At some point every person dreams of seeing their name in bright, bold, neon lights. Fortunately for the tone-deaf, humor-less, performance-anxiety-ridden set, you don’t have to go on stage to feel like a star. Follow the steps below to transform any text into a neon sign that will give an electric jolt to your next project!
Start by creating a new Photoshop document, size 1920 x 1200 pixels. Create a new layer and place a textured background photo. This background is where your neon sign will “hang,” so think of exterior wall textures or neutral surfaces. For this example, we’re using an image of a red brick wall by jolly_photo.
With your new image layer selected, go to Layer > Rasterize > Layer. Next, go to Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation. Here we’ll increase the Saturation to +40, and reduce the Lightness to -85.
Create a third layer. Make sure your foreground and background colors are set to black and white. Then go to Filter > Render > Clouds, and you’ll see a cloudy pattern fill the layer you just created.
Using the Eraser Tool (E), erase the edges of your cloud layer, so you’re left with an imperfect oval shape in the center of your document. Reduce the opacity of your eraser tool to 20% and erase over the border of your oval a few times to remove any harsh edges. In the Layers panel, change the layer blend mode to Color Dodge, and reduce the Opacity to 50%.
Add a new layer, and use the Text Tool (T) to create the word or phrase for your neon sign. Use your favorite bright neon color, and look for an even, rounded font. Here I’m using the font TodaySB-Medium at 300pt, in color #33ccff.
With your text in place, go to Layer > Rasterize > Layer. Hold down the command key, and with your mouse click on the text layer thumbnail in the Layers panel. This should create a selected area outlining your text. Go to Select > Modify > Contract, enter 10px, and click OK. You’ll see that your selected area has shrunk inside your text. Click the Delete key to remove the interior of
your text, leaving behind a thick outline.
Because neon signs aren’t continuous, we need to add 1-2 break points in each letter. Use the
Eraser Tool (E) to add breaks as shown below.
With the neon text layer still selected, go to Layer > Layer Style, Drop Shadow. Set the Distance
to 15px, the Spread to 10%, and the Size to 10px.
In the same Layer Style window, click the Outer Glow checkmark. Here, change the Blend Mode to Linear Light, and change the Opacity to 75%. Set the glow color to something a bit brighter than your text color. Here I’m using #97e5ff.
Next, click the Inner Glow checkmark. Change the Blend Mode to Multiply and the Opacity to 75. This time, we’ll want the glow color to be darker than our text, so I set mine to #3333ff. In the Elements options, set the Size to 6px. Then click OK to save your layer styles.
Because our neon sign isn’t floating in front of the wall, we’ll want a subtle way to anchor it in space. Add another new layer, and drag it below your neon text layer. Using the Brush Tool (B), draw small black bars underneath each of the breaks in your text. You can hold down the Shift key as you draw to get perfectly straight lines.
With your black bar layer still selected, go to Layer > Layer Style > Bevel and Emboss. Set the Style to Outer Bevel, and the Depth to 11%. Then set the Size to 1px and Soften to 5px. In the Shading settings, set Altitude to 10 degrees. Click OK to save your settings.
You’ve now created a neon sign! In this example we used plain text to create the sign, but you can also try uploading a logo or icon in Step 5 and use the same technique for the remaining steps. You can also try testing out various color combos with different background textures to create a variety of outcomes.
Or, if the above tutorial is 8 steps too many, save some time with a neon vector »
Looking for more great Photoshop tutorials? Check out our post on how to make an animated banner ad!