The Designmark Graphics blog
Quality tutorials for Inkscape and GIMP
Anyone who knows me knows that I'm a big fan of Opera's excellent desktop and mobile browsers. In this tutorial I'm going to show you how to create a large piece of text with a strong, highlighting glow, using a big red 'O' similar to Opera's. Obviously we'll start by using the text tool, but after that we'll be making use of lots of filters and tactics for creating extra contrast once the letter itself has been set up.
Here's the final image we'll be creating today:
Skills you'll be developing in this tutorial
- Using a small number of layer blend modes to create different lighting effects
- Using various selection techniques
- Understanding a little about transparency, alpha channels, and layer blend modes
Step 1 - Set up the document and letter
Create a new image in GIMP, which is 600 pixels by 600 pixels. File --> New or Ctrl and N will get you started, here.
Set your foreground and background colours to #fefefe and #909090 respectively. Then grab your gradient tool (L on the keyboard) and draw a linear foreground-to-background gradient from the top of your canvas to the bottom.
Select your text tool (T on the keyboard). Choose a good font for the job from those you've got available - I've simply gone with Times New Roman Bold here, which will work perfectly well - and type a huge 'O' in the middle of your canvas in any colour for now.
Step 2 - Add a gradient to the letter and copy it
Once you've typed your character, find the layers panel with Ctrl and L, and tick the Lock Alpha Channel box. Go back to your gradient tool and set your foreground colour to #e50000 and the background to #610f0f. Click and drag a line to draw a linear gradient from the top-left of your 'O' to the bottom-right.
Ticking the Lock Alpha Channel means that any transparent areas on this layer will be left as such, regardless of any tool trying to paint over them. In this instance we've painted a letter with a nice gradient without affecting the background. On the downside, we can't now and re-type our letter if we want to change it as GIMP has now changed this layer's content from text to pixels. Bear that in mind when you're dealing with text in GIMP (future versions of the software may well change this with the use of layer styles, though).
Let's move on. Make three copies of this layer using the 'Duplicate layer' button, or by pressing Ctrl, Shift and D on the keyboard.
Step 3 - Edit each copy and start adding effects
Go to the first of your copied layers, and make sure that your 'lock alpha channel' box is still ticked. Then draw an ellipse (E on the keyboard to activate it) that covers the top third or so of your 'O', and draw a linear gradient that goes from white to transparent over it until you get something like this:
Change this layer's blend mode to overlay to give a very slight sheen to our text character. You can duplicate this layer if you want to enhance the effect.
Step 4 - Create a reflection
Take another of your original layer copies and, in the layers panel, drag it down so that it's underneath everything apart from your background. In the menus, select Layers --> Transform --> Flip Vertically. Then switch to your move tool (M on the keyboard) and choose 'Move the active layer' from the tool options panel. Click and drag your flipped 'O' downwards so that it's half off the canvas.
Go to the Layers menu and choose Layers --> Mask --> Add Layer Mask and accept the default options. Reset your foreground and background colours to black and white; use the little button next to the colour selector for speed.
Select your gradient tool again, and draw a white-to-black gradient on this layer mask. End it at about a quarter of the height of your flipped 'O'. When you've done this, reduce the layer's opacity to around 20%. We should be looking at a really nice reflection effect now.
Step 5 - Create a shiny outline
Select the layer with your final copy of the text on it - the topmost one at the moment. Start by unticking that 'Lock alpha channel' box, then selecting Layers --> Transparency --> Alpha to Selection from the menus.
Then choose Select --> Grow and set the figure to 1 pixel to expand the selection by. Hit OK.
Grab your gradient tool again, and drag out a white-to-black gradient from top-left to bottom-right, which will match where we're trying to suggest our light is coming from in this piece.
Drag it down in the Layers list so that it's above the reflection but below the original O. You should get a nice clean outline around your text like this:
Step 6 - Add a lens flare for impact
Create another layer, right at the top of your layer stack, and fill it with black either by using Ctrl and . or using the bucket tool (Shift and B on the keyboard). Change the layer blend mode to Addition, which will make any areas of this layer that are black effectively transparent (imagine it adding "nothing" to the image beneath it).
Then go to the Filters menu and choose: Filters --> Light and Shadow --> Lens Flare. Click somewhere in the top left area of the screen that pops up, and hit OK. Here I show what this layer looks like at Normal blend mode, instead of Addition, just so you can see what's happening. It's a bit hit-and-hope with where your lens flare ends up relative to your letter, so re-try a couple of times by using Undo (Ctrl and Z) until you get it about right.
Then use the move tool to shift your layer slightly so that the most highlighted area of the lens flare JUST overlaps the top left edge of your 'O'.
Step 7 - Add a coloured shadow
Add one more layer to your stack, in between the original 'O' text layer and the reflection. Use the ellipse tool to draw out a short, but wide ellipse level with the bottom of your 'O'. Go to Select --> Feather in the menus and set a big number in the option box - 120 pixels or so - and fill it with your dark red colour from before: #610f0f. Reduce this layer's opacity down to around 50%, or whatever you think gives the right effect.
Here's what my layer arrangement looks like now.
How's that looking? Really good, hopefully, and you can even use it with different-coloured backgrounds like these ones.
Hope you enjoyed this tutorial, have you learned something new? Got a creation you want to show off? Tell me about it in the comments section below.
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