• Add to Collection
  • About


    Retro 1980's Chrome Effect Typography tutorial
Chromed Out
This is a tutorial I have put together for Photoshop Projects Australia, but thought I would share it with you guys too.
Before the computer age, illustrators had to create metal effects like chrome using traditional methods.
The classic way of creating this illusion was to paint the generic desert landscape as a reflection over the top of a grey background. This look with the blue sky, brown sand and short mountain ranges in the reflection became somewhat of a trademark feature through the 70's and 80's.
Today with photoshop we can achieve the metal look much faster and easier using layer styles and textures, but using this retro inspired method can create a much more unique and individual result.
Step 1.
Open a new A4 landscape document in photoshop, in RGB colour mode with a black background.
Ensure the foreground colour selected is RGB 205,197,194. Select the Type Tool (T) and type your text out using a bold, preferably sans-serif typeface. Move it to just above the middle of the page, centred.
Right click on the type layer and select 'Rasterize Type'
I have personally used my own custom type created in Illustrator for the text, if you are doing this just place the file as pixels instead.
Select the pixels of this layer (right click on the icon to the left of the layer name) and add a layer mask by pressing the layer mask icon on the bottom of the Layers Palette.
This is so when we paint on this layer it does not extend outside the text.
This will be the main layer. Name this layer 'Text'
Step 2.

Select the pixels of 'Text' then go to Select > Modify > Expand and expand the selection by 30 pixels.
Now add a new layer. Move this layer below 'Text' by dragging it down on the layers panel. Go to Select > Fill and Fill the selection with 50% Grey.
Name this new layer 'Bevel'
Using the current selection, click the layer mask icon on the bottom of the layers pallete to add a layer mask to the 'Bevel' layer.
Step 3.

We will now mimic a bevel using shadows under the main type.
Using the Lasso Tool (L), select segments of the 'Bevel' layer, where a sharp corner would cause the shadow to change.
The selection needs to be tidy on the visible parts, but outside of the mask or on the inside, your selections can overlap and be as messy as you like as it will be hidden.
Once you have a selection, using the gradient tool (G) draw upwards with a black to transparent gradient at 100% opacity.
The bottom of the selection will be the darkest.
Step 4.
Continue this around the whole word, moving in a clock wise direction from left to right.
When you are adding a black gradient to a rounded corner, try also adding a white 'Reflected Gradient' on the curves.
Don't be afraid to use a bit of imagination as to how the bevels would form on the words, this is where you can really add your own flair and make the type interesting.
This is the most time consuming part of the whole tutorial right here, so don't lose patience yet.
Step 5.

Once the bevels are completed it is time to work on the 'Text' layer. Turn on the rulers (View>Rulers), and drag down 2 guides in the middle of the word, spacing them slightly apart. These will be our guides for the horizon.
Step 6. 

It is time to make the Gradients on the 'Text' Layer.
Firstly, we need to make a selection of the lower half of the text.
Make sure you have the 'Text' layer selected and use the Pen Tool (P) to draw the line across the horizon from left to right.
Do this by clicking with the Pen Tool at the top guide, then click on the bottom guide and holding the mouse drag it right along the lower horizon guide to create a nice curve. Turn this into an arch by finishing the curve back at the top guide.
Continue this for the width of each letter.
Step 8. 

Follow the ruler guides along the whole length of the word and join the path underneath the word. Make a selection from this path by right clicking on it.
Step 9. 

Select the Gradient Tool (G) in a black to transparent gradient with an opacity of 20%.
Holding Shift to keep the angle at 90 degrees, drag the gradient down from the horizon a few times to build up a shadow effect in the selected area.
Step 10. 

Now Zoom (Z) in, select the Brush Tool (B) and using a small brush in black with opacity of of 50% and flow of 50% paint underneath the selected horizon line, moving from left to right.
Try to make the corners of the arches darker than the middle of the letters.
Step 11. 

Inverse your selection (Select > Inverse) so you can now do the top gradient.
Do the opposite of Step 9., using a white gradient to lighten upwards of the horizon line.
Step 12. 

The mountains
Create a new layer called 'Mountains' and select the Pen Tool (P).
Draw some small silhouettes of mountains across the horizon line moving from left to right.
Be careful with the size, if they are made too big it will look cartoonish, so have some restraint.
Step 13.
Now it is time to add some highlights on the text to give the impression of the chrome reflecting back light.
Duplicate the ‘Text’ layer, convert it to a Smart Object and name it ‘Text Highlights’
Double click on the layer to enter layer styles.
Add a white Inner Glow with the following settings. And click OK.
Convert this layer to a smart object once again to flatten the layer style.
Change the blending mode of this layer to ‘Overlay’
You will see this layer has lightened up the whole text.
Step 14. 

We are now going to add a layer mask to the 'Text Highlight' layer so we can darken parts of the highlights.
We do this to create a more realistic appearance, as the chrome isn’t going to reflect light evenly across the whole surface.
Select the layer mask and select the Gradient Tool (G). Using a black to transparent Reflected Gradient at 100% opacity, draw some short 45degree lines running through the text.
Tip - You can hold the shift key whilst pulling the gradients out to constrain the gradients at 45degrees.
Once this is done, repeat Steps 13. and 14. for the ‘Bevel’ Layer also.
That is the hard work done. It may not look like much, but this simple looking monochrome base you have can be used to achieve an unlimited range of colours and styles.
Step 15.

We now want to add some blue into the top half of the chrome for the reflection of the sky. Select the ‘Text’, ‘Bevel’ and the 'Text Highlight' layers and duplicate them. Merge all these duplicated layers into one by right clicking on them whilst selected. Name this new layer ‘Sky’

We are again going to use layer styles and clipping masks so we have full control over where we would like the sky to be on the face of the text.
Double click on the ‘Sky’ layer to enter the layer styles menu.
Add a Gradient overlay with these settings.

Step 16.
Convert this layer to a Smart Object to flatten the layer style and set the Blending Mode to ‘Overlay’.
Add a layer mask and fill the layer mask with black, so we can now paint only the bits we want to be blue.
With the layer mask still selected, use a medium sized white brush with a 50% opacity to paint above the horizon line where the sky should be.
Step 17. 

To create the ground in the reflection, repeat step 16 and 17 but use the following layer styles to make it a nice sandy-beige colour and name the layer ‘Ground’. Instead of painting white above the horizon, we paint it below.
Step 18. 

Create a new layer and using the Pen Tool ℗ draw some sharp white lines on the top edge of the letters for a bit of emphasis.
Try to keep to the top half only as the light wouldn’t get to the bottom parts.
These white parts also serve as a way of hiding any of your overlapping gradients on the bevel layer that look a bit untidy.
Step 19. 

Time for some Lens flares to add that extra bit of sparkle.
Create a new layer and fill a small square with solid black.
Add a lens flare (Filter > Render > Lens Flare) with these settings.
Convert this layer to a smart object and set the blend mode of the layer to Color Dodge.
Step 20.

By moving this layer over the top of the chrome text you can create a spot where the sun has caused some flares to occur.
Duplicate this layer as many times as you see fit, placing them around the corners of the letters and on the white highlights. You can rotate and resize some of them to add some randomness.
Step 21.
Although the lens flares add some bright spots, it’s still lacking some bling. We will create these using brushes. These brushes can be easily found online, I am using ones from mediamilitia.com.
Create a new layer and using different sizes and rotations of solid white flare brushes, add them wherever looks good, mostly the corners.
Try not to overdo this effect, as it can look a bit cliché.
Step 22. 

Time to add the reflection of the text underneath.
Select all the layers except the background and duplicate them.
Merge these layers into a new layer called ‘Reflection’
Move the ‘Reflection’ layer downwards until it is just touching the bottom of the main text. Flip the layer (Edit > Transform > Flip Vertical)
Now add a layer mask to this layer and draw a black gradient upwards towards the main text to fade out the bottom of the reflection.
Lower the opacity of this layer slightly, to around 80% just so the reflection doesn’t dominate the composition.
Step 23. 
Finishing Touches.

Merge all the text layers in a group, duplicate this layer, convert it to a smart object and set the Blending Mode to Multiply to add some more contrast.

I have kept my final composition simple and just added a yellow gradient behind the text, a drop shadow to the text layer and a subtle line texture on top.

But this is the part where it is up to you to make this image your own.
You can add some patterns or colours behind the text to make it pop, or add some distressed textures to give it a distinct retro vibe.
Hope you learnt something and if not, its my first tut, go easy :)