Create a Scrap Metal Text Effect in Photoshop

  • Author: Wojciech Pijecki
  • Website:
  • Many of you may use 3D applications to help you generate or extrude text for your designs. While 3D applications are always an acceptable solution, many times, Photoshop can accomplish the same effect without the help of third-party apps. In this tutorial we will create 3D lettering using Photoshop CS5 and some stock photography. Let's get started!

    Tutorial Details

    Download Source Files

    Tutorial Assets

    The following assets were used during the production of this tutorial

    Step 1

    Let's start by opening a new Photoshop document of 2400px x 1600px; 300px/inch resolution. Pick Type Tool (T), use whatever font you like (I used Century Gothic / Bold - 1st image below). Create each letter (L, O, S, T) on new layers, and name them "L face", "O face", "S face", "T face". Then select "L face" layer, rightclick on it and pick Convert To Shape. Now you're able to use Command/Ctrl + T (Free Transform). Choose Distort and try to give a lil' bit of perspective to the selected letter (2nd image below). Apply the same process to each letter, try to make them different from each other (different angles, sizes, perspectives).

    Step 2

    As you can see in the 1st image below, I made the "O" letter pop out more to make it more of a focal point. This way I also pushed "S" to the background to make a visual difference between those two middle letters. Now, depending on the depth you need to place each letter in a separated group (2nd image below). Let's take a closer look - "O" is the closest one to the viewer so we will put the "O" group on the top of all letter groups. Next is "L", so "L" group will be after "O" and so on.

    Step 3

    In this step will take care of the 3D look. In the 1st image below I've put an example. Those two letters we're taken from Step 1, it's when we were making the perspective. So, to build a proper 3D shape you have to remember how you set the perspective. I've drew a straight red line (1st image below) to help you understand which parts of 3D shape will be revealed (visible to the viewer). OK, so in the 2nd image below you can notice as simple drawing of how I set my perspective and sketched the 3D shapes.

    Now that you know this - let's take action. Take a look at 3rd image below, duplicate "L face" layer (we're working in "L" group), change its color to grey, and throw it below white "L face" layer. Create new layer between grey "L" and white "L face" layers, grab Pen Tool (P), set it as shown in 4th image below (remember to check the Shape Layer option) then create a connected path to simulate 3D effect. Finally merge the shape layer you just created with grey "L" layer and name it "L side".

    Step 4

    Remembering about the right perspective that we have set, refer to Step 3 and continue creating 3D shapes to all of those letters. Each letter should be in separated group and they all should have 2 layers in each group - for instance ("L face" and "L side"; "O face" and "O side"; and so on) - 1st image below.

    Now open image of the rust/scrap, and bring it to our main document. Paste it to the "L" group above all layers in that group. Hit Command/Ctrl + Alt + G (Clipping Mask) and you should achieve a very similar look to the 3rd image below. OK, great, now before we move any further, rightclick on the shape layer "L face" (4th image below) and select Rasterize Layer.

    By the time you can do it to all "face" layers, rasterize all shape layers in other groups using the same process.

    Step 5

    Now, take a look at 1st image below - select the "scrap" layer, duplicate it and lower this copy's Opacity to 25% (that you can see a little bit of what's around the letter). In the same image, I've indicated (with red brush) a part of the scrap that we will focus on, in the first place. So select a hard white brush (every option set to 100%), make sure you are working now on the "L face" rasterized layer. And now bring back the part of scrap that is indicated in 1st image below. To do that just paint over the "L face" letter with hard brush. Now this part should immediately pop out as you can see in the 2nd image below.

    Next, again pay attention on the 2nd image below. There are another spots to pop out indicated. So, basing on what you just did, again brush on the "L face" with hard brush and reveal more of the scrap. Remember to work creatively and inteligent - this means, you dont need to pop out everything that's around the letter. Use you imagination and reveal as much scrap as you feel it's enough.

    In the 3rd image below is the result I've reached by revealing the scrap over the letter, when you're done remember to turn off the "scrap copy" layer.

    If you got confused by the whole process, in the 4th image below, there is a view of how should your "L face" letter look like uncovered.

    Step 6

    Let's select "L side" layer now. Again drop the scrap image to our document, place it above "L side" layer, hit Command/Ctrl + Alt + G (Clipping Mask) and then position it correctly using Commant + T (Free Transform > Rotate). Look at the 1st image below - this is the part that we will take care of now. Repeat the whole process from Step 5, try make it look totally popping out and 3D by painiting on "L side" layer with a hard brush (color doesn't really matter).

    Step 7

    Everything seems great but we're still missing a connection between the face and side of this letter. In the 1st image below I've indicated the bad looking straight transition. To make it vanish and smoothly connect face with side use 100% hard Eraser Tool and remove the disturbing parts of "L face" layer (2nd image below).

    The next images below 3rd, 4th, 5th are the part of erasing process, I just lowered the opacity by each image to show you how the erasing was done. So it's more of a look into Before/After process.

    Step 8

    This is looking really great! Hope you're enjoying the result so far, as I am. Let's move forward to the next letters. So now basically repeat the process showed in the previous steps.

    In a shortcut: - move to "O" group, drop the scrap image on "O face" layer using Command/Ctrl + Alt + G (2nd image below) - duplicate the scrap layer and lower this copy's Opacity to 25% (3rd image below) - paint with 100% hard brush on "O face" to reveal indicated parts (4th image below)

    Step 9

    OK, you should achieve a similar look like showed in the 1st image below. Now repeat the same process to the "O side". Don't forget about smooth transition between face and side - 2nd image below (if you're lost, refer to step 7). This is just the part when you need to use Eraser to create a better connection between elements. Sometimes it will be necessary to not only erase something from letter face, but also letter side. So if something doesn't work properly, keep that in mind.

    Step 10

    Yet again refer to step 5 and fill the rest of letters with scrap using the same process as previously. Remember about all the revealing and erasing parts. Also make sure you're giving a proper scrap shape to the letters. For instance: the letter S has a diagonal shape, so try to maintain the scrap diagonal (1st image below). The T letter has a vertical shape, so try to maintain the scrap more vertical, at least in the face part (3rd image below).

    Step 11

    I hope you managed to finish this text properly. It's good to make it subtle, I mean the scrap doesn't need to pop out from every possible way. The letters shapes still need to be recognizable and all the scrap should just go a little bit beyond them.

    Now it's time to add some sparkle to the text. Let's move to the "L" group, create new layer exactly BELOW the "L face" layer, change its Blending Mode to Multiply and use Clipping Mask (Command/Ctrl + Alt + G) (this will stick it to the whole "L side" complex layers). Then grab Brush Tool (B), set the flow to around 4-5% and adjust the Hardness to your needs (it will vary depending on what you paint on, use 100% for tiny, detailed spots with small diameter, and 0% for bigger spots, along with big brush diameter). Take a look at 2nd image below and sample color from indicated spots (while having Brush Tool selected hold Alt to switch to Eyedropper). Then paint on the new multiplied layer you just created and add shadow to the letter side (3rd image below). Then to enhance the shadow go to Layers Palette and add Curves adjustment layer above the previous layer with shadows. Hit Command/Ctrl + Alt + G to create Clipping Mask and adjust the Curves as showed in 3rd image below.

    Then create another layer, above Curves. Change its Blending Mode to Overlay, hit Command/Ctrl + Alt + G to create Clipping Mask. Select white color #ffffff or a very light yellow, like #fff0c7 and paint the lights as indicated (4th image below).

    Step 12

    OK, now repeat step 11, but apply it to the "L face" layer. So create a new layer on the top of "L" group, above "scrap" layer, change its Bleding Mode to Multiply and use Clipping Mask (Commad + Alt + G). Sample color as indicated with a red circle in the 1st image below, and add a touch of shadow to the indicated spots indicated with arrows. Now please, in the letters faces don't focus too much on shading, it's a part which we will acutally bring up more. So this simply means more light to the popping elements. Start adding lights by creating new layer above, change its Bleding Mode to Soft Light and use Clipping Mask (Commad + Alt + G). Pick #fff0c7 and paint as indicated in the 2nd image below. The result of painting is in the 3rd image below. Then create another layer above, change its Bleding Mode to Overlay and use Clipping Mask (Commad + Alt + G). This time use white color for paitning, and just enhance the same spots that you just painted on (4th image below).

    Step 13

    Now move to the "O" group. Use the same method as you did in step 11. First sample dark brown color and add shadow to the "O side" part (1st image below), then enhance it with Curves (2nd image below) and remember about Clipping Masks! Then move to the top layer above "O face" and add lights as indicated in the 3rd image below. Remember to use two new layers for lights - first with Blending Mode: Soft Light and color #fff0c7 and second with Blending Mode: Overlay and color #ffffff.

    Step 14

    As you probably guessed, you need to repeat the same process and apply it to each letter. It is pretty boring stuff, but it pays off, and the result may really surprise you. So continue adding lights and shadows the same way as previously. I've just made a fast example below, of where to put some more lights (green arrows) and shadows (red arrows).

    Step 15

    Cool, now the letters not only have their 3D shapes way more visible but also they have that nice bright and pimped look. Next thing we need to do is to select all L, O, S, T groups and drag them do the new layer icon (to duplicate them all). After duplicating, hit Command/Ctrl + E to merge them into one layered text and turn off the original groups (2nd image below). Then, hold Command/Ctrl + left click on the "text merged" thumbnail to call the selection of it. Create new group and while having that selection still active click on Add Layer Mask icon in the Layers Palette box. It's not necessary but it's good to have that text inside that group, so you may as well drop it to this group (4th image below).

    Step 16

    Now remember, everything you will create in that group, above the text layer will only affect this text layer. So now add following adjustments in the certain order:

    Note: if you don't have CS5 and there is no such adjustment as Vibrance, use Hue/Saturation instead and just slightly reduce the Saturation by pulling its slider down.

    Step 17

    We're pretty much done with the text. Let's open image of mountains now. To extract them, simply use Magic Wand Tool. Bring it to our main project document. Place the image below our text (1st image below). Grab a hard edged brush with black color, add Layer Mask to the mountain layer and try to achieve a rounded, levitating island shape (2nd image below). Get rid of the indicated parts.

    Now you may notice that the back of our "island" is not quite well done right, it's just flat and plane cause the image just ended right there. To extend the back of it, simply bring another image of the mountains, over our island (3rd image below). Then simply erase unwanted parts and leave just a little bit of the ground texture (4th image below).

    If you'll take a closer look to the ground, you may notice that there is a pretty bad looking connection between the new added ground and our island. To correct it, simply merge those two layers and use Patch Tool to cover the imprefrections (5th image below).

    Step 18

    Now that you have those mountain layers merged into one, name it "levitating island" layer. Create new layer above it, change its Blending Mode to Mulitply, use Command/Ctrl + Alt + G (Clipping Mask). Then sample two colors from the bottom of it (one lighter, second darker). Mine were #987069 and #654d43. Pick a soft brush and paint as indicated in the 1st image below. Next, go to Layers Palette and create a new adjustment layer - Curves, above. Use Command/Ctrl + Alt + G (Clipping Mask). Then delete its Layer Mask and go to Layer > Layer Mask > Hide All. Finally set Curves as showed in the 2nd image below, and then reveal the mask by painting with white in indicated spots (2nd image below again). This will not only make the shading stronger but also give a better overall depth. After this, create another adjustment layer above - Gradient Map. Use Command/Ctrl + Alt + G (Clipping Mask), and set it as showed in the 3rd image below.

    Step 19

    Next, create new layer above the previous one, again use Clipping Mask. Change layer's Blending Mode to Soft Light. Then pick #fff6c6 color and paint as indicated in 1st image below to add some lights. In the 2nd image below you can view the result.

    Step 20

    Now we will take care of the shadows below letters. Create another layer above the previous one (again use Clipping Mask), change it's Blending Mode to Multiply. You can view below the process of adding shadow to the "L" letter. Simply grab Brush Tool (B), sample light green color (point nr 1 below) and add first touch of shadow (use soft brush for painting this). Then switch to darker color, this time use medium brown (point nr 2 below) and paint on the same layer. Next switch to a dark brown color (point nr 3 below) and over paint again the same layer. This will help you achieve a great tonal scale for the shadow making it look more realistic. Next as showed in the 2nd image below, use the same method to finish up all the shadows and keep in mind that this surface isn't plane, you can't cast the shadows in horizontal position, they need to vary depending on the place of each letter.

    Step 21

    Now before we move futher I want to give a great final touch up to the levitating island. To do this go to Layers Palette and add another adjustment layer - Selective Color (remember that we're still working on the island so add another Clipping Mask). Adjust it as shown in the 1st image below. The in the 2nd image below you can see how cool difference it makes to add such a touch up for final adjusting.

    Step 22

    Since the lettering was supposed to be lost in space, so let's move to adding some clouds, plus some touch of deep space. Open image of clouds, drop it above all layers in our project. Use Command/Ctrl + Shift + U to Desaturate it, then change its Blending Mode to Linear Dodge (1st image below). Next go to Image > Adjustments > Color Balance and set it as shown in the 2nd image below. Then go to Layer > Layer Mask > Hide All (clouds should now disappear like in 3rd image below).

    Step 23

    Now we want to paint with white brush on the layer mask to reveal the clouds, but before you do it adjust your brush as you see in the 1st image below. Then duplicate the clouds layer and move it below our text and island in Layers Palette. Now you can paint as shown in 2nd image below. I did that with mouse, so believe me you can do it too. Vary your diameter size, as well as help yourself with black brush to erase unwanted parts. In conclusion while playing around I achieved a look that you can view in the 3rd image below. Then go back to the original clouds layer above all layers and reveal it over the letters with the same brush settings. Experiment with that, also change the position of the clouds to make it fit the best. This can be a great way of building depth, you just need to use it properly.

    Step 24

    Before we reach the final step, there is a small kicker here. To make the back of the island look more pushed into the background we need to cover the spots indicated in 1st image below with some clouds. You can either put there some clouds or just simply create new layer above all layers in "levitating island" ground and create Clipping Mask for this layer. Then sample color from the indicated red circles (2nd image below) and simply brush alil bit over the island as the arrows indicate.

    Step 25

    Finally move to the top of Layers Palette and add following adjustment layers: Hue/Saturation, Color Balance, Gradient Map, Gradient Map Set them as shown below. This will give a nice final touch to this piece!

    Final Image