For this exercise, I’m going to share a simple technique for creating text that appears to filled with an image. This is quite a striking effect and is another way to add interest and combine text and imagery.
We’re going to be turning to another free web app for this example, Pixlr Photo Editor. Pixlr also offer a very easy to use tool called Pixlr Express for simple image enhancement. However, the more advanced Photo Editor offers some additional functionality that we need for this technique.
Photoshop and GIMP users could achieve this effect by using text to make a selection and then using that to apply a mask to the image. I’m not going to talk through that technique, so if you use one of those two apps, you’ll need to look at their help files. However, you could also use the same technique that I’m going to show you here.
This technique is very simple to achieve, but it relies on a couple of features that aren’t available in all online image editors.
The first is layers. These are a bit like the layers of acetate used to create the old Disney animations. Each sheet of acetate contains an element and all the sheets are stacked to form a single image. This will become clearer as we work with layers.
Layers are quite common in image editors. For example, in Canva, while layers aren’t explicitly identified, you may recall there is a “Arrange” command that allows you to move an item forward or back. This is just the same as layers.
Introducing blending modes
The second feature is blending modes. Normally elements on the upper layers will obscure elements on lower layers. Blending modes, however, allow us to adjust how a layer interacts with layers below it.
You’ll soon see just how powerful this feature can be.
So let’s crack on and create our first text filled with an image.
Open a new document
Firstly go to Pixlr Photo Editor and use the “Create a New Image” option.
In the panel that opens, you can give your document a name and set a custom width and height. I’ve used a width of 940 pixels and a height of 788 pixels as this will be suitable for a Facebook post.
Add a layer of text
Adding text is done using the text tool, the “T” icon in the tools panel. Click the text tool then click on the document. A new panel opens and you can type your text in and it appears in the document.
For this technique to be most effective we need to choose a very heavy font and I advise you use all capital letters. If you try this with too thin a font, there won’t be enough of the image visible for anyone to see what the image is. Pixlr lets you pick from your own fonts and I selected Alfa Slab One. If you haven’t got a very bold font on your computer, you can download Alfa Slab One for free from FontSquirrel.
If you want to add several lines of text and set each line at a different size, you will have to add individual text layers. You just need to use the text tool and click somewhere else in the document to add a new text layer. In the screenshot, you can see the “Layers” panel on the right hand side. If it isn’t showing on your computer, go to the “View” menu and click “Layers” in the drop down.
To move a layer, click the “Move” tool which is top right in the “Tools” panel. Then click on the layer in the “Layers” panel and you can drag it around in the document.
Add the image layer
Adding the image layer above the text is the next step.
Click on the “Layer” menu item and click “Open image as layer” in the drop down. Then find the image on your computer and open it.
You may need to resize and position the image to ensure that it completely covers the text layer below it. If so, click the “Edit” menu item and the click “Free transform”. This adds grab handles to the image that you can click and drag to change the image size.
It doesn’t look much like image filled text right now does it?
Wave your magic wand
Here’s where blending modes come into effect and create the magic that combines the text and the image together.
This really is as simple as it gets, a single operation will create the image filled text effect.
Move your cursor to the “Layers”” panel and ensure that the image layer is selected. Now click the “Toggle layer settings” icon at the bottom of the “Layers” panel. This reveals two new settings and click on the “Mode” drop down and select “Lighten”.
Told you it was simple.
As it is, the text isn’t perhaps as clear as it could be.
With the image layer still selected, you can move the layer around to see if you can create a better result. I think this is a bit more legible.
This shows the effect using a different image. You may find that images that contain fewer colors are easier to read using this technique. Note that you can hide layers by unticking the checkbox, as highlighted in the screenshot.
As it is, the text fills the top half of the image, but leaves a big blank space. We can stretch the text to get around this. I don’t recommend this as it can make the text look odd and cause some ugly edges to the text. However, sometimes you may feel you have no choice but to do this.
Firstly, we need to combine the text into a single layer. In the “Layers” panel, right click the top most text layer and click “Merge down” from the drop down. Continue this until all text layers are merged into a single layer.
Then click on the “Edit” menu item and select “Free transfrom” from the drop down. Drag one of the grab handles around the text to resize it. When the size is correct, hit the return key or click anywhere off the text and a confirm box will open. Click the “Yes” button to apply the changes.
The space at the bottom can be used to add some branding or, even better, a call to action.
When you’re happy with your graphic, go to the “File” menu and click “Save” to download a copy to your computer.
Give it a go!
This can be an effective way to make a typographic graphic more eye catching. How will you use this technique within your marketing materials?