How to Make the “Pete’s Dragon” Text Effect in Photoshop

Let’s create the mystical, fantasy styled text from the new version of the Pete’s Dragon movie! In this Photoshop text effect tutorial we’ll try to work with fonts, but instead settle on a sketch and build our own font in Photoshop from a sketch and begin adding all the effects, colors, and lighting effects to this really neat little bit of graphic design. It’s not my longest tutorial, but you’re definitely going to enjoy this one. Such fun!

Background: https://unsplash.com/photos/eiqJBh7eHDU
TypeKit Font: Monarcha
Free Fonts: http://www.dafont.com/storybook.font or https://www.fontsquirrel.com/fonts/radley or https://www.fontsquirrel.com/fonts/UglyQua
Texture: http://www.pixeden.com/graphic-web-backgrounds/wood-pattern-background

Finding the Correct Font

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If we can find a font to begin this effect, it will save us a bunch of time. You can drag the movie poster into Photoshop and try running the Type>Match Font command to see if Photoshop can find anything that is close. In my case it brought up a font called “Monarcha” available on TypeKit via Creative Cloud. There are also a few free fonts, Storybook, Radley, or Uglyqua that could do the job, but would need a bit of work on the paths. I think we’ll just go on and try step two here.

Using a Sketch

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I have a sketch that you can download inside the PSD for this tutorial. Just use the form above to get access to it. We’re going to trace this sketch using the Pen Tool.

Trace the Sketch

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This one is pretty straight forward (and I give a bit more commentary on getting it done in the video above,) but we need to trace out a path which will be our bonafide font. If you need help with the Pen Tool, check out my short series on the Pen Tool right here (it’s free! And pretty awesome too, I think).

Roughen in Adobe Illustrator

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Once we have our path completely drawn out it’s time to select it with the Path Selection Tool and copy it (Cmd/Ctrl + C) and paste it into an Adobe Illustrator document as a Compound Path (faster). Fill the path with any color that you like (just to see where our edges are,) right click on it and choose “Ungroup” and you may have to select a few letters and use the Pathfinder panel to cut out the shapes in the “P, D, R, A, and O” (see the video at timecode: ) and then go Effects>Distort & Transform> Roughen and apply a very light roughen to the edges of this path. My settings are: Size: 0.6% and Detail: 15/inch and apply that Roughen effect to the path and then go Object>Expand Appearance and then copy the whole path so we can paste this back into Photoshop.

Bringing the Path Back to Photoshop as a Shape

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Come back into Photoshop and hit Cmd/Ctrl + V to paste and choose to paste this as a “Shape Layer.” I filled my shape layer with the color bfa664 to get this ready for some overlay action.

Wood Texture

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You can download the exact wood texture I used here. I dragged the 05 wood pattern from the PNG folder into Photoshop and then I rotated the texture and stretched it out the long way so it covers all of my text.

Prepare the Wood for an Overlay

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Go Image>Adjustments>Desaturate to convert the wood to black and white. TIP: You may have to right-click on the wood texture layer first and choose “Rasterize Layer” depending on how you brought the texture into Photoshop. I also used a Levels adjustment to boost contrast while keeping as much of the wood close to a 50% gray so only highlights and shadows would be visible when we layer effects on top of this.

Clipping the Wood

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Use the hotkey Cmd/Ctrl + Alt/Opt + G to clip this wood texture to the text shape layer beneath it.

Bevel & Emboss Time!

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Select our text shape layer and go Layer>Layer Styles>Bevel and Emboss and change these settings:

Technique: Chisel Hard
Depth: 300%
Size 4px
Angle: 90 degrees
Highlight Opacity: 80%
Shadow Opacity: 50%

Gradient Overlay #1

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Next add a Gradient Overlay and select the gradient strip and create a gradient that the color b17e1c on the left and fef487 on the right. Set the Gradient Overlay to the blend mode Overlay and just be sure that you’re using a Linear gradient set to a 90 degree angle.

Gradient Overlay #2

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This gradient is slightly more complicated (I even started to mess it up in the video by not checking on “Reverse”,) so check out the video above to see, or check out the screenshot and copy my settings as closely as you can. HINT: It is a foreground to transparent gradient and white is my foreground color.

Adding the Drop Shadow

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Click to add a Drop Shadow and change only these settings:

Opacity: 65%
Angle: 90 degrees
Distance: 5px
Spread: 20px
Size 20px

Color Balance Adjustment to Boost Yellow/Reds in Text

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I want to add a Color Balance Adjustment layer above the wood overlay layer by going Layer>Adjustment Layers>Color Balance and then use that Cmd/Ctrl + Alt/Opt + G hotkey to clip this Adjustment Layer to the wood layer beneath it. I used the sliders in Shadows, Midtones, and Highlights to boost the yellows and reds in each phase of my text until it looked good and more heavily saturated.

Creating the Edge Highlight Gradient

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The next step is to create a new Gradient Fill layer by going Layer>New Fill Layer>Gradient… I chose a gradient that has color stops lined up like this: f7e65a – b17e1c – e89f13 – fef487 – c7880d. Select the mask attached to this layer and hit Cmd/Ctrl + I to flip it to the color black and hide the gradient effect. Change the blend mode of the layer to Linear Light (Add) and reduce the Fill Opacity to about 75%.

Loading the Edge of the Text as a Selection

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Cmd/Ctrl + Click on the thumbnail for the text shape layer to load the text as a selection and then go Select>Modify>Contract and contract the edge by 3px. Next, go Select>Inverse and then hold down Cmd/Ctrl + Shift + Alt/Opt + Click the layer thumbnail for the text shape layer again to only load the intersecting areas. This effectively loads only the beveled areas on the edges of our text.

Painting in the Glistening Edges

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Select the mask for the gradient layer that we just created a couple of steps ago and grab the Brush tool and choose a large, soft-edged brush and set your foreground color to white. Paint little dabs on this mask to reveal the glistening edge on the edge of our text.

Adding a Background & Adjustments

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The last step is to simply drag in a background and make it look all cinematic and then use the Move tool to drag our text wherever it needs to be placed in the document. You can see exactly how I did this by checking out the video above.