Creating Colorful Text in Photoshop

Combining text with an image creates all sorts of creative problems. It can be difficult to unify the text and image. It can also be difficult to get the text to stand out from image. When editing with Photoshop, you can use layer effects, such as drop shadows, embossing and stroke outlines. You can also use the pre-defined effects available in layer styles.

Sometimes it can be fun to make your own customized fills for text. Here are three examples:

Original image used in examples 1 and 2
Example 1: Create text embedded in an image
using a clipping mask with a duplicate layer

Example 2: Create colorful text using a clipping mask
of your original image and a solid colored
background layer

Example 3: Create colorful text using
a clipping mask with a gradient layer
Example 1: Text made from your background image
  1. Open your image in Photoshop
  2. Use the text tool to type your text onto your image.
    Choose a color that is easy to preview. It doesn't matter what color you choose, as the color will be replaced in this exercise. Bold text often works best.
  3. Add a simple layer effect, such as a drop shadow or stroke outline.
    You can find layer effects options under Layer > Layer Style
  4. In your layers panel, make your background layer your active layer.
  5. Duplicate your background layer.
  6. In your layers panel, drag your text layer between the background copy and background layer.
  7. Make the topmost layer (background copy) your active layer.
  8. Click Layer > Create Clipping Mask.
  9. Save your work.
  10. You may adjust the placement of your text by making your text layer active and moving it with your move tool.
  11. You can change your font and font size by highlighting the text with your text tool.
  12. You can change your layer effects by double clicking on effects in the layers panel.
  13. Save your work.
Example 2: Colorful text using an image
  1. Follow steps #1 - 9 in  Example 1
  2. Make your background layer your active layer in the layers panel.
  3. Make the colors in your toolbox return to default by clicking D on your keyboard.
  4. Select the entire image by clicking Select > All (Ctrl+A or Cmd+A)
  5. Replace your background with white by cutting.
    Edit > Cut
  6. You may adjust the placement of your text by making your text layer active and moving it with your move tool.
  7. You can change your font and font size by highlighting the text with your text tool.
  8. You can change your layer effects by double clicking on effects in the layers panel.
  9. Save your work.
Example 3: Colorful text using a gradient layer
  1. Create a new image in Photoshop
    File > New
    Make sure your background color is white before you click OK
  2. Use the text tool to type your text onto your white canvas.
    Choose a color that is easy to preview. It doesn't matter what color you choose, as the color will be replaced in this exercise. Bold text often works best.
  3. Create a gradient layer. Click Layer > New Fill Layer > Gradient
    In the gradient fill dialogue box, choose a gradient with a pleasant color scheme. Don't worry that you can not see your text. I recommend setting your angle to something other than 90, so you will see variation in your text colors. This can be adjusted later. When you have chosen a grdient color scheme and angle you like, click OK.
  4. Click Layer > Create Clipping Mask.
  5. Save your work.
  6. You may adjust the placement of your text by making your text layer active and moving it with your move tool.
  7. You can change your font and font size by highlighting the text with your text tool.
  8. You can change your layer effects by double clicking on effects in the layers panel.
  9. Save your work.

Photo of the Week - December 29, 2012

Composite Image - 4 shots combined
Double-crested Cormorant taking off
Swantown Marina
Olympia, Washington

December 29, 2012

According to the National Park Service:
"Double-crested cormorants are large, dark-colored birds that make their living diving beneath the surface of the water and pursuing fish, their favorite quarry. While clumsy-looking on land or when on favorite perches, cormorants are both agile and swift in the water.

While feathers are waterproof simply due to their physical structure, the cormorant’s feathers are “wettable,” and quickly become water-logged, reducing the bird’s buoyancy and increasing its swimming efficiency. In addition, the bones of cormorants, unlike most other birds, are dense and heavy.

While both adaptations help the bird pursue its swift underwater prey, heavy bones and water-logged feathers makes flight more difficult. Cormorants are often seen holding their wings spread to facilitate drying (not warming as in other birds) and when taking off must often “patter” across the surface of the water to build up sufficient flying speed before taking to the air."

This photo was made by sandwiching four individual images of a single cormorant. The shots were taken sequentially in 1.5 seconds.

Merry Christmas - Olympia Style

The Kiss by Richard Beyer
Percival Landing
Olympia, WA
December 25, 2012
Wishing you a Merry Christmas
Olympia Style

Photo of the Week - December 22, 2012

Light through a Restaurant Window
Olympia, WA
December 22, 2012

Photo of the Week - December 18, 2012

Winter Light in the Atrium of the Parking Lot
REI Seattle
Seattle, WA

December 18, 2012

Photo of the Week - December 12, 2012

Playing with Holiday Lights
December 12, 2012

How can I view my shooting information on my computer?

Digital cameras record a variety of information along with images. In addition to the date and time, cameras also record many settings, including shutter speed, f-stop, ISO, focal length, white balance and whether or not the flash fired. Camera specific metadata is called EXIF data.

On most cameras, EXIF data can be read in playback mode by depressing the INFO or display button until shooting information is displayed.

EXIF data remains part of downloaded image files. The shooting information can be very helpful when analyzing photos or learning new techniques.

20120616_004 IMG_2720.jpg
Here are some methods of viewing EXIF data on your computer:
Windows 7:
  1. Find your photo in your Pictures folder
  2. Highlight the thumbnail. File properties should appear at the bottom of the page.
    If the details pane is not visible, Click Organize > Layout > Details Pane
Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, Adobe Bridge:
  1. Open image file or select in Adobe Bridge
  2. Click File > File Info
  3. Choose Camera Data tab
Note: this is also where you can update your file metadata with copyright, contact and keywords
Adobe EXIF Data

  1. Select image in Picasa
  2. Click View > Properties

Picasa EXIF Data
Windows Live Photo Gallery - now called Windows Photo Gallery
  1. Highlight a photo
  2. Click the info button

Windows Photo Gallery EXIF Data
Canon Digital Photo Professional (DPP)
  1. Highlight a photo
  2. Click File > Info
Canon DPP EXIF Data

Photo of the Week - November 1, 2012

Sunset on a flooded pasture
South Thurston County, WA
November 1, 2012


Illuminated Pumpkin
Pumpkin House
South Capitol Neighborhood
Olympia, WA

Read about the annual display at

Photo of the Week - October 28, 2012

Sunday Afternoon Movie
Historic Capitol Theater
Olympia Film Society

Olympia, WA
October 28, 2012

Replacing the Sky in an image

Replacing the Sky in an image using the Paste Into command
Photoshop and Photoshop Elements

Original Image of Skateboarders at Jefferson Park, Seattle
Graphic Image of Skateboarders with Blue Sky and Clouds

This is one of those tutorials that requires lots of side notes. While it might seem to be straightforward to drop a nice blue sky into an image with a big dull white horizon, it isn't really that simple.
Some things to consider:
  • Scale - your replacement sky should look realistic behind your original image. If the clouds are too big or small, they will look highly unnatural.
  • Horizon - it is easier to replace the sky when you have a simple horizon, such as a hillside slope. Irregular horizons, such as those with trees or grasses, can be difficult to create realistic transitions. Often soft original edges can become blurry looking replacements. Or, the photos can look like they were merged with a dull pair of scissors.
  • Light - make sure that lighting conditions are similar and the highlights and shadows match in direction between the two images.
  • Crispness - both images should have similar crispness. Don't blend a soft primary image with a crisp sky. It will look unreal.
  • Experiment and have options - you may need to play with 3 or 4 base images and 3 or 4 skies before you find the 2 images that work together best. Be patient and enjoy the process.
How to:
  1. Make preliminary brightness and contrast adjustments to your two images individually.
    • Save your work
    • If you make any layers, create a duplicate image.
    • Flatten the layers duplicate images (last item in Layers menu)
    • Save your work
  2. Open your images/flattened duplicates in Photoshop
  3. Make the image whose sky needs to be replaced the active image.
  4. Use a selection tool to select the sky. Choose one of the following
    • Try the magic wand (which selects by color); set your tolerance at 20 to begin.
    • The quick selection tool selects by choosing pixels of similar qualities as you drag across an area.
    • Polygon lasso tool can be used if you have a regular, geometric edge.
    • All selection tools can be added to by holding down the shift key while clicking or dragging a second time.
    • All selection tools can remove information by holding down the Alt key while clicking or dragging.
  5. Refine the edges of your selection. This is found under the select menu. Your feathering will most likely be at less than 2 pixels for a crisp edge.
  6. Make your sky image the active image.
  7. Select > All
  8. Edit > Copy
  9. Make your primary image the active image. It should still have the marching ants from selecting
  10. Edit >  Paste INTO . This is very important. It will give you the greatest flexibility in resizing your sky image relative to the original.
  11. Save a COPY of the image as either a psd or tiff. These two file types preserve layers.
  12. Resize your sky as needed. Use the Free Transform command
    • In Photoshop, click Edit > Free Transform
    • In Elements, click Image > Transform > Free Transform
  13. Save your work

Replacement sky

Photo of the Week - October 23, 2012

Agatha Smith Graveyard
Halloween comes early to Capitol Way
Olympia, WA

October 23, 2012

Image with a blurred edge vignette

Creating a soft blurred edge on an image in Photoshop
Original Image without editing
  1. Open image in Photoshop. Adjust brightness, contrast and color as needed. Save changes.
  2. Create a duplicate image
  3. If needed, flatten this new image to a single layer by clicking Layer > Flatten Image
  4. Create a duplicate layer by clicking Layer > Duplicate Layer
  5. Click File > Save As to save the duplicate image as a psd or tiff file (with layers)
  6. Blur the duplicate layer by clicking Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur
    You will have a preview of the amount of blur as you slide the slider.
    Most often it is desirable to see some of the shapes and details of the original image.
    When you have the desired amount of blur, click OK.
  7. Choose your elliptical marquee tool (keyboard shortcut M)
  8. Draw an ellipse over the area you wish to keep.
  9. Feather the edges of the selection by clicking Select >  Refine Edge.
    You should have a preview of the softness of the edge. Slide the slider until you have the best balance of softness and realism. Click OK.
  10. Cut the selection by clicking Edit > Cut.
  11. Review your results. If you don't like what you see, undo and redo until you like the results.
  12. Save your work.
  13. Flatten your image. Layer> Flatten
  14. Click File >  Save As to save in a jpg file format for sharing and posting on the web.
Finished image with blurred edges

elliptical marquee before and after

Photo of the Week - October 14, 2012

Still Life of a Padlock
Olympia, WA
October 14, 2012

Students and fellow photographers often ask me about the process I use when taking photographs. They are often surprised to learn that I plan and pre-visualize many of my photographs before I press the shutter button. And, they are often incredulous when I tell them that I often plan the photographs before I leave home to shoot for the day. I often think about what I am likely to see on an outing and what kind of messages I wish to communicate. This helps me decide which lens to bring and what settings to plan to use on the camera.

This week's photo of the week is a good case in point. I planned the story and anticipated the look before I pressed the shutter. The photo was part of a small project featuring a single subject as the focal point in an image.

Some of the options I chose for this image:
  • Black and White - limits distractions and unifies image.
  • High Contrast - to create gritty, urban, isolated feel.
  • Shallow depth of field - low numbered f-stop focuses eye on primary subject.
  • Underexposure - limits impact of surroundings; focuses eye on lock's shiny highlights. Also, emphasizes curvy shape of lock.
  • Tele-photo lens - flattens the look of the image, making it more graphic and isolated.
The image above is what I shot in camera. It was not edited or re-imagined in the computer.

The image below was taken at the same time, in color, with normal exposure, to show how the scene actually looked to a passerby.

Photo of the Week - October 5, 2012

Party Lanterns in a Box

October 5, 2012

Photo of the Week - September 25, 2012

Seattle Street Scene

September 25, 2012

Photo of the Week - September 12, 2012

Water Stained Canyon Wall
Lower Calf Creek Falls Trail
Escalante National Monument, Utah

September 12, 2012

Photo of the Week - September 11, 2012

Slickrock Landscape
Dixie National Forest
Near Escalante, Utah

September 11, 2012

Photo of the Week - September 9, 2012

Great Basin Bristlecone Pine Trees
Pinus longaeva
Spectra Point Trail
Cedar Breaks National Monument

September 9, 2012

Bristlecone Pine trees found in the high elevations of the dry intermountain West are among the oldest living organisms found on Earth. On Cedar Break's Spectra Point Trail, there is one tree which is over 1,600 years old. The trees are found between 8,000 and 10,500 feet elevation at Cedar Breaks.

According to the National Park Service:
"Bristlecone pine is also known as "Wind Timber", "Hickory Pine", "Krummholz" and "Foxtail Pine." It is a member of the group of pines known as foxtail pines, because of the shape of the branches and the way the needles stay attached all the way up the limb. The limbs look like small foxtails."

"The tree is used heavily in the science of dendrochronology, where tree rings of known ages are compared against environmental conditions and a history of previous environmental conditions is recorded. Because the trees are thousands of years old, we can understand what the environment was like thousands of years ago, just by comparing the tree rings.

The tree is also noteworthy because the needles stay on the limb for over 40 years, unlike most other pines, which shed their needles every few years. This is important, because the tree can go through periods when it does not grow at all. At such high elevations (8,000-11,000 ft), there are years when the environment does not thaw. This prevents the tree from putting on a new year's growth (both foliage and cambium rings.) By keeping its needles longer, the tree doesn't lose all of its foliage without having the opportunity to grow new needles. It also means that a tree with 900 obvious rings may be significantly older.

Great longevity is also insured by highly resinous wood which helps prevent the trees from desiccating in the hot, dry temperatures. This resin also helps shield the bristlecones from insects and harmful bacteria that prey upon many other, more fragile trees."

Photo of the Week - September 9, 2012

Sunset from the Spectra Point Trail
Cedar Breaks National Monument

September 9, 2012

Cedar Breaks National Monument is about 15 miles as the crow flies from Cedar City, Utah. The upper rim of the monument sits at 10,350 feet. Cedar City sits 4,550 feet lower at the intersection of the Mojave Desert and the Great Basin.

The geologic history of Cedar Breaks began about 60 million years ago when sediments were deposited into ancient Lake Claron. As algae living in the lake died, it cemented the particles together, creating limestone.

About 10 million years ago, the Hurricane Fault became active just east of today's Cedar City. It uplifted the eastern side of the fault, creating the Markagunt Plateau.

The uplifted plateau became susceptible to the forces of wind, water and chemical erosion.

Today, we see an ever evolving amphitheatre of limestone towers and magnificently colored cliffs.

The Spectra Trail follows about 2 miles of the amphitheatre's rim, giving you many amazing vistas of the 6 mile wide bowl.

Photo of the Week - September 7, 2012

Cottonwood Canyon Wilderness Trail
Red Cliffs Recreation Area
Near St. George, Utah

September 7, 2012

Southern Utah is known for all its beautiful parks and monuments. Zion, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Arches and other famous parks get the bulk of the publicity. For every major park, there are two or three state parks, Bureau of Land Management sites and other public spaces to enjoy.

Red Cliffs National Conservation Area is located near St. George, Utah and it is well worth a visit the next time you find yourself in Southwestern Utah. Red Cliffs marks the space where the Mojave Desert, great Basin and the Colorado Plateau meet. It was set aside to protect the habitat of the Desert Tortoise.

Much of the Red Cliffs is remote wilderness. However, several easy access points are also available. The photos on this post were taken on the Cottonwood Canyon Wilderness trail, which is leaves from the Red Cliffs Campground, just off I-15, north of St.George. The trail follows the river bottom as it winds through the narrowing canyon. After two miles or so, the trail narrows and should be attempted by skilled hikers only. There are several other trails in and around the campground which can be enjoyed by all levels of hikers.

Snow Canyon State Park is another excellent spot to enjoy the Red Cliffs. Located northwest of St. George, the state park offers scenic viewpoints and a wide variety of trails.
The Nature Conservancy is one of the partners in the preservation of Red Cliffs. Visit their web page here.

Photo of the Week - September 5, 2012

Virgin River Canyon Recreation Area
Bureau of Land Management

September 5, 2012

One of the surprising delights of traveling northwest on Interstate 15 from Las Vegas towards St. George, Utah is the Virgin River Gorge, which straddles the upper northwestern corner of Arizona. The Virgin River Canyon Recreation Area, just off exit 18, is the only developed access to some of the most wild and remote land in the Southwest. If you are traveling through, take a few minutes to get off the highway and explore the river bottom adjacent to the picnic area.

Deseret News article on the Virgin River Canyon Recreation Area

Photo of the Week - September 5, 2012

Preparing to Board a Flight
McCarran International Airport
Las Vegas, Nevada

September 5, 2012 

White Balance and Photographing Food

Food is one of the more sensual experiences we encounter in our daily life.
It is one of the few places where we fully enjoy four of the five senses
all in one experience - smell, touch, taste and sight. Of these senses, sight
is often the gateway to the food experience.

White Balance is crucial for food photography. It helps us capture the color
of the food accurately. And, white balance can help set the mood for the
senses of smell and taste.

How white balance works:
White balance is the only setting on your camera dedicated to color. Other settings,
such as contrast and saturation, may bias colors to richer or softer hues. White balance
is the only setting that makes red look red and blue look blue.

In the days of film photography, most film was balanced to be shot in daylight.
Photographs made outdoors had beautiful, accurate color. The film was not balanced
for shooting indoors under artificial light. The color would shift and look unnatural
(and often ugly) under fluorescent, tungsten or halogen lights. To correct the problem,
film photographers would either use a colored filter in front of the lens or a flash
to bring the colors back to looking normal. 
Video and digital cameras solved the bad color problem by adding color sensors
and electronic filtration. When your digital camera senses amber light from a
light bulb it electronically shifts the color back to a natural color balance.

Auto white balance works great when photographing average scenes with a good
balance of color. AWB can work very poorly when one color predominates.
That's where food photography comes in; fruit and vegetables often have rich,
powerful colors that dominate an image. AWB sees these strong colors and thinks
the camera is being used in artificial light. The camera adds the complimentary color
(red-cyan, yellow-blue, orange-violet) in order to neutralize the color. The result
is often less than vibrant, beautiful colors.

Correcting the problem is straightforward. In Program, Aperture Priority,
Shutter Priority, or Manual exposure modes activate the white balance control
(usually labeled WB) and shift the white balance to match your light source.

When done shooting, be sure to return your white balance to its usual setting.
Auto White Balance
Camera responds to warm colors of peppers
and adds cool colors to compensate.

Daylight White Balance
brings out warm colors of peppers
in natural light at the market.

Auto White Balance
makes artichoke head look cool
and unappetizing.

Daylight White Balance
brings out warmer colors and makes
artichoke more appealing.

Auto White Balance
accentuates the cool colors of the leaves.

Cloudy/Overcast White Balance
accentuates warm colors of the fruit.

Depth of Field at Different F-stops

Here is a set of comparison photos of the same macro subject taken at different f-stops. Each of these photos have photographic and artistic merit. It is a matter of personal opinion as to which image is best.

The cucumber vine and leaf were about 10 inches from the camera. The background leaves were 1 to 1.5 feet behind the subject.

All of the photos were taken at the same time using a Canon 100mm f/2.8 macro lens on a Canon 30D camera, using a tripod and remote.

1/1600 sec.   f/2.8  ISO 400

1/640 sec.   f/4.5  ISO 400

1/320 sec.   f/6.3  ISO 400

1/200 sec.   f/8  ISO 400

1/100 sec.   f/11  ISO 400

1/30 sec.   f/22  ISO 400

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