Join Nigel French for an in-depth discussion in this video Illustrating a concept with shape layers and layer masks, part of Photoshop for Designers: Type Effects.
Here's a simple technique that relies upon the use of a shape layer, piece of type, and a layer mask. But, first and foremost, it relies upon a good idea. I'm using a typeface called Gotham, Gotham Black. If you don't have that, then use something that is solid and simple. You might choose Myriad Pro Bold which is a typeface that comes installed with Photoshop, or you can opt for this option because what I have done is in the beginning layer group which I'm now going to turn on, you can see I've actually turned the type into a shape layer.
So the type is actually now vector outlines rather than editable type. That means that as a path, it is going to have a gray line around it. If you find this gray line visually distracting, which I think you might, and I certainly do in this context, we can do this; We can come to the View Menu and down to Show and uncheck Target Path. Okay. So, we have our piece of type which is actually a shape layer and I'm now going to draw a shape layer on top of that for the bird.
I'm going to come to my Custom Shape Tool, and here is a dropdown list of my custom shapes. If you want to add more, if you don't see as many as I'm seeing right now, you can come to the cog at the top right and choose All, and that will add all of the basic custom shapes. However, even after doing that, you still won't have the shape that I'm using and that's because this is a shape set that I've downloaded. Let me show you where I got it from.
I got it from this website called PhotoshopShapes which is a fantastic resource for custom shapes, and this shape set was created by Luke Roberts. So having downloaded this, you can click on it and it will appear in your list of custom shapes. So, once it's there, you can choose it, and then choose a color that you want to fill that shape. I currently have white as my foreground color which just so happens is the color that I want.
So now I'm going to hold down my Shift key as I draw the shape, and I want it about there, so it's flying off the E. And even though I intended that to be white and I intended it to be a new shape layer, it's actually added that to my current shape layer and it's become black. I'm going to undo that and then I'm going to come to my Paths panel where I'm going to make sure that this shape layer is actually not selected, then come back to my layers, and I will do the same again.
So now I'll hold down my Shift key and draw that out, and it's still coming as black bird. That's okay because it's on its own layer so that's easy to fix. With the shape layer selected and white as your foreground color, press Option or Alt and Delete, and that will fill the shape layer with your foreground color. That's where I want my bird positioned. Now, I'm going to make a selection of the shape that I can use as the layer mask.
And to do this, I will press Command or Ctrl and click on the shape layer and we see the marching ants around the shape. Now, the key here is I want to move the position of the shape to indicate that the bird has flown from one point to another. So I'm going to choose my Selection tool and I am going to drag that selection outline to about there. Then, I'm going to select my type layer and I want this selection to be used as a layer mask.
Now, if I click on Add Layer Mask, it's going to give me the opposite of what I want. It will use this selection and conceal everything else. I want the opposite of that. So whenever you're doing this with the layer mask, you have 50% chance of it being the right option, and rather than use up my brain power to trying to figure out which I'm going to get, I'll just click on that, and if it's the wrong one as it is, I will come to the layer mask itself and press Command or Ctrl+I which will invert it, and I now have the result that I want.
Those gray path outlines have somewhat annoyingly shown up again and they will have a habit of turning on even though I've said go away, it will turn them off when we finish. So now to finish this technique, I need to be clicked on to the layer mask where I will come to the Filter Menu, and choose Blur>Motion Blur, and I'll just add some motion blur, simulating the angle of flight; something like that.
Let's just turn off that path outline and there is the finished technique. I just want to point out that I also did an alternative version, and if we come to the Layer Comps panel, I have two layer comps set up. If you click on Layer Comp 2, here we see the alternative version which my initial instinct was that this would be more successful, but on reflection, I think the one we just saw is more successful because it's simpler.
There's just too much going on in here that I think dilutes the concept. So, there is our finished version.
- Illustrating with shape layers, layer masks, and clipping masks
- Modifying letterforms
- Using a displacement map
- Illustrating words
- Creating effects such as smoky or fiery type
- Working with brushes and type
- Warping text
- Using a Vanishing Point grid
- Incorporating repetition and pattern
- Layering type