LESSON 8 – Typographic Design & Typography

CIOS F255 - University of Alaska Fairbanks


Did you know that the function that got the desktop publishing revolution rolling in 1985 was the ability to set type? Prior to that, designers had to order typeset copy from specialists using expensive photo imaging machines. Achieving special effects with type was a costly and time-consuming process.

While Photoshop is not the ideal application for setting pages of text (Adobe InDesign is a much better choice), it is unsurpassed in creating typographic special effects, a few of which we’ll explore in this lesson.

Tools you should be using for this lesson include:

  • ruler guides
  • horizontal type tool
  • vertical type tool
  • create clipping mask
  • transform-scale
  • layer style — fx — inner shadow
  • character panel — right-align text, fonts, etc
  • free transform path
  • warp text
  • font menu


  1. Read – Adobe Photoshop Type –  https://helpx.adobe.com/photoshop/using/creating-type.html
  2. Follow this tutorial on Adding Text to an Image –  https://helpx.adobe.com/photoshop/how-to/add-text-photo.html


Before we start talking about how to use the type tools in Photoshop, let’s first explore Type itself, which is a whole area of study known as Typography.  Without getting too deep into the nitty gritty of it, there are, still, a few basics concepts about type you should understand if you are working on doing any kind of visual design or layout.

Type Classification

There are different classes of type out there. These include: Serif, sans-serif, blackletter, script, slab, symbol…this list goes on and on depending on how far you wish to travel down the rabbit hole.  For the purpose of this class, at least know the difference between the following:


What font you choose is going to depend on how you are using it, how legible it is in your layout, how long the block of text is. On the web, we often  use sans serif for text because it is more readable at a variety of sizes but when the block of text becomes very long (like at a newspaper website) serif text is used because it is easier to read in long blocks. Here’s an infographic that explains it in a fun way.

Measure, Leading, Kerning…

These are very important concepts if you are doing any graphic design work or layout of any kind. Again, we don’t have time to go too far but please have a look at this excellent overview here  for some basics. Here are some other resources:

Working with Type in Photoshop

When you click on the type tool in Photoshop,  this panel will open at the top of your working area. These are some basic options for you to quickly set some basic options.

Screen Shot 2015-10-28 at 11.21.25 AM

There are two advanced panels that control type functions in Photoshop, character and paragraph. Find these in the Top Menu -> Window -> Character, and Paragraph. Many of these icons, such as justify paragraph will look familiar. If you have used Adobe InDesign or Illustrator, there are many similarities as well.

Screen Shot 2015-10-28 at 11.21.44 AM

If you are working on a layout that includes lots of type on many layers, you can also set styles. This works the same in InDesign and Illustrator as well.

Screen Shot 2015-10-28 at 11.20.45 AM

Type on Layers

Type  can appear on top of an image or within an image. In the photo below we see both kinds. There is a lot of text within the picture, from the billboards to street signs, while the headline, “Times Square,” is superimposed over a filled area layer with low opacity  on top of the image.

In the second example below, the word “Honey” is superimposed over an image of  bees, with the image showing through. This is done through the use of a clipping mask. Further,  in this example, you can see that there was a stroke applied to the word with an effect (blending mode applied to stroke), as well as a channel adjustment layer for the bees image (to make it near b/w) and a layer underneath for the background.

Remember, in the Layers panel, the small down arrow  Screen Shot 2015-10-28 at 10.21.28 AM  indicates that the layer above (adjustment or clipping mask) is affecting only the layer directly below it.  And, in an adjustment layer, also recall that  this symbol  Screen Shot 2015-10-28 at 10.25.46 AM  (located at the bottom of the adjustment panel window) will allow you to restrict the adjustment to the layer immediately below or to have it affect all the layers all the way down.


This week, you will be trying to use type in a variety of ways including a particularly challenging method, using type on a path. Type on a path will allow the text to flow around curves and shapes, basically however you wish it to go. There are some tricks to working with type on a path, which I’ve gone over in the video below.

Also check out this tutorial, which talks about wrapping type around a circular object:



Using the skills you have learned in this lesson, combine text with an image in creative ways. Your final composite image should convey a theme or idea through the use of images combined with text. The theme can be whatever you like (holiday greetings, poster, album cover, announcement, advertisement, product label…)

  1. Select an image related to your theme to serve as the central piece of your project. Add other images to elaborate on the theme if you wish.
  2. Use  at least one headline (point type) and  one area of paragraph text.
  3. Format the text layers in Photoshop, using the tools you read about in Lesson 7 to style it in creative, attractive, effective ways.
  4. Try text on a path
  5. Try creating a clipping mask on text
  6. Take detailed notes on your process.

When your design is complete:

  1. Save your Photoshop file (.psd; leave the layers intact).
  2. Take a screenshot of your work with all your layers showing.
  3. Save optimized copies of your files and post them to the blog along with your notes. Describe  the choices you made, challenges you faced, and what worked well for you in creating your design. Title your post ‘assignment 8a – yourname’.


Find one example of a design that is one of the following:

  • a good example of type in a design that could’ve been made with Photoshop
  • a bad example of  type in a design that could’ve been made with Photoshop
  • an example of type in a design that could’ve been made with Photoshop that you would like to learn how to do

In a class blog post, include the image and say what you like or don’t like about the type or what you’d like to learn how to do. Remember to credit or link back to the original image you use. Title your post something like ‘assignment 8b – yourname’.


No quiz this week. 🙂


Comments on other student’s work is encouraged.