Classic LP and CD art often combines touched-up photo collages with beautifully rendered fonts. In this tutorial, we show you how to make 3D text in Photoshop, perfect for album cover art and other creative projects.

By Byron Hudson & Kathy Cho

Classic LP and CD art often combines touched-up photo collage with beautifully rendered fonts. This is just one of many occasions when designers find themselves needing to incorporate lettering that has both texture and dimensionality into photographic environments. Utilizing the many pre-existing, beautifully rendered typefaces available on Shutterstock can be a huge labor-saving strategy in such instances.

Shutterstock Summer Mix Tape

For our mix tape album cover, we created a poolside scene with our text “SUMMER MIX TAPE” spelled out in leaves, water, and shadow. Here’s how we did it:

1. First we had to clean the pool. For our background, we went with “Large rectangular swimming pool against the background of the ocean” by Olaf Speier, because we wanted to create the word ‘SUMMER’ in the form of a topiary hedge along the far side of the pool. The original image actually contains a hedge right where we want it, giving us an excellent light and color guide for when we placed our lettering.

2. But before we planted the veggie-letters, we needed to remove the original hedges from the background. So we replaced that part of the photo with “Pool” by Vibrant Image Studio. We simply applied a vector mask and tweaked the colors slightly. This gave us a nice, continuous ocean vista to work with.

3. For the topiary lettering we used the “Bush Alphabet” by Tischenko Irina. By simply selecting out, cutting, and pasting the letters into the scene, we put our first word in place. After arranging the hedge letters in a well-spaced line, we used the perspective tool to line it up with the pool’s edge. Then we wanted to add shadows of the letters on the concrete and line them up with the shadows cast by the railing in the foreground. We made a selection based on the leaf letters, filled the selection with a gradient fading from black to transparent, and transformed the shape with the distort tool until the shadows were in line with those in the foreground. We then reduced its opacity and added a Multiply effect to the layer.


4. For the word “MIX”, we used a basic sans-serif font and used edit>transform>distort to align it with the pool. We then made a few copies, adding the Multiply layer effect to the bottommost version, and an Overlay layer effect to the topmost. We did some fiddling with the opacity of the various layers, and applied a ripple filter to each instance.


We also did a little bit of quick mask airbrushing to vary the opacity further and add a bit of randomness to create the illusion of refraction. To give the water added interest, we used “Refection of Blue water in Swimming pool with Ripple” by vichie81, which we placed under the “MIX” lettering. We tweaked the Ripple image with the edit>transform>perspective tool, masked it to conform to the shape of the pool, and added a Lighten layer effect to blend it into the background water.

5. For our last word, “TAPE”, we wanted to make it look like the letters had been splashed onto the concrete in the foreground by someone exiting the pool. To improve the texture of the deck, we borrowed marble tiles from “Swimming pool of luxury hotel, Tunisia” by Marques and transformed them to match the angle of the pool. Then we added our type to the deck using “Vector water letter” by Mikhail. We created a selection based on the text and filled it with a dark grayish-brown lifted via eyedropper from the brick image, and transformed the type to line up with the pool and bricks. We beefed up the letters where they were too narrow, as with the hairline ascender on the left side of the “A”, which was reading too lightly.

Image 2

Once we were happy with the shape of our type layer, we duplicated it a few times, applying a Color Burn layer effect to one instance, a Linear Light effect to another, and adjusted the opacity of the respective layers until the type looked like water recently splashed onto on the deck. Then we created a mask and used a rough edged brush to fade the edges of the letters and give the illusion of uneven evaporation.

Water Splatter

We then added additional streaks and splashes of water around the text using “abstract painting of splash action” by sayhmog, which we sliced and diced on various layers, again applying Multiply, Color Burn, and Linear Light layer effects to the various instances and fiddling with the opacity until it looked right.

6. To add a few more summery notes to the background, we sent aloft “hot air ballon” by Byron W.Moore and “hot air balloon over blue sky” by topseller, being careful to select images that had roughly the same angle and intensity of lighting. We also added a sailboat to the ocean using “Sail boats in San Francisco Bay” by Photoroller.

7. Finally, we added a hat and towel to the foreground, with an audiotape laid across them using “Suntan lotion, straw hat with towel at the beach” by Sandra Cunningham, from which we painted out the sunscreen bottle, and “Funny orange tape from the seventies” by Raphael Daniaud.

Voilia, we have our scene!

Shutterstock Summer Mix Tape

NOTE: For album covers in general, you want to make sure your canvas is a perfect square. Various music websites and apps have various size limits for cover art so we suggest making your original nice and large. A physical vinyl LP cover is 12.375 square-inches, so making your canvas that big at 300 dpi would give you print-quality album cover art. Might as well make your original that big. You never know when you might get a record deal.