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Deke's Techniques is a collection of short Photoshop and Illustrator projects and creative effects that can be completed in ten minutes or less. The series is taught by computer graphics guru Deke McClelland, and presented in his signature step-by-step style. The intent is to reveal how various Photoshop and Illustrator features can be combined and leveraged in real-world examples so that they can be applied to creative projects right away.
Hey gang! This is Deke McClelland. Welcome to Deke's Techniques. This week I have a special design trick for you Photoshop users. We're going to take a layer of text, like this one here--in fact, it is this layer of text right here--and we're going to use it to automatically invert anything behind it. So you can move this text to any location you like and it will keep on inverting. Here, let me show you exactly how it works. All right! So let's see how to create that text that inverts everything behind it. Now, I'm starting off with this kind of anti-double-exposure shot, where we're layering two headshots of the same model against each other.
Because the background is white, I can go ahead and drop that background out on the model 2 layer by setting the Blend mode to Multiply. So that's all there is to that step. Next, I am going to select the text layer and turn it on as well. Now, I've gone ahead and rasterized this text in advance, because it's unlikely these specific fonts are available on your system; however, this very technique works exactly the same way for live editable type. The first thing I am going to do is fill this type with white by pressing Ctrl+Shift+Backspace or Command+Shift+Delete.
Because I have the Shift key down, that respects the transparency of the layer. Because I press Ctrl+Backspace or Command+Backspace, I fill the opaque pixels with white, which is the background color. Next, you want to set the Blend mode for this layer from Normal to Difference so that it ends up becoming a layer of inversion, because the Difference mode always uses white in the active layer to invert the layers in the background. And now if I press the Ctrl key or the Command key on the Mac, which gets me the Move tool on the fly, I can drag that text anywhere and you can see it's going to invert the colors behind it. All right! I am going to press Ctrl+Z or Command+Z on the Mac to undo that movement, because here is the thing: even though I like this white text against the black background, I am not so crazy about this text right here.
The idea is that Photoshop is taking the dark oranges in the model's skin and inverting the letters so they become light blue. That's not what I am looking for at all. I want to get rid of the color saturation inside the letters altogether, and I want a high-contrast effect. So any time the background is light, I want the text to appear black; anywhere where the background is dark, I want the text to appear white. Here is how you go about doing that. We have to add a couple of adjustment layers. I will press the Alt key or the Option key on the Mac, click the Black/White icon at the bottom of the Layers panel, and choose the Vibrance command.
Then I am going to go ahead and call this layer "desat" and I am going to turn on this check box, Use Previous Layer to Create Clipping Mask. That way I will go ahead and desaturate the active text layer and not the entire composite image. Then I will click OK. And I'm going to take that Saturation value and crank it down to -100. Because I am working on a PC and this little field is too tiny, we're truncating the minus sign, but you can see that I've taken this slider all the way to the left, so we should by all rights not be seeing any saturation in the letters, and yet we still do. All right! I am going to hide the Adjustments panel for a moment, and I want to show you everything is actually working.
If I Alt+Click or Option+Click on that horizontal line between the adjustment layer and the text, then the adjustment layer is no longer masked by the text below it and we end up with this entirely grayscale effect. So obviously the adjustment layer is working. However, as soon as I Alt+Click or Option+Click on that horizontal line again, we've got problems. What you want to do is double-click on an empty portion of this text layer right there to bring up the Layer Style dialog box, and then notice this check box right there, Blend Clipped layers as Group.
So it's turned on by default, and what that means is Photoshop goes ahead and first applies the desat layer to the text, and then it applies the Difference Blend mode to the composite result. Well, that's a problem, right? Because if we desat white text, well, white doesn't have any saturation in the first place, so we're not doing anything to the white text and so we're getting the exact same result we ever did. What we want to do is apply the Difference mode to the text first and then desaturate the result, which means that we have to change the order in which these operations are applied, and you do that by turning off this check box.
And notice, as soon as you turn the check box off, the letters go gray. All right! Now click OK. Now we need to increase the contrast. I am going to click on the desat layer to make it active, press the Alt key or the Option key on the Mac, click the Black/White icon, go ahead and choose the Levels command this time. Because the Alt or Option key is down, you get the New Layer dialog box. Once again, turn on that check box so that we're clipping the effect inside of the letters, and I am going to call was this new layer "contrast" and click OK. And I am just going to go ahead and take this white point value, in the case of this image, down to 120 here.
What I am saying is make everything that has a luminance level of 120 or brighter white. So go ahead and clip those lightest colors to white, as we're seeing here inside the image window, and that's all there is to it. I am going to go ahead and hide the Adjustments panel once again, click on the text layer to make it active, and if I press the Ctrl key or the Command key on the Mac and drag this text around, you can see that it is, on the fly, inverting the image behind it, which is just a magical, wonderful thing. I am going to press Ctrl+Z or Command+Z on the Mac to reinstate the location of that text, press the F key a couple of times to fill the screen with the image, and that's how you go about creating live editable text that inverts anything behind it, here inside Photoshop.
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