The 1980s are back – their influence is currently everywhere, from fashion to music, and nowhere are they more visible than in digital art. Creatives are combining the trashy glamour of the decade with the fantastic toolsets of Photoshop and other creative tools, to come up with kitschy effects that raise a smile – at the same time as showing off technical skill.
See also: 86 Best Photoshop tutorials
In this tutorial, Fabio Sasso shows how to channel the 1980s to create type-based artworks that are both retro and futuristic. You’ll use a classically 1980s colour palette – combining neon and dark colours for maximum pop – and add a space-age nebula that’s straight out of Ulysses 31 (or Daft Punk’s One More Time promo, for those too young to remember the show). You’ll also hone your technique at using blending modes and layer styles.
Of course, it wouldn’t be the 1980s unless the technology was lagging slightly behind the dream, so the all-important techy, space-influenced background is as glitchy as an ageing Atari game – and you’ll add a vintage feel to the piece by roughing it up a little with some textures.
Some of the images and textures Sasso has used must be paid for; for free alternatives you can search
CG Textures or Stock Xchng, or substitute images from your own collection. Software
Adobe Photoshop CS2 or higher
Time to complete
Create a new document measuring 1,920-x-1,200 pixels in Photoshop and fill the background layer with a radial gradient running from a grey (#05080e) to a dark blue (#182b46). Then import a concrete texture (you can download the one Sasso used for a small cost from
tinyurl.com/mw5s3p), and set the blending mode to Multiply.
Add a new layer on top of the texture layer and select
Filter > Render > Clouds, making sure that black and white are the background and foreground colours respectively. Change the layer’s blending mode to Color Dodge.
Now we need to create the striped effect – this is easy in Photoshop. Create a new document measuring 100-x-4 pixels, and create a black rectangle that’s two pixels high. Beneath it create a white rectangle that’s two pixels high. Select
Edit > Define Pattern, and name and save the pattern.
Return to your working document, add a new layer and fill it with the pattern (
Shift + F5, then select the Pattern).
In the Eraser tool (
E), select a large, very soft brush, set to 0 hardness, and while holding down Shift, click to the left and then to the right, to create a horizontal line without the pattern. Repeat this a few times to create some gaps in the pattern texture.
Now it’s time to create the text: I’ve used Goudy Sans, in italics, at 50pt. Other good fonts to use here include Amelia BT, Cooper, or Tango BT. Alternatively, you could go to
dafont.com and select one you like – these fonts are free for personal work. Position the text as shown here, then go Layer > Layer Style > Gradient Overlay, setting a gradient that runs from pink to cyan.
Duplicate the text layer then change the Fill Option to 0. Then edit the Layer Style and change the Gradient Overlay, using the following settings: angle – 90º; colours – black and white. In the Stops section, go to the pulldown Color menus and select the black, and set the Location to 51%.
Select the white and set the Location to 50%. Add an opacity marker at 50% and change the other opacity markers to 0 (see the screengrab).
This will make a gradient that is visible at the centre and then fades away. From the middle up it will be white, and from the middle down it will be darker, creating a very cool reflection.
Select the two text layers and select
Layer > Smart Objects > Convert to Smart Objects. Then go to Layer > Layer Styles. In the Stroke menu of the palette, set a one-pixel white stroke. In the Inner Shadow menu, set the opacity to 50% and the angle to 120º. In the Distance menu, set the distance to three pixels and the size to three pixels.
Duplicate the layer and move the copy two pixels up and two pixels to the left. Repeat this four or five times. When you’re done, select the copies and convert them to Smart Objects. Merge the layers and name the new layer ‘Text Effect’.
Duplicate the ‘Text Effect’ layer and go to
Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur, setting the radius to 15 pixels. Set the blending mode to Screen.
Duplicate the ‘Text Effect’ layer again and go to
Filter > Blur > Radial Blur.
Change the amount to 100, set the blur method to Zoom, and set the quality to Best.
Now let’s add another texture: this one will be an aged paper texture th at will sit on top of the other layers. You can buy the one I used from Shutterstock at
tinyurl.com/nek9xh, or use a similar one of your own. Import it into your document, resize and place it suitably, and change its blending mode to Multiply.
Creating light streaks is easy: add another layer and use the Rectangular Marquee tool (
M) to create a rectangular section, as shown here. Then use the Gradient tool ( G) to create a gradient from black to white, and fill the selection with the gradient. Change the blending mode to Color Dodge, and in the Eraser tool ( E), use a very large, soft brush to delete the edges of the light.
Move the light streak and duplicate it, then rotate and position the streaks using the Transform tool (
Cmd/Ctrl + T) to create a triangle, as shown here. Add a new layer on top of the others – but beneath the paper layer – and use some grunge brushes to distress the image (I’ve used one created by Eduardo Recife: tinyurl.com/598zgm, or you can browse the free grunge brushes here: tinyurl.com/l3o4kb).
The last thing to do is add some stars or a space scene. I used a
photo of a nebula from Shutterstock, but an incredible selection of images is available for free from NASA.
Import your space image and place it behind all the other layers – including the background layer – then set the background layer’s blending mode to Multiply to finish.