How to Make an Image Out of Text in Photoshop

Jon Fisher

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I’ve always been interested in making new and unique designs using the tools that come with Photoshop. We’ve looked at whitening teeth using a few simple tools, creating animated GIFs, and how to place transparent text over an image.

Another such design is explaining an image through text. Not only can you choose what text to use for the picture, you can select where the text should reside, how big or small it should appear, and what color the overall design should consist of. The  instructions below provide exactly how this is done.

The steps are very precise and need to be followed perfectly to achieve the desired effect. Take note of each step and name carefully, and you’ll be able to make this cool effect with any picture you choose.

Create a Text Portrait in Photoshop

Step 1: Open an image in Photoshop with File > Open.

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Step 2: Double-click the Background layer just created from opening the image. Select OK at the prompt to accept the new layer name.

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Step 3: With the Background layer in focus, select the Color Range tool from the Select menu.

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Choose Shadows from the dropdown list of Sampled Colors and ensure the Selection bubble is selected at the bottom. Press OK.

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Step 4: The shadows of the base image will now be highlighted. Press Ctrl + C to copy the highlights and then Ctrl + V to paste them. A new layer will appear.

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Step 5: Click the Layer 0 again so it comes into focus. Now choose the Color Range tool from the Select menu again but this time choose Midtones from the dropdown menu. Press OK.

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Step 6: The midtones of the base image will now be highlighted. Press Ctrl + C to copy the midtones and then Ctrl + V to paste them. A new layer will appear.

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Step 6: Hide Layer 0 from the panel by clicking the small eye to the left of the layer. Then select Layer 2, the layer you just created.

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Press Shift + F5 to open the Fill window and select 50% Gray. Also make sure the Preserve Transparency checkbox is active. Press OK.

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Step 7: This time choose Layer 1 and enter Shift + F5 once more to select Black from the dropdown.

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Step 8: Now select the two layers, Layer 1 and Layer 2, by holding the Ctrl key to click and highlight them both. Right-click the layers and choose Merge Layers.

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Step 9: We now need to find an appropriate set of text to use for the image. Because we’re using Mona Lisa, we’ll copy over an entry from Wikipedia on this painting. You can use any text you want or create your own.

Press Ctrl + A on Layer 1 to select it all. Press Ctrl + N to make a new document with the same dimensions as the current one. There’s not need to name this because it will only be temporarily used.

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Find and choose the Type Text tool.

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Click and drag the tool from the top left of the canvas to the bottom right.

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Paste your text in this box and adjust the paragraphs and sentences so they line up nicely like so:

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Ensure the text is black. You can change this from the top menu when the Type Text is selected.

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Step 10: Next is to make a brush pattern out of this text. Click the Rectangular Marquee Tool and select an area of the text (or the whole area). Choose Edit > Define Brush Preset.

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Enter any name for the brush name.

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Step 11: Make two new blank layers from the bottom of the Layers panel.

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This will make two new layers: Layer 2 and Layer 3. Choose Layer 2 and go to the Paint Bucket Tool. This tool is in the same button as the Gradient Tool. Right-click the button to find the Paint Bucket Tool.

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Choose White as the color and paint the canvas Layer 2 with white by clicking on the canvas once. Then hide that layer by clicking the small eye shape next to the layer name.

Select Layer 1 and enter Ctrl + A to highlight everything and then Ctrl + C to copy it.

Step 12: Click Layer 3 and then type B to open the Brush Tool. Click the small arrow next to the brush icon on the top menu and scroll to the very bottom right to find the most recent brush you’ve created: the text from Step 9.

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Click Layer 3 and ensure Black is the color of the brush. Click once anywhere on the canvas to paint the text on. Keep doing this however you please to make different sizes or text all over Layer 3.

Step 13: With Layer 3 still selected, click the small circle symbol in the Layers panel to make a layer mask.

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Hold down the Alt key and press the new small white layer thumbnail next to the regular Layer 3.

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The will turn the whole canvas white.

Now press Ctrl + V to paste what we previously copied. Then enter Ctrl + D to deselect the selection and finish off with Ctrl + I to invert the selection.

Now hide Layer 1 and then reveal Layer 2. This will make the image easier to see. Select the regular thumbnail on Layer 3 (the one to the left).

Choose Gradient Overlay from the left menu and select any Gradient color from the dropdown.

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To reveal more of the picture (if the colors are too light), choose Black for the color and the Brush Tool  to paint on Layer 3 and reveal more of the actual image. Keep doing this until you like the appearance.

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Conclusion

Take your time with this guide and make any minor adjustments you can think of that don’t compromise the overall functionality. You can easily create a very custom image with text and color to your liking. Let us know about any cool tips you came across while following this tutorial.


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