photoshop creative

Design your own retro text

Posted in:
Tips & Tutorials, by Mark White
October 5, 2016

Build your own typeface from scratch, fill it with gradients and create a glowing disco effect


1. Take inspiration and sketch


With hundreds of great fonts on sites like Behance and Dafont, check out some of your favourites and start sketching a font that has cohesive elements. Decide on what should stay similar from one letter to the next, and what quirks you want to introduce on specific letters.

2. Make a template


Once you’ve designed your font, create a 6000×6000 Photoshop document and hit Cmd/Ctrl+’ to bring up the grid. Use Marquee selections to create either straight lines or curves – use a perfect circle and mask out the centre for this – so that you can just connect these points to form letters.

3. Create some letters


Simply mask in either the straight lines or curves you’ve created to form letters. Remember to group all the different selections you make and name the group with the letter you’re creating. Start at A and carry on through the alphabet, referring back to your original sketches.

4. Use gradients


As you can see, the characters of this font are hollow and built with different sections. To flesh out a letter, create a new layer beneath the letter layer and add the supplied gradient. Mask using the Polygonal Lasso; we’re creating a gradient for every section of each letter.

5. Place your letters


Now in a new document, paste the letters you want and arrange them to spell something out. On the FileSilo, we’ve provided the template to build letters of your own in this style, as well as the letters with the gradients added; you may wish to just use an existing font, though.

6. Give the text shape


Let’s add a bevel to the text now to lift it from the page slightly. You can create your own by Ctrl/right-clicking a layer and going to Layer Styles, then Bevel & Emboss. Otherwise, run our supplied Bevels action to give it a subtle 3D feel.

7. Insert the disco ball


Place a disco ball over the O of DISCO. Select the O with the Elliptical Marquee and mask the disco ball layer. Mask out the O. Add a Soft Light layer, clip to the disco ball layer and brush subtle yellows and pinks (Eyedrop by Alt/Opt- clicking) to blend.

8. Add some lens flares


Create a new black layer. Go to Filter>Render>Lens Flare and hit OK, turn the layer to Screen and place it over one of the letters. Repeat to build up the flashy effect of the text. Mask out some of the rays and change colours by using Hue/ Saturation (Cmd/Ctrl+U).

9. Bring in the background


At this point, group your lens flares and add a clipped Curves layer over the text layer to brighten it up. Now, add your a background image in front of the black background, transform, position; otherwise, use gradients to create the backdrop.

10. Lay the disco floor


Create a new square document, and insert perfectly spaced squares of bright colours. Select all and paste it into your disco text document. Ctrl/right-click+T and pick Perspective Transform to give the effect of it sitting beneath the text; set to Soft Light. Make your own disco floor by creating a new document and filling selected squares in different colours, leaving space between them.

11. Make the floor glow


Duplicate your floor layer and set to Screen, 80% Opacity. Group these layers and mask the top of them. Add a Curves layer to brighten them up a bit. Then add an Exposure adjustment, set to 4.00, invert the mask and brush in with 20% opaque, soft white.

12. Blur and sharpen


Go to the top layer and hit Cmd/Ctrl+Alt/Opt+Shift+E to merge into one layer. Go to Filter>Other>High Pass, 5px, and change Overlay to Sharpen. Merge all again and go to Filter>Blur Gallery>Field Blur. Leave a little bokeh, and mask this layer in on some of the flashes and edges.

13. Adjust everything


Sometimes a project like this only comes together when you begin adjusting everything. Experiment with adjustments like Vibrance, Curves and Gradient Maps, and alter blend modes and opacities. A good idea is often to group your adjustments them and reduce them to an Opacity to 60%.

14. Add a spotlight


Merge everything into one layer, go to Filter>Render>Lighting Effects and use a spotlight to focus the reader’s eyes on the bright text in the centre. This effect also fits in with the disco theme; use a light yellow to bring out the text.

15. Touch up your picture


Now you’ve created your image, tweak the colours and lighting slightly if need be, using a couple more adjustments or Camera Raw. Add a neutral grey layer set to Overlay and brush black or white where you need extra light and shade.