Graphic Thoughts: Creating Silky Smooth Text Effects
Posted Jun 1, 2008

I grew up a child of the ’80s—a fan of Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and video games. As a kid, I would often get reeled in by the intricately detailed cover artwork of the latest Atari 2600 cartridge release, only to be disappointed when I saw the game’s blocky graphics on my tiny TV set. Fast forward to 2008. You can find me online (Playstation Network: pixelpoppa) with my Sony PS3 engaging in combat (with children of the ’90s or later) in games like Call of Duty 4 on my 60" HDTV set.

It’s simply incredible how amazing the graphics look these days. But today, most video game covers don’t look as good as the games themselves. Wow! What a twist of fate that I warmly welcome!

But again, it’s always the covers that catch my attention first. In browsing the shelves, one of the "looks" I see everywhere is that of highly polished "glossy" text. Much like the gorgeous HD sets at many electronic stores, the style screams high-end, slick, and cool.

The good news about this trendy, glossy text is that you can create it in Photoshop. Let me show you how it’s done.

Step 1: Type Your Text and Select It
Start by opening a new blank document (File > New) and using your text tool (T) to type any word you like. I’ll type the word glossy.

With your text layer selected, hold your Ctrl key (Cmd on the Mac) and click the T icon in your Layers palette (Figure 1, below). You’ll notice that when you’re holding the Ctrl/Cmd key down, the hand icon will have a rectangle within it. When you click your mouse, all of your text will be selected (notice the familiar marching ants around your text).
figure 1

Step 2: Contract the Text and Create a New Layer
Let’s bring the selection in from the outer edges. To do this, choose Select > Modify > Contract from the Photoshop menu bar at the top of the screen. Anywhere from 2 to 10 pixels will work depending on the size of the image you have. You may need to experiment as the goal is to get just a small border around the image—not too much, not too little.

Next, click the New Layer icon (circled in blue in Figure 2, below). This will add a new blank layer, Layer 1, to the Layers palette.
figure 2

Step 3: Select the Elliptical Marquee Tool
Next, choose Layer 1 and select Elliptical Marquee Tool (keyboard shortcut M). If you only see a square after you’ve selected the tool shown in Figure 3 (below), hold down your mouse and you’ll see other marquee options.
figure 3

Step 4: Select the Top Half of Your Text
While holding down your Alt key (Option on the Mac), start in the far lower-right corner and drag out a circular area toward the left to intersect with the already selected text. By pressing Alt/Option, you’re going to be deselecting what is already selected. If you made the right move (let’s hope you did), you should see the top half of your text selected.

Understand, too, that you could have chosen the rectangular marquee tool and just deselected a straight line, curvy area, or box from your selected text. I chose the Elliptical Marquee Tool because it will give the text a more distinctive look (Figure 4, below).
figure 4

Step 5: Create a Gradient on Layer 1
Making sure white is your foreground color (see the blue circle in Figure 5, below), choose the gradient tool (G; see the red circle in Figure 5, below), twirl down the drop-down menu at the top of your screen, and choose the second option (Foreground to Transparent).
figure 5

By choosing Foreground to Transparent, you will be creating a gradient from white to transparent on Layer 1. To do this, click about an inch or two below your text and drag your cursor up to the top of the text. You’ll see a line being drawn, but as soon as you release your mouse, the gradient will be created. If you don’t like what was created, choose Ctrl+Z/Cmd+Z to undo. That’s it—you’ve now created the appearance of glossy text!

Step 6: Fill the Background
To make the effect more convincing, try using the same color of your text to fill a large area of the background (Figure 6, below). Feel free to add a background, some drop shadows, and anything else that adds to the character of your imagery.figure 6

Lance Gray (lance at is the chief creative pixelmonkey at PixelPops Design, LLC. For questions, thoughts, or ideas simply email him.