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This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

Electric Type

This is a take-off on the old lightning effect, but in this method you have some control over how and where the lightning will be applied, and although we're using type in this example, this will also work with an object. If applied correctly, this technique can be very shocking (sorry about that).

Quick Tip: Change your view anytime

When you open a filter dialog, or any dialog such as Levels or Curves, most of your menus are grayed out while you're in that dialog. However, one menu that's almost always available is your View menu. Your keyboard shortcuts for accessing View menu items also still work, even though you're in a dialog box.

Try it for yourself: Open an image, bring up the Gaussian Blur filter dialog, then look at the menu bar up top. View is still available, you can just reach out and choose a new view or use the keyboard shortcut of your choice.

  1. Open a new document in RGB mode at 72 dpi. Press "d" to make black your Foreground color. Press "t" to get the Type tool and create your type (I used the Helvetica Ultra Compressed font).

  2. Figure 8.7

  3. In the Layers palette, Command-click (PC: Control-click) on your Type layer's name to put a selection around the letters. When the selection is in place, you can hide the Type layer by clicking on the Eye icon in the first column beside it. Now click on the Background layer.

  4. Figure 8.8

  5. Your selection should still be in place, so go under the Edit menu and choose Stroke. For Width enter 8 pixels, for Location choose Outside, and click OK to put an eight-pixel stroke around your selection. Now you can Deselect by pressing Command-D (PC: Control-D).

  6. Figure 8.9

  7. Go under the Filter menu, under Blur, and choose Gaussian Blur. When the dialog appears enter 6 pixels and click OK to blur your stroked type.

  8. Figure 8.10

  9. Go under the Filter menu, under Render, and choose Difference Clouds. This will generate the electric stroke around your type, but to enhance the effect, press Command-I (PC: Control-I) to Invert the clouds and make the electric stroke stand out more.

  10. Figure 8.11

  11. Press Command-U (PC: Control-U) to open the Hue/Saturation dialog box. Check the Colorize box in the lower right-hand corner, then move the Hue slider up to 215 for a blue tint. Last, click on your Type layer to make it visible and change its Blend Mode to Overlay, to give you the effect shown here.

  12. Figure 8.12

Quick Tip: Don't like the lightning pattern? Request a new one

One of the great things about the Clouds filter is that the pattern it generates is totally random, so if you do the effect at left and don't like the way your lightning spikes look, just start from scratch and redo the Clouds filter. Each time you do it, you'll get a different cloud effect and a different set of spikes in your lightning.

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