Owl Ink Tutorials: How to Add Lettering to a Photo

How to Add Lettering to a Photo


Today I will show you how to add lettering art to a photograph! This is a neat way to create custom graphics for your blog, portfolio, Instagram… or just for fun!

In this example, I will be using a personal photo. If you don’t have any nice photos on hand, a great place to pick up some high-res creative commons photos is Unsplash.



Create Your Lettering


Here, I used the Akashiya New Fude Brush to create a loose, dry brush script. I chose a segment from this quotation by John Muir:

Take a course in good water and air; and in the eternal youth of Nature you may renew your own. Go quietly, alone; no harm will befall you.

I made a few different versions to choose from. Since we will be editing our lettering in Photoshop, it’s ok if some letterforms aren’t perfect! Little imperfections, like smudges or lopsided letters, can all be fixed.


Lettering on Photos


If you have a scanner, scan and save your image. If not, no worries! I do all my “scanning” with my iPhone camera. Just Dropbox/iCloud/email it to yourself to get it on your computer.



Edit Your Lettering


Open your lettering in Photoshop. It might look pretty dark and messy, but here’s where Photoshop magic comes in!

First, open up some adjustment layers and play around with the sliders until the image has a pretty clear contrast between black and white.

I usually use one or a combination of these adjustments:

  • Curves: This is the QUICKEST fix, but it doesn’t always work. In the Curves adjustment layer, simply click the “white” eyedropper and then click on any part of your photo that is supposed to be white. (Sometimes this washes out your image, especially if your photo was taken with uneven lighting, like mine. In this case, I didn’t use curves.)
  • Saturation: Slide saturation down to remove the yellow from indoor lighting.
  • Levels: Move the two sliders around until the black/white contrast is more clear.

I used Levels to edit this photo. You can watch me do it here!




Now you can delete your white background easily!

  • Go to the Magic Wand tool.
  • Make sure  “Anti-Alias” is selected.  (This makes the result less jagged)
  • Make sure “Contiguous” is NOT selected. (Contiguous means it will only select pixels that are connected. For example, it wouldn’t get the white space in the middle of the letter O, because it’s isolated.)
  • Click anywhere on your white background. You’ll see some little “marching ants”, which shows what you’ve selected to delete.
  • Hit delete!

You can watch me do it here:




« Note: be sure to save periodically :)  »



Compose Your Lettering


Now that we’ve isolated our letters, it’s time to compose our final piece.

  • If you made multiple versions, pick which one you want to use.
  • Using a selection tool like the lasso, select and delete the ones you don’t want.
  • Tweak the letters to your liking. In this example, I didn’t like how “Go” looked like it was leaning too far to the left, but I liked its shape. I just cut out “Go” using the lasso tool, and rotated it (Ctrl-T to rotate) until it looked better.

You can watch me do it here:




Now you are ready to put the lettering on your photo!



Combine Lettering and Photo


Here’s my favorite part: putting it all together!

  • Copy your lettering art and paste it on top of your photo.
  • Move the lettering layer until you are satisfied with the position.
  • Make any final tweaks to the spacing/sizing.

Since my photo is dark, I want to make the text white so it pops. Here’s an easy way to do that!

  • Right click on your lettering layer and select “Blending Options”.
  • Tick the box for “Color Overlay”.
  • The default color overlay  is red — change this to white.
  • Click OK.

You can watch me do it here:




Save and admire your finished work! :)




This post was made with Recordit, an awesome screen-to-gif software I just discovered. It’s super easy to use and I’d highly recommend it.

(I’m not affiliated with Recordit, I just thought it was really cool and wanted to share)

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