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Type Effects in Photoshop

Adobe has long been a powerhouse in the computer typography field with programs like Adobe Type Manager, PageMaker and InDesign as well as tons of fonts. Photoshop 6 adds many of the high-end typographic features to the already well-stocked toolbox. This month we take a look at some of the cool effects that are possible with Photoshop 6 and above.

First, let's review how Adobe changed the way Photoshop deals with type in version 6. In previous versions, as in most other paint programs, when you set type in Photoshop it was a pixel-based bitmap. Type was not editable after you set it, if you scaled it up afterwards you would see obvious jaggies. Photoshop 6 keeps the type as vector-based information. This means that type is editable long after you initially typed it in. You can also scale and stretch it while keeping the crisp edges of the font.

The only file format that will retain this type information is Photoshop's native PSD format, when you save a document as a TIF or JPG the type is converted to a bitmap. The Encapsulated Postscript (EPS) format will retain the vector font information for printing purposes. This gives you the ability to work with a lower-resolution image (say 200 dpi) and then print to a high-res printer (1200 dpi) and have the type print at the full resolution of the printer.

To add text to an image in Photoshop, click with the Text tool (it looks like a "T") and start typing. You can change the font, size, justification and color in the Options Bar at the top of the screen (Fig 1). If you need more precise controls like kerning, leading, tracking and baseline shift, you can bring up the Character palette (select Show Character from the Window menu or hit the Palettes button on the Options Bar when the Text tool is selected))

Fig. 1

You will notice that when you add type, it appears on a new layer (Fig 2). The Layer Thumbnail shows the letter "T" indicting that it is a text layer. Like any other layer in Photoshop, you can add layer styles by double-clicking the layer name or selecting one of the options under Layer Style on the Layer menu. This is where you can add drop shadows, embosses and textures.

To create a simple metallic effect, choose the Bevel and Emboss Layer Style and in the contour pop-up select Ring Double (it sort of looks like an "M") (Fig 3). Adjust the highlight and shadow values, and the size of the Emboss. You can check the Contour Emboss to accentuate the effect.

Fig. 3

You can use any of Photoshop's filters on text layers (Fig 4), but they must be rasterized first. Photoshop will let you know this and will do it automatically for you. Rasterization converts the text layer from vector are into pixels, you will no longer be able to edit the text.

Fig. 4

Adobe Photoshop's text tools have boosted the program to the top of the line in type handling. By experimenting with the Layer Styles and Photoshop's other tools, you can achieve a variety of great effects in a snap.

Paul Vaughn is a freelance graphic artist, writer and web designer. If you would like to see the Graphics Guy address a specific topic email Paul Vaughn at Vector type in Photoshop is enough to make a stoic geek drool. Color examples and previous columnscan be seen at


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