Photoshop Tutorial: Create A Neon Type Effect

By Shutterstock contributor Karl Rosencrants

There are many ways to create a neon light effect in Photoshop, but let’s look at how to do it using only Layer Styles. Designing this way has two benefits. First, it keeps the text editable, which is a major plus when doing work for a client who may change their mind. Second, since all the work is done using Layer Styles, the elements can be saved to the Style Palette for easy application to another design later.

First, use the text tool to lay down some text on the canvas. Pick something that is close to white but that still has some color. Large, blocky text will look best to start with.

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Inside the Layers Palette, change the Fill color of the text layer to 0%, but leave the overall Opacity at 100%. This will hide the text, but will still allow the Layers Styles to be visible as they are added later.

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With the text layer selected, add a layer style by going to Layer > Layer Style, and start a Stroke.

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Keep the stroke pretty small and use the same color for the stroke as you did for the fill color for the text. This will be the bright, tube-like element for the neon effect, and it should represent the brightest color. Next, add an Outer Glow.

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The Outer Glow (fittingly named here) is where the glow of the neon begins. This color should be slightly darker and hold more color than the stroke color. Change the blend mode to Normal and adjust the size of the glow until the effect looks right. Don’t be too worried about precision here. Since these are layer styles, they can always be adjusted if the effect doesn’t look quite right.

Next, add an Inner Glow, and mirror the same settings to the inside of the text, using the same color, blend mode, and size as the Outer Glow.

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Next, add a Drop Shadow. (Don’t be tricked by the name – just because Drop Shadow is generally used to create shadows doesn’t mean that it can’t be used for other purposes.)

Change the Blend mode to Normal and select a color that is deeper than those used for the Inner and Outer Glows. Change the Distance setting to zero. By reducing this value to zero, it forces the shadow to emit from the design in every direction equally, acting like yet another Glow. Adjust the Size of the shadow to be roughly twice the size as the Glow settings, and you should now see a nice gradient of glowing color to the outside of the lettering.

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Give the text an Inner Shadow with the same color and settings as the Drop Shadow, making sure that the Distance is set to zero and the Blend Mode is set to Normal.

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Click OK on the Layer Style dialog box and the settings will be locked in.

To save this look to a saved Layer Style, with the text layer selected, simply click on the Create New Style icon inside the Styles palette. These Layer Styles can now be easily added to other layers, text, etc.

The other great thing about creating the design this way is the fact that the text is still completely editable. The words can be changed, the font, size and spacing can all be adjusted and the effect adjusts with the design.

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