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Photoshop Text Tutorial

As photographers we might not spend a huge amount of time working with text in Photoshop. But it's extremely useful to know how to create, format and apply interesting effects to text. If you ever have any creative projects, like designing a logo for your website, creating a business card or producing a batch of home made Christmas cards, Photoshop text will be essential.

Creating, editing and moving text

Open up a new document in the Photoshop workspace. Select the Text tool, which is located in the bottom half of the toolbar. Now simply click on the document and begin typing. If you wish to create a line break, hit enter and continue typing on the new line. This is the simplest way to use the type tool, and it's called free typing.

The problem with free typing is that it does not allow us to constrain the text to a specific area very accurately. To do this, select the Text tool and drag out a frame. If you wish to change the size of the frame, simply select one of the corners and drag it.

Now begin typing in the frame, and notice how the text automatically fits to the area you have selected.

With both the above methods, you'll have spotted that a new layer is created every time we use the Text tool. This is really useful, because it means we can easily return to an area of text and change it. When you need to correct some text, select its layer in the layers panel and click on it in the document/image.

If you are adding text to an image and would like to move it around to a new area, select the text layer in the layer panel and choose the Move tool from the top of the toolbar. Click and drag the text in the image until you are happy with its placement.


The options bar

The options bar runs across the top of the image and features several different settings for text. The most commonly used of these are: font type, image size, the bold/italic options, font colour and alignment. Make sure the text you are working on is selected/highlighted before applying any changes in the options bar.

So, select your text and pick a font from the drop down menu.

If you know the name of the font you would like, begin typing it in the box and Photoshop will automatically complete it for you and select the font. Choose from the bold/italic options next. Not all fonts have a bold option, so you will need to find one that does if you want this effect.

To choose the size, you can either select a number from the drop down menu, or fine tune the size manually. For the latter, which I find much easier and more effective, hover the cursor over the double-T symbol and click and drag left to reduce font size, or right to increase font size. This is a really handy tool as the font changes instantanteously and you don't have to estimate the right number.

To change the font colour click on the colour box towards the right of the options bar, which brings up the colour picker window. Choose a colour and hit OK to apply that colour to the selected area of text.

An alternative way to set font colour is to hit 'alt + backspace' to apply the foreground colour, or 'cmd + backspace' to apply the background colour.

To choose an alignment, click on either the left, centre or right option, with your text selected. There is also an option for justified, only applicable to text within a frame, found in the Paragraph panel.

Each of these alignment options has a shortcut: 'Cmd/Ctrl + shift + l' for left aligned; 'Cmd/Ctrl + shift + r' for right aligned; 'Cmd/Ctrl + shift + c' for centre aligned; 'Cmd/Ctrl + shift + j' for justified.

The Paragraph panel and the Character panel are the 2 panels used to control text. If you cannot see them, open them by clicking on them in the Windows menu. All of the basic edits for text can be made in the options bar.


Fine tuning text

In addition to setting size, colour, font and style, there are a few really useful ways you can fine tune the appearance of text in Photoshop, like toggling words between upper/lower case, altering spacing between characters and adjusting line spacing.

To switch text from lower case to upper case, or vice versa, select it and hit Cmd/Ctrl + shift + K. This is a really handy shortcut, because it both saves time and allows you to instantly compare the appearance of text in upper and lower case.

The ability to change the spacing between individual characters is extremely useful. I often find that the spacing is irregular when words are written completely in upper case. All you have to do is place your cursor between 2 characters, hold down 'alt' and tap the left arrow to reduce spacing, or the right arrow to increase it. This is great for making spacing appear more uniform, or for producing a particular effect.

The gap between the 'F' and the 'A' was easily corrected here:

Changing the spacing between lines of text is also really useful, especially when fitting text within a small area of an image. Obviously, you need to have 2 or more lines of text for this. Select the lines, then hold down 'alt' and tap the up arrow to reduce line spacing and the down arrow to increase it.


Applying layer styles to text

One of the best ways to customize the appearance of text is to apply layer styles. As we know, all text is created on its own layer, so simply double click on the layer in the layers panel to open up the Layer Style dialogue box.

There are lots of options you can play around with here. First, try applying a stroke, which is effectively a border around the edge of the characters. You can specify a colour (make sure it is a different colour to your text otherwise you will not see it), the size, opacity and so on.

Text with stroke applied:

Next, select the Drop Shadow option from the top of the list. This produces a cool shadow effect, giving the impression that text is floating above the background. The settings are all pretty self-explanatory, but instead of setting the angle specifically, it's much easier to just move the cursor over the image and drag the shadow into the positon you want.

After applying a drop shadow:

Try out the Bevel and Emboss options next, which give the text a 3 dimensional appearance. With Contour you can fine tune the effect, whilst Texture enables you to apply more extreme textured effects.

With bevel and emboss effect:

Take some time to explore the other layer style options and the effects they have on text.

Creating image-filled text

This is a really cool effect which fills text with the content of an image you have chosen. It works best with chunky text, because the image is usually not recognisable if the text is too thin. This technique involves using a clipping mask, which we explored in this introductory guide to masking.

To start, open an image that you would like to eventually form the content of your text. Now create a new layer and fill it with black, by hitting 'alt + backspace'. Next, create a text layer and choose a font with thick lettering and any colour other than black. Type the word or sentence that you'll be using for the design.

Now double click on the background image and hit OK when the New Layer window appears (to make it a layer). Drag the image to the top of the layers panel, so that you have the black layer at the bottom, then the text and then the image.

Now create a clipping between your image and text layer by holding alt and clicking on the boundary bewteen them in the layers panel.

This should fill the text with the image, giving a cool effect. Select the text layer and use the Move tool to reposition it around the image until it looks right.

Other examples:

A re-cap on the shortcuts

Command Shortcut
bold Cmd/Ctrl + shift + b
italic Cmd/Ctrl + shift + i
undelined Cmd/Ctrl + shift + u
upper/lower case Cmd/Ctrl + shift + k
increase size Cmd/Ctrl + shift + .
decrease size Cmd/Ctrl + shift + ,
align left Cmd/Ctrl + shift + l
align right Cmd/Ctrl + shift + r
align centre Cmd/Ctrl + shift + c
justified Cmd/Ctrl + shift + j
character spacing alt + left arrow/right arrow
line spacing alt + up arrow/down arrow



So that's a quick introduction to using text in Photoshop. You now know how to create text, constrain it within a frame, apply basic settings, fine tune character/line spacing, apply layer styles for interesting designs, create cool image-filled text and use a host of time saving shortcuts. I hope this was useful.

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