Interested in learning how to create a watercolor or paintbrush effect into your text without the hassle of actually doing it by hand? We’ve got you covered!
Tools You’ll Need:
– Adobe Photoshop
– Adobe Illustrator
– A graphics tablet (optional)
To begin, create a simple letter A with the Pen Tool (P) in Adobe Illustrator. You can add extra letters later on if you prefer, after getting the basics down.
We started by using the Pen Tool (P) in Adobe Illustrator, using strokes only.
We can now increase the size of the stroke to about 120 pt.
You can increase the size until it meets your preference. We chose what looked best for our lettering.
We need to expand the appearance of these strokes now. Select all of them and go to Object > Expand.
You can see that the letter isn’t made up of strokes anymore, and are now paths.
We’ll make some adjustments on the top of the two horizontal strokes just so they’re aligning well. Grab the Selection Tool (A), select the top right anchor point and align it with the top left anchor point.
Do the same with the other horizontal stroke. Make them both align at the top.
Aligned at the top.
Same goes for this one.
Now let’s prepare our file to export it as a PSD. You need to put each shape on a separate Layer.
We can now export it as Photoshop file (.psd). Go to File > Export > Export As. In the drop-down menu, select Photoshop (*.PSD). Export it with the Write Layers option checked so all the Layers will remain the same in Photoshop.
In Photoshop, open a New Document (Ctrl + N). Choose the document size of your preference, depending on if you’re doing a letter or a word. We’ll go with a square size (1200 x 1200 px), just as if we were preparing an Instagram post! Open the exported PSD file and copy all of the layers. Paste them into the new document you just created. Adjust the letter to the size of the document you created.
Open a new document with the square size of 1200px.
Copy, paste, and adjust the size!
This is where the effect will start to take place. Choose any image with different vibrant colors in it. For reference, we went with this vibrant galactic photo. Place the photo of your choice into the document and resize it so it covers the whole letter. This is how the Layers panel should be looking right now:
Right on top of all the other layers.
Select the Mixer Brush Tool (B) and select the “Kyle’s Real Oils Round Flex Wet” brush that comes with Adobe Photoshop 2018. Even if you’re working with an earlier version, the same brush is available as well. Here are the Settings of our brush:
Kyle’s Real Oils Round Flex Wet brush.
For the Mixer Brush Tool, adjust all the settings (Wet, Load, Mix, and Flow) to 100%. We’ll keep the Smoothing at 30%. And remember to check the “Sample All Layers” box, this is what will make all the color blend together.
Hit the “Sample All Layers” checkbox.
Pressing Ctrl, select the thumbnail of one of the Layers with a Shape. It will make Photoshop create a Selection of that Layer only. You can now create a New Layer. To use the Mixer Brush Tool, we’ll be taking advantage of a graphics tablet. But that’s not completely necessary. You can totally do this using a mouse, with a little bit of patience.
Now that we have one of the shapes selected, we’ll be filling it with the Mixer Brush Tool. Remember to add the strokes according to the shape. In our case, we’ll begin with the left vertical stroke so the brush strokes will go in a vertical direction.
Make sure you fill everything and there are no white spaces within the shape.
Do the same thing on the right vertical stroke. Select the layer while pressing Ctrl and create a new Layer. Fill the shape with the Mixer Brush Tool.
Now add a new Layer for the horizontal stroke. As we said before, every stroke should be in the same direction as the shape. In this case, the strokes we’ll be doing with the Mixer Brush Tool will be horizontal.
Get that clean horizontal line.
Now that we have the whole letter, we’ll be doing some other touches with the Mixer Brush Tool, so it looks like an actual brush stroke! You can see that everything looks super sharp and clean right now, because of the vector we put in and selected in Photoshop. Well, right now we need to make that look like it’s handmade! Select the Mixer Brush Tool and Uncheck the box “Sample All Layers”. Now select one of the layers and start adding brush strokes on the end of each side of the shapes until you’re satisfied. The outlines of the shape still look sharp so you can drag the brush down on each side so it creates more of a brushed look. Do the exact same steps for the other vertical stroke.
Repeat your process here.
Repeat the same thing on the horizontal stroke as well.
Let’s add some depth to the letter. We’ll start adding shadows so it creates a more 3D look. Create a new layer above the left stroke. Select the Brush Tool (B) and choose the Soft Round brush. Paint the shadows as if they were behind the horizontal stroke. On the layers panel, select the layer that contains the shadow, right-click and select “Create Clipping Mask”. We also put the opacity of the layer at 80%. Let’s also add some shadows at the top of the left stroke. You can add them in the same layer.
Paint the shadows for a 3D effect.
Add the shadows for the top left stroke.
We can now add some shadows to the other stroke. Create a new layer above the layer of the horizontal stroke. Right-click and Create Clipping Mask. These shadows will go in a different direction, vertically, as if the horizontal stroke is behind the right stroke.
Shadows go in a vertical stroke.
Touch up the missing spots with the Mixer Brush tool.
We can start changing the colors to get a more vibrant appearance. Group all the layers by selecting all of them and pressing Ctrl + G. Copy the group so you won’t lose your original work. You can now merge all the layers of the copied group. Select all layers, go to Layers > Merge Layers or simply press Ctrl + E. Delete the group (right-click on the group, select Delete Group) then Group Only and keep the layer. Go to Image > Adjustments > Vibrance and play with the Vibrance. We changed the Vibrance to 70.
Set the vibrance to 70.
To make it even more vibrant, go to Image > Adjustments > Color Lookup. Play with the options at the 3DLUT File drop-down menu and see which one you like better. We loved how our letter “A” ended up with the “Crisp Warm Look”.
Mmm, crisp and warm.
We need to Sharpen our letter to make it look more realistic. Go to Filter > Sharpen > Sharpen and then go to Filter > Sharpen > Sharpen More so it looks even sharper!
We can also add a Canvas texture by going to Filter > Filter Gallery > Texture > Texturizer. Play with the options so you can see which one works best for you.
Experiment with those settings.
And that’s it! Here’s our final letter:
But don’t just stop there! You can do this with words and phrases – just like we did with the word “Amazing” on the image below. Your creativity is what will make this paintbrush text effect look even better!
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