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This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

Creating Custom Type Designs

Photoshop lets you do something that I’ve found surprises a lot of people—it lets you create custom letterforms by tweaking an existing font. This is very popular in logo design. So, in this project, you’re going to learn how to give yourself an advantage by delivering a custom look for your client that can’t be duplicated by just typing in a name with a typeface. If you’ve never worked with paths before, don’t let it freak you out, because what you’re going to do is so simple anyone will be able to do it (plus, if you’re a creative type—and if you’re reading this book, my guess is you are—then this will open a new world of creating with type that’s actually a lot of fun).

  • Step One: Press Command-N (PC: Ctrl-N) to create a new document (mine is 800×600 pixels at a resolution of 72 ppi). Click on the Foreground color swatch and choose a medium gray, then get the Horizontal Type tool (T), and choose the font Bickham Script Pro from up in the Options Bar or in the Character panel (found under the Window menu). (Note: If you upgraded to CS4 from Photoshop CS3, you already have this font installed. If you started with CS4, then it’s not there because Adobe no longer includes this font, and you can download the paths to this font from this book’s downloads page—this will make more sense in a moment.) Set the font size to 295 points, and type the word “pointe” in all lowercase letters.
  • Step Two: Now you’re going to create some text above and below the word “pointe.” In the Layers panel, click on the Background layer, then choose the font Trajan Pro (it comes installed with Photoshop) at a size of 30 points. Click on your document (you may have to click to the side of “pointe” since that font is so large), type in “THE LOFTS AT,” then move your cursor away from your type until you get an arrow, and click-and-drag to position it nice and snug above the word “pointe.” You can already see the first problem we have to deal with—the dot of the letter “i” is colliding with the word “LOFTS.” We’ll fix that, but first we need to add another line of text (in the next step).
  • Step Three: With the Horizontal Type tool, click on the far-right side of your document, and type “RIDGE” in the same Trajan Pro font, but at a size of 108 points. Again, move your cursor away from the text until it becomes an arrow, then click-and-drag to position it just below the word “pointe” (as seen here). By the way, those two lines of text should line up on the left—the left side of the letter “T” in “THE,” and the left side of the “R” in “RIDGE” should both be lined up with each other, like you see here. Okay, all our text is now in place, and it’s time to start customizing. In the Layers panel, click on the “pointe” layer (as seen here) to make it the active layer.
  • Step Four: Control-click (PC: Right-click) directly on the “pointe” layer to bring up a contextual menu of options. From this menu, choose Create Work Path (as shown here). This puts a perfect path around your letters, as if you had drawn them from scratch using the Pen tool. The reason you’re doing this is because now that this type has become a path, you can create your own custom letters (clients always love it when you tell them the font has been customized just for them).
  • Step Five: Now that you have a path in place, you no longer need that “pointe” Type layer, so click-and-drag it onto the Trash icon at the bottom of the Layers panel to delete it. Next, add a new blank layer by clicking on the Create a New Layer icon at the bottom of the panel. Now we can get to editing our path. The tool we use for this is the Direct Selection tool, and it appears nested with the Path Selection tool, directly below the Type tools in the Toolbox (as shown here—it’s the hollow arrow, not the black one), so go ahead and get that tool now.
  • Step Six: First, let’s hide the “THE LOFTS AT” Type layer, so it doesn’t distract us while we’re making our edits. Click on the Eye icon to the left of that layer in the Layers panel and that layer will be hidden from view. Now, let’s start editing. I used the Zoom tool (Z; it looks like a magnifying glass) to zoom in really tight on the dot over the “i.” Take the Direct Selection tool and click-and-drag out a square selection around the dot (as seen here) to select the four points that make up this dot. While it might look like you’ve selected other points in the word, don’t worry, as long as your selection is just around that dot, that’s the only part that will be affected by your next edit.
  • Step Seven: Press the Delete (PC: Backspace) key and your selected dot is gone. Problem solved. Of course, that’s not the main reason we converted to paths. We really did it to create our own custom versions of some of the letters, but while we’re here, we might as well fix stuff, eh?
  • Step Eight: Now, while still zoomed in, let’s scroll over to the right end of the letter “t” in “pointe.” We’re going to extend the far-right side of the crossbar quite a bit, and you do that by clicking-and-dragging out another square selection around the end of the crossbar on the “t” (as shown here). This selects the three points that make up that end of the bar.
  • Step Nine: Click on the path itself, right near the end (I clicked on the bottom—you can see my little arrow cursor on the far-right side of the crossbar), then just drag to the right (as shown here), and that part of the letter extends. Press-and-hold the Shift key as you drag to keep it straight, because you want to keep as much of the original shape as possible—you just want that one piece to be longer. Now, just click off the path (click anywhere else but the path). That’s it—you’ve customized your first letter (wild cheers ensue!). Of course, you’re not done yet (the crowd groans). By the way, you can make your “THE LOFTS AT” layer visible again—just go to the Layers panel and click where the Eye icon used to be.
  • Step 10: Press Command-R (PC: Ctrl-R) to make Photoshop’s Rulers visible (seen here). Now, click directly inside the top ruler, drag down a guide, and position it right along the bottom of the word “RIDGE.” See how the bottom of the “p” extends below the guide, which marks the baseline of where the word “RIDGE” sits? We want that lower part of the “p” (called the descender in typography circles) to be no lower than that guide. So, with the Direct Selection tool, drag out a square selection around the bottom of that descender (as shown here) to select the points in that area.
  • Step 11: Now, click at the bottom of that “p” and drag upward to shrink the length of that descender, so it fits right along that guide (as shown here). Remember to keep an eye on the rest of the descender as you’re dragging upward, so you don’t accidentally change the shape—you want it shorter, but you don’t want to change the shape of the letter. Then, just click off the path.
  • Step 12: Click-and-drag another horizontal guide down from the top ruler and place it along the top of the words “THE LOFTS AT” (as seen here). You can probably guess what’s next—that’s right, we want to shrink the top of the “t” (called the ascender), so it fits within that guide. With the Direct Selection tool, put a rectangular selection around that part of the letter (as shown here) to highlight the points that control that part of the letter.
  • Step 13: Switch to the Zoom tool again, and zoom in tight, so you can really see what’s going on. Then go back to the Direct Selection tool (A), grab the top of the ascender and carefully drag it in toward the rest of the letter, until it’s right around that guide (as shown here), and then click anywhere off the path.
  • Step 14: At this point, all your letter editing is done, so now it’s time to turn those paths into a selection, which you do by pressing Command-Return (PC: Ctrl-Enter). You can see here, the path has been turned into a selection. Also, you can press Command-R (PC: Ctrl-R) to turn off the Rulers and, from the View menu, choose Clear Guides to remove the guides.
  • Step 15: With your selection in place, press Option-Delete (PC: Alt-Backspace) to fill it with your gray Foreground color (as seen here), then you can Deselect by pressing Command-D (PC: Ctrl-D). Next, we need all three of these layers with type to become just one layer, so go to the Layers panel, press-and-hold the Shift key, and click on the two other Type layers, so that all three of your layers with type are highlighted (as seen here). Now, just press Command-E (PC: Ctrl-E) to merge them into one layer.
  • Step 16: Now that your type is all on one layer, let’s add an effect to finish things off (of course, this step is totally optional, but since this is a special effects book at heart, let’s add a special effect). Click on the Add a Layer Style icon at the bottom of the Layers panel, and choose Bevel and Emboss from the pop-up menu. When the Layer Style dialog appears, from the Technique pop-up menu (in the Structure section, near the top), choose Chisel Hard. Increase the Depth to 200%, then down in the Shading section, turn on the Anti-Aliased checkbox (so the edges of the effect are smoother), and click on the down-facing arrow next to Gloss Contour to bring up the Gloss Contour Picker. Click on the Rolling Slope–Descending icon (the fourth icon from the left, in the second row) to add a metallic, chiseled look to your type (as seen here). To give it a little more “oomph,” go to the Styles section on the left side of the dialog, and under Bevel and Emboss, turn on the Contour checkbox (as seen here), and then click OK to apply this effect.
  • Step 17: Our effect is essentially done at this point, but we might as well put it into action. Open the photo you see here (you can download it from the book’s downloads page, or you can open a photo of your own). Get the Move tool (V), click on your Type layer, and drag-and-drop it onto your photo. It’ll probably be too big, so press Command-T (PC: Ctrl-T) to bring up Free Transform, press-and-hold the Shift key, grab a corner point, and drag inward (as shown here) to scale the text down in size, then reposition it over the center of the image, and press Return (PC: Enter) to commit your transformation.
  • Step 18: Here’s the final image, with the customized letterforms, and the special effect, scaled down to size and positioned.
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