and choose Paste Layer Style.

Copy and Paste Layer Style

11. How to Create a Bleed-Through Effect

Step 1

To add a bleed-through effect, add some Lorem Ipsum text at the top of a letter's group.

Add Lorem Ipsum Text

Step 2

Go to Edit > Transform > Flip Horizontal, and change the layer's Opacity to 10%.

Repeat to add to any other letters.

Flip Horizontal

12. How to Transform Groups of Elements

Step 1

Before making any changes, you can change some of the colors to red and blue. The values used here are #d66161 for the red, and #6a8ebc for the blue.

Change the Colors

Step 2

Next, we are going to transform some of the letters to create a more dynamic result.

Select the letter's group and its paper texture (2) layers, and press Command-T to enter Free Transform Mode.

If you try to make any changes right away, you might notice that they will happen in a slightly odd manner. This is because the paper textures are quite large, and the anchor/pivot point is not in the center of the letter itself.

To solve this issue, press-hold the Option key, and click-drag the anchor point to the center of the letter.

Reposition the Anchor Point

Step 3

Move, rotate, and resize the letter as needed. Hit the Return key to commit the changes.

Transform the Letter

Step 4

Repeat the same steps to transform any other letters you like.

Transform More Letters

13. How to Add a Simple Background Texture

Step 1

Add another copy of the paper texture (2) image on top of the Solid Color layer, resize it as needed, and change its layer's Opacity to 50%.

Add the Background Texture

Step 2

Keep in mind that you can adjust the fonts, sizes, and layer mask shapes anytime until you like the outcome.

Make Final Changes

Congratulations! You're Done

In this tutorial, we created a bunch of text layers with different fonts and font sizes, grouped them, and added a couple of paper texture images to them.

We also created shapes, added dummy text, and adjusted a torn edges brush tip to create the layer masks.

Finally, we changed the coloring of some of the elements, and transformed a couple to achieve the final outcome.

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

Final Result
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