In Photoshop there are often several ways to create the same effect, whether its through the use of tools, menu commands or panels. In this short tutorial, we’ll look at how to create the effect of see-through type by using the Horizontal Type Mask Tool. A similar effect can be achieved using the normal type tool, then selecting the type, but this method removes a step or two.
1. Open the image that you want to apply your type to. For this exercise, I’m using this photograph of some purple flowers. I’ve reduced the width of the image to 600 pixels, so feel free to download this picture if you want to use the same settings as me.
2. Select the Horizontal Type Mask tool from the toolbar. It’s hidden underneath the normal Type Tool, so hold down your mouse for a second on the Type Tool to see the flyout menu.
3. Choose a font from the font family menu on the Options Bar. This works best with a thick, fat font so the selection area will be fairly big. I’ve used RockWell Extra Bold, size 115 pt and Leading 120pt.
Click on your image and you’ll notice the red (or rubylith) appear as a mask. As you type letters they appear see-through. At this stage you can still edit your text as normal by highlighting it and making changes in the Options bar or in the Character palette.
4. When the text looks right, click the black checkmark at the far right of the Options bar to accept the mask, or just press the Enter key on the numeric keypad. This creates a selection of the text and you will see the familiar marching ants. The red overlay disappears.
The text is no longer editable and you’ll notice there is no new text layer in the Layers palette. If you decide to edit or reformat the text after accepting the mask, you have to start again.
5. For this example, I want to fade out the background around the letters so we’ll invert the selection. Choose Select > Inverse to select everything except the letters.
6. In the Layers panel, click the “Create New Fill or Adjustment Layer” button (the half-black/half-white circle) and choose Hue/Saturation from the popup menu. We’re using an Adjustment layer so that the original photo remains unchanged.
In the Adjustments panel that opens (CS4 and CS5), remove the photo’s color by lowering the saturation to –100. Then drag the Lightness slider to +35 to lighten the photo, making the text more legible.
Your image should look something like this:
You could stop at this point if you wanted, and that’s all there is to using the Horizontal Type Mask Tool, but I’d like the text to stand out a bit more so I’ll add a layer style.
7. Make sure the masked layer is selected in the Layers panel, then click on the Layer Styles button (Fx) at the bottom of the Layers panel. Choose Inner Shadow from the drop down menu.
I used a deep purple color (#330033) instead of black for the drop shadow. Black can be a bit too severe sometimes. Set the distance to 0, Spread to 30% and Size to 5 pixels.
The text should stand out quite nicely now.
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