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Enhance Designs Using Creative Tools

This is where we move into the things that really make Photoshop designs so spectacular. We’re going to learn a few great tricks that I’ve either learned or developed over the last 20 years working with digital design. These tricks are really simple but uncommon ways to use a couple of the tools I’m about to share with you, and it all came from experimenting, exploring the application, and trying to solve problems. I’ve failed more than any other designer I know—but I count that as a victory! I fail because I try and experiment—and because I fail so often, I succeed often as well.

As we explore, remember that these are not answers to design problems, but a possible solution to this specific design problem. As we explore these tools, think about how the settings we use might be changed and how that might create a different look in your design. It really is all about trying and experimenting.

Solve Design Problems with Styles

  • star.jpg ACA Objective 3.8
  • star.jpg ACA Objective 4.5
  • star.jpg ACA Objective 4.9

One of the most obvious problems in your current project is that the name of the venue—which happens to be “The Venue”—is difficult to read. Because this project is in support of an event, the location is critical, and the client’s desire to format the text like the sign at the location is essential.

Unfortunately, while most of the image is fairly dark, the lower-right corner that includes the text happens to be one of the brightest areas in the photo. You could try to mask the left edge of the document but that would create a strange light-streak look on the photo. Fortunately, you can add a style to the layer so that any effects apply to everything on the layer.

To create a layer style:

  1. Select the layer to which you want to add the effect. Select the vertical text layer that reads “The Venue.”
  2. At the bottom of the Layers panel, click the Add A Layer Style icon layersstylesicon.jpg (Figure 4.25).

    Figure 4.25

    Figure 4.25 Creating a layer style

    An effects menu displays (Figure 4.26).

    Figure 4.26

    Figure 4.26 The effects menu on the Layers panel

  3. From the menu, choose Outer Glow.
  4. In the Outer Glow panel of the Layer Styles dialog box, specify the following (Figure 4.27):

    Blend Mode: Normal

    Opacity: 81%

    Color: Black

    Spread: 28%

    Size: 76 px

    Figure 4.27

    Figure 4.27 The Outer Glow panel of the Layer Style dialog box

    You will almost always evaluate and tweak these settings visually, so select Preview to see how the settings affect your layer. Because each project is different, you’ll find that these settings will need to be fine-tuned for every new project.

  5. Click OK to apply the layer style to the layer (Figure 4.28).

    Figure 4.28

    Figure 4.28 The black outer glow effect helps distinguish the text from a highly contrasting background image without being too clumsy or obvious.

You can see that placing the dark area just around the letters made the text much easier to read by creating a strong contrast with the background. The softer edge doesn’t look as cheap as a solid stroked outline might. By styling the text as somewhat transparent and fading, you minimize the visual distraction that a sharp border could cause.

Save styles for repeated use

Styles sometimes take a while to set up. Even though this one is relatively simple, we should still save it so that you can use it again on another layer or another project. With a style, the effect is applied consistently and you can make global changes easily.

  1. Select the layer with the style you want to save. In this case, select the vertical text layer that reads “The Venue.”
  2. In the Styles panel, click the Create New Style button newlayer.jpg (Figure 4.29).

    Figure 4.29

    Figure 4.29 The New Style button at the bottom of the Styles panel

  3. In the New Style dialog box, enter BlackGlow Title in the Name field.
  4. Select Include Layer Effects and Add To My Current Library, and then click OK (Figure 4.30).

    Figure 4.30

    Figure 4.30 Enter the style name in New Style dialog box.

The advantages of saving styles are obvious: you can reuse them at any time! Building a customized set of styles can save you much time on future projects. Furthermore, custom styles will enhance your projects and add a personal design touch to your work.

Manage styles

Sometimes a style must be changed, hidden, or removed. All are accomplished easily in just a few steps.

  • To edit a style on a layer, double-click the style to edit the style settings.
  • To hide a style from a layer, click the visibility icon next to the layer style.
  • To remove a style from a layer, drag the style to the trash can in the Layers panel. Or, right-click the style and select Clear Layer Style from the context menu (Control-click in Mac OS).
  • To copy a style from one layer to another, right-click the layer that has the style you want to copy, and choose Copy Layer Style. Then right-click the destination layer, and choose Paste Layer Style (Control-click in Mac OS).

Format the Flyer Headline

Your flyer looks okay at this point, but let’s bring a little more attention to the headlining band. The client says they’re a crowd favorite for locals, and they also think the flyer could use a little more “pop.” (Clients always say it could use more “pop.”) I’m also going to share one of the tricks I’ve developed over the years that I call the “glowing ghost” effect.

  1. In the Layers panel, select the layer that you want to alter. In this case, select the vertical text layer that reads “Gasoline Heart.”
  2. Click the Layer Styles icon layersstylesicon.jpg and choose Outer Glow from the menu (Figure 4.32).

    Figure 4.32

    Figure 4.32 Selecting Outer Glow

  3. In the Outer Glow panel of the Layer Styles dialog box, specify what works for your image. We used the following (Figure 4.33):

    • Blend Mode: Normal
    • Opacity: 100%
    • Color: White
    • Spread: 2%
    • Size: 54 px
    Figure 4.33

    Figure 4.33 The Outer Glow panel of the Layer Style dialog box

    Remember to select Preview to see how the changes affect the layer.

  4. Click OK to create the layer style for the layer.
  5. In the Layers panel, enter 0 in the Fill field (Figure 4.34).

    Figure 4.34

    Figure 4.34 The Fill percentage for the layer

    The text becomes transparent, but the white, Outer Glow layer style remains (Figure 4.35).

    Figure 4.35

    Figure 4.35 Using an effect to distinguish text from the background.

    This pronounced effect can often be used to help text stand out in your designs without introducing colors or exaggerating the design elements. I also like using these tricks because they represent a slightly unusual use of the Outer Glow effect, and show the flexibility of these tools in Photoshop.

Save your work!

You’ve done a lot of work and you’re about to shift gears again. Quickly save your work before moving on. I also want to teach you a quick habit that you should acquire. Although some believe this habit is redundant and unnecessary, it’s saved me from disaster more than once.

After saving the file, save it again using a different filename. That is, after you’ve saved the current file as ShowFlyer.psd, choose File > Save As and save it as ShowFlyer-v2.psd and then continue working.

These steps will create two files: one saved at this point, and another that you will continue working on. This is not a foolproof solution, but can save you in the event that a file gets corrupted. Drive space is cheap; your time is expensive. Develop good habits to help protect your work now to save yourself headaches later.

For now, your flyer looks good. If this were a rush job, I’d even call it acceptable to present to the client. But you can still perform a few more, nonessential refinements to improve the design.

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