Create a Cool 3D Graffiti Text Effect using Line Art in Photoshop

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Graffiti style text has a variety of applications in modern art, advertising and other forms of design.  While it can be created with 3D programs, similar effects can also be achieved using pure Photoshop.

In this tutorial, you’ll learn how to take a line art sketch of text and turn it into a 3D graffiti style text effect using some simple techniques and stock images.  You’ll learn how to take a concept, add the initial coloring, then use some well placed images to achieve a 3D effect, then finally use some brushes to add awesome extra effects.

Let’s get started!

Tools used:

  • Adobe Photoshop
  • Sketch or line art
  • Stock images

Final Image Preview:

Step 1: Obtaining or creating your own line art

The line art is the foundation to the final piece, without it we would have nothing. So where do you get it? The line art I used was created by a good friend named Sempai-tem (http://sempai-tem.deviantart.com/ )who collaborated with me on the creation of this piece. However you can create your own, find some on the net or just make a wireframe in a 3D application. Regardless of how you get it just make sure it’s something that you like.

The BXXX line art looks like the below screen shot.

Once you obtain your line art its important to figure out how you want to ‘transfer’ it into a digital piece. You have a few options; the pen tool, the paint brush, illustrator, the line tool etc… In the next few steps I will try and explain how I transferred Sempai’s line art into a digital piece and once that is done I will show you how to continue on to the final piece.

So step one, create a new document in Photoshop. As far as canvas size goes go with a ratio you like, I went with 2000*3000. Now just change your background color to black.

Next create a new layer and grab your 3px hard brush. Now trace the line art in white (or another color if you choose to do so).

While you still have the brush enabled start to draw lines along the top of your line art. This will be were our water ends, it’s the tip of the waves inside of our line art. If your water lines look rough don’t worry about it, the final piece is going to look very chaotic and the roughness of your lines will only add to the wonderful anarchy.

You can also take this time to shade some of your line art. This will help later on in determining where the light source could be, plus it looks cool!

Now we need to color our line art. To do this we will create a new layer and then grab a new brush.

Since we are going for a water theme I would suggest using a blue colored brush however the actual variation of blue does not matter. When filling your line art in use a lighter blue in the center and as you work your way out switch to darker tones of blue.

Also be sure to keep all of your colors inside of the lines, I know we want it chaotic but we don’t want it looking sloppy.

Now using the same brush on a new layer we will paint some shadows around the edges of our line art.

Step 2: Bringing life to the piece

So now that we have our line art colored we need to start dropping in stocks to make things a bit more interesting. So we can head over to Sxc and grab this stock image of the coral reef for starters :

http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1106518

Next we can free transform it down to about half the size and then grab a soft large erase and erase a good bit of it out. Be sure to erase any part that goes out of your line art!

If you’re having troubles with the colors mating up you can use your smudge tool with a soft brush to help and mix the colors.

Now we just repeat the process with a few other stocks, below Is a list of stocks that would work great for this!

http://www.sxc.hu/photo/289370

http://www.sxc.hu/photo/703374

http://www.sxc.hu/photo/785400

http://www.sxc.hu/photo/205441

http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1224059

http://www.sxc.hu/photo/902726

http://www.sxc.hu/photo/550988

http://www.sxc.hu/photo/520853

Next we can start adding in some fish and other animals. So to start off the fish isolation we will head over to Sxc once again and grab this stock http://www.sxc.hu/browse.phtml?f=download&id=226753

Once you have copied our fish into our Photoshop documents we can then press ‘CTRL SHIFT L’ to apply a level adjustment. However for these fish this step is optional, as you can see by my screen shot the fish only truly is adjusted on his bottom side, so it’s a personal taste, one I prefer but you may not. Now we need to cut that fish out of the white background. But there is no reason to further complicate things, so for this isolation we can just use the magic wand tool. To enable the magic wand tool press ‘W’ on your keyboard; once the tool is enabled go ahead and set your tolerance to 31% and then just click away. You will see it really only takes one click to isolate the little fish. Once you have grabbed it with the magic wand we can press the ‘DELETE’ key on our keyboard to erase that selection out.

Now just place him were ever you like and we are done with the first fish!

Now we will go back to Sxc again and grab this starfish http://www.sxc.hu/photo/204970 and paste him into our document.

Once our starfish is in the document we will begin isolating him out the same way we have isolated our fish. So press ‘W’ on the keyboard to enable the magic wand tool; with the magic wand tool select all the white as well as all the grey shadow areas around our starfish.

Now that we have our selection we can press ‘DEL’ on our keyboard to remove it all. Now we need to free transform the starfish as well as place him. To do this we will press ‘CTRL SHIFT T’ on the keyboard to enable the free transform tool and just drop the star fish down to a size you like. Now just place him somewhere on your line art and ta –da!

I choose to go back to the 3px brush and draw some lines as if the star fish is sliding and leaving goo behind but this is not necessary.

Now we can repeat this process with this stock image http://www.sxc.hu/photo/204974

Now we just continue isolating and placing fish/animal life all around and in our line art. I have compiled a list below of very nice stocks that you can use when doing this:

Step 3: Adding a bit of flare to the final piece

To start off we will go back again to Sxc and grab this stock of the shore.

http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1152037

Once you have dropped this into your document we will need to apply a layer mask and then invert it so nothing Is visible. **to apply a layer mask click the icon that looks like a square with a circle in the middle on your layer palette**

Once you have done this just grab one of your splatter brushes and throw down a few splates. Now move the layer to the very bottom and you should have something that looks similar to the below screenshot. But do note that you can do this as many times as you like with various stocks so long as you like the outcome.

Now we can start adding in a few splash stocks. First off go ahead and grab this wonderfull water splash stock located at Sxc.

http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1131843

Now just grab your elliptical marquee tool and select the top splash section as I have done in the below screenshot. Once you have this selected clear everything else.

Now, set your blending mode to screen and place it along the outside of your line art.

Next up is this stock image http://www.sxc.hu/photo/884261

We will repeat the above process of selecting only the part of the splash we want, erasing the rest, setting the blending mode to screen and placement.

Now we can just drop in a few more splashes and we are done with the splash section! Below is another list of splash stocks that would work great for this:

However keep in mind that when using splash stocks that have color you must desaturate them (CTRL SHIFT U).

Finally we will finish off with some bubbles. Bubbles are extremely easy to draw, but very hard to find nice stock of. So we will be drawing them. To do so set your brush up as mine in the below screenshot and then draw a few spheres with a light source and your done!

Now we are done! I hope you enjoyed reading this tutorial and picked up a few things along the way. If you have any questions regarding a procedure I used in the final creation or a step your didn’t understand please don’t hesitate to ask!

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