Subtle lighting techniques and a long shadow
How to Create Legible White on White Text with Photoshop
This tutorial will teach you how to create a long shadow and use subtle lighting techniques in Photoshop to make white on white text that is not only visible but also legible (at a decent enough size of course).
Begin by creating a new document in Photoshop that is 1600 x 900 pixels, 72 PPI and RGB Color with White background contents.
Use the Type tool to create a new text layer with the word White and align it to the center of the artboard. I am using the free font Montserrat at 340 px. If you don’t have this available and don’t want to download it, it is okay to use a close alternative.
Right click the text layer and choose Convert to Smart Object.
Double click the Smart Object layer to bring up the Layer Styles and apply a white (#FFFFFF) Color Overlay.
As you can see this makes the text invisible.
Obviously this is no good, so we need to do some lighting. Start by making the background just slightly darker by adding a new Color Fill Layer with #F7F7F7.
Duplicate the Smart Object layer and place it inside a new group called ‘Long Shadow’ below the original Smart Object.
On the Smart Object inside the Long Shadow group, add a black #000000 Color Overlay layer style.
On the same layer, apply a Motion blur effect which can be found in the Filter > Blur menu. Set the Angle to 45 and the Distance to 20 Pixels.
Set the Opacity of the blurred Smart Object to 2% so that it is barely visible.
To create the long shadow effect, we need to duplicate and move the blurred layer multiple times. This can be done quickly by using keyboard shortcuts. First zoom to 50%* then hold down the ALT key and press the Down Arrow once to duplicate the layer and nudge it down. Then press the Left Arrow key to nudge it left.
*the arrow keys usually nudge by 1 pixel, however if you zoom the document to 50% then it will move 2 pixels which is more suited to our needs and will result in needing half as many duplicates.
Repeat the process by holding down the ALT key and pressing the Down Arrow, then the Left Arrow another 14 times.
We can add some more subtle lighting techniques to make the shadow effect look better. Create a new Gradient Fill layer below the Long Shadow group.
Use the default Black to White gradient, and set the Angle to 45°.
Set the Opacity of the Gradient Fill layer to 3%. This will give the subtle appearance of a light source emanating from the top right corner of the artboard.
Finally, we can add a very subtle highlight to the original text layer, double click the top layer.
And apply a white #FFFFFF Drop Shadow, Normal Blend Mode, 80% Opacity, -135° Angle, Distance 3 px, Spread 0, and Size 6px.
It is very subtle but if you look closely, you can see that this gives the effect of light reflecting off the edges of the text.
And here is the final result:
By creating a long shadow and using some subtle lighting techniques we can make white on white text a perfectly viable color combination for headlines and other graphics. We can also edit the contents of the Smart Object at any point to change the text, add shapes or even drop in your company logo: