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For the first installment of Photoshop for Designers, Nigel French shows how to create editable, non-destructive effects such as shadows, glows, and bevels with layer effects in Photoshop. The course covers the use of layer effects like Drop Shadow, Inner Shadow, Bevel and Emboss, and Gradient Overlay, as well as how to combine effects with blending modes, transparency, and textures. With these techniques, designers can finesse type and graphics, control light, warp text, and extrude shapes, creating drama and adding depth to their compositions.
Now I know you're here to learn Photoshop but you can't use Photoshop without using a little bit of Illustrator as well, and we're going to make a brief foray into Illustrator. I'm going to create this as a 3D letter in Illustrator and then we'll see how we can bring in the separate parts and work with them independently as Smart Objects and apply different effects to those Smart Objects, then put the two parts together, then create a shadow from that and then further customize that shadow.
So our staring point in Photoshop is nothing but a black square. We're actually going to begin this process in Illustrator with nothing more than a single letter. it's a Gill Sans Bold O in a light gray color. I'm going to zoom in on this a little bit and I'm going to select it and then we're going to go to Effect > 3D > Extrude & Bevel. Let's turn on my preview. And that's pretty much what I want. Very simple, straightforward.
So I'm going to click OK to that. Now I need to break this apart. So I'm going to come to the Object menu and Expand Appearance and that is going to give me editable vectors. That's good, because what I want to do is I want to separate the surface of the O from its extruded shadow. So I'm going to click just in the surface and then I'm going to create a new layer using my Layers panel, and I'm going to move that to the top layer so it's off by itself and then with what remains, I'm going to select all of that and you can see that I've got various different bits here.
This still needs simplifying. There's way too much detail here, way more than we need. So I'm going to select all of these things and then come to my Window menu and my Pathfinde panel where I'm going to unite them as one. So it's all now just a flat color in there. So our 3D shape is made up now just of two separate objects and I'm going to select these one by one. First the O, I'm going to copy it, switch over to Photoshop where I'm going to paste it.
Command+V or Ctrl+V. And I'm going to paste it as a Smart Object. I'm going to leave that right there, press Return, and then I'm going to go back to Illustrator where I'm going to select the shadow, copy, move back to Photoshop, and I'll paste it as a Smart Object. I'll press Return. I'll change the order of my layers, and I might need to just reposition things slightly. But they should align, and indeed they do.
The reason we made them separate is so that we can apply effects to them independently. For the shadow, what I'd like to do is apply a Gradient Overlay. So I'm going to come to Gradient Overlay and that's pretty much what I want. I don't really want anything more than that. So I'm just going to click OK to that. Now, for the surface of the O what I want is a Bevel and Emboss. So I'm going to double-click on that. Bevel and Emboss, I'm going to increase the Size of the bevel.
But what I don't want to get is I don't want to get any shadows. I just want the highlights from the bevel. So I'm going to reduce the Opacity of the Shadow and let's crank up the Opacity for the Highlight mode. So we really make those beveled edges shine and we may even change the mode to Linear Dodge, which will make them shine a little bit more. Now what I'm going to do is select both of those and I'm going to make them into one Smart Object.
Now, I can work on this as just one object. So I'm going to press Command+T to go to Free Transform, hold down my Shift key, and then drag this up into position somewhere around here. Now, if you've ever seen a poster by the famous artist Man Ray that he did for the London Underground in the 1930s, you will start to perhaps recognize where I'm doing with this, because what I'm doing here is very much inspired by that, so I should give the nod to Man Ray. Now, what I'm going to do is I'm going to apply a shadow to it.
Double-click to the right of the layer name, add a Drop Shadow, and I want the Drop Shadow to be white, so let's go and change the color. I'm going to change the blend mode to Normal and now I can just drag this down where we want it. But we can't quite get it exactly where we want it. So I'm just going to dump it right there and maybe we'll increase the size of the shadow a little bit. But just for a bit more flexibility, I might now want to come and right-click on the fx badge. Choose Create Layer, which will separate the shadow from its layer.
I can now come and select that shadow and I perhaps want to distort it a little bit. So I'm going to press Command+T or Ctrl+T and Command or Ctrl and just drag from these handles to distort the shadow independently of its object and perhaps I also want to apply a little bit more blurring to it. So I'm going to come to the Filter menu > Blur > Gaussian Blur, and just up that a little bit more.
So there we have our customized Drop Shadow derived from a vector Smart Object, which itself is a collection of two separate vector Smart Objects which were derived from a 3D letter created in Illustrator. Phew! That was a long way around, wasn't it? But worth it I think.
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