Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Fun with Photoshop Type Effects

Among other projects, I'm working on new video projects for Liquid Crystal Gallery, our collaborative DVD and streaming original video and music project. (Now that my studio computer is working again, I'm back in gear with these and similar projects. I also have plans to make a new spacemusic CD.)

What I've decided to do for the titling of each new short film is make artistic titles, involving animated type and artistic usage of type. To that end, I've been playing around in Photoshop with some interesting typographic effects. I thought I'd present a short how-to here.

First up, let's play around with making a photo-based header for the Dragoncave. The techniques used here are very simple and straightforward, as long as you are using a version of Photoshop later than 4.0, so that you can use layers.

First up, open a new file and set the type. "Dragoncave" here is set in ITC Eras Ultra, a bold titling face that comes from a large family of interrelated faces. Ultra is the heaviest weight. For this type of project you'll want to use bold type, so that embedded artwork shows through clearly.

Next, duplicate your type layer and rasterize the duped layer (i.e. convert the font to pixels on the new layer). Use the selection tool to select the type of your rasterized font layer; the rest of the layer will be transparent.

First, however, scale your type to the size you need for the finished piece (or larger) before rasterizing it. I always work at a large file size, at print resolution (300dpi) or better. This gives you a more leeway with which to work. I often make my files larger than the final piece, so that I can scale down at completion. When you scale artwork down from your master file, you avoid the jagged edges and dithering caused when you have to scale a file up. So it's always wise to work at a larger size, then reduce at the end.

Next, go to your layer where you've pasted your photograph that you are going to put inside the letters of "Dragoncave." Select that layer in the Layers palette, while leaving the rasterized type selected; it will show dotted outlines of a selection still active.

On the artwork layer, click on the Layer Mask icon on the Layers Palette. This immediately converts your selection into a mask for the active layer containing your artwork. You'll see that your artwork now shows through the type outlines as artwork. But depending on whether your mask was set to default black, or white, you might fins instead, that the type outlines are see-through rather than containing the image. To correct this, simply reverse the layer mask's color with the Invert command.

That makes the basic art-filled type outline image. Now we'll make the drop shadow effects. (Current versions of Photoshop have automated Drop Shadow filters and effects and styles, which you can do in one step if you wish. I like to make my own effects manually, sometimes, which gives me a lot of precision control. Sometimes the automated settings in scripts don't do exactly what you want.)

So, duplicate your original type layer again, and rasterize the new layer. Offset the rasterized type on this new layer with the Move tool. Move this layer underneath the artwork layer. This makes your offeset drop shadow. You can color your drop shadow black, or white, or any other color, using the Color palette. I made mine black.

Next, I made another offset drop shadow layer, but this time I made this type layer white. Then I applied the Chrome filter to make silvered and chromed insets. I adjusted the position on the two drop shadows, one chromed, one black, to create the final effect of a three-dimensional type look, as shown here.

One of the new short films I am working on is based on video and stills from one of my favorite places in North America, Latourell Falls in Oregon. I am making a more experimental film, using multiframe compositions, mixing multiple shots of the same scene in different frames. So I wanted to include one of the waterfall images in the titling art. This is one of the ideas I am playing with. It's not in final form yet, however it does show off the type-art technique.

Another variation, this time using a B&W image of the Grand Tetons in Wyoming. I plan to do a couple of short films around this theme, one of them a B&W fine-art video, very much in the footsteps of Ansel Adams and Edward Weston. The other short film will be based around images of several mountain ranges in winter. Again, this example is not a finished piece, just a work in progress. Nonetheless it shows off the possibilities available with this type-art technique.

Composition of the art within the type outlines is important, as well. When you art creating your layer mask to create the art within the type outlines, try moving your selection around to make the best use of the composition of the photographic image. Composition within the "box" the type outlines is what makes or breaks this effectiveness of this type-art technique.

Here's a tip: Since I do my video editing in Sony Vegas, the best tool I know of for this kind of job, I save the type art projects as unflattened PSD files. This preserves the "empty" or transparent pixels of the art, so they remain transparent when you import them into the video mixing project. If you flatten the image, all the background pixels default to the color you have selected as your background color, and are no longer transparent. Keeping the background transparent allows one to superimpose the type art over another layer in the final video mix.

The last step, when I have the final type-art made and imported into the video project later, will be to animate the type-art within the video frame for the title sequence. I will probably do a zoom or pan effect on this type-art piece, rather than statically fade it in and out again. I like moving type. It makes a title or caption a lot more dynamic and interesting to the viewing eye. That's a matter of taste, though, so feel free to follow your own instincts.

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