Learn how to create a retro chalk type effect without having to scrape your nails down a blackboard!
Create the chalkboard background by dragging a chalkboard texture into the middle of the canvas. To fill in the empty areas, use the Magic Wand (W) to select the areas you want to fill and then select Content Aware Fill (Edit>Fill). Photoshop will magically fill in these areas using the current image.
The Content-Aware Fill tool will normally create a fairly seamless fill. However, there may be areas that you’ll need to tidy up by using the Clone Stamp tool (S). Hold Opt/Alt and click the left-hand mouse button to select the area that you want to clone and then left-click again over the area that you want to be hidden.
Draw the outlines for the chalkboard using a chalk Photoshop brush. Begin by bringing the border into the canvas. This should be a simple shape so that it doesn’t draw too much attention.
Flowing banners add dynamism and a sense of eccentricity to the image, which will not only help to make the image look more interesting but also more convincing. Select the areas of shading and highlights on the banner by using the Polygonal Lasso (L). Cut these areas out (Cmd/Ctrl+X) and paste (Cmd/Ctrl+V) them onto a new layer. Double-click the layer and select the Color Overlay tab. Choose a cool, receding turquoise colour (such as #71C5C5) to bring the banner to life.
Since the banner is curved, a cursive font such as Lobster is required for the text to help with the flow of the image. You can construct the arched text by using warp tools or typing along a path. Delete the areas of the banner that appear inside these letters.
Adding depth to the letters will make them stand out more and make them more legible. Make a copy of the text layer and place it behind the existing text layer. Move the copied layer slightly to the right of the existing text to create some depth. Double-click on the layer and select the Color Overlay tab. Choose an advancing orangey-gold colour (such as #E7B566) to really highlight the text. Finally, select the spaces within the letters using the Magic Wand tool (W) to delete anything unnecessary.
For the word ‘JUMP’, use a bold serif font to help embody and capture the meaning of the text. Arch the top of the text so that it slots seamlessly underneath the banner to create a more streamline appearance. This can be created in multiple ways; in Adobe Photoshop, you can use the Warp tool (Edit>Transform>Warp). Add lines inside the text to create a bevelled appearance, which will help to bring depth to the image.
To create a chalk effect fill, open up a crumpled paper texture in a new window. Go to Edit>Define Pattern and give the pattern a name to save it. Go back to your working canvas and select all the bevelled segments in the ‘JUMP’ text that you want to be highlighted using the Polygonal Lasso tool (L) or Magic Wand tool (W). Create a new layer behind the ‘JUMP’ text layer and fill the boundaries in white using the Paint Bucket tool. (G).
Once you have filled the boundaries in white, double-click on the layer and select Pattern Overlay. Select the crumpled paper pattern that you defined in step 8 and press OK. Ctrl/right-click on the layer and select Rasterize Layer Style. Go to Filter>Noise>Add Noise and change the Amount slider to approximately 35, or whatever you think is appropriate.
Turn down the Opacity of the layer with all of the fills to help blend them into the chalkboard background. Select the Eraser tool (E) and choose the Spatter Brush in the brush settings, changing the size of the brush to suit the size of the fills (approximately 150px). Lower the Opacity and Flow settings for the Eraser to approximately 25% and 35% respectively, then gently delete some of the fills to create an uneven and smudged chalk effect. Lower the Opacity of the layer further if necessary.
Since the bottom edge of the ‘JUMP’ text is straight, the second banner needs to be more geometric. It is the tension between these straight edges and the organic nature of the cursive text and flourishes that will bring this image to life. For the ‘Dozy Fowls’ text, choose a bold serif font such as Copperplate to match the linearity of the banner. Give the text a black outline by double-clicking the layer and selecting Stroke. Finally, give the text some depth by following step 6.
For the third banner, a more organic and laid-back approach is required in order to complement the first banner and contrast with the second, thereby creating a complete composition. Much like step 4, select the drape lines on the banner by using the Polygonal Lasso (L). Cut these lines out and paste them onto a new layer. Double-click on the layer and select the Color Overlay tab. Select the orangey-gold colour for these lines to help bring depth to the banner.
Again, to express the meaning and humour behind the text, a cursive font such as Lobster is required for the word ‘QUACK’. To make the text as bold and loud as possible, fill it in with a chalk fill effect using the process described in steps 9 and 10. For depth, copy the layer and place it behind the ‘QUACK!’ text layer. Double-click on the copied layer and apply a Stroke layer style in gold and a Color Overlay in black.
For a bit of quirkiness, create two bows to support the third banner. Create the chalk fills in a similar way to steps 9 and 10. However, once you’ve got the chalk effect the way you want it, create a new Photo Filter adjustment layer by clicking on the round icon in the Layers panel. Place the adjustment layer directly above the layer with the bows, Ctrl/ right-click on it and select Create Clipping Mask. Fill the adjustment layer with the turquoise colour to change the colour of the chalk fill.
Introducing small illustrations will help to add to the illusion that this piece has been created using real chalk. Use the Polygonal Lasso tool (L) to create silhouettes of a jumping fox and a sleeping duck and follow steps 9 and 10 to create the chalk effect. For the purposes of association, place the fox above ‘Bright Vixens’ and the duck below ‘QUACK!’. For the duck, add some ‘Zzz..zzz’ using the Type tool (T) to indicate he is sleeping. Manipulate the ‘Zzz..zzz’ using the Warp function (Edit>Transform>Warp).
Using chalk brushes and effects is often not enough to fool the viewer into believing that this image has been created in chalk; the viewer also needs to be bombarded with subtle mental association triggers in order to trick the brain. People often associate the idea of monarchy with history, and so by placing a silhouette of a crown at the top, it automatically makes the image ‘feel’ older than it is. Create the crown as per step 15 and change the colour of the chalk by following step 14.
Much like the crown, a date of establishment often makes the brain believe something is older than it actually is at first glance. Use a bold serif font such as Copperplate to create the date using the Text tool (T). It doesn’t really matter what date you put in – we’ve used 2014 – but if you really want to trick the viewer, use an older date. Lower the opacity of this layer slightly to help it blend into the blackboard.
One of the great things about classic chalk typography is that the more you look at it, the more it reveals. While the words are no doubt the star of the image, create some secondary interest by placing a large fox in the bottom right of the image. Make sure that the lines are free flowing and that they do not connect; the rougher you make the lines, the more convincing they will appear. Change the highlights to an orangey-gold colour by following step 12.
To balance out the large fox in the bottom right-hand corner, create a large duck in the top left hand corner. Much like the fox, keep the lines as flowing and sinuous as possible to create a feeling of movement. This will help to guide the viewer where to look and where to start reading. Use highlights near the edges to give dimensionality to the duck. Change the colour of the highlights to the turquoise colour by following step 12.
Swirls and flourishes not only add drama to the image but also help to direct the eye to other parts of the composition. You can create these flourishes by hand or in Adobe Illustrator. However, the easiest and most effective way is to use a font called Nymphette, which includes a series of beautiful swirls and flourishes. Position and size the swirls so that they flow effortlessly from and to each other, making sure that the gaps in between are approximately equally spaced.
Changing the colour of the top and bottom swirls will help to ‘contain’ the text and make them the focus. If you’ve used the Nymphette font to create the swirls, make sure you rasterise the layer first by Ctrl/right-clicking on the layer and clicking Rasterize Layer. Select the swirls at the top and bottom of the composition using the Polygonal Lasso tool (L) and cut and paste them onto a new layer. Change these swirls to a gold colour by double-clicking on the layer and selecting Color Overlay.
To add depth, some of the swirls need to be strategically changed to a receding turquoise colour. In a balanced manner, use the Polygonal Lasso tool (L) to select swirls across the composition that you feel need to be toned down. Cut and paste these swirls onto a new layer and change the colour by double-clicking on the layer and selecting Color Overlay. Make sure these swirls are equally spaced out to avoid creating large areas of receding colour, which will make the composition seem ‘hollow’.
Finally, to turn the feeling of dynamism up to full volume, add explosion lines that lead from the centre of the image to the inside edge of the border. This technique will help to fill in some of the empty spaces in the composition and gives the image maximum impact. Make sure you break the lines with the Eraser (E) at the points where the exploding lines intersect with the banners, text and swirls. This will help to frame these elements and maintain their legibility.
Zoom out using Cmd/Ctrl+0 so that the entire image fits onto your screen. Check that you are happy with the composition of the image. The position of all the objects should appear balanced and there should be a natural ‘flow’ that leads the eye from the start of the sentence to the end and then to the other parts of the image. Make sure that the areas of colour are balanced and help with the flow of the composition rather than detract from it.