This Photoshop tutorial is written exclusively for PSD Vault by Indonesian graphics designer Mohammad Jeprie.
Have you noticed those neon texts scattered along the street? Let’s learn how to make them from scratch using Photoshop and Illustrator. We will use basic tools such as Pen and Brush, combine them with layer style to get realistic neon text. Let’s begin!
Here’s the neon text we are going to make in this tutorial.
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Assets Used in This Tutorial
Here’s some resources used in this tutorial:
Step 1: Drawing Characters in Illustrator
We will start by drawing the letters in Illustrator. We choose Illustrator because it is very reliable in drawing shape. Open up Adobe Illustrator and then make a new file (Ctrl + N).
Activate Type Tool. Make a text using standard font type such as Helvetica.
We want to convert the text into shape. Right click the text and select Create Outlines. Right click again and select Ungroup.
Select lower text and move it upward, make it closer to the other text.
I also want the text to be wider by selecting it and then pull its transformation handle.
Create new layer by clicking New Layer lower part of the Layers panel.
Activate Pen Tool and then draw a line tracing the text.
Keep on adding another line for the text.
Select the text line we have made earlier. Increase its Stroke Weight.
Select all the line and then click Object > Expand to convert them into a shape. Click OK in the next dialog box.
We want to combine all those shapes into one single shape. First, let’s change its stroke color to black and fill color to none.
Select all the shapes and then click Unite icon in the Pathfinder panel. If you can’t find Pathfinder panel, open it from the Windows menu.
Repeat this step to add another text. Here’s what I come up with. I suggest you to gather enough references on real neon text shape to come up with realistic shape.
Step 14: Export Text to Photoshop
Select all the shapes and then copy them into Clipboard by hitting Ctrl + C. Open up Photoshop and then make new file (Ctrl + N).
Grab a nice wall photo for background of our neon text.
In Photoshop, hit Ctrl + V to paste the letter shapes we have made earlier in Illustrator. Paste them as Layer Shapes.
Double click its layer shape thumbnail in the Layers panel and change its color to yellow. If you want to use different text, you should do that here.
Step 18: Adding Effect
Double click and add Outer Glow to the text using following settings.
Hit Ctrl + J to duplicate the text. Drag fx icon to the recycle bin icon to delete attached Later Styles.
Double click the new duplicated text shape, apply Outer Glow and Drop Shadow.
Here’s the result. We haven’t seen the neon effect yet.
Make new group layer and then change its name to improvement. Duplicate the text and place it in this group layer. Double click its layer to open up Layer Style dialog box. Set its Size in Outer Glow to larger size. Add bigger Drop Shadow too.
Ctrl-click the text layer to make new selection based on its shape. Click Select > Modify > Contract and input 1 to reduce selection size by 1 pixel.
Hit Right Arrow and Down Arrow a few times to move selection down.
Make new layer and then fill selection with white. Click Edit > Fill.
Duplicate text layer again and then place it inside the group layer. Double click and add another Outer Glow and Drop Shadow with following settings.
Ctrl-click the text to make another selection based on its shape. Expand it 4 pixels by clicking Select > Modify > Expand and set unit to 4.
Make new layer above the text and then fill selection with any color.
Apply Inner Shadow and Inner Glow and then Outer Glow. Then, set layer’s Fill to 0%.
Our text effect is now closer to reality, but still not enough. We will need to fix it again. We want to add dark area inside the text to add depth into its shape. Ctrl-click the text layer and then contract its size by 1 pixels.
Make new layer on top and then fill selection with darker yellow color.
Add layer mask into the layer and then paint with black to hide some of the dark pixel inside the text.
Add new layer and then paint shadow inside the text to lift certain part of the text. Take a look at image below to see its sample.
Add a rounded rectangle vector shape connecting each letter. Rotate it to make it appears natural.
Set its color to black and place it underneath all text layers.
Keep on adding rounded rectangles connecting each character.
Hit Ctrl + Enter to convert all the shape into a selection. Make new layer and then paint black on top of the shape.
You will also need to add some lighting manually inside these character connector. Remember that they are behind a lamp, so some part of them need to be lit.
Let’s add another shadow behind the text. Ctrl-click text and its connector to make new selection. Move selection down.
Make new layer behind the text. Fill selection with black. Soften it by applying Gaussian Blur filter (Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur).
Step 40: Adding Cables
Activate Pen Tool and then draw tip of a cable as seen in the picture below. Set its color to black and put it behind the text.
Double click its layer and then add Bevel & Emboss with these settings.
Return to Illustrator, we are going to draw a cable. Start by drawing a simple curve using Pen Tool.
Hit Object > Expand.
Copy the path we have made in Illustrator and then paste it in Photoshop.
You may need to rotate the shape layer until it match the scene.
Double click and then change its cable color to dark grey.
Add Bevel & Emboss to turn it into a 3D shape.
Ctrl-click the cable to make new selection based on its shape. Click Select > Modify > Expand.
Click Edit > Stroke. Apply 2 px stroke and then click OK.
Delete some of the stroke with soft eraser. This will add highlight on the cable.
Add another stroke to the cable. This time use lighter color and then soften it by applying Gaussian Blur filter.
Here’s the result. You may want to manually add lighting on part of the cable that near the lamp.
Draw another cable in the first character.
Add cable connecting both top and bottom characters.
Step 55: Adding Holder
Finally, we have to add holder that keep the character on the wall. We will just simply draw two rectangles shape with similar color as the character and place it on top of the character.
Next, we can simply duplicate the shape and then move it to another position.
Add layer style Bevel & Emboss, Inner Glow, and Outer Glow into the holder.
Finally, to make it realistic we need to manually paint the holder shadow inside the text shape. This is very subtle but helps making the image more realistic.
And finally, this is the result of our effort. I hope you enjoy this lengthy tutorial and get a sense on how to draw realistic lighting using mainly Layer Style.