Deke’s Techniques: Hobbit-inspired text

Published by | Tuesday, December 18th, 2012

In this week’s free Deke’s Techniques video—inspired by the movie poster for The Hobbit: The Unexpected Journey—Deke McClelland starts with the unsuspecting, decidedly unheroic text and takes it on a Middle Earth–inspired adventure into the lands of Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop.

The result is that this ordinary-ish text in the before image below ends up looking as though it’s been chiseled and chewed all the way there and back again, with all the seasoned character one would expect, and as you can see in the after image:

Before and after of the final Hobbit inspired text effect.

Deke starts his project in Illustrator, where it’s easier to manipulate the shapes and sizes of the letterforms. The first step is to turn the text into outlines with editable paths that can be manipulated by Deke’s wizardry. He stretches the T, shrinks and adds an embellishment to the E, and adjusts the Q’s swash:

Using Adobe Illustrator to manipulate the shapes and sizes of the letter forms.

After swapping the stroke and fill colors and reducing the stroke width, Deke roughs up the edges with the aptly named Roughen effect. Choosing Effect > Distort and Transform > Roughen, he sets the Size set to an Absolute 1.2 points and the Detail (i.e., the number of roughening wiggles) to 17 per inch:

Using the Roughen effect in Illustrator.

Having suitably stylized the text shapes, Deke copies the outlines and pastes them into Photoshop. Note that when you bring this path in from Illustrator and use the Paste command, Photoshop gives you four choices for the type of Paste you want to perform. For this project, picking the Shape Layer option means you will retain the path outlines.

Bringing the text shapes into Photoshop.

If the task of Illustrator is to help create the shapes, then the destiny of Photoshop is to provide the texture. After changing the fill to white to improve visibility, Deke applies a layer effect, Gradient Overlay, using a couple of orangish shades for the gradient:

Using Photoshop Layer Styles to add texture.

To give the letterforms some volume, the next step is to add a Bevel & Emboss layer effect using the Chisel Soft technique option and appropriately adjusting the blend modes of the highlights and shadows (to Linear Burn and Linear Dodge, respectively.)

Using Layer Styles and the Chisel Soft technique.

The chiseling effect is a good start, but to really sell effect, Deke adds a texture layer (created from a photograph) and clips it inside the letters. Then he duplicates the texture, flips it around, and creates another clipping mask. After supplying a Color Overlay effect and dose of the Noise filter, along with some blend mode tweaking, the result is letters that look like they’ve survived a battle or two:

Adding a texture layer and a color overlay.

To really distress the text, Deke uses the Pen tool to draw some paths that look like proper battle scarred, dwarf-bitten divots, then uses the Subtract Front Shape command in the options bar to remove those areas from the shape layer.

Using the Subtract Front Shape command.

To keep the larger holes from boring all the way through the letters, Deke fills in the backs of the letters with a perfectly registered layer of colored texture, masked to take care of the letters’ more violent wounds:

Making the final touches to the text including colored texture and masking.

Finally, Deke adds in some supplementary, self-deprecating text, and voila:

The final poster in the style of The Hobbit.

The background of this image, by the way, is not Middle Earth or even the stand-in for Middle Earth known as New Zealand. It’s actually the Cliffs of Moher on the west coast of Ireland (which stood in for the Cliffs of Insanity in the movie The Princess Bride, so it’s still a motion picture worthy locale).

Deke has a lynda.com member-exclusive video called Enhancing a landscape photo in Camera Raw 7 that demonstrates how he enhanced a regular vacation photo to make this cinematic background.

Deke will be back in the new year with another Deke’s Techniques episode.

Suggested courses to watch next:
• The entire Deke’s Techniques collection
• Photoshop CS6 One-on-One: Intermediate
• Illustrator CS6 One-on-One: Intermediate

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2 Responses to “Deke’s Techniques: Hobbit-inspired text”

  1. Francesco says:

    Loved this tutorial!!

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