Photoshop Elements Tip: How to Add Text to a Photograph

by Robin Nichols

Step One
Step One
© Robin Nichols
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Essentially, it's a real "no, no" to place text on pictures unless you add a softening text panel between text and photo, or apply special text effects to make the writing stand off the picture layer. In this feature, we are concerned with the latter of the two features.

The idea with this tutorial is to demonstrate some ideas on using text in a picture, as well as techniques on how to integrate the photo as part of the text effect.

No text is going to be 100% readable if you use what I call a 'thin' font. Text has to be big, bold or fat to read when laid over a photo and when the photo is added into the text.

As a general rule, the "fussier" the detail in the photo, the heavier or bolder the text must be to retain an acceptable degree of readability. The easy way to begin is to obviously use a bold typeface. In this exercise, I chose to use a font called Arial, a face that's about as heavy as I could find on my computer. If your choice of fonts is limited, Adobe Photoshop Elements allows you to choose additional styles with some of the fonts, such as Extra Bold or Black to "thicken" it up (can't think of a more appropriate term here!). You'll find this on Elements' Horizontal Type tool Options palette at the top of the screen.

Step Three
Step Three
© Robin Nichols
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Step 1:
Make a new document by choosing File>New. Set it to a suitable resolution or page size (300dpi for printing, 72dpi for the Web). I began by typing the word 'Rio' into the blank document. Photoshop Elements automatically adds this as a new (vector) text layer. Open the layers palette (Window>Layers) or click the Palette Bin to open it. To confirm that the text is OK, click the 'Confirm' button (at the top of the screen) to signal I was happy completing that stage. Remember, once we have the text on a separate layer, it's editable, so there's no problem with changing its characteristics like font and point sizes. Once that stage is completed, click into the document again to create a second text layer ('de janeiro') in the same typeface, but with a smaller point size. You now have two text layers.

Step 2:
To help with the text alignment, I suggest using a lining-up feature called Grid (View>Grid) as this is a great design aid (note that this is the only layout aid in Elements). To get the text in the second layer to turn vertically, you have two options: either choose the vertical type tool or rotate that layer. We do the latter so as to control the font layout (Image>Rotate>Layer 90 Right). Click the confirm button top of screen to finalise the action.


Step Five
Step Five
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Step 3:
Merge the two text layers into one layer. Do this by making sure that the text (top) layer is still linked to the other text layer with a link symbol in the little square space between the eye icon and the T symbol in the layer palette. To link a layer to another, click in this space. A link symbol appears so if you now choose Layers>Merge Linked, the two text layers that are (now) linked together should be made one. By merging two text layers you change the vector text data into what's called a rasterized or bitmap layer (Elements calls it 'Simplifying', Photoshop calls it 'Resterizing'). Nothing changed in the text's appearance except for the fact that it's now one layer. Being a bitmap though it cannot be greatly enlarged without it looking rough (soft) around the edges. Vector text, on the other hand, can be resized to almost any size with no deleterious effects.

Step 4:
The fourth step in this process is to make a selection of the text. Do this by choosing the Move tool (press the V key to select this) and hold the Ctrl key down and click the layer icon (and NOT in the picture itself). You should see a selection line appear around the text. Once selected, the standard line of 'marching ants' appears around the edges of the text object that has been selected.


Step Seven
Step Seven
© Robin Nichols
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Step 5:
Next step is to save this selection for later use. This is a very important step or habit to get into doing because, if you have spent a lot of time drawing a selection for example, you really don't want to have to do it again if it gets lost. Save the selection and it can be called back at any time. You can come back to the document and reload the selection whenever it's required (which might be quite often in this exercise). Choose Select>Save Selection or Select>Load Selection.

Step 6:
Now we add the picture layer. Open the photo file and copy it, (choose Select>All or Ctrl + A, then choose Edit>Copy), before closing it down (Ctrl/Cmd + W). Once copied, it's in the computer's memory or clipboard. Now paste the copied image into the text document (choose Edit>Paste). The photo should appear in the document as the top layer in the layers palette. This is normal - we want to move it to a lower level, underneath the rasterized text layer.

Step 7:
Once it is copied, this is what you see: no text, just the photo. The text layer is beneath the new photo layer.


Step nine
Step nine
© Robin Nichols
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Step 8:
We can now delete the text layer (because we have saved the selection) by click, holding and dragging it to the trash can symbol on the layers palette. Tip: Don't try to drag it to the PC Recycle bin, it won't go! Next, load the selection made previously by choosing Select>Load Selection, locate the name you gave the selection (from the drop-down selection menu). This should be easy because there's only one selection in the document, but it can be tricky when there's ten, or more! Make life easier for yourself and be specific in your selection naming!

Step 9:
Once the selection is loaded, this is what you should see: the selection sitting on top of the photo layer. Choose Ctrl/Cmd + C to copy a text-shaped chunk out of the photo layer and then Ctrl/Cmd + V to paste it back into the document.

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Article by Robin Nichols. To learn more about photography, explore the many online photography and Photoshop classes offered here at BetterPhoto.com.