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Photoshop - Starving Years Lettering

Since rakashun was curious about the lettering effect in The Starving Years cover (and it was deceptively simple to do) I thought I'd provide an under-the-hood look.

Anything visual starts with a concept. In this case, my concept was to have words filled with gore, so I knew I needed very thick, plain, legible lettering that would still be readable with several effects applied.

I set the type in Photoshop which I don't normally do. (Typically I'd get it just the way I wanted it in Illustrator and place it as a smart object.) But I wasn't doing any fancy modifications to the letterforms so I could keep it all in Photoshop. The word "the" is on its own layer, both so I could control the rotation, and so I could control the effects individually. Because the point size is so much smaller, the stroke size I use on the rest of the lettering wouldn't work for the "the". It would start swallowing up the word. So I need to scale down the effects correspondingly on its own layer.
I added an ivory stroke, an inner shadow (which you can't see quite yet with the letters black) and a red outer glow. If you'd like to add a dark outer glow, you need to change the glow's blend mode to one of the darkening modes like "multiply." Alternately, you could use a red drop shadow if you want the effect to have a "direction" to it, but in this case I wanted it to be centered on the lettering. You can really see the effects scaling on the word "the" in the show below.

Next I found a stock image with a cool texture and color that I could clip into the words to create my gore. By itself it looks clearly like paint, but I knew that once it was clipped into the lettering it might look gory. I needed to do two texture layers, one to clip into the "the" and another to clip into the other words.

Here's what the layers panel looks like with the texture layer clipped to the text layer, indicated by that little right-angle arrow next to the thumbnail. You clip a layer to the layer below it by op/alt-clicking on the line between the layers. (That's kind of tricky/hidden as there's no obvious button or command. But you'll see the cursor change when you do it)
Closeup of the final result, with the layers below turned on. The clipped texture appears in the lettering only, and what's great is that you can move the texture around to place the chunks and gore to their best advantage.
Thank you to all of you who voted for The Starving Years in the last round of the Rainbow Awards Cover Art Contest. It was the top-voted cover!

Right now Mnevermind 1: The Persistence of Memory is up for voting (number 1716). If you enjoyed the cover, I'd love your vote!


( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 21st, 2012 05:43 pm (UTC)
Woohoo - thanks! I really wondered how you got those drips so perfectly aligned in each letter. Now I see that the image can still be positioned after it's clipped to the letters. Brilliant.
Jun. 21st, 2012 06:09 pm (UTC)
Yay, glad you dug it! I was thinking you could get a similar result by loading the lettering as a selection to create a layer mask for the texture, but again if you went to move things around later, they'd be hard to move around. Clipping the layers is a really elegant and flexible way of doing it.
Jun. 21st, 2012 11:26 pm (UTC)
I love clipping layers for texture and pattern. It gives you some great control over the final look. Thanks for the post, love getting covers deconstructed! It's so fascinating to see how it all comes together!
Jun. 22nd, 2012 11:39 pm (UTC)
I love looking at stuff like that too! Corey Barker's website Planet Photoshop is great for step-by-step text tutorials like that too.
Jun. 22nd, 2012 01:43 am (UTC)
I love your covers! Voted :)
Jun. 22nd, 2012 11:40 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I definitely love doing both cover and book, it gets more of my vision for the story across.
Jun. 22nd, 2012 02:39 am (UTC)
Jordan I love it when you show your photoshop tutorials. I have a much older version, but it's still fun to figure out how to make it work. This one is just awesome. I love it.
Jun. 22nd, 2012 11:41 pm (UTC)
I'm so happy you like seeing them! I think the clipping thing probably goes back several versions. I remember when they took away an effect I used all the time (lighting effects filter) and I learned to live without it...then they brought it back in CS6. Just messing with me, I guess.
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )

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