Font design is an exclusive art open to only a few individuals, but the possibilities to create or modify the type with tools like Photoshop and Illustrator lets designer and artist make their own interpretations out of them. Give typography texture, depth, or turn it into a pattern and it really becomes our own art.
See also: 83 Best Photoshop tutorials
To work well with type, you don’t need to be a scholar of letterform anatomy. So says Jorge Restrepo. “Experimentation is the key to success. Bring together materials, textures, 3D software, scanned artworks created using inks, pen, pencils – anything that helps you explore your mind.”
Here Jorge reveals his techniques for how to best arrange and composite these elements to create your own unique style.
Time to complete
Photoshop / Illustrator CS4 or later
First of all, we need a background to work on. In Photoshop, create a new A4 portrait document, with a CMYK mode and resolution of 300dpi as we want to create an A4 print. Place the file texture.jpg from the project files of this tutorial. Change the Levels (
Cmd/Ctrl + L) of the image if you want a lighter or grungier feel to the piece.
Next, open Illustrator and create a new A4 portrait document. Now, create your typography based on the word ‘Digital’ using slab fonts like Rockwell, Aachen or Cairo (or heavier weights of your favourites). If you’d prefer to use my typography, open digital.ai from the project files.
Now, we need to give a different colour to each letter. We need a swatch book to work from, so select
Window > Swatches then in the flyout menu select Open Swatch Library > Color Books > Trumatch.
Select each letter in turn and apply a colour. For this project, I recommend blue and green tones. Select one colour for each character, and try to choose some nice variants in the Trumatch window.
Select your layer. Copy & paste this across to Photoshop and position it as a placement guide. Copy the ‘D’ only from Illustrator to Photoshop document, selecting Vector Smart Object as the type. Place this using the guide. Repeat for the other letters. It would be so much easier if you could paste from Illustrator to Photoshop with layers intact, but this works almost as well.
Next we need to create some lines to apply another plane in the composition. In Illustrator, create a diagonal line. Open the Stroke panel and choose a Weight of 40pt, and choose a Round Cap.
Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform. Turn on Preview and select 4 copies and then set the Move sliders to Horizontal: 2.4cm. Make these elements white and copy and paste them into into Photoshop. Don’t forget to paste them as a Smart Object. Hide them so we can concentrate on transforming the letters, and unhide the background.
In Photoshop, select the ‘D’ layer, and click on the Add a layer style button at the bottom of the Layers panel press.
First of all, select Drop Shadow and choose the same blue as the letter. We need a darker blue to represent the shadow, so double click on the shadow colour to open the Select shadow color dialog. Select L for Lab colour and drop this down to 65. Click OK.
Create a solid shadow with an opacity of 100%. Use an Angle of 120° to create a perspective, with a Distance of 28px, a Spread of 100% and Size of 9px. Hit OK.
Right-click on your layer in the Layers panel and select Copy Layer Style. Change the layer’s blending mode to Hue so the texture underneath comes through. Duplicate the layer, delete its Drop Shadow and change the blending mode to Multiply to give the desired effect. Unhide the bars to see how they interact with the ‘D’.
Click on the Create a new fill or adjustment layer button at the bottom of the Layer panel and select Curves. We need to increase the saturation of the blue, so select Cyan from the drop down menu in the Adjustments panel. Change the Output to 28 and the Input to 45. This new layer affects all layers bellow but we need to apply only to the ‘D’ layer. Right-click on the layer and select Create Clipping Mask.
Duplicate the ‘L’ layer, then right-click select Paste Layer Style. Change this layer’s blending mode to Hue. Duplicate this layer and move some pixels to create a movement effect.
Create a new Photo Filter adjustment layer below the ‘D’s. Choose a blue colour and a density of 19%.
In Illustrator, create a diagonal line at 45 degrees with a stroke of 1 point. Next, select
Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform. Turn on Preview, enter 30 copies and, in Move, change the Horizontal value to 0.25cm.
Change its colour to white, then copy and paste this to Photoshop and position it over the letter ‘a’.
Create two Gradient Fill layers using the Create a new fill or adjustment layer button. Load the Retrepo.grd gradient file from this tutorial’s project files, give it a Style of Linear and an Angle of -145°. Change the layer’s opacity to 18%.
For the other, use the same gradient but with an angle of 90°, then give the layer an opacity of 41%. Duplicate the texture and place this in the layer stack between the two gradient fills. Change the blending mode to Color and the Fill to 44%.
Make a circle using the Ellipse tool (
U) and place it over the ‘L’ character. Give it a Multiply blending mode. Add some noise in the background (such as ink splatters) and you’re done.
Colombian artist Jorge Restrepo is a graphic designer who graduated from Universidad Nacional de Colombia in 2001. He teaches typography and editorial design in Universidad de Los Andes in his home country and in his early career he worked at JWT Colombia, General Motors Colombia and Revista Cambio as Art Director. At the end of 2002 he created Wonksite Studio, which enabled him to get involved with many projects.
He is co-author of Masters Of Photoshop 2 and has contributed to books such as Latin American Graphic Design (Taschen), Atlas Of Graphic Designers (Mao Mao Publications), Dolce & Gabbana’s 20th anniversary book, the IdN 15th Anniversary Edition: What Do You Love? and 1000 Type Treatments (Rockport) among others. He can also be found speaking and hosting workshops at universities across South America.