Playing with Photoshop Text Effects

I’ve had Photoshop on my computer for years, but I’ve mostly used it for, y’know photos. And doodle-related stuff. If I was using it to put text on something, I might put an outline around the text. Or a drop shadow. That was about the limit of my Photoshop text experience.

Recently, I’ve had my eyes opened that you can do some really cool text effects in Photoshop.

We bought a package of vintage and retro text effects (they were on a hella good sale, which sadly ended a couple of days ago). I took a look, and as is usually the case when seeing something cool and artist, I wondered if I could learn how to do that kind of thing.

Here’s a sample from the package we bought:

Vintage/retro text effects package sample

Vintage/retro text effects package sample

It’s pretty cool. Textured background, textured letters, lots of shading and shadows and groovy crap like that. So since I had nothing better to do with my day off today, I’ve searched around the internet for tutorials and how-to guides for some Photoshop text effects.

There are a ton of sites out there with “50 great text effects” and such. I browsed through those until I found things that looked cool. Here are some of the things I learned to do today:

The letter M. ON FIRE!

The letter M. ON FIRE!

Here’s a flaming letter, from a tutorial over at 10 Steps. You do a bunch of manipulation of the text itself, then you actually put a layer of a photograph of fire over the top, and manipulate that too!

Just call me Ms. Fancy Pants.

Just call me Ms. Fancy Pants.

For a lot of these, I put in text that seemed to fit the style. This is a totally fancy-pants tutorial from Tuts+. (I will confess, I only made it halfway through this one; their final product is way cooler than mine. But I did this one just before lunch, stopped at the mid-way point, then decided to just save it and move on.)

Looks like nail polish to me.

Looks like nail polish to me.

This is a glossy emblem tutorial from Hongkiat — they’re a great source for lots of tutorials. I changed a number of the settings, including the color, and used a different background. But I really like the look of this one; it has a kind of fluid look, like someone filled in the words with wet fingernail polish.

Shiny!

Shiny!

Here’s a really cool light burst effect, thanks to a tutorial from Designer Freelance. I thought it was quite shiny. The shadow of the text stretching along the ground made me extra happy.

I am a mature adult.

I am a mature adult.

Last but not least is my favorite of the lot, this light burst from Photoshop Essentials. And no, it isn’t just my favorite because of the text I used. Although I’m delighted by that, too. What can I say, my inner child is a 13-year-old boy.

I’m excited to try more tutorials, because in each one, I learn about a text effect or filter or other Photoshop trick I’d either never used before, or I’d never used it quite that way. I’m sure I’ll get around to doing more this evening, since there’s nothing else to do today.

So happy Photoshopping friends! Merry Christmas to all, and to all, poopy farts!

The Second Novel Mambo: Sequels Are Hard.

Did I say that a second novel is just as hard as a first? I take that back. If the second book is a sequel, it’s way harder. My primary issue is trying to figure out how much recap to include. Do I assume that the reader of this book has read the first? Do I need to cover people’s jobs? Appearance?

My only solution is to treat myself as if I’m the reader. Recently, I read the third book in a trilogy. It had been two years since I’d read the second book, so I didn’t remember who some of the characters were, and how they got into the situations they were in. So for this first draft, I’m throwing in bits here and there to refresh the reader. I may add more, or I may subtract some, when I go back in on subsequent drafts. We’ll see how I feel then.

As I write this first draft, I have to keep reminding myself that this isn’t in any way final. As I said to Scott, this is really an opportunity for my brain to vomit out words onto the page, so I’ll have something to work with later. (He thought the way I phrased that was gross, FYI.)

So far I’m not hitting numbers as large as last time – as of writing this post, a week in, I’m averaging just over 2,100 words per day, but it isn’t the ferocious 2,700 words per day I averaged on the first book. But I’m also trying to squeeze more real-life into my evenings, so I’m not just eating, then writing, then sleeping.

This time around, we live in a different apartment, with an awesome walking trail right outside our door. It’s also a half-hour closer to work. So now, I get home from work, change clothes, then Scott and I go and walk for a couple of miles. It’s a great chance to wake my brain and body up after a long day at work. (And since Scott is also in the middle of writing another book, it’s a great chance to bounce ideas off of each other.) Then a shower, dinner, writing anywhere from 1.5 to 2 hours, and then I still have an hour or so to watch TV or play video games or whatever I want before bed.

Our evening walking trail. What a dump.

Our evening walking trail. What a dump.

I’ve made sure that backing everything up is also part of my daily routine. After I finish writing, I copy the total number of words into a spreadsheet, and a formula tells me how many words I wrote that particular day. Then I copy the draft, that tally sheet, and any other documents I’ve made changes to (usually either the outline, my cheat sheet of characters, or both) over to cloud storage. I also have an on-site backup drive, but I like having a copy out there somewhere that isn’t inside my house.

I agree with some comments that We Could Be Villains starts out slow. It’s a lot of exposition and backstory right off the bat. The nice part about writing its sequel is that I don’t need to worry about the whole new-person-meets-team part of things. The first two chapters get you straight into a heist, because action is awesome.

One of the coolest things so far, and something I loved while writing my other book too, is the collection of browser tabs I have open at the end of a writing session. Thank goodness for the internet; I can’t imagine having to find a book on the bookshelf to research things, or have to go to the library to find a book on a specific topic. Or owning a full set of encyclopedias!

One day while outlining, I finished work for the day and closed tabs with: the periodic table of the elements, a top-10 list of the best burger places in a specific city, geological surveys, and an airline timetable. I’ve also had to completely re-imagine a couple of things, because the science was just impossible. I want my science to at least be slightly possible, although a lot of it is probably farfetched.

So, onward I go, vomiting out words onto the page so I have something to edit later. Some of it feels good, some of it I know needs a lot of work. (A couple of chapters have notes at the beginning, stuff like “add in X, think about Y, maybe cut Z.”) But since starting is the hardest part, I’m already ahead of the curve.

The Second Novel Mambo: It Begins!

So I’ve started writing my second book, which is a sequel to We Could Be Villains.

It definitely isn’t easier to write a second book after you’ve written a first. You still have to do an absolute crap-ton of research, and outlining, and prepping. (Unless you aren’t the outlining type. But I’ve discovered that I totally am.) So I guess right now, it seems like it’s just as hard as the first.

I kept a list of general ideas for a month or so. (I’ve discovered that notebook apps like Evernote and such just don’t work for me; instead, I keep an email in draft, addressed to nobody, and write in that.) The idea-gathering period is a strange one. Sometimes I’ll just follow a link and find something I like, whether it’s an article about a new technology or a strange news story. Other times, I’ll be hit during the day with an idea, so I’ll jot something down in that draft email.

But what happens most of all is that I’ll have an idea, or a thought, or come up with a snippet of dialog, just as I’m trying to get to sleep. There have been nights where I’ve had to grab my tablet a half-dozen times off the nightstand so I could tap out an awkwardly-worded and usually-misspelled thought with my hammy thumbs. Scott usually laughs at me, and it disturbs the cats.

Once I get enough ideas, I start building my outline. I should really take a look at one of Scott’s outlines, because I bet they’re totally different than mine. I build mine with one paragraph per chapter, with a bunch of short sentences about what things/actions/discussions I want to tackle in that chapter. As I ask myself questions or have places that need to be filled in, I highlight them. And at first, there are a LOT of highlighted things. But I stew over those, and usually come up with answers to those questions, again, as I’m trying to drift off to sleep.

You’re probably seeing the theme to my creativity, which can be kind of a pain in the ass. I’ve come up with entire conversations in my head, and had to get up out of bed to go type them out at the computer, because it’s just too much for my tippy-tappy thumbs. If I could live my life in that twilight of just-about-to-fall-asleep, I’d be more prolific than Stephen King.

I’ve actually started writing with a couple of highlighted questions left on my outline. But they aren’t until late in the book, and I have high hopes that some sleepy-time thoughts will occur between now and when it’s time to actually write those chapters. There’s also the possibility that something I come up with earlier in the book will present itself as a perfect thing to call back later on, and that can take the place of one of those remaining questions.

So, outline in hand, I’m diving in. Last time, I averaged over 2,700 words per day, which meant that I pretty much didn’t do anything in the evenings besides eat, write, then sleep for a month. (Good thing it was June, when there were slim pickings for good TV.) Not sure if I’m going to hit those same kind of numbers this time, but if it takes me more than 30 days to write the first draft, so be it.