Typography Portrait Tutorial in Photoshop

CREATE THIS TYPOGRAPHY EFFECT WITH PHOTOSHOP! | Learn to create a text pattern with fonts, handwriting, or even artwork to build a typography effect that has depth and looks great when it’s applied over a portrait.

Related Word Generator
Google Docs Add-On “Remove Line Breaks”

In this Photoshop tutorial, we’ll take a look at using some free tools on the web to create a bunch of words for a text-based pattern and then we’ll transfer that pattern to an image and I’ll show you how to apply that pattern to the skin of a person and make it look like it’s almost cut into them. It’s a pretty cool effect that I really think you’ll like! Thanks for watching!

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Tutorial Recording Notes:

Disclaimer: these are the actual notes I used to record this video and are written in a language you may or may not understand. Hopefully, you find them useful or cool.

Alright, so here we are in Photoshop. This whole process begins by choosing an image onto which we’d like to apply this typography effect. I have this image here that I really like for this effect. To keep things simple and uniform, I’m going to use the crop tool. This will both re-ratio this photo to a perfect square and also resize the photo to 2048 pixels by 2048 pixels. You can set dimensions in pixels in the top control bar when you select the Crop Tool.

To create the type pattern that will be pressed into her skin, create a new Photoshop document at the same size as your photo. In our case that’s 2048 by 2048. Next, I like to use the website relatedwords.org to load a clean list of words related to whatever this image will refer to. Let’s say that she is a writer. We’ll use the main keyword “literature” and see what relatedwords.org can come up with. Of course, you can always take the time to come up with your own list of 50 or so words if you prefer.
Highlight this list of words, or most of them at least, and then head over to Google Drive. You’ll see why I prefer Google Drive for this step over pretty much anything else. Create a new text document in Google Drive and paste in all of your text without formatting. Use (CMD/CTRL + SHIFT + V) to paste in plain text without all the accouterments. The issue we will have is that we now have a long list of words each on their own line. This is where Google Drive comes in clutch for me. I use the totally free and super cool Google Docs Add-On called “Remove Line Breaks”. https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/remove-line-breaks/dgbncojjjfdgjpdojcmnimijghoonojd?hl=en.
Highlight all the text, go to the Add-ons menu, choose Remove Line Breaks and then choose In Selected Text. Copy this text to your clipboard by hitting CMD/CTRL + C. We now have a block of plain text ready to be pasted into Photoshop.
Head back to Photoshop and into the new blank document we created. Select the Text tool and drag out a text selection over the entire document. Next, paste in the series of words we just copied from Google Docs. Now begins the process of editing and sizing the text to make this look reasonably proper.
Open the Character Panel by going Window>Character and find a font you like for your text. I’m going to go with Playfair Display SC at the bold weight. I’ll set the font size to 80pt. I’ll set the line height to 60pt to smush the text together a bit. I’ll also choose the little “All Caps” button near the bottom of the character panel to make all the text uppercase as well. Also, make sure your text is colored black. NOTE: If you’re working on a much larger or smaller document, your sizing setting will be different. These are just what I thought looked pretty good for this document size.
Next, open the Paragraph panel by going Window>Paragraph. Here we’re going to choose to justify the text to the left. This is going to make the text look all funky and stretched out. Simply tick on “Hyphenate” to help even out the mess and get a nice, cohesive, solid block of type.
Next, duplicate this text layer three times. Shut off the top three versions by hitting the little eyeball icon in the Layers Panel. Select the one visible version and go Edit>Free Transform. Rotate the block of text about 8º counterclockwise. Size it upward by holding CMD/CTRL + ALT/OPT and dragging any corner handle until it fills out the document once again. Set this layer to 30% opacity. Turn on the next text layer. With this layer selected, once again go Edit>Free Transform, but this time rotate the text 20º clockwise. Again, scale the text upward to fill the document. Set this layer to 60% opacity. Add a Drop Shadow to this layer of text that is set to Normal blend mode, 50% opacity, color is black, angle is 90º, distance is 2px, and the size is 2px. Next, Turn on the third layer of text and add a Drop Shadow here as well. The settings should be Normal blend mode, 80% opacity, color is black, angle is 90º, distance is 4px, and the size should be 3px. Next, turn on the fourth text layer and select it. Go Edit>Free Transform and rotate the text 15º counterclockwise and scale to make this about 160% of the original text size. Before committing the free transform, right-click inside the transform box and choose “Flip Vertical” and then Flip Horizontal” to mess this text up a bit. Right click on the third text layer (the one right below this) and choose to copy the layer styles from it and paste them onto this layer. Then set this layer to 75% opacity. Now, merge all of these layers to a new layer by hitting Cmd/Ctrl + Shift + Alt/Opt + E. This new layer is our pattern.
NOTE: You can use all sorts of different fonts, rotations, opacity levels, drop shadow strengths, and sizings to create a huge amount of different style of typography patterns. Make sure you take a moment to save this document before we continue.
Now that we’ve created our pattern, let’s head back to the photograph. Duplicate the background layer by hitting Cmd/Ctrl + J and convert this new layer to a Smart Object. Add 2x inverted black and white gradient maps to this Smart Object for a high contrast black and white photo. Also, add a 4px Gaussian blur to the image. Save this PSD as “displace.psd” somewhere on your hard drive. Next, go File>Save As and save this PSD again as “working-file.psd” just so we don’t accidentally save over our displace map file.
Now let’s drag the pattern into the image file. TIP: Hold down the Shift key while dragging it over to ensure it lands exactly in the middle of our image. Set this pattern layer to the blend mode Multiply. Add an Invert Adjustment Layer by going Layer>New Adjustment Layer>Invert. Clip this Adjustment Layer to the typography pattern layer by hitting Cmd/Ctrl + Alt/Opt + G.
Next, hide the pattern layer for a moment. Shut off the Gaussian blur in our Smart Object layer. Use the Quick Selection tool to grab a rough selection around our model. Use the Select and Mask tool to further refine that selection and make it reasonable. It doesn’t have to be perfect, just good enough. Choose to output a selection.
Turn on the typography pattern and Invert layers. Select both layers in the Layers panel by Shift + clicking them and hit CMD/CTRL + G to group them.
NOTE: The selection we outputted from Select and Mask should still be active. Using that selection, go Layer>Layer Mask>Reveal Selection. This will constrain the typography pattern to just the model in our photo. Open that layer group that we just created and select the typography layer. Convert it to a Smart Object and go Filter>Distort>Displace. Leave all the settings at default and hit OK. Navigate to where you have saved your displacement map on your hard drive and load it.
Next, go Filter>Sharpen>Smart Sharpen and apply a 200%, 1.0px radius, 40% noise reduction pass of sharpening to this typography layer.
Add a mask directly to this pattern layer and hit the letter D to set black as your foreground color. Grab the brush tool, use a large, soft-edged brush and paint the type pattern away from some detailed areas of the head and face. I’m painting away bits of this pattern over the eyes, the hair, and maybe a little tiny bit in some of the darker shadow areas of the face as well. Do this to taste as you think your image can use it.
TIP: you can ALT/OPT + click your mask to make sure areas like the hair are fully painted over with black. This ensures you don’t miss any bits of pattern that may be difficult to see.
Duplicate the underlying black and white image by holding down the ALT/OPT key and drag it up above this layer group containing your type pattern layer. Go Filter>Other>High Pass and set a High Pass filter of 7-10px onto this layer. Set this layer to the Overlay blend mode and 50% opacity. Add a Curves Adjustment Layer that will boost the contrast, but particularly the level of the whites in this image. Let’s colorize this thing. Add a Gradient Map adjustment layer that runs #2a1a21 to #fffadd. I also found this cool watercolor effect on Adobe Stock. I’m going to position it near the top of the image, set it to the blend mode of Multiply, and mask it around the model’s head.
Next, we’ll add a little more intensity to this color with a LUT, or Lookup Table. However, to prepare for that boost of intensity and contrast, let’s dull the image by adding a Levels Adjustment Layer. Set the Output black slider to 40 and the Output white slider to 225. Now add the Color Lookup Table Adjustment Layer and choose the EdgyAmber.3DL LUT which is included with Photoshop. Set this layer to the blend mode of Soft Light to complete the effect. One last thing to tweak the color a little more is to add a Selective Color Adjustment Layer and just boost the blues, magentas, and cyans in the Neutrals and Blacks. And there we have it! A completed typography portrait effect that will be sure to impress anyone!