Create a One-Layer Retro Text Effect in Adobe Photoshop


Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

The latest Photoshop update comes with a couple of pretty awesome new layer style features, such as multiple layer style instances and stroke overprint. This tutorial will show you how to use those features to create a one-layer-only, retro text effect. Let's get started!
The following assets were used during the production of this tutorial:
Create a new 950 x 950 px document, and duplicate the Background layer twice. Change the second copy's Fill value to 0.

Duplicate the Background Layer

Double click the Background copy layer to apply a Gradient Overlay effect with the following settings:
  • Style: Radial
  • Scale: 150%
  • Click the Gradient box to create the gradient using the colors #ede6cf to the left and #e1c194 to the right.

Gradient Overlay

This will apply the main gradient fill.

Gradient Fill

Double click the Background copy 2 layer to apply a Pattern Overlay effect with the following settings:
  • Blend Mode: Soft Light
  • Pattern: Sawtooth

Pattern Overlay

This will add a subtle chevron pattern to the gradient fill.

Background Pattern

Create the text using the font Intro Inline Regular, the Size 200 pt, and any color you like since we'll be using a Color Overlay effect later on.
If you are adding more than one line of text, open the Character panel (Window > Character), and change the Leading value to 190 pt.

Create the Text

In order to space out the letters evenly, you'll need to place the cursor between each two letters you want to adjust, and type in a suitable Tracking value.
The values used here are:
  • W/OO/N-50
  • D/EE/R100
  • F/UU/L150

Adjust the Tracking Values

Double click the text layer to apply the following layer style:
Add a Stroke with these settings:
  • Size: 3
  • Position: Inside
  • Opacity: 48%
  • Color: #fffaf3
  • Check the Overprint box

Stroke Overprint

The Overprint option is a new improvement to the Stroke effect.
What it does is that it allows the translucent inner stroke's fill (with an Opacity value less than 100%) to blend with the color of the shape or text it is applied to.

Stroke with Overprint

When the Overprint option is unchecked, the shape or text fill will be completely knocked out, and the background behind the translucent stroke will be shown instead.

Stroke without Overprint

A couple of effects have a little + icon to their right (the Stroke, Inner Shadow, Color Overlay, Gradient Overlay and Drop Shadow effects).
When you click that + icon, you can add up to 10 instances per layer of the effect next to it.
So if you click the + icon next to the Stroke effect, you'll notice that another tab ofStroke will appear below the one you already have, with the same settings and values applied.

Add another Stroke Effect Instance

Click the second Stroke effect instance to activate it, and use the following settings for it:
  • Position: Outside
  • Opacity: 100%
  • Color: #ffffff

Second Stroke Instance

You'll see that this applies another stroke effect to the text, without the need to use another separate layer or layer style.

Two Strokes Applied

Add an Inner Shadow with these settings:
  • Color: #ab6b18
  • Opacity: 80%
  • Distance: 8
  • Size: 5

Inner Shadow

Add another instance of the Inner Shadow effect with these settings:
  • Color: #d9953d
  • Uncheck the Use Global Light box
  • Angle: 63
  • Distance: 11
This will enable you to add inner shadows with different Angle values using only one layer, and the same layer style.

Second Inner Shadow Instance

Add an Inner Glow with these settings:
  • Blend Mode: Color Burn
  • Opacity: 100%
  • Noise: 100%
  • Color: #e7dabc
  • Source: Center
  • Size: 35

Inner Glow

Add a Color Overlay with these settings:
  • Color: #d09c2d

Color Overlay

Add a Drop Shadow with these settings:
  • Color: #394485
  • Opacity: 100%
  • Distance: 8
  • Spread: 100
  • Size: 4

Drop Shadow Instance 1

Add another instance of the Drop Shadow effect with these settings:
  • Color: #4e85c2
  • Uncheck the Use Global Light box
  • Angle: 119
  • Distance: 17

Drop Shadow Instance 2

Add a third instance of the Drop Shadow effect with these settings:
  • Color: #2d6db5
  • Opacity: 61%
  • Angle: 121
  • Distance: 26

Drop Shadow Instance 3

Add a fourth instance of the Drop Shadow effect with these settings:
  • Color: #c1a89a
  • Opacity: 35%
  • Angle: 41
  • Distance: 13
  • Spread: 47
  • Size: 9

Drop Shadow Instance 4

Add a fifth instance of the Drop Shadow effect. This instance will be very similar to the fourth one, so instead of clicking any Drop Shadow's + icon, make sure to click the + icon next to the fourth Drop Shadow instance.
This will create a fifth instance below the fourth one, with exactly the same settings. Change the following ones:
  • Angle: 130
  • Distance: 38

Drop Shadow Instance 5

And voila! There you have it. A pretty complex retro text effect created using only one text layer and one layer style.

Styled Text

You'll also find all the effect instances added to the layer effects list of the layer.

Effects List

In addition to the + icon, you'll also see a set of new icons at the bottom left corner of the Layer Style box. The first one to the left is the fx icon.
When you click the fx icon, you'll get a menu with a few options, as well as all the layer effect names, which you can click to add the effects as well as new instances.

The fx Icon

The Delete Hidden Effects option will get rid of all the unused or inactive effects and instances. You can click an effect's name from the fx menu to show or add it back any time you like.

Delete Hidden Effects

The Show All Effects option will show all the effects, whether they are used or not.

Show All Effects

The Reset to Default List option will simply set everything back to its default, including getting rid of any added effect instances.

Reset to Default List

The Move effect up and Move effect down icons can be used to change the order of the effect instances, and the Delete effect icon will remove the selected effect or instance.

Move Up and Down and Delete Icons

Once you're done with the layer style, place the Grungy paper texture v.5 image on top of the text layer, resize it as needed, and place it as you like.
Then, change its layer's Blend Mode to Linear Burn, and its Opacity to 50%.

Add the Texture

In this tutorial, we created a simple gradient with a subtle pattern background.
Then we created a text layer, and adjusted a couple of its settings such as the leading and tracking values.
After that, we used a couple of layer effects, along with the new layer style features, to create a retro text effect.
Finally, we added a simple grungy texture to finish off the effect.
Please feel free to leave your comments, suggestions, and outcomes below.


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