Typography Portraits in Photoshop

I saw an image of a guy coming out of the written page to hug a girl and fell in love with it. So I Googled how to do it and found lots of fascinating “how to” videos.

The first one I found employs a Photoshop action that you can buy for $7. It’s called Typography 5 and you can find it here. It comes with a step-by-step video, many different choices of type that you can use, and lots of cool examples to get your creative juices going.

What if you need a free solution?

Head over to PSDdude.com and type “typography” into the search bar. Pages of wonderful Photoshop actions come up! I selected the one called “Typography Portrait Photoshop Free Actions“. They are a suite of four Photoshop actions. Your final result will be a layered PSD file and all the layers are completely customizable so that you end up with exactly what you want. These actions are free for personal and commercial use. This is the Photoshop action that I selected for this lesson.

How to Install the PSDdude Photoshop Action:

When you download and unzip the folder with the Typography Portrait Photoshop Actions, you will find an ATN file and a PAT file. You must load both files into Photoshop before you can proceed. Quit Photoshop if you have it running. Go to your Applications folder (⇧⌘A), browse to your Photoshop folder, and locate the Presets subfolder. Within it, you will find the Actions subfolder. Place the ATN file in there.

Go back to the the Presets subfolder and within it locate the Patterns subfolder. Place the PAT file inside it.

Launch Photoshop, go to the Windows Menu and scroll down to select Actions to open the Actions Panel (⎇F9).

Notice the little hamburger menu in the top right corner of the Actions Panel. 

Click on it to reveal the Drop-down List. Scroll down and select Load Actions.

A window opens to reveal all the actions currently installed. Scroll down and select Typography-Portrait-by-PSDDUDE.atn. Click OPEN.

Now you are ready to begin!

Step 1: Launch Photoshop, open your photograph and select one of four TYPO Photoshop actions. Click on the PLAY button. 

Step 2: The action will stop and a dialog box instructs you to paint over the area that you want to turn to typography. A new layer and foreground color at 50% are created by the action for this purpose. Use the paint brush to paint over the area that will become the foreground. 

TIP: Before you even start the action, create a careful, perfect selection.

The best way to do this is with the Pen tool (type P). You can also use the Lasso Tool* to make a selection and skip the steps necessary to convert a Pen Tool path to a selection. But I find that I get the most accurate results with the Pen Tool. *(type L; type ⇧L to switch to the Polygonal Lasso or the Magnetic Lasso)

If you used the Pen Tool to make your perfect path, convert it to a selection by going to the Paths Panel and clicking on the little hamburger menu in the top right corner of the panel, just like the one we found in the Actions Panel. A drop-down menu will appear. Scroll down to “Make Selection” and select it. When the Make Selection Dialog Box appears, accept the defaults and click OK. Violà! Your perfect path is now a perfect selection.

I found it easier to make two paths for my image. To make one selection out of two paths, I converted the first path to a selection and then clicked on the second path. I went back to the hamburger menu in the Paths Panel and scrolled down to “Make Selection” and select it. But this time, when the dialog box appeared, I chose “Add to Selection”, then clicked OK.

However you create your selection, you must save it next. Choose “Save Selection” from the Select Menu.

When the Save Selection Dialog Box appears, name your selection something that will make sense to you if you have to come back to it days later. Save your file at this point in case you want to try a different action. You will have only the background layer and your saved selection.

Go back to Step 1 and play your selected action. When you get to Step 2, the “paint over” step, go to the Select Menu and scroll down to “Load Selection”. Hit ⌘F5 to fill it with the foreground color at 50% and click OK.

Complete the Final Step:

Step 3: Return to your actions panel, which should be on “Set Selection”. Click PLAY. Another dialog box will give you the opportunity to adjust the contrast just the way you want it. (I accepted the default setting for my example.) Click OK and watch the magic happen! Edit the layers as desired to achieve your vision.

Here is my result with TYPO Action #1 and no edits. 

Well that was interesting, but it looks nothing like the image that charmed me so much. Good thing the result is a layered file which is fully editable! I hit F12 to revert to the last time I saved my file (with only the background layer and my saved selection) and tried all the other versions, hitting F12 after each one before trying the next one. I decided that TYPO Action #1 came to closest to my vision.

Next Step:

I compared my result with TYPO Action #1 to the example that I fell in love with and realized that I needed to keep the kid unaltered. I decided the best way to do this was to duplicate the background layer and use my “kid only” selection to mask out the father. To do this, I hit F12 to revert to the last saved state, selected the background layer, then went to the Layer Panel to click on the hamburger menu in the top right corner and scrolled down the Drop-down Menu to “Duplicate Layer”. In the Duplicate Layer Dialog Box that appeared, I named my duplicate something meaningful so that I would never confuse it with the background layer.

While the duplicated layer was selected, I loaded my saved selection and clicked on the little button at the bottom of the Layers Panel. I hid the background layer by clicking on the eyeball icon so that I could check that my mask contained no errors. If I had found an error, I could fix it by painting black on the mask itself (type B for Brush Tool with black as the foreground color), or using the eraser tool (type E) to erase part of the mask. I liked my mask, so I left it alone and hid that masked layer by clicking on the eyeball icon.

Next, I clicked on the eyeball icon of the background layer to show it, clicked on the layer name to select it, saved my file again so that I could return to this point if I ever needed to, and ran TYPO Action #1 again. When the action stopped at Step 2, the “paint over” step, I loaded my saved selection, but this time I put a check mark on “Invert” in the Load Selection Dialog Box.

Then I filled the selection with 50% of the foreground color and hit PLAY. When the action was finished, I clicked on the eyeball icon of the layer called “kid only” and here is my result:

I felt that I was getting closer. Here is where the real fun is! I went through each layer, clicking on their eyeball icons to hide or reveal them until I understood what each layer did. I decided to leave hidden the layers called “Brightness” and “typography portrait 1 by psddude”. 

I really like the yellowed old paper in the example, so I scrounged through my archives and found a photo of D’Arches paper with deckled edges. I realized that I needed the paper layer to cover the entire background, including all the effects, so I put the paper layer at the second-to top spot, just under the “kid only” layer. Then I transformed (⌘T) the paper layer while holding down the shift key to make it fit. Finally, I changed the blending mode of the paper layer to “Multiply” so that all the layers below it would show through.

But I wanted the deckled edges of the paper to show without the white background. Using the Wand Tool (type W), I selected the paper pixels and clicked on the mask button at the bottom of the Layers Panel to create a mask and hide the white background of my paper layer. Next, I selected my paper layer and control-clicked on the mask until a Pop-up Menu appeared. I scrolled down to “Add Mask to Selection”. Then I used the selection to mask the background out of all the layers that I left showing so they would have deckled edges, too. Regrettably, converting a selection to a mask releases the selection, so I had to go back and control-click on the paper layer’s mask to get another selection in order to mask each layer separately. For the “kid only” layer, I just added to the mask that was already there by painting on the mask some more black color with the Brush Tool to create the edges of the paper.  (The selection from the paper layer’s mask restricted where the Brush Tool could paint, so I was able to get the deckled edges right).

I felt that the dad needed to pop out of his background more, so I created a new layer (⇧⌘N) called “add shadows to dad” just above the paper layer, changed its opacity to Multiply and just started painting in black wherever I thought it looked good. Finally, I played around with the opacity on each layer until I like what I saw. Now I was getting somewhere!

“What if you want to use your own words instead of someone else’s?”

How to Make a Custom Photoshop Pattern:

Well, it turns out that PSD Dude has a whole page of tutorials on how to create your own Photoshop pattern! I selected “Create Seamless Patterns Photoshop Tutorials” and read through many of them until I felt I knew what to do.

Generally, anything that is placed in the center will repeat easily. But objects placed on the edge will be cut off. You need to add it to the opposite side. And objects that are placed on the corner will be cut off. You will need to add it to every other corner. Thusly instructed, I opened Illustrator, created a 6×6-inch page and typed my words. I chose Proverbs 22:6 about raising kids. I selected a font and font color, then made the type big enough to stretch across the page and placed it smack in the middle.

Next, I selected and copied-&-dragging my type (⎇⌘V) to the left and right above my type in the middle. I made sure that the edge of the artboard split the text in the exact same place.

Then I made sure my top two text boxes were vertically aligned.

Next, I selected both rows of type and copied-&-dragging-plus-constrained (⇧⎇⌘V) them untilI had filled up my square artboard. Last of all, I masked away the type off the artboard by creating a 6×6-inch square (making sure that it was lined up perfectly with the artboard), selecting all, and creating a mask (⌘7). I checked my work by copy-drag-constraining (⇧⎇⌘V) everything until I had a copy of the masked text on all four sides of the artboard. The type flowed correctly. I deleted the copies on each side of the artboard, saved my work and called it Custom pattern.ai”.

Now I was ready to convert this Illustrator file into a Photoshop pattern. To do this, I opened my Illustrator file from within Photoshop, chose “Define Pattern” from the Edit Menu, gave the new pattern a name. Photoshop automatically added my custom pattern in the Patterns folder place within the Photoshop folder.

Finally, I was ready to add my custom pattern to my artwork! I opened my Photoshop file called “Dad & Kid.psd”, went to my Layers Panel and replaced the default patterns on al of the affected layers with my custom pattern. 

There will be two layers that have the “Pattern” effect, a layer called “typography pattern by psddude” and the background layer. Select one of the affected layers and double-click on the effect called “Pattern Overlay” to open the “Layer Style” dialog box. Click the arrow labelled “Pattern” to reveal a Drop-down Menu showing your choice of patterns. Find your custom pattern and select it. Notice that you can play around with the blending mode and proportion of the pattern. Click OK to accept your changes. Then do the same thing to the other layer with a Pattern Overlay effect.

I experimented with the opacity, blending modes, and masks on the various layers until I felt I was done. Here is my result. I hope you like it.

The Final Result:

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