Sarah (maidofawesome) wrote in graphics_school,

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Lesson 7: Text!

Ok, so I was talking to my good friend earlier about icons and she was complaining about how hard text is. And it to-ho-hotally is.

Text is an extremely important part of iconmaking, and it really can ruin an icon. There are actually a lot of iconmakers - good iconmakers - on LJ who hardly ever use text because it's so hard to get right.

Ok, let's take a look at your Photoshop window. As you can see, I have labelled this up with numbers. Not many numbers. Just some.

1 - The type tool.

You need to select this to do any kind of text on an icon. It's pretty simple - you select the Type Tool by clicking on it, and your mouse pointer should turn into a cursor (that looks a little like a capital I) when you pass it over a canvas on Photoshop. To add text, just click onto the canvas and write. It's not exactly hard.

2 - The 'Character' window.

We'll deal with this in a little bit. Basically it adds more options to your text. But now you know where it is. :)

Ok, first of all, sort your base out. I normally make my base and then do text last. Not always - sometimes I do the text, then add bits to the icon around it. But normally, base first.

It is Sarah Michelle Gellar! Looking... a bit stoned. Look at those eyes! What's she been smoking? But it's pretty (one Soft Light layer on sharpen, kids!) and it has a nice blank background which will suit my purposes beeyootifully. Mwahahaha.

Select the type tool (1) and click on the icon, roughly where you want the text to start (don't worry - you can move it after you've written). And type whatever you want. I am very imaginative, and have put:

...her initials.

Note that the text is on a new layer, which is a special format.

If you select another tool, like 'move' or 'paint', the text layer becomes inactive. To activate the layer again, click on the text itself (so in this case, I would click on the word 'SMG' on the actual icon, making sure the text layer was still the one selected in the layer palette) and you will be able to edit it.

You can edit text on Photoshop like in any word processing programme. You can highlight the text, like in Word. You can change the font in the same way. The place where you can change the font is right at the top of your Photoshop window... here:

The font is where it says 'Georgia' (that would be the font name). All the fonts stored on your computer should open in Photoshop.

Next to it is where you can change the setting - bold, italic, underline, etc. You can't do this on all fonts - a lot of downloaded ones don't have the option (I'll tell you about downloading fonts in a bit).

Next to that... the size. Remember back in the first tutorial I told you about keeping the resolution of a picture at 72 pixels/inch? Every now and then Photoshop resets itself and the resolution size changes. The only place you will actually notice this is the text. If the resolution is not 72, the text size won't reflect... the size of the text. So 10pt might be tiny, or it might be huge. It was like a year before I realised what was causing this problem, seriously.

Oh, next to that is a very, very important little box.

One of my pet peeves in iconmaking is when I see text like this:

Ew. You see what's bad about it? It's grainy, and pixelated, and the edges are all raggedy, and it just looks like it doesn't belong on the icon. The reason it's so fugly is that the setting on this little box (which is called the 'Anti-Alias box') is set to 'None'. Meaning the Anti-Alias is Off. It should never ever be off. EVER.

The only time I ever leave it off is when I'm making a line the lazy way (which is holding down the _ key). But there is actually a line tool for that, I'm just lazy.

The other four settings are all fairly similar. I nearly always leave mine set to 'Strong' because I prefer it. Oh, I'm sorry, what? You need more convincing why Anti-Alias SHOULD NEVER BE OFF? Ok.



Like I said, I normally leave mine on 'Strong', but play around with it, choose which one you like. Here is an example of them all:


Some of them are almost identical. Strong is boldest, which is why I like it.

Back to the Text Bar. The three sets of lines next to the Anti-Alias box are the same as on word - they align the text to the left, the right, or centre it. No further explanation needed, I hope.

Big black box! Colour. If your text is highlighted, you can click on that to change the colour. Alternatively you can do it another way (which is what I normally do) which is click on the main colour palette here:

We went through colour earlier, so I'm not going to do it again. But remember how I showed you how to select colour from an open image? And told you how it's awesome with text? Now we get to play with it!

Open your colour palette, and drag it around the screen so that you can see your base outside of it.

Now move your cursor outside the colour palette, onto the image, and you will see that the cursor changes into a little eye-dropper tool. You can select any colour from the image, and make your text that colour. So I could match the text to one of the darker shades in SMG's skin:

If, when selecting your colour, you deselect the text, don't worry. Just highlight the text again, click on your colour palette, then click OK.

Note that the colour palette is like one square on top of another. When you changed your colour, the top square changed to that colour. If you select the bottom square, it will move to the top, and you can change the colour of that in the same way. This is good because if you are using two colours in a layout or something, you can store one for later. Which is basically what it's for. It's for other things, too, like gradients, but we'll go onto gradients later. Not now. This is convoluted enough as it is!

See the tiny little black and white overlapping squares next to the larger ones on the colour palette? If you click on those, your colour palette colours will revert to black and white agian. Useful little tool.

Man, this section is way more involved than I thought it would be. So we've dealt with changing the font, changing the colour, changing the size, right? Back to the Text bar. Ignore the button next to the colour box for now, and click on the one that's like a little table or page. This one:

The Character window should appear beneath it, as in the picture. If it is minimised into a small bar, double click on it, and it will expand into the full window, which should look like this:

If it looks like this:

Click 'Character' at the top of the window. Better?

I was using Photoshop for, like, a year before I discovered this window, but now I can't function without it. I lovers it. Let's go through it, shaaaaall we? With numbers!


1 - Font box. Here is where you can select your fonts. Yup.

2 - Formatting box! Where you can change your font to bold, italic, bold italic, all that gubbins.

It's just like on Word or any other typing programme, to change the format of your text, you need to highlight it.

3 - Font size! Here is where you can change the size of your font. Note that you are not just limited by the font sizes in this list - you can type in any size and it will be that size.

4 - Line spacing. Here is where you can change the space between lines. This is useful, because some fonts allow large gaps between lines that you don't necessarily need, and if you're trying to pack a lot into an icon or header, it's useful. If you make the size too small, the lines overlap, like so:

And if it's too big, they're too far apart.

This is just right - normally 1 or 2 sizes lower than the font size.

Note that if you are using font size 12, the 'correct' line spacing with be size 12. So if you want it to be a little less, use font size 11, or 10. Or more, 13, or 14. Or you can just leave it on (Auto), which will keep it on the default. Which is good too.

5 - Letter spacing. Here is where you change the space between letters. A lot of fonts look close together, and a bit squished. With fonts like Times New Roman or Georgia, I hardly ever leave this on the default. With a completely clear background like this, there isn't much difference, but can you see that the text in the second example looks neater and better proportioned than in the first?

On a busier background, believe me, it makes a BIG difference. I'll show you more on that later.

6 - Stretchy Down! Yep, that's the technical term, which you should say in a really high voice, cos it's fun. This makes text stretch in a vertical manner. 100% is the default. If you set it to, say, 150%, it looks like this:


Ok, it doesn't look so awesome, but it's something that can look good, if you use your discretion. I don't use it very often, but I do use it every now and then. It can also squish text.


7 - Stretchy Sidey! Also the technical term. High voice? Good. Hee. This streches text to the siiiiide. Horizontally, if you will.

100% (default)



I don't use it loads, again, but sometimes. It's good for when you're trying to get text to fit somewhere, or if you're using a very compressed font - some fonts are designed quite squishy, which doesn't always look good.

8 - Wiggly text! Basically this tool lifts text above the default line (which is 0 pt) or below. I use it for wiggly text! Hence the name. If you select individual letters, you can change the setting and create a cool text effect. A lot of my Veronica Mars icons use it. For instance:

Hee, pretty. The numbers below are the sizes I set the tool to. This is actually called the baseline shift, but I prefer my name. :)

9 - Color. Or Colour, as it is spelt properly. Just click on the box to change it, or do it the normal way. While this Character window is open, you can use the regular text bar to change the formatting too. This just has more options.

The little Ts underneath are various things too. They are as follows.

Hey! You can do that thing where you get the small letters next to the big letter like when you write 1st and it autoformats, coooool. I totally didn't know that. And it's called Superscript! See, I learn during this too. Woo.

Ok, that's the end of that box. It's fun stuff, though, right? And that's pretty much all you need to start doing the text type thing.

Right, that's the end of text basics. Which is a relief, because I'm tired. And without internet again, so I'll probably start the next tutorial now, so I should shut up about this being a relief.

Any questions? I'm going to deal more with text in one of the next tutorials, so don't freak out. But if you don't understand anything or if you think I'm skipping over things, just let me know. :)

<--- Lesson Six | Lessons Index | Lesson Eight --->
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