Design Challenge Day 9: Creating a Text Portrait in Photoshop

Creating a Text Portrait in Photoshop

I'm nothing if not stubborn: I've actually unsuccessfully attempted to create a text portrait using a tutorial before. What Photoshop doesn't know about me is that FAILURE ONLY MAKES ME STRONGER. I really hate it when software thinks it can get the best of me! Today I chose a different tutorial from Blue Lightning TV and set to work.

My face made up of lorem ipsum

My face made up of lorem ipsum

The Process

Obviously, this starts with a portrait of someone gorgeous (me, in this case). Once it's been desaturated, a duplicate layer is created and saved as a new document to serve as the displacement map.

Next, it's time to create a layer mask of the face in the portrait before starting on the text. Marty Geller, who presents the Blue Lightning TV tutorials, uses Wordle, which doesn't work in Chrome. (Java! *shakes fist*) I used Firefox but it was still kind of a pain, though presumably much easier than trying to do something like this by hand.

There's a lot of copying, pasting, and transforming text layers before the final grouping of all the text layers, which are ultimately converted into a single smart object. Once the original photo is placed above this and some final finagling with levels takes place, there's a portrait made up of text. I may have been a bit overzealous in my overlapping, as my text isn't as readable as in Marty's final product.

The Presentation

Marty has kind of a Bob Ross-ian quality to his presentation, methodically paced and gentle. Despite this, there were some sections that I had to view repeatedly to be sure I had the right layer selected or took the right steps. And I'm not the only one annoyed with Wordle based on YouTube comments (first-world problem: having to open a second browser). is a Chrome-friendly option, but doesn't have the same alignment options as Wordle, so if you use it, your mileage may vary. Overall, this was a decent tutorial and I'll probably check out at least one more from Blue Lightning TV this month.


I'm finding I'm getting more familiar with shortcuts such as Command-G to group layers and Command-J to duplicate a layer (or a group). That's a good thing, because there were about a hundred times I needed to duplicate layers in this tutorial.

I'm not sure I really fully understand displacement maps or how they work, so I'll be doing some reading to learn more. I also think I'll try this project again (for the third time!) because the size and placement of text is tricky and makes a big difference in the final results.