Photoshop Text Effect Tutorial {Portrait Text}

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Today’s Photoshop text effect tutorial is a doozy! You’re going to learn how to transform an image with layers of text.

This will include, but not limited to, creating a custom text brush, converting millions of colors into two, using layer masks, and more.

If you’re ready to master this Photoshop text effect, let’s get started!

Table of Contents

Note: the (above) video tutorial was created with Photoshop beginners in mind. The following step-by-step instructions are for more experienced users.

Step 1: Open Image + Crop

open your image and crop

We have an image for this project, and you can download it from here. Open the image in Photoshop, and the first thing we need to do is crop the file to a square format.

Image > Image Size, and set the Height to 1500px.

Next, go to; Image > Canvas Size, and set the Width to 1500px. Set the “Anchor” to the left-pointing arrow. After clicking OK, you’ll receive a message from Photoshop that states the following;

“The new canvas size is smaller than the current size; some clipping will occur.”

That’s o.k.; since that’s what we want to do, click “Proceed.”

Step 2: Create a Gradient Background

create gradient background

We’re now going to style our background with a gradient color. First, create a new layer (Shift + Command + N) called Gradient Background.

Grab your Gradient Tool (G) and click on the color box in the tool options. This will reveal the Gradient Editor, where you can choose a preset and or change the colors.

For the first color, I’m using #eebc5d and the second color is #daa236. You can now add the gradient to your new layer. For this design, the type of gradient is a Radial, which can be changed via the tool options.

Drag out your gradient from the center of the canvas. If you want it directly in the center, add a couple of guides to show you where it is;

View > New Guide Layout, then set both the columns and rows “numbers” to 2. Also, clear out the Gutter. Where the guides intersect is the dead center!

Step 3: Select With "Subject Select"

select your subject

Now we’re going to use the power of Photoshop and select our musician in one-click! Here’s how…

Next, we need to duplicate the musician onto his own layer. This can be done with one keyboard shortcut; Command or Ctrl + J. Double click the layer name to rename it to; Image 1 and hide the original Background layer.

Move your Image 1 layer to the top of all other layers and make your Gradient Color layer visible (click to the left again).

Note: Once you’ve duplicated the selection onto a new layer Photoshop auto deselects.

Step 4: Convert To B&W with Threshold

convert to b/w with threshold

You now need to convert this color image from millions of colors down to two; black and white. But how? It’s easy with the Threshold tool…

Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Threshold

At this point, we’ve lost some details in his face and hands. We can bring some of that back with the Threshold tool.

To do so, grab the center (triangle) icon just under the Histogram and drag it to the right. Place it right at the end of where the Histogram stops. For the exact same position I’m using, type in 196 in the Threshold Level box.

This Adjustment Layer is currently affecting all layers below it. To confine the edit to the layer below it (our musician), right-click on the Threshold layer and choose “Create Clipping Mask.”

Step 5: Use the Color Range Tool For Selecting Colors

use color range

Now, what we need to do is remove the white from his face and hands. When we’re done, we’ll have transparency in those areas.

Click on your Image 1 layer to select it. Next, we need to make another selection. This time we’re going to make a selection via a specific color; white.

Select > Color Range

Once the Color Range window is visible, you can select the white, from the image, with an eyedropper tool (it’s auto-activated). Click on a white part of the image to make the selection. Also, make sure you have the Fuzziness set to 25 before clicking OK.

Before removing the white, we need to Invert the selection with; Select > Inverse. Then, add a Layer Mask via the option at the bottom of your layers panel.

If you still see some white, you can fine-tune its removal with the Threshold adjustment layer. Double click on the left thumbnail of the Threshold layer. This will reveal the Properties box for the tool.

Adjust the triangle icon to the left until all the white is gone!

Step 6: Style Portrait Layers

style portrait layers

We are almost ready for some text! But first, let’s style our Image 1 layer by changing the Blending Mode to; Linear Burn. Also, change the Opacity to 80%.

Next, duplicate the layer with Command or Ctrl + J. Name it Image 2. Right-click on the original Image 1 layer and choose “Apply Layer Mask.” Then change the Blending Mode to; “Dissolve” and the Opacity to 25%.

Step 7: Create a Custom Text Brush

create custom brush

And now the fun begins with the creation of our custom brush made out of text! To add your text, grab your Text tool (T) and set the font to Aero. For the font size, I’m using 100 and black for the color.

Type out anything you’d like. For this project, I went with “Jazz for the soul.” Make sure you can see all your content. If not, your text brush will be incomplete. With your Move tool (V), reposition, so all the letters are visible if needed.

Next, hide all the layers except for the text tool. This way, nothing else is part of the brush.

To create the brush, go to; Edit > Define Brush Preset, give it a name, and click OK. Make sure to make all the layers visible again.

Since the text layer is no longer needed, either hide it or move the layer below your Gradient Color layer.

Now for the moment, you’ve been waiting for. Click on the Layer Mask of your Image 2 layer, grab your brush, and hover it over your canvas.

Boom! You now have a custom text brush!

Step 8: Apply Your Text Brush

apply text brush

It’s now time to apply the brush on your musician, and this will cut out part of it with the letters of your brush. The key is setting the foreground color to black. Black removes and white adds.

Once your color is set, right-click on your canvas and choose a relatively large brush. Let’s try around 450. Click on your canvas to cut-out the letters.

As I did in my design, all I did was alternate the brush size and stacked them throughout the image to create the final effect.

A quick way to adjust your brush size is with your bracket keys. The left bracket will make the brush smaller, and the right bracket will make it larger.

Step 9: Add More Text + Warp

add more text and warp

One more text effect for this design where you’ll learn how to warp your text. With your Text tool (T), type out the same content on three lines.

Next, with your Move tool (V), position near the saxophone. To warp the text, we will use our Free Transform tool (Command or Ctrl + T).

The secret to warping with the Free Transform tool is holding down your Command or Ctrl key and clicking/dragging a corner. As you do, the corner you clicked on will be affected.

It will then begin to change the perspective of the text as you move in or out. Adjust the corners to complete the design based on your creative vision.

The last thing I did was the style of the layer.

Practice Makes Perfect

Creating the portrait text effect with Photoshop is a whole lot easier than other software like GIMP. Although it will still take time and practice until you’re comfortable applying these methods.

So, that means it’s time to practice what you’ve learned! When you’re happy with your text effect design, I’d love to see your finished artwork.

If you’d like to share it, get feedback, or ask questions, I invite you to join our private Facebook group.

Looking for more Photoshop text effect tutorials? Check out this playlist that includes over 20 text effects you can create today!

Like this article? If so, please share!

A 30-year photography pro with a desire to help you achieve your creative vision! Facebook | Youtube

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