Text Effects

Create Colorful Ornamental Text Photoshop Tutorial

Continuing our series of text effect Photoshop tutorials, this week, we’ll be looking at how to use shapes (similar in style to those from our recent surreal tutorials) to create an ornamental text effect in Photoshop.   You’ll see how to wield the pen tool to create shapes, and how to paint as well as burn the shapes to create a 3D illusion.

Next, you’ll see how to use these shapes to form letters and create a fun colorful text effect.

A few other Photoshop text effect tutorials you might be interested in are:


Tools used:

  • Adobe Photoshop

Final Image Preview

Step 1: Document Creation/Background Creation

As usual, we will start by creating a new document. The size of and DPI of your document is up to you but keep in mind that its much easier to size something down then to boost up the size!  Having said that I went with 3000*2000 with a DPI of 300. Once you document is created we need to create a background, like normal we will start (and finish this time) with a simple gradient. With your colors set to light grey and white select the gradient tool (the one with the black on the outside and white on the inside) and draw a gradient like I have in the below screenshot. Keep in mind that if you just want the solid grey that’s fine, the white is not a dominant trait in the background so you can take it out if you like.

Now its time to start our text! To do this switch your type tool on (T on your keyboard) and set your type up as mine is in the below screenshot.  Keep in mind that this is a taste issue, the font can be changed as you like (as well as the text).

Now that you have it set up its time to drop your text down. I was originally going to do “I’m a loser baby, so why don’t you kill me” from the Beck song, not that I’m a huge fan or anything, but I ran out of time, so for me, “I’m a loser” will suffice. But you can place down any text you like for this.

Now due to the strange kerning of this font, I kept the “I am” text and “Loser” text on two separate layers, which is why they are represented here in yellow and red.

Now its time to hollow it out! To do this click the F on your layers menu and select “Stroke”. Once you have done that set yours up as mine is in the below screenshot.

Now once you have pressed ok change the FILL for your layer to 0% and leave the opacity at 100%. This should result in something like the below screenshot.

Now the “Loser” text.

Step 2: Shape creation

Now its time to make our shapes. We have discussed this before but it has been brought to our attention that some still don’t know exactly how to do it, so, this time around we hope to show the technique with a little bit more depth and clarity.

Now make a new layer and fill it with blue.

Now go ahead and grab your pen tool, P on your keyboard and set it up like mine is in the below screenshot.

Now just make a random loopy shape. Something like a distorted bean should work fine.

Once your shape is finished and closed (all the lines connect) right click and select make selection and then just press ok when the dialog box comes up.

Now we have a selection of our shape that we can cut and paste back into the document.

Now its time to dodge our blue shape and then burn it, this is the process that takes the flat 2D shape and makes it into a 3D shape.

So to start off press O on your keyboard and set your dodge tool up as mine is in the below screenshot, then just right click and set your brush up like mine in the below screenshot. Keep in mind my document size when you see my brush size, if your working on a document smaller like 1200*800 you will need to obviousally use a smaller brush!

Now just go along one of the sides with your brush, you see that it goes from dark blue to a light shade of cyan, this inturn becomes the side that’s in the light.

Now we can switch over to our burn tool, with the same brush and repeat this process on the opposite side.

Now despite the fact that there is no direct light source in our document you should still go with the basic idea of how this works. Take for instance the below screenshot, light comes from one side and hits the shape, this being our cyan side, the opposing side is darker because the light is not shinging on it, this in turn is the burnt side.

For now you could say our shape is complete and ready to be incorparated into the text. But why do thar if you can use this shape to make two other shapes? This can save you allot of time if done correctly, so lets go over how to go about doing it.

Start off by rotating your shape 90 degrees then apply a twirl filter like I have done below.

This should turn your shape into something like the below screenshot.

This in turn is another useable shape for us!  But wait, what if we liquified this shape?

Take a look at the below screenshot. Using the warp forward tool, I pushed inward on the right side, grabbed the right ‘tail’ and pulled it out and then grabbed the top section and did a 2 shaped motion. This turned the shape into the below screenshot.

This turned the shape into the below screenshot.

Remember this shape could also be twirled if you wanted!

But now its time to start making a lot of shpaes. Below is some screen caps of my shapes during creation.

I kept all of my shapes (un-3D’d) on a single layer, they look like the below screenshot.

Now lets take a look at two of my 3D shapes.

These both look fine, but we don’t want to make a all blue text piece (well maybe you do)!

So lets adjust the hue with our hue and saturation editor.

This makes our shape look like the below screenshot. And as you can see, its still 3D.

Whats the point? Well lets do it again.

This is NOT 3D. So on to the point, move carefully with your hue adjustments, or you could wind up with something like the above screenshot which is flat and well… boring. If you happen to run into this, maybe you cant seem to get a specific color the way you want it the way to go about fixing this is to just re-dodge/burn it in while it is the new color.

So now just continue make shapes! Once you have a unbelivable amount of shapes created in a variety of colors we can continue on to placement!

Step3: Text placement

Ok, so now we have our text made, hollowed out and we have a smogesborg of shapes its time to start throwing them down on the canvas!

So lets start off with the L in “loser” by placing a shape in the bottom section of it. Try to keep your shape in side the L’s outline.

Now just continue building up wards (or downwards), do not start in the middle and work your way out, this method just does not work as well at all.

As you can see in the above two screenshots another thing to keep in mind is color placement, as we have stated before, we do not want a all blue piece! So vary those colors! Put some green with blue or red, don’t bunch them all together!

Now as you can see in the below screenshot, my shapes do infact leave the saftey zone so to speak. But this is okay if you have just one or two shapes that barley drift outwards, what you don’t want is long pieces sticking out that obstruct the shape of your letter so much so that the letter is no longer recognizeable.

My finished L looks like the below screenshot.

Now continue on with the rest of your letters, my finished font looks like the below screenshot.

I then duplicated all of my shapes, grayscaled the duplicated layer and set it to overlay at 50% opacity. This is not required but in my case it helped define the highlights and shadows of my shapes.

And now we are done, I hoped this time we shed all of the ‘light’ on this needed so you can go on to create your own works of art using this great and simple technique! The below screenshot is my finished image.

I hope you enjoyed reading my tutorial and wound up with an image you like! Or came out with knowing a few new tricks! If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to ask.

Also, if you have any ideas for future tutorials please say so!


  1. Hi, I’m Agnes . I found your tutorial to be very interesting, so I’d like to ask your permission to translate it into Italian and for the opensource program Gimp. Obviously, all the needed credits will be inserted. Thanks for your attention and goodbye.

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