Life & Style tutorial: Cool neon text effects

Give your text a dynamic, other-worldly feel with these amazing neon tricks.

Graphic design is a lot like cooking: the more ingredients and techniques you can combine, the broader the choice of treats you can dish up – and this neon style is a great one to have in your cookbook, whether you use it as a little seasoning or the central dish.

Whether you’re designing posters, album covers or even just eye-catching flyers, the neon look is a showstopper that’ll earn you multiple brownie points with your clients.

As Tony Ariawan demonstrates here, it’s not even massively complex to create – it just requires patience, skill at warping and transforming, and excellent starting materials. You’ll find the neon swirls you need to create this stunning effect on this month’s CD.

01. In Photoshop, create new document at A3 size in landscape orientation, specifying RGB mode with a resolution of 300dpi. Fill the background with black, and create your words or phrases using the Type Tool. Choose a thin, light font as this will help the neon flashes we’ll add later to really blend in with your text, making it seem as though the words themselves are causing all the swirls.

02. Before we start using the Distort Transform Tool, we need to give the type its slanting shape: select Layer > Type > Convert to Shape.

03. Next, use the Transform tool (Cmd/Ctrl + T) and right-click (Ctrl + click), then select the Distort Transform option. Move the corners using the anchors, holding Shift + Alt as you move the cursor.

04. From the cover CD, open P1030271. JPG and convert it to black-andwhite using Cmd/Ctrl + U, and sliding the Saturation level to -100. To brighten the white use Auto Level (Cmd/Ctrl + Alt + L). Now drag this layer into the document with the text on it, and select Blending Options > Screen.

05. Transfom the layer you’ve just imported using (Cmd/Ctrl + T), and right-click (Ctrl + click) to choose the Warp tool. Now you can see six sections on the layer, and you can move every section or every point individually. Move the points as above, so that the swirls interact with the ‘G’.

06. Open P1030247.JPG from the cover CD (or download from link on right) and repeat Step 04 to make the flashes monochrome, then bring it into your document. Don’t forget to set the blending layer to Screen; start warping around this layer. Do the same with files DSC_9302.JPG, DSC_9606.JPG and DSC_9607.JPG.

07. Now we’re going to add the glow effect. Select the text layer and select Add a Layer Style > Outer Glow. Set the Opacity to 100%, the Spread to 6 pixels, the Size to 28 pixels, and the Range to 100%.

08. We need to merge the layers. With the text layer selected, hold down Shift and select all layers above it, and merge all these layers, not including the background layer. On the merged layer you’ve just created select Blending Options > Screen. Duplicate this layer (Cmd/Ctrl+J), use the Transform tool (Cmd/Ctrl + T), right-click (Ctrl + click) and select Flip Vertical.

09. We’re going to create a reflection effect, to make the newly merged layer look as though it’s standing on a slick floor. Using the Transform tool (Cmd/Ctrl + T), right-click (Ctrl + click) and select Distort. Transform this layer by moving its corners, holding down Shift + Alt.

10. Next add a layer mask to this layer (Layer > Add Layer Mask), and use the Gradient tool (G) to fill this mask with a gradient as shown here, so that the reflection fades as it gets closer to the top of the letters.

11. Next we’re going to create the particle effect. Create a new layer (Cmd/Ctrl + Shift + N), and select the Brush tool (B), choosing the following settings: Shape Dynamics ticked, Size Jitter set to 100%, Scattering set to 1,000% and ticked, Other Dynamics ticked, with the Opacity Jitter set to 45% and the Flow Jitter to 100%. Start brushing across the layer, varying the size of the brush; you can add masking to erase unwanted particles.

12. Now we’re going to add the blue shade to the image. Select New Adjustment Layer > Solid Color. Set the colour to Hex Color #009acc and select Blending Options > Saturation.

13. To adjust the colour, select New Adjustment Layer > Solid Color, set the colour to Hex Color #0dccc4 and select Blending Options > Soft Light.

14. Finally, create another adjustment layer, this time selecting Curve, and set the curve parameter by making the individual adjustment curve. Adjust the red, green and blue channels individually, rather than simply pulling the RGB marker. Using curves lets you make adjustments in one tonal area without affecting other tones.

15. Here we can see the impact of our colour adjustments on the overall image. Play about with the colour curves until you settle on just the right neon colour to grab your viewer’s attention.

Who: Freelance graphic designer Tony Ariawan is based in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. He works for clients around the world, providing graphic design services including 2D and 3D illustrations, logos, motion graphics and Web design services. He also produces personal projects that he showcases on his Web site.
Software: Adobe Photoshop
Download: All files for this tutorial can be downloaded here or are available on the cover CD.

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