Articles, Blog

Photoshop Tutorial: How to Transform a Face into a Powerful Text Portrait

August 21, 2019

Hi. This is Marty from Blue Lightning TV.
I’m going to show you how to transform a photo of someone into a stunning portrait made only
of words that are special to the person. Open a photo of someone you’d like to use. It can
be color or black and white. If it’s in color, desaturate it by pressing Ctrl+ Shift +U on
Windows or Cmd + Shift + U on a Mac. We’ll make a Displacement Map of your subject in order to wrap the text around the contours of the face. To do this, click the icon at
the upper, right of the Layers panel and click “Duplicate Layer”. Click “New” and type in
“Displacement”. Then, click OK. Since Displacement Maps work best when they’re slightly blurred, go to Filter, Blur and Gaussian Blur. I’ll blur it 4 pixels, however, depending on the
size and resolution of your document, you may want to use a different blur amount. Give
your image a similar degree of blur as this. Then, click OK. Go to File and “Save As”. Save it to your “Desktop” as a Photoshop PSD file and click “Save”. Now, we can close the Displacement
document, since we just saved it. The next step is to isolate the face from the rest of the image. To do this, we need to make a selection around it. There are many ways
to do this, however, for this example, I’ll use the Pencil Tool. If you want to use this
tool as well, make your Pencil size small and the Hardness: 100%. If your foreground
and background colors aren’t black and white, respectively, press “D” on your keyboard.
Click the Quick Mask icon, so we can draw a quick mask. Draw around the perimeter of
the face and shoulders and make sure there are no gaps in the line. Open your Paint Bucket
Tool and make sure “Contiguous” is checked. Click inside the quick mask to fill it in.
If your entire canvas fills with the quick mask, press Ctrl or Cmd + Z to undo the last
step and carefully check your lines for gaps or holes. Convert the quick mask into a selection
by pressing “Q” on your keyboard. Invert the selection by pressing Ctrl or Cmd + Shift
+ I. To refine the selection around the hair, go to Select and Refine Edge. I did an in-depth
tutorial on the Refine Edge feature, so to save time, I won’t be going over all the details
here. Check “Smart Radius” and drag the Radius to the right until you start seeing a little
variance along the edges. If you want to refine it even more, brush over the outer edges of
the hair around the head. If it’s too much, undo the last step. Output it as a “New Layer
with Layer Mask”. Then, click OK. Notice, we now have a new layer with a layer mask
made from the selection. To make a new layer below the active layer, Ctrl-click or Cmd-click on the New Layer icon. We’ll fill the empty layer with black and since black is the foreground
color, press Alt or Option + Delete. We want to brush black over the shoulders to create
a soft vignette. Do this, click the layer mask to make it active and open your Brush
Tool. Make its size large with a Hardness of 0%. Carefully brush over the shoulders
making sure you don’t cover the chin of your subject. Next, we’ll create the text part
of your text portrait. If you want to use lyrics, a poem or any other block of text,
open it, highlight it and press Ctrl or Cmd + C to copy it. For this purpose, I like to
use a website called, “”. It creates “word clouds” from text that you provide. Click “Create”, click inside the box and press Ctrl or Cmd + V to paste your text into it. Then, click “Go”. Click “Language”. For this example, I’ll make all the words upper-case, however, you can choose whatever you want. Click “Font”. I’ll use “Goudy Bookletter 1911”. Click “Layout”
and tick “Straighter Edges”. For this example, I’ll choose “Mostly Horizontal”. Click “Color” and click WB for White/Black. Click “Open in Window” and then, maximize it. To get your
design into Photoshop, make a screenshot of your entire design by pressing the PrtSc (Print
Screen) key on the top of your keyboard if you’re using Windows or if you’re on a Mac,
press Cmd + Ctrl + 3. Minimize the Wordle design window and your Browser windows. Go to File and New. Click OK. Press Ctrl or Cmd + V to paste your screenshot into it. Open your Rectangular Marquee Tool and drag a selection over the inside of the black background and
be careful not to cut off any of your text. Invert the selection and fill it with black.
Then, deselect it. Click the Channels tab. If you don’t see it, go to Window and Channels.
At the bottom of the panel, click the small dotted circle. This makes a selection of all
the tonal values of your image. Open back up your Layers panel. Click the New Layer icon to make a new layer, fill the selection with white and deselect it. To get your white text design onto your subject, press “v” to open your Move Tool and drag it up onto the tab of your subject. Without
releasing your mouse or pen, drag it own onto the face and release. Double-click on the thumbnail of your text design to open its Layer Style window. Click “Drop Shadow”. I’ll
make the Distance: 5 pixels and the Size: 5 pixels, however, depending of the size and
resolution of your photo, you may want to adjust these amounts. Then, click OK. To save space in the Layers panel, click the small arrowhead next to the “fx” icon. The text portrait will have better results when the text is relatively small. To resize it, open
your Transform Tool by pressing Ctrl or Cmd + T. Go to a corner and when you see a diagonal,
double-arrow, press and hold Alt or Option + Shift as you drag it in. To reposition it,
go inside the Transform and move it. Then, press Enter or Return. Make a copy of your
text by pressing Ctrl or Cmd + J. Reposition it over the face and make another copy. Continue
to make a few more copies and position them over your document. We want to start rotating
them 90 degrees clockwise. To do this, open your Transform Tool, go to a corner and when
your see a curved, double-arrow, press and hold Shift as you rotate it clockwise 90 degrees.
Pressing Shift snaps the transform to 45, 90 or 180 degrees. Then, press Enter or Return
and position it. Continue to add text blocks on your document. Let’s place all the
text into a folder. To do this, scroll down to the bottom text layer and Shift-click on
it to highlight all the layers between it and the top, text layer. Then, press Ctrl
or Cmd + G to group them into a folder. Make a copy of the folder and go to Edit, Transform
and “Rotate 90 degrees Counter Clockwise”. Position it, make another copy and position
that. Continue to make copies and position them over large empty areas. Let’s group these
folders into another folder using the same steps as you did before. We’re going to reduce
the size of all the text in the folder, so open your Transform Tool again and press Ctrl
or Cmd + 0 to see the Transform’s entire bounding box. Go to a corner, and when you see a diagonal, double-arrow, press and hold Shift
and drag it in approximately this much. Move it in, but position it on the upper, left.
Then, press Enter or Return. Make a copy of the folder and move it to the lower, right. Make another copy, open your Transform Tool, rotate it clockwise and move it to the upper, right. Make one more copy and position this one to the lower, left. To fit it back on
your canvas, press Ctrl or Cmd + 0. We’ll convert all the text into a Smart Object, so we can displace it using the displacement map that we saved earlier. To do this, Shift-click
on the bottom folder to highlight all the folders and click the icon at the upper, right. Click “Convert to Smart Object”. Go to Filter, Distort and Displace. Displace the Horizontal
and Vertical Scales: 10, “Stretch to Fit” and “Repeat Edge Pixels”. Then, click OK. Click the Displacement file and click Open. The text made a subtle, but important shift
based on the displacement map’s tonal values of the face. Click off the eyeball next to
the text to temporarily hide the layer. Make a composite snapshot of your image by first clicking the thumbnail of the face to make it active and then, pressing Ctrl + Shift
+ Alt + E on Windows or Cmd + Shift + Option + E on a Mac. Hide the layer with the layer mask and drag the composite snapshot to the top of the Layers panel. Change its Blend
Mode to Linear Burn and make your text visible. Lastly, we’ll brighten the portrait. Click the Adjustment layer icon and click Levels. Slide the Input white to the left to approximately 200. This is Marty from Blue Lightning TV. Thanks for watching!


  • Reply Heru Kurniawan July 30, 2016 at 8:36 am

    cool video tutorials. thx a lot bro

  • Reply squak07 August 3, 2016 at 10:48 pm

    I got stuck on the 7:08 mark. You said deselect the white. Is there another way of doing this on a mac?

  • Reply Vidya Gopidas August 4, 2016 at 10:16 am

    Marty you gives the best tutorials…love your videos….looking forward for more….❤👏

  • Reply Darren Porter August 5, 2016 at 3:57 pm

    great video.. followed without even pressing pause, well paced, clear and understandable. Subbed 🙂 Thanks.

  • Reply lisa lonning August 8, 2016 at 1:58 am

    word cloud portion from 4:21 to 6:38. and more word cloud manipulation from 7:20 to 10:57.

  • Reply lisa lonning August 8, 2016 at 2:13 am

    command, shift, option, e = new composite layer.

  • Reply Dank Noob August 8, 2016 at 10:54 pm

    wordle and worditout both not working

  • Reply MARMAR MJ August 11, 2016 at 11:22 pm

    can you please tell me how to download any thing Frome adope without money for free please answer

  • Reply Sharmila Ghosh August 12, 2016 at 5:00 pm

    cannot get the image as shown in background red when in refine edge.

  • Reply Jason Wymer August 16, 2016 at 2:39 pm

    Hi, nice tutorial!! I only have PSE so once I get to wanting to select the text from the word cloud I don't have the channels option…. Is there an easy way to extract the text with PSE without the chore of using the selection tool?

  • Reply echahbi nabil August 20, 2016 at 7:50 am

    good work

  • Reply R. Mathis August 21, 2016 at 8:25 pm

    I'm running Adobe Photoshop CC 2015, and it doesn't have the duplicate layer option. 🙁

  • Reply Pranav Vats August 31, 2016 at 4:04 pm

    I am thinking about using images of swords (like the melted swords on the throne in game of thrones) in place of text. what do you think about it?

  • Reply Yessica Meijers September 2, 2016 at 1:44 pm

    Hi, little help needed, around 12 minutes i must need the option; CMD + SHIFT + E but i get something difference as you explain in it in the tutorial. Can somebody give me al little help?

  • Reply Cathy Rhoades September 7, 2016 at 5:16 pm

    I get the circle with a line through it when I get to the paint bucket. What am I doing wrong?

  • Reply Gaming Star Bd September 13, 2016 at 6:35 am

    the website doesn't work what should i do ???

  • Reply Nattaly Mendez September 13, 2016 at 4:45 pm

    Very Good!!! Excellent!!!

  • Reply NOBODY September 13, 2016 at 6:19 pm

    Exactly what i was looking for

  • Reply NOBODY September 13, 2016 at 6:21 pm

    How would I do this in

  • Reply Devin Young September 16, 2016 at 2:47 pm

    Can you do exactly this with photoshop 2015? I am getting stuck at the refine edge step because it has since been retired

  • Reply Agnimitro Ghosh September 18, 2016 at 4:29 pm

    What is the difference between desaturating image and converting into black and white?

  • Reply Miron Ramishvili October 3, 2016 at 11:52 am

    У меня не нажимается "ГО"

  • Reply Urnanabha Bestcobweb October 5, 2016 at 4:48 pm

    How do you make such amazing videos? All of them are incredible…

  • Reply Martin Gaines October 16, 2016 at 4:26 am

    I am trying to do this with a coloured image, when i get to one of the last steps when changing to linear burn it doesnt do what youve done. how can i fix this please

  • Reply Dom Browning October 21, 2016 at 8:29 pm

    where is redefine edge on the new photoshop?

  • Reply YellowLight October 23, 2016 at 3:33 pm

    I love you brother, keep it up! I want you to be my teacher ✊🏼

  • Reply Marcia Wolsink October 31, 2016 at 2:37 pm

    Need a little help, can't find the quick mask icon in 2:15 min? Is there another button for that?

  • Reply Patricia Florian November 2, 2016 at 10:44 am

    Excelente Work , All your videos are incredible. Thank you very much

  • Reply Midnightroar November 13, 2016 at 12:07 am

    Hey blue lightning can you please watch the mv 7th Sense by NCTU? Can you please watch it and tell me what effect is it that they're doing? What is that effect called at 0:09, 0:31, 2:04, 2:30, 2:57 in there mv. Please watch it and tell me. I want ro do some effect similar like theres in pictures.

  • Reply amy November 22, 2016 at 3:07 pm

    i followed all instructions and mine looks nothing like yours. fantastic. :/

  • Reply Daim ali November 24, 2016 at 9:27 am

    Thank You Really helped me for my project 🙂

  • Reply Mick Robinson November 27, 2016 at 10:25 pm

    Great tutorial, followed it exactly and got a very similar result. However, how do I replace the black background with a transparent one?

  • Reply shimul ahamed December 6, 2016 at 4:51 am

    it is very good learning video.

  • Reply Jackie Gorora December 19, 2016 at 5:21 pm

    Great tutorials, as usual! Thank you!

  • Reply AJ Ventura December 19, 2016 at 8:37 pm

    I am perplexed as to how anyone hits "dislike" on any of your tutorials.

  • Reply mudzco December 31, 2016 at 6:12 am

    probably the best Photoshop tutorial I've ever seen. concise, informative and packed with tips. thank you.

  • Reply Arpan Banerjee January 5, 2017 at 3:57 pm

    Hey thank you so much for this tutorial . .

    But i gotta a question when i am selecting the text in channel mode and making white with (ctrl + del) and then dragging it to the main image
    My whole background is coming along with the white text
    Any solutions ?

  • Reply Martin Maldonado January 8, 2017 at 3:41 am

    the linear burn part didn´t work for me, god it was the last step

  • Reply Martin Maldonado January 8, 2017 at 9:40 pm

    how can i do it with green background?, i´ve been trying but i can do it only with black.

  • Reply r javdani January 11, 2017 at 1:42 am

    Tres Tres ,Merci bien

  • Reply Data Entry Specialist January 11, 2017 at 4:08 am

    i cant use wordle. why is it not working on me? i cant generade words. please help me thank you!

  • Reply Solanki Krunal January 17, 2017 at 5:19 am

    amazing video …

  • Reply petnzme01 January 19, 2017 at 10:08 am

    Just curious. How much memory did it use and how big was the file?

  • Reply Arulkumar Selvaraj January 20, 2017 at 7:48 am

    Thanks for this Tutorial. Instructions are slow and very clear

  • Reply D_00 January 25, 2017 at 1:37 am

    Wordle does not work for me

  • Reply KwonJungring January 25, 2017 at 3:49 pm

    this is so easy to follow! tnx!

  • Reply Leena January 30, 2017 at 8:22 pm

    I don't see the refine edge button under selection

  • Reply manbooo94 February 7, 2017 at 8:32 am

    hi 🙂 nice tutorial 🙂 just have a question -> at 11:20 you made the folders to a smart object i made the same but could not use the distort filter :/ do you know why?

  • Reply arronison February 8, 2017 at 8:29 pm

    Where's Refine Edge on Photoshop cc 2017?

  • Reply Daniel thedesigner February 12, 2017 at 6:15 pm

    GREAT JOB …! 🙂

  • Reply Daniel thedesigner February 12, 2017 at 6:15 pm

    Thank U very much….

  • Reply Luc Lochard February 26, 2017 at 12:50 pm

    it is well done. What about having the instructions in writing, it will be much easier to study and do

  • Reply EJMonster March 12, 2017 at 12:00 pm

    thank u

  • Reply ƈօռʄʊֆɛɖ March 13, 2017 at 5:59 pm

    Thanks so much.

  • Reply Rianna French March 22, 2017 at 8:03 pm

    Im not seeing the option under 'Refine edge' to output to new layer mask.. I have PS CS4 🙁

  • Reply iT iS i tHe fLaSH March 25, 2017 at 3:01 am

    Love your videos👍👍👍keep at it please.

  • Reply kevin g April 9, 2017 at 9:49 pm

    other then the website wordle not working for me, your video was actually preety helpful Marty thanks

  • Reply Slotenmaker Den Haag SDH April 16, 2017 at 8:39 pm

    That is actually a pretty awesome tutorial Marty! Thanks!

  • Reply Lydia Atangcho May 1, 2017 at 4:57 pm

    This worked! However when I tried to export to SVG, it only took one layer. How do I export the whole thing as one SVG file?

  • Reply grant culpepper May 18, 2017 at 3:06 pm

    hi my name is david

  • Reply VINYLHEAD RPM May 26, 2017 at 1:36 am

    Nicely done!

  • Reply Rudi Panto June 14, 2017 at 4:08 am


  • Reply Its ilhan Deviska July 23, 2017 at 2:06 pm

    website is doesnt work

  • Reply Edward Fong July 28, 2017 at 8:21 pm

    It all worked until filling in the letters to move over the face. My letters didn't fill with white so theres nothing to move over the face. Not sure whats going wrong

  • Reply Priya Sharma August 5, 2017 at 4:22 am

    wow you are awesome tnx Marty now I can make my presentation easily ^^

  • Reply Salil Sharma August 12, 2017 at 7:40 pm

    amazing job team.
    Thanks for this tutorial…

  • Reply Sujon Hossain October 16, 2017 at 3:04 pm

    thank you

  • Reply Emma McKay October 23, 2017 at 4:19 pm


  • Reply chikku December 8, 2017 at 6:17 am

    explanation crystal clear, thanks again.

  • Reply SomeoneBetterThanYou December 9, 2017 at 3:54 pm

    THAT WAS FUCKING AMAZING !!!! THANKS !! totaly worked for me with perfect results

  • Reply Dan Druff December 18, 2017 at 3:14 am

    Thanks Man. You made my day.

  • Reply Kamrul Hasan December 24, 2017 at 6:18 am

    wordle is not working

  • Reply EverythingInSight January 9, 2018 at 10:42 pm

    how many steps are there I need to know for a class (aka arts magazine)

  • Reply Vaidehi B January 16, 2018 at 11:00 am

    hi loved this clear and concise tutorial, thank you so much! The wordle site didnt work out for me so i just took some lorem ipsum text to place on the face. thanks!

  • Reply Adnan Ali January 25, 2018 at 10:57 am

    Just wow !!!

  • Reply Aye Mr.HotPuffs February 8, 2018 at 3:37 am

    that's John Lennone(looks like him)

  • Reply Shaharyar Ali February 8, 2018 at 5:39 am

    wow bro awesome

  • Reply Mohit Nagar February 20, 2018 at 8:11 pm

    Amazing video beautifully explained.. thank you

  • Reply Mervyn McCracken March 5, 2018 at 1:30 am

    XLNT Tutorial….. Cookies Cookies might look at Layers and Layer Masks before attempting?

  • Reply Urban Ex Boys March 12, 2018 at 12:54 pm

    very helpful thank you

  • Reply Brother & Sister Tutorial Pro March 21, 2018 at 7:09 pm

    Amazing Tutorial i really love this Tutorial

    Thank you

  • Reply Patrick Ford March 30, 2018 at 8:54 pm

    I've just finished a version of this. The instructions are very clear. The build up, I have found, does not prepare you for the final result, which I have to say is just superb. I am well chuffed. Thank you very much for providing such an excellent tutorial. I would like to see more. My only stumbling block has been finding a word cloud program that i could use. Wordle does not work on my Mac. It did a few years ago, but no longer. I'm guessing it's something to do with the operating system. After searching through what is currently available, (Not much) the only one that came close to providing the sort of quality I needed was Word Art. This is chargeable. I used to use Tagxedo alot but this is not supported on macs anymore either, sadly.

  • Reply Ask Backwards Travel April 14, 2018 at 2:27 pm

    When I drag the text to the image the text is very small even if I use caps. I'm creating a word cloud at
    Hope anyone can help.

  • Reply Ask Backwards Travel April 14, 2018 at 2:28 pm

    Wordle doesn't work for me.

  • Reply Stacy Adderley April 18, 2018 at 12:03 am

    Hi Marty
    After several tries I completed this task. However I had to use for the text. I followed the same instructions as you indicated. Yet my text, even though it was white was not as clear as your text. It was not as visible. Could not really distinguish the text. Other than that it works. I would to send to you for your review if possible for critique?

  • Reply xSHuSHx May 10, 2018 at 3:02 am

    literally i've done this three times for a school project and it just won't work i don't know what i'm doing wrong but it is so dark it just doesn't have the same effect ughhhhhhh

  • Reply Shahriar Akbar August 26, 2018 at 11:32 am

    Wordles is not working with me

  • Reply Rawnac August 31, 2018 at 6:04 am

    wordle is not working for me help ?

  • Reply Sky Rocket September 7, 2018 at 7:37 am

    My cmptr doesn't work with worlde, when i press go it soesnt work, help

  • Reply pavan jadhav October 27, 2018 at 2:22 pm

    I love this text portrait , awesome

  • Reply Roman Moonsong November 5, 2018 at 8:39 pm

    Wordle doesn't work for me, but Word Art does, anyone else have this problem, if so, then go to this link!

  • Reply Michael Varnavas November 18, 2018 at 7:44 pm

    how do you make the font different sizes?

  • Reply Alfan Amala Najah November 27, 2018 at 12:42 pm

    i have trouble in wordle 🙁

  • Reply Emmanuel Olabisi December 6, 2018 at 12:39 am

    nice tutorial, i really love this, nice one. i just tried it on Ice Cube picture and its really dope

  • Reply Ben December 11, 2018 at 10:16 pm

    thanks brilliant tutorial, for those who are using the new adobe software to access the refine edge tool you need to go to select hold shift and click on select and mask. other then that everything else is the same.

  • Reply Mad Hatter December 29, 2018 at 4:24 am

    I tried to move the text only, but I can't :< The whole text picture move with the selected text :< what I have to do now ?

  • Reply Editor Noob January 2, 2019 at 2:38 pm

    Editannya ya bagus gan cuma agak kelamaan

  • Reply Astghik Yeghiazaryan February 4, 2019 at 9:43 am

    Thankss from 2019!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Reply Tricia Ng March 10, 2019 at 1:45 pm

    Hi so so sorry but when i try to use levels to brighten my image, the rest of the wording are also brighten up which means the that instead of just my intended image having the words only, the surrounding background have the words too. Can anyone please help me!

  • Reply zainab habib August 1, 2019 at 8:08 am

    Just Amazing…. love it

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