Creating Transparent Text in Photoshop

how to create transparent text

Adding a transparent text to an image is a clever resource that can open new ways in how you design with Photoshop. You will see it used in advertisements, websites, social media banners and other visual graphics, and although you might think they require a Photoshop wizard to create, they are in fact simple and quick to do. This tutorial will show you step by step how to create transparent text in Photoshop CC using two different methods.

Create Transparent Text via Layer Copy

To begin, open an image to which you will want to apply the transparent text. Images that have a large texture area work best – get creative – consider sky patterns, water, grass, or wall patterns. Once the image is open select the text tool from the Photoshop tools panel and create a text layer on top of the image that you are using.

adding text

Select the font you want, define the font size and set the properties of the font you want to make transparent. In this case, the color of the font does not matter as it will be made transparent in a few steps; select the color that makes it easy for you to see how the text fits within the image. Adjust your text so that you are satisfied with its position. If you are using this method, once the text is transparent you will not be able to move it.

create text

Next, you will need to load only the text selection in your layer, in other words; only the pixels that make up the text have to be outlined in the selection. The quickest way to do it is to use a shortcut ‘Cmd + click’ (‘Ctrl+click’ for Windows) on the layer thumbnail. Once you apply this shortcut only the text should be outlined. If not, make sure you have the text layer selected.

selecting text

You can hide the text layer now by toggling the ‘eye icon’ next to the layer. Select the image layer and use the ‘layer via copy’ shortcut ‘Cmd+J’ (Ctrl+J for Windows) to copy only the selected area of the image.

At this point, you already have transparent text, but for the time being it is not visible. You will need to use layer styles and image adjustment tools to make it stand out. As far as the layer styles go, the most effective way to make your transparent text layer stand out is to use ‘Bevel and Emboss’ effect. To add a layer style click the ‘Fx’ button in the layer panel and select ‘Bevel & Emboss…’ effect from the menu. In the ‘Layer Style’ panel experiment with the different type of bevel and emboss options and adjust the structure and the shading to make the text compliment the image.

layer style panel

To make the text stand out further you can adjust the layer’s contrast, exposure or levels to make the text brighter or darker – this you cannot do using the second method.

The final result emultates an engraving over the image, which, by masking the text properly, can be enhanced if we add a subtle blur effect to make it look like if it was a handmade application over the texture you happen to be working on. Also, keep a close eye in shadows – too dark shadows will blow up your realism effect.

Create Transparent Text by Layer Blending

The second method preserves the option to transform and edit the text even when it is transparent; however, the image adjustment option will not work for this method reducing the number of changes you can do to your text.

Open the image to which you will be applying the transparent text. One way to creatively use see-through text in Photoshop is to create a layer in between the image and the text layers and have the text cut through the middle layer. To do this create a second layer, by clicking the “Create New Layer” button in the layer panel.

blending mode trasnsparent text

Once you have created the new layer, fill the layer with a color of your choice – white or black works best. To fill the layer use the shortcut ‘Shift+Delete’ on Mac (Shift+Backspace on windows). It will bring up a dialog box where you can select the fill color – leave the opacity at 100%.

new layer fill

Now that the layer is filled, reduce the opacity of the layer to around 60%. The number may vary depending on the type of image you are using – feel free to experiment. You will find the opacity slider in the layer bar.

opacity change

Next, select the text tool from the Photoshop tools panel and create a text box with the text that you want to cut through the middle layer.

add text

Using this method the key to transparent text is changing the text layer blending properties. To access the ‘Blending Options’ click the ‘Fx’ button and select the ‘Blending Mode’ tab at the top of the menu.

blending options

The ‘Layer Style’ panel will open with layer blending adjustment options. Look for the ‘Advanced Blending’ section and change the ‘Knockout’ to either ‘Shallow’ or ‘Deep’ setting. ‘Shallow’ setting will add transparency only to the bottom of the layer set. The ‘Deep’ setting will make layers transparent in your text area down to the background layer. In this scenario, when there is only one layer in between your text and your background, there will be no difference between the two settings as both will cut through to the bottom layer. Lower the fill opacity close to 0%, the ideal number will depend on the contrast ratio between your image and the middle fill layer. Now the text is transparent and editable at the same time. Same as with the first method, you can add effects to your text for it to stand out further.

layer style blending

And there you go! Now you found how these “quote effect” we come across many times through the internet is applied in less than 5 minutes, although you should consider these two factors:

  • Not all the images are suitable to apply this adjustment: Images with a heavy load of tint, textures and visual references are likely to predispose us to look below the text and try to spot what’s going on there. The image used in this case or other common urban images are clear examples of what I’m trying to explain and the reason why quote images or advertisements using this method prefer natural landscapes in sunset/night conditions instead of troublesome scenarios.
  • Typeface chosen for applying this effect is the most vital part of the effect itself, as a wrongly picked font can put your lack of graphic design skills to evidence, especially if we choose to work with more than one typeface. Instead, use the services of the multiple font pairing applications we can find online (being MyFont.com’s one of the most popular and precise tools you can find).

Did you find this tutorial useful? Try reading our tutorial on how to import patterns to Photoshop to take your editing skills further.

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