Retro Text and Video Layers Retro text like this looks great but isn’t easy to create in Photoshop alone so here we use a mix of Photoshop and Illustrator, raster and vector to create some unique text. The second part of this tutorial explains video layers, something which is relatively new to most people. The final result will be an animated image that could be used for a web header.
Preview of Final Results
Retro Text Photoshop Tutorial
This tutorial will kind of be split into two parts, the second part starting at step 19.The first part will cover the creation of the text and then editing this text in Photoshop. The first part will require Adobe Illustrator as well as Photoshop. The second part covers adding the animation in through Photoshop, this will mean you have to have Photoshop CS3 extended version as we will be using video layers. However there is ways round this if you can find a program to convert movie files into animated gifs. Firstly a good idea when starting any project is to think up a color scheme or to find one on the internet, I tend to use this site to find color schemes so for this project I searched for ‘retro’. Part of the reason why I wrote this tutorial was because gomedia have released a couple of free sample motion packs which ought to be utilized and for people who don’t know how to use them then this is what the tutorial covers. For this I will be using the Hooladanders pack which can be downloaded here.
Start by opening Adobe Illustrator, there are two reasons why we want to use Illustrator here rather than Photoshop, firstly we can create vector files which gives us more flexibility when we export things to Photoshop and secondly there are a few nice things we can do in Illustrator which would take a while in Photoshop. Hit Ctrl+N to create a new document, I used a size of 800x600px but this doesn’t matter as we are working with images that can be enlarged infinitely. Now hit Ctrl+’ to show the grid. Now the default grid should have 8 subdivisions, if yours is different then go edit>preferences>guides & grid and change it. Next click on the view dropdown and make sure snap to grid is checked. Select the rectangle tool and draw a 2×2 rectangle, we will change the fill and stroke in the next step.
With your rectangle still selected, go to the main toolbar and change the fill to one of the colors in your color scheme and set it to no stroke like in the image below. If you were wanting an outline round your text you would have to draw a line only at the left and right side of this rectangle for reasons that will become apparent later on.
Create four more of these rectangles, each with a different fill and a 1 subdivision space between each.
Hit V to use the selection tool then drag a box round all five rectangles then hit F5 to bring up the brushes panel. Inside this click the new brush button and select new art brush. Now change the settings to mimic the ones shown below. It should be fairly obvious why we changed it from a horizontal to a vertical direction.
Next I worked out a rough typeface I was going to use, we are not using a real font here but rather, creating a path then stroking it with the brush we created. Below I’ve shown the path I would make if I wanted to make a P, an F and a C; the red lines being the first path and the green; the second path. From this you should be able to work out roughly how to create any letters. At the moment don’t actually do this in Illustrator but maybe sketch out the kind of letters you want. I’ll show more details on how I created the letters in RETRO. The main points here were to make most letters 1 major gridline in width and half a major gridline between the letters. Note that on the F, it extends 1 minor gridline below, this is to acount for the extra width from the brush on letters like the C. If this doesn’t make too much sense at the moment; don’t worry I’ll go through a full example in the following steps.
First I made a new layer, the plan was to have two layers as I needed two paths for some of the letters. This meant that I could export it to Photoshop as two layers also. We will create all of the first layer (red) then afterwards create the second (green). Hit P to select the pen tool, the pen tool in Illustrator works in the same way as in Photoshop. We don’t want any bezier curves so click once at each point and don’t drag the mouse. Draw this shape in your document; starting from the lower left point. We have to start at the right end or else the colors wont match up when we add layer 2.
Hit V then click on the path and a bounding box should appear. In the main toolbar make sure we have no stroke or fill then just click on our brush in the brushes panel and it should look like the image below. If for example our brush was the wrong size we could click the small button to the left of new brush and change the size but since we set it at 20% already we should be fine.
Now for quick bit of maths; go edit>preferences>guides & grid and take note of the ‘gridline every:’ number, now divide this number by 4, mine was at 72px so I got 18. This number is because we are going to round the corners and want the radius to be equal to two of the minor gridlines; the reason for this is obvious if you look at the examples of the letters I used but if you were to use different letters you could make it more or less rounded. Okay to round the corners, with the leter still selected, go effect>stylize (illustrator)>round corners and set it to the value you calculated.
Do the same for the other letters, so all my paths looked like the image below. You can either do the letters one at a time or create all the paths then add the styles to all of them at the same time. The image below that shows the completed first layer of the letters.
Now for the second layer, do exactly the same as for the first, In green is the paths I used for the second layer, I then added the same styling to achieve a result like the one below. Note that here you could always just copy the R to save creating it again. You should have three layers; one with the brush shape in it, another with the first layer of our text (red) which we’ll call T1 and another with our second layer of text (green) which we’ll call T2.
Create a new document in Photoshop; since these are vectors you can make it any size but I used 900x300px as I envisioned it as a good idea for a website header. Now in Illustrator, hide T2 then drag a selection on over the text then copy and paste it into Photoshop as a smart object if possible, if not then paste it as pixels and ignore the next bit. Hit Ctrl+T then change the height and width to 150%. Now do exactly the same with T1, hiding the T1 in Illustrator, then alaign it with the other layer. Below I’ve only shown one letter but that’s only because I’ll be demonstrating the techniques on this letter first.
Ctrl+click on T1 to make a selection around it. There is a few steps that aren’t required for the text I used but you may need to do all steps If you are doing this to a different shape or size of text so I’ll show you all the steps then you can work out the shortcuts if you want. Select the polygonal lasso tool then hold Shift to change it to add mode, this will add to the selection we already have. Now draw around the parts of T2 that you want to hide (purple line), one letter at a time. So here I’ve made this selection which will keep the same curve at the right part of the R by staying within this line then drawing round everything else. The resulting selection is shown below that.
Next, with the either the polygonal lasso or the marquee, hold Alt+Shift to change it to intersect mode which will select only the parts included in both selections. Now draw round the part of T2 which you want removed, there’s no need to be neat, just draw a box like the one shown in purple. This is so that when we remove it it will only apply to this one letter then we can go on and do the other letters after. Again I’ve shown the resulting selection below.
Now go select>modify>expand and choose 3px as the value. Select the T2 layer and hold Alt and click on the add layer mask button in the layers panel, this will create a layer mask then fill the selection in black, if we were to just click on the layer mask button we would get everything except the selection filled black. Below is what your letter should now look like.
Do this for any other letters that have two layers so for mine I had to do it to E.T, Note that after you’ve refined the selection you don’t want want to make another mask so instead select the mask then hit D to reset the foreground and background colors then hit Alt+Backspace to fill the selection black. Alt+Backspace is a shortcut for filling something with the foreground color and is quicker than going edit>fill or Shift+F5.
Now you can move certain parts of your text to get the spacing right. Lastly select T2 and hit Ctrl+E to merge it with T1 then right click and convert to a smart object. Below I’ve shown the finalized text.