Photoshop Tutorial: How to Transform a Face into a Powerful Text Portrait

Photoshop Tutorial: How to Transform a Face into a Powerful Text Portrait

Hi. This is Marty from Blue Lightning TV.
I’m going to show you how to transform a photo of someone into a stunning portrait made only
of words that are special to the person. Open a photo of someone you’d like to use. It can
be color or black and white. If it’s in color, desaturate it by pressing Ctrl+ Shift +U on
Windows or Cmd + Shift + U on a Mac. We’ll make a Displacement Map of your subject in order to wrap the text around the contours of the face. To do this, click the icon at
the upper, right of the Layers panel and click “Duplicate Layer”. Click “New” and type in
“Displacement”. Then, click OK. Since Displacement Maps work best when they’re slightly blurred, go to Filter, Blur and Gaussian Blur. I’ll blur it 4 pixels, however, depending on the
size and resolution of your document, you may want to use a different blur amount. Give
your image a similar degree of blur as this. Then, click OK. Go to File and “Save As”. Save it to your “Desktop” as a Photoshop PSD file and click “Save”. Now, we can close the Displacement
document, since we just saved it. The next step is to isolate the face from the rest of the image. To do this, we need to make a selection around it. There are many ways
to do this, however, for this example, I’ll use the Pencil Tool. If you want to use this
tool as well, make your Pencil size small and the Hardness: 100%. If your foreground
and background colors aren’t black and white, respectively, press “D” on your keyboard.
Click the Quick Mask icon, so we can draw a quick mask. Draw around the perimeter of
the face and shoulders and make sure there are no gaps in the line. Open your Paint Bucket
Tool and make sure “Contiguous” is checked. Click inside the quick mask to fill it in.
If your entire canvas fills with the quick mask, press Ctrl or Cmd + Z to undo the last
step and carefully check your lines for gaps or holes. Convert the quick mask into a selection
by pressing “Q” on your keyboard. Invert the selection by pressing Ctrl or Cmd + Shift
+ I. To refine the selection around the hair, go to Select and Refine Edge. I did an in-depth
tutorial on the Refine Edge feature, so to save time, I won’t be going over all the details
here. Check “Smart Radius” and drag the Radius to the right until you start seeing a little
variance along the edges. If you want to refine it even more, brush over the outer edges of
the hair around the head. If it’s too much, undo the last step. Output it as a “New Layer
with Layer Mask”. Then, click OK. Notice, we now have a new layer with a layer mask
made from the selection. To make a new layer below the active layer, Ctrl-click or Cmd-click on the New Layer icon. We’ll fill the empty layer with black and since black is the foreground
color, press Alt or Option + Delete. We want to brush black over the shoulders to create
a soft vignette. Do this, click the layer mask to make it active and open your Brush
Tool. Make its size large with a Hardness of 0%. Carefully brush over the shoulders
making sure you don’t cover the chin of your subject. Next, we’ll create the text part
of your text portrait. If you want to use lyrics, a poem or any other block of text,
open it, highlight it and press Ctrl or Cmd + C to copy it. For this purpose, I like to
use a website called, “”. It creates “word clouds” from text that you provide. Click “Create”, click inside the box and press Ctrl or Cmd + V to paste your text into it. Then, click “Go”. Click “Language”. For this example, I’ll make all the words upper-case, however, you can choose whatever you want. Click “Font”. I’ll use “Goudy Bookletter 1911”. Click “Layout”
and tick “Straighter Edges”. For this example, I’ll choose “Mostly Horizontal”. Click “Color” and click WB for White/Black. Click “Open in Window” and then, maximize it. To get your
design into Photoshop, make a screenshot of your entire design by pressing the PrtSc (Print
Screen) key on the top of your keyboard if you’re using Windows or if you’re on a Mac,
press Cmd + Ctrl + 3. Minimize the Wordle design window and your Browser windows. Go to File and New. Click OK. Press Ctrl or Cmd + V to paste your screenshot into it. Open your Rectangular Marquee Tool and drag a selection over the inside of the black background and
be careful not to cut off any of your text. Invert the selection and fill it with black.
Then, deselect it. Click the Channels tab. If you don’t see it, go to Window and Channels.
At the bottom of the panel, click the small dotted circle. This makes a selection of all
the tonal values of your image. Open back up your Layers panel. Click the New Layer icon to make a new layer, fill the selection with white and deselect it. To get your white text design onto your subject, press “v” to open your Move Tool and drag it up onto the tab of your subject. Without
releasing your mouse or pen, drag it own onto the face and release. Double-click on the thumbnail of your text design to open its Layer Style window. Click “Drop Shadow”. I’ll
make the Distance: 5 pixels and the Size: 5 pixels, however, depending of the size and
resolution of your photo, you may want to adjust these amounts. Then, click OK. To save space in the Layers panel, click the small arrowhead next to the “fx” icon. The text portrait will have better results when the text is relatively small. To resize it, open
your Transform Tool by pressing Ctrl or Cmd + T. Go to a corner and when you see a diagonal,
double-arrow, press and hold Alt or Option + Shift as you drag it in. To reposition it,
go inside the Transform and move it. Then, press Enter or Return. Make a copy of your
text by pressing Ctrl or Cmd + J. Reposition it over the face and make another copy. Continue
to make a few more copies and position them over your document. We want to start rotating
them 90 degrees clockwise. To do this, open your Transform Tool, go to a corner and when
your see a curved, double-arrow, press and hold Shift as you rotate it clockwise 90 degrees.
Pressing Shift snaps the transform to 45, 90 or 180 degrees. Then, press Enter or Return
and position it. Continue to add text blocks on your document. Let’s place all the
text into a folder. To do this, scroll down to the bottom text layer and Shift-click on
it to highlight all the layers between it and the top, text layer. Then, press Ctrl
or Cmd + G to group them into a folder. Make a copy of the folder and go to Edit, Transform
and “Rotate 90 degrees Counter Clockwise”. Position it, make another copy and position
that. Continue to make copies and position them over large empty areas. Let’s group these
folders into another folder using the same steps as you did before. We’re going to reduce
the size of all the text in the folder, so open your Transform Tool again and press Ctrl
or Cmd + 0 to see the Transform’s entire bounding box. Go to a corner, and when you see a diagonal, double-arrow, press and hold Shift
and drag it in approximately this much. Move it in, but position it on the upper, left.
Then, press Enter or Return. Make a copy of the folder and move it to the lower, right. Make another copy, open your Transform Tool, rotate it clockwise and move it to the upper, right. Make one more copy and position this one to the lower, left. To fit it back on
your canvas, press Ctrl or Cmd + 0. We’ll convert all the text into a Smart Object, so we can displace it using the displacement map that we saved earlier. To do this, Shift-click
on the bottom folder to highlight all the folders and click the icon at the upper, right. Click “Convert to Smart Object”. Go to Filter, Distort and Displace. Displace the Horizontal
and Vertical Scales: 10, “Stretch to Fit” and “Repeat Edge Pixels”. Then, click OK. Click the Displacement file and click Open. The text made a subtle, but important shift
based on the displacement map’s tonal values of the face. Click off the eyeball next to
the text to temporarily hide the layer. Make a composite snapshot of your image by first clicking the thumbnail of the face to make it active and then, pressing Ctrl + Shift
+ Alt + E on Windows or Cmd + Shift + Option + E on a Mac. Hide the layer with the layer mask and drag the composite snapshot to the top of the Layers panel. Change its Blend
Mode to Linear Burn and make your text visible. Lastly, we’ll brighten the portrait. Click the Adjustment layer icon and click Levels. Slide the Input white to the left to approximately 200. This is Marty from Blue Lightning TV. Thanks for watching!

100 thoughts on “Photoshop Tutorial: How to Transform a Face into a Powerful Text Portrait

  1. Hi, nice tutorial!! I only have PSE so once I get to wanting to select the text from the word cloud I don't have the channels option…. Is there an easy way to extract the text with PSE without the chore of using the selection tool?

  2. I am thinking about using images of swords (like the melted swords on the throne in game of thrones) in place of text. what do you think about it?

  3. Hi, little help needed, around 12 minutes i must need the option; CMD + SHIFT + E but i get something difference as you explain in it in the tutorial. Can somebody give me al little help?

  4. I am trying to do this with a coloured image, when i get to one of the last steps when changing to linear burn it doesnt do what youve done. how can i fix this please

  5. Hey blue lightning can you please watch the mv 7th Sense by NCTU? Can you please watch it and tell me what effect is it that they're doing? What is that effect called at 0:09, 0:31, 2:04, 2:30, 2:57 in there mv. Please watch it and tell me. I want ro do some effect similar like theres in pictures.

  6. Great tutorial, followed it exactly and got a very similar result. However, how do I replace the black background with a transparent one?

  7. Hey thank you so much for this tutorial . .

    But i gotta a question when i am selecting the text in channel mode and making white with (ctrl + del) and then dragging it to the main image
    My whole background is coming along with the white text
    Any solutions ?

  8. hi 🙂 nice tutorial 🙂 just have a question -> at 11:20 you made the folders to a smart object i made the same but could not use the distort filter :/ do you know why?

  9. This worked! However when I tried to export to SVG, it only took one layer. How do I export the whole thing as one SVG file?

  10. It all worked until filling in the letters to move over the face. My letters didn't fill with white so theres nothing to move over the face. Not sure whats going wrong

  11. hi loved this clear and concise tutorial, thank you so much! The wordle site didnt work out for me so i just took some lorem ipsum text to place on the face. thanks!

  12. I've just finished a version of this. The instructions are very clear. The build up, I have found, does not prepare you for the final result, which I have to say is just superb. I am well chuffed. Thank you very much for providing such an excellent tutorial. I would like to see more. My only stumbling block has been finding a word cloud program that i could use. Wordle does not work on my Mac. It did a few years ago, but no longer. I'm guessing it's something to do with the operating system. After searching through what is currently available, (Not much) the only one that came close to providing the sort of quality I needed was Word Art. This is chargeable. I used to use Tagxedo alot but this is not supported on macs anymore either, sadly.

  13. When I drag the text to the image the text is very small even if I use caps. I'm creating a word cloud at
    Hope anyone can help.

  14. Hi Marty
    After several tries I completed this task. However I had to use for the text. I followed the same instructions as you indicated. Yet my text, even though it was white was not as clear as your text. It was not as visible. Could not really distinguish the text. Other than that it works. I would to send to you for your review if possible for critique?

  15. literally i've done this three times for a school project and it just won't work i don't know what i'm doing wrong but it is so dark it just doesn't have the same effect ughhhhhhh

  16. Wordle doesn't work for me, but Word Art does, anyone else have this problem, if so, then go to this link!

  17. thanks brilliant tutorial, for those who are using the new adobe software to access the refine edge tool you need to go to select hold shift and click on select and mask. other then that everything else is the same.

  18. I tried to move the text only, but I can't :< The whole text picture move with the selected text :< what I have to do now ?

  19. Hi so so sorry but when i try to use levels to brighten my image, the rest of the wording are also brighten up which means the that instead of just my intended image having the words only, the surrounding background have the words too. Can anyone please help me!

  20. Sir, You are the best one right now on youtube in sharing your skills regarding this software. God Bless You and Give you reward for these teachings. Ameen

  21. Good tutorial, but on this one and the most recent streamlined version you've done, the eyes have been totally covered over, yet when displaced they are visible, how had this been done, what step is missing or are they merged in afterwards?

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