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How to Place Lettering in and Around Objects in a Photo

How to Place Lettering in and Around Objects in a Photo

Create a more interesting piece

A common way of display a lettering piece is to place it over a photo. To make the composition more interesting its also common to hide portions of the lettering behind objects in the photo. In this easy tutorial Ill show you a method for achieving that effect.

Your Lettering Piece and a Good Photo

First up, your lettering doesn’t have to be script, but it makes things a little easier as there are elements to mask between letters leaving the word more readable. Your photo should contain some items that would naturally overlap the word. Things like trees or mountains are common.

For this example, I wrote the word “Explore” and I chose this forest photo from Unsplash.

Creating a Mask

Now I’ll add the lettering on a new layer above the photo in Photoshop.

At this point, it’s time to decide what portions I want to mask in and around the type. Make sure to scale the word so that it overlaps all of the items that you plan to use. I’ll use these four trees in my photo.

To create the selection I need, I scaled the opacity of the lettering layer back to around 30% and switched to Quick Mask Mode (Q). From there I used a hard paint brush and painted the areas that I need in the selection.

Switching back out of Quick Mask Mode will create the selection I need. I also adjusted the lettering opacity back to 100%.

With the lettering layer selected, I created a layer mask by pressing the layer mask icon at the bottom of the layers panel. Now portions of the word are hidden behind the trees.

Right now the entire word appears behind the trees. I want some elements of the word to appear in front and some to appear behind. In order to do this, I’ll take a white brush and draw on the lettering’s layer mask on portions of the word I want to reveal.

The key here is to pay attention to what might be in front of the trees and what might fall behind them. Use a white brush to reveal portions and a black brush to hide.

Adding Shadows to the Lettering

To make things look a bit more 3D I’ll add some shadows. To do that I’ll create a drop shadow layer effect on the lettering layer.

I created another selection from the lettering layer’s layer mask by holding the Cmd key and clicking the layer mask. Then I added a new layer for my shadows above the lettering layer.

Use this new layer to paint some shadows on the type with a soft black brush set to 30% opacity. Keep in mind where the light source is and where the shadows might realistically fall. The selection will prevent you from painting over the trees.

After I painted the shadows, I deleted any brush strokes that fell outside the lettering by deselecting (Cmd+D) the current selection from the mask, and creating a new one from the lettering layer. Simply Cmd+Click the lettering layer’s thumbnail. Now invert that selection (Cmd+Shift+I), select the shadow layer as the active layer and press the delete key.


That’s it! I hope this tutorial inspires you to do something new and creative when displaying your next lettering project. I’d love to see your results. Feel free to share them in the comments below.



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