Graphic Thoughts: Creating a Carved-in-Wood Text Look
Posted Jul 20, 2009

Recently, a reader asked me a design question about how to create a “look” that would make text appear as if it were nicely chiseled into a block of wood. This month I’ll show you how incredibly simple it is; I believe you’ll be surprised at how amazingly realistic the result looks. If you don’t have a wood texture, go to Google and type in “wood texture” under the images link; you should find a good variety. Save that image to your hard drive and pay close attention to the next few steps!
EDITOR'S NOTE: This article was printed incorrectly in the July issue of EventDV with a key step missing. EventDV regrets the error. Please read this online version for the complete tutorial.

Step 1: Open Your Wood Texture and Choose the Horizontal Type Mask Tool
Open your wood texture document inside Photoshop. Then, choose your Text tool (T on your keyboard or the T icon in your Tools palette). This time we’re not going to use the “normal” Text tool (affectionately named the Horizontal Type Tool). Instead, you’ll need to click the T icon in the Layers palette and hold down your mouse until more text options are revealed. Now, choose Horizontal Type Mask Tool (it’s the option that looks like a dotted outline of the T; Figure 1, below).

Choosing the Horizontal Type Tool in Adobe Photoshop CS4

Step 2: Type and Lasso Your Text
Place your cursor in the middle of your wood canvas and type “wood.” As soon as you start to type, you’ll notice that the canvas turns red. No worries; just keep typing. Once you confirm that you have the text you want, click the check mark and the red will go away, leaving you with the text outlined with those fun-loving marching ants.

A quick note of caution in the event you want to move your text as soon as it’s created (for example, if it’s not in the exact location you’d prefer): Instead of using the Move tool (V), use the Lasso tool (L). If you use the Move tool, your text will get “cut” (notice the scissors icon when you try to move the text). By using the Lasso, the outlines will move just fine, without cutting anything (Figure 2, below).

The lasso'd text

Once you have the text where you want it, press Ctrl-J (Windows) or Cmd-J (Mac). This will bump the outlined text up to its own layer, but it’ll use the wood texture as its fill. If you look at your canvas at this point, it looks like nothing happened, but take a gander over at the layers palette. You should have a new layer—this is the word that got bumped to its own layer.

Step 3: Add Layer Effects
Now for the simple magic: adding layer effects to get the cool, chiseled look. Simply double-click beside the name of your layer to open the Layer Styles palette. Choose Inner Shadow, and then choose Bevel and Emboss. In this area, change your Style from Inner Bevel to Outer Bevel, and change the Technique from Smooth to Chisel Hard.

The last bit is to change the Direction from Up to Down. At this point, you should have a very convincing slate that looks like text chiseled right out of the wood. Naturally, feel free to tweak the styles until you find the right look (Figure 3, below).

Your text should look something like the text on top; on the bottom, check out one possible result when you add another texture

I’ve gone ahead and tried another texture to show you that you don’t always have to use the wood texture. Enjoy!

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