Draw Realistic Neon Text Using Photoshop and Illustrator

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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!

Preview

Here’s the neon text we are going to make in this tutorial.

Neon Text Effect Using Photoshop and Illustrator

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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).

Neon Text Effect Using Photoshop and Illustrator

Step 2

Activate Type Tool. Make a text using standard font type such as Helvetica.

Neon Text Effect Using Photoshop and Illustrator

Step 3

We want to convert the text into shape. Right click the text and select Create Outlines. Right click again and select Ungroup.

Neon Text Effect Using Photoshop and Illustrator

Neon Text Effect Using Photoshop and Illustrator

Step 4

Select lower text and move it upward, make it closer to the other text.

Neon Text Effect Using Photoshop and Illustrator

Step 5

I also want the text to be wider by selecting it and then pull its transformation handle.

Neon Text Effect Using Photoshop and Illustrator

Step 6

Create new layer by clicking New Layer lower part of the Layers panel.

Neon Text Effect Using Photoshop and Illustrator

Step 7

Activate Pen Tool and then draw a line tracing the text.

Neon Text Effect Using Photoshop and Illustrator

Step 8

Keep on adding another line for the text.

Neon Text Effect Using Photoshop and Illustrator

Neon Text Effect Using Photoshop and Illustrator

Neon Text Effect Using Photoshop and Illustrator

Step 9

Select the text line we have made earlier. Increase its Stroke Weight.

Neon Text Effect Using Photoshop and Illustrator

Step 10

Select all the line and then click Object > Expand to convert them into a shape. Click OK in the next dialog box.

Neon Text Effect Using Photoshop and Illustrator

Neon Text Effect Using Photoshop and Illustrator

Neon Text Effect Using Photoshop and Illustrator

Step 11

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.

Neon Text Effect Using Photoshop and Illustrator

Step 12

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.

Neon Text Effect Using Photoshop and Illustrator

Neon Text Effect Using Photoshop and Illustrator

Step 13

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.

Neon Text Effect Using Photoshop and Illustrator

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).

Neon Text Effect Using Photoshop and Illustrator

Neon Text Effect Using Photoshop and Illustrator

Step 15

Grab a nice wall photo for background of our neon text.

Neon Text Effect Using Photoshop and Illustrator

Step 16

In Photoshop, hit Ctrl + V to paste the letter shapes we have made earlier in Illustrator. Paste them as Layer Shapes.

Neon Text Effect Using Photoshop and Illustrator

Step 17

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.

Neon Text Effect Using Photoshop and Illustrator

Step 18: Adding Effect

Double click and add Outer Glow to the text using following settings.

Neon Text Effect Using Photoshop and Illustrator

Neon Text Effect Using Photoshop and Illustrator

Step 19

Hit Ctrl + J to duplicate the text. Drag fx icon to the recycle bin icon to delete attached Later Styles.

Neon Text Effect Using Photoshop and Illustrator

Step 20

Double click the new duplicated text shape, apply Outer Glow and Drop Shadow.

Neon Text Effect Using Photoshop and Illustrator

Neon Text Effect Using Photoshop and Illustrator

Here’s the result. We haven’t seen the neon effect yet.

Neon Text Effect Using Photoshop and Illustrator

Step 21

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.

Neon Text Effect Using Photoshop and Illustrator

Neon Text Effect Using Photoshop and Illustrator

Neon Text Effect Using Photoshop and Illustrator

Neon Text Effect Using Photoshop and Illustrator

Step 22

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.

Neon Text Effect Using Photoshop and Illustrator

Step 23

Hit Right Arrow and Down Arrow a few times to move selection down.

Neon Text Effect Using Photoshop and Illustrator

Step 24

Make new layer and then fill selection with white. Click Edit > Fill.

Neon Text Effect Using Photoshop and Illustrator

Neon Text Effect Using Photoshop and Illustrator

Step 25

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.

Neon Text Effect Using Photoshop and Illustrator

Neon Text Effect Using Photoshop and Illustrator

Step 26

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.

Neon Text Effect Using Photoshop and Illustrator

Neon Text Effect Using Photoshop and Illustrator

Step 27

Make new layer above the text and then fill selection with any color.

Neon Text Effect Using Photoshop and Illustrator

Step 28

Apply Inner Shadow and Inner Glow and then Outer Glow. Then, set layer’s Fill to 0%.

Neon Text Effect Using Photoshop and Illustrator

Neon Text Effect Using Photoshop and Illustrator

Neon Text Effect Using Photoshop and Illustrator

Neon Text Effect Using Photoshop and Illustrator

Neon Text Effect Using Photoshop and Illustrator

 

Step 29

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.

Neon Text Effect Using Photoshop and Illustrator

Step 30

Make new layer on top and then fill selection with darker yellow color.

Neon Text Effect Using Photoshop and Illustrator

Step 31

Add layer mask into the layer and then paint with black to hide some of the dark pixel inside the text.

Neon Text Effect Using Photoshop and Illustrator

Step 32

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.

Neon Text Effect Using Photoshop and Illustrator

Neon Text Effect Using Photoshop and Illustrator

Step 33

Add a rounded rectangle vector shape connecting each letter. Rotate it to make it appears natural.

Neon Text Effect Using Photoshop and Illustrator

Step 34

Set its color to black and place it underneath all text layers.

Neon Text Effect Using Photoshop and Illustrator

Step 35

Keep on adding rounded rectangles connecting each character.

Neon Text Effect Using Photoshop and Illustrator

Step 36

Hit Ctrl + Enter to convert all the shape into a selection. Make new layer and then paint black on top of the shape.

Neon Text Effect Using Photoshop and Illustrator

Step 37

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.

Neon Text Effect Using Photoshop and Illustrator

Step 38

Let’s add another shadow behind the text. Ctrl-click text and its connector to make new selection. Move selection down.

Neon Text Effect Using Photoshop and Illustrator

Step 39

Make new layer behind the text. Fill selection with black. Soften it by applying Gaussian Blur filter (Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur).

Neon Text Effect Using Photoshop and Illustrator

Neon Text Effect Using Photoshop and Illustrator

Neon Text Effect Using Photoshop and Illustrator

 

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.

Neon Text Effect Using Photoshop and Illustrator

Step 41

Double click its layer and then add Bevel & Emboss with these settings.

Neon Text Effect Using Photoshop and Illustrator

Step 42

Return to Illustrator, we are going to draw a cable. Start by drawing a simple curve using Pen Tool.

Neon Text Effect Using Photoshop and Illustrator

Step 43

Hit Object > Expand.

Neon Text Effect Using Photoshop and Illustrator

Neon Text Effect Using Photoshop and Illustrator

Step 44

Copy the path we have made in Illustrator and then paste it in Photoshop.

Neon Text Effect Using Photoshop and Illustrator

Step 45

You may need to rotate the shape layer until it match the scene.

Neon Text Effect Using Photoshop and Illustrator

Step 46

Double click and then change its cable color to dark grey.

Neon Text Effect Using Photoshop and Illustrator

Step 47

Add Bevel & Emboss to turn it into a 3D shape.

Neon Text Effect Using Photoshop and Illustrator

Step 48

Ctrl-click the cable to make new selection based on its shape. Click Select > Modify > Expand.

Neon Text Effect Using Photoshop and Illustrator

Step 49

Click Edit > Stroke. Apply 2 px stroke and then click OK.

Neon Text Effect Using Photoshop and Illustrator

Neon Text Effect Using Photoshop and Illustrator

Step 50

Delete some of the stroke with soft eraser. This will add highlight on the cable.

Neon Text Effect Using Photoshop and Illustrator

Step 51

Add another stroke to the cable. This time use lighter color and then soften it by applying Gaussian Blur filter.

Neon Text Effect Using Photoshop and Illustrator

Step 52

Here’s the result. You may want to manually add lighting on part of the cable that near the lamp.

Neon Text Effect Using Photoshop and Illustrator

Step 53

Draw another cable in the first character.

Neon Text Effect Using Photoshop and Illustrator

Step 54

Add cable connecting both top and bottom characters.

Neon Text Effect Using Photoshop and Illustrator

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.

Neon Text Effect Using Photoshop and Illustrator

Step 56

Next, we can simply duplicate the shape and then move it to another position.

Neon Text Effect Using Photoshop and Illustrator

Neon Text Effect Using Photoshop and Illustrator

Neon Text Effect Using Photoshop and Illustrator

Step 57

Add layer style Bevel & Emboss, Inner Glow, and Outer Glow into the holder.

Neon Text Effect Using Photoshop and Illustrator

Neon Text Effect Using Photoshop and Illustrator

Neon Text Effect Using Photoshop and Illustrator

Neon Text Effect Using Photoshop and Illustrator

Step 58

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.

Neon Text Effect Using Photoshop and Illustrator

Final Result

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.

Neon Text Effect Using Photoshop and Illustrator

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  • My name is James and I have been using Photoshop since version 5.0 (long time ago!). PSD Vault is my spare time hobby and I write majority of the Photoshop tutorials and articles here. I hope you enjoy my blog, and feel free to leave a comment or contact me if you have any questions.

  • Show Comments

  • Thanks man, really helpful tut. I was really lost with Photoshop and illustrator but i’m getting better.

  • Oh awesome! Thanks for the advice. I have yet to use Instagram though it is on my loooong list of things to do.

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