Photoshop Overlapping Letters Text Effect

Colorful Overlapping Letters Text Effect in Photoshop

Written by Steve Patterson.

In this tutorial, I show you how to create an overlapping letters text effect in Photoshop, with colors that blend together where the letters overlap! As we'll see, not only is this a fun and colorful effect, but it's also very easy to create. We just add some text, convert the letters into shapes, change the color of each letter, and then move the letters closer together to overlap them. To blend the colors in the overlapping areas, we use one of Photoshop's layer blend modes. Let's see how it works!

Here's what the final "overlapping letters" text effect will look like when we're done:

How to create an overlapping letters text effect in Photoshop

The final effect.

Let's get started!

How To Create Overlapping Text In Photoshop

I'm using Photoshop CC but every step is fully compatible with Photoshop CS6.

Step 1: Create a new document

Start by creating a new Photoshop document. Go up to the File menu in the Menu Bar and choose New:

Selecting the New command from the File menu in Photoshop

Going to File > New.

In the New Document dialog box, set the Width to 1600 pixels, the Height to 800 pixels, the Resolution to 72 pixels/inch, and the Background Contents to White. Click Create or OK (depending on which version of Photoshop you're using) to close the dialog box and create the new document:

Setting the Width, Height, Resolution and Background Contents for the new Photoshop document

Setting the options for the new document.

Step 2: Add your text

Select the Type Tool from the Toolbar:

Selecting the Type Tool from the Toolbar in Photoshop

Selecting the Type Tool.

Choose your font in the Options Bar. Thicker fonts generally work best for this effect. I'll use Avenir Next Bold. Set your type size to 72 pt. We'll resize the text once we've added it, but this will give us the largest preset size to start with:

Choosing the font and the type size for the text effect

Choosing the font and the type size.

Make sure your type color is set to black so we can see the text in front of the white background. If it's not set to black, press the letter D on your keyboard to reset it. We'll choose different colors for each letter after we've converted our text into shapes:

Setting the type color in Photoshop to black

The color swatch in the Options Bar shows the current type color.

Click inside the document and add your text. I'll type the word "COLORFUL":

Adding the initial text for the effect

Adding the initial text to the document.

To accept your text, click the checkmark in the Options Bar:

Clicking the checkmark to commit the text to the document in Photoshop

Clicking the checkmark.

Step 3: Resize and move the text with Free Transform

To resize the text, go up to the Edit menu and choose Free Transform:

Choosing Free Transform from the Edit menu in Photoshop

Going to Edit > Free Transform.

Photoshop places the Free Transform box and handles around the text. To resize it, press and hold your Shift key as you click and drag any of the corner handles. Holding the Shift key as you drag locks in the original shapes of the letters so you don't distort them. Make sure that when you're done, you release your mouse button first, and then release the Shift key, or you'll get unexpected results.

To move the text into the center of the document, click and drag inside the Free Transform box. When you're happy with the size and position of the text, press Enter (Win) / Return (Mac) on your keyboard to exit out of Free Transform:

Resizing the text in the document with Free Transform

Dragging a corner handle while holding Shift to resize the text.

Step 4: Convert the text into shapes

In the Layers panel, the text appears on a new Type layer above the Background layer:

The text appears on a Type layer in the Layers panel in Photoshop

The Layers panel showing the new Type layer.

We need to convert our letters into shapes. With the Type layer selected, go up to the Type menu in the Menu Bar and choose Convert to Shape:

Converting the text into a shape with the Convert to Shape command in Photoshop

Going to Type > Convert to Shape.

Back in the Layers panel, the Type layer is now a Shape layer, which means that our text is no longer editable:

The Type layer is now a Shape layer in the Layers panel in Photoshop

The Type layer is now a Shape layer.

And in the document, we see path outlines around the letters, letting us know that the text is in fact a shape:

Path outlines appear around the letters after converting the type into a shape in Photoshop

The text has been converted to a shape.

Related: How to draw shapes in Photoshop

Step 5: Move each letter to its own layer

To overlap the letters and blend their colors together, we need to place each letter on a separate layer. Grab the Path Selection Tool (the black arrow tool) from the Toolbar:

Choosing the Path Selection Tool from the Toolbar in Photoshop

Choosing the Path Selection Tool.

Then, in Photoshop CC, go up to the Options Bar and change the Select option to All Layers. This will make it easier to select individual letters. In Photoshop CS6, this option is not available, but you'll still be able to select the letters just as easily:

Changing the Select option for the Path Selection Tool in Photoshop CC to All Layers

Changing "Select" to "All Layers" (Photoshop CC only).

Back in the document window, click anywhere on the white background to deselect the letters. Then, click on the first letter on the left to select it. A path outline will reappear around just that one letter:

Selecting the first letter in the word with the Path Selection Tool

Selecting the first letter in the word.

To move this one letter to its own layer, go up to the Layer menu, choose New, and then choose Shape Layer via Cut (make sure you choose Cut and not Copy). Or, a faster way (and the way I recommend for this effect) is to press Shift+Ctrl+J (Win) / Shift+Command+J (Mac) on your keyboard:

The New Shape Layer via Cut command in Photoshop

Going to Layer > New > Shape Layer via Cut.

It won't look like anything has happened, but in the Layers panel, we now see that the first letter has been moved to its own Shape layer above the original:

The first letter has been moved to its own Shape layer

The first letter has been moved to its own layer.

Continue moving letters to their own layers

To move the remaining letters to their own separate layers, click on a letter with the Path Selection Tool to select it (in Photoshop CS6, you'll need to double-click). Then press Shift+Ctrl+J (Win) / Shift+Command+J (Mac) to cut the letter from the original Shape layer onto its own layer. Continue moving through the letters one at a time from left to right until each one is on a separate layer. When you reach the final letter on the right, you can just leave it because it will be the only letter remaining on the original Shape layer:

How to move Type letters to separate layers in Photoshop

The Layers panel showing each letter in the word now on its own layer.

Download this tutorial as a print-ready PDF!

Step 6: Change the Blend Mode of the letters to Multiply

In a moment, we're going to change the color of each letter and move the letters closer together so that they overlap. Since we want the colors in the overlapping areas to blend together, we need to change the blend mode for each Shape layer. Photoshop lets us quickly change the blend mode for multiple layers at once.

Click on the top layer in the Layers panel to select it. Then, to select the other Shape layers as well, press and hold your Shift key and click on the original Shape layer directly above the Background layer:

Selecting all the Shape layers at once in the Layers panel in Photoshop

Selecting all the letters at once.

Change the blend mode in the upper left of the Layers panel from Normal to Multiply. We'll see the effect of the Multiply blend mode once we start overlapping the letters:

Changing the blend mode of the Shape layers to Multiply in Photoshop

Changing the blend mode of the Shape layers to Multiply.

Step 7: Place the Shape layers in a layer group

While we have the Shape layers selected, let's place them into a layer group. Click on the menu icon in the upper right corner of the Layers panel:

Clicking the Layers panel menu icon in Photoshop

Opening the Layers panel menu.

Then choose New Group from Layers:

Choosing New Group from Layers from the Layers panel menu in Photoshop

Choosing New Group from Layers from the menu.

In the New Group from Layers dialog box, name the group "Letters", and then click OK:

Naming the new layer group 'Letters'

Naming the layer group.

Back in the Layers panel, the Shape layers now appear in a group named "Letters". Click the triangle to the left of the folder icon to twirl the group open:

Viewing the Shape layers inside the layer group

Viewing the Shape layers inside the group.

Step 8: Change the color of each letter

Let's change the color of each letter. We'll start with the first letter on the left. Double-click on the thumbnail for the top Shape layer in the Layers panel:

Double-clicking on the first Shape layer thumbnail in the Layers panel

Double-clicking on the top Shape layer thumbnail.

This opens Photoshop's Color Picker. I'll choose a light blue. To use the same color I'm using, set the R value to 30, the G value to 117 and the B value to 197:

Choosing a light blue in the Color Picker for the first letter

Choosing a light blue for the first letter in the word.

Click OK to close the Color Picker, and the first letter appears in its new color:

The color of the first letter has been changed to light blue

The first letter is now light blue.

To change the color of the second letter, again double-click on its thumbnail in the Layers panel:

Double-clicking on the second Shape layer thumbnail in the Layers panel

Double-clicking on the second Shape layer's thumbnail.

Choose a different color in the Color Picker. I'll choose green by setting R to 25, G to 161 and B to 53:

Choosing a light green in the Color Picker for the second letter

Choosing a light green for the second letter.

Click OK, and now the second letter appears in green (or whichever color you chose):

The first two letters now appear in different colors

Two colors down, six to go.

Changing the color of the remaining letters

Continue changing the color of each letter in the word by double-clicking on its thumbnail in the Layers panel and choosing a new color from the Color Picker. For the third letter ("L"), I'll choose yellow (R=255, G=190, B=0), and for the fourth letter ("O"), I'll go with magenta (R=158, G=33, B=150). For the "R", I'll use orange (R=244, G=99, B=36), and for the "F", I'll choose a bright pink (R=243, G=43, B=104).

I'll change the second last letter ("U") to the same blue that I used for the first letter (R=30, G=117, B=197). And finally, I'll use the same yellow for the last letter ("L") that I used for the third letter (R=255, G=190, B=0):

Each letter in the word is now a different color

Each letter is now a different color.

Step 9: Add a gradient to the layer group

The text is definitely looking more colorful, but we can enhance the colors even further by applying a gradient to the layer group itself. Click on the "Letters" layer group at the top of the Layers panel to select it:

Selecting the Letters layer group in the Layers panel

Selecting the "Letters" layer group.

Then click on the Layer Styles icon (the "fx" icon) at the bottom of the Layers panel:

Clicking the Layer Styles icon in the Layers panel in Photoshop

Clicking the Layer Styles icon.

Choose Gradient Overlay from the list:

Choosing a Gradient Overlay layer style

Choosing Gradient Overlay.

This opens Photoshop's Layer Style dialog box set to the Gradient Overlay options. Click the triangle next to the gradient swatch to open the Gradient Picker. Then choose the Black, White gradient by double-clicking on its thumbnail (third from the left, top row):

Choosing th Black, White gradient in the Gradient Overlay options in Photoshop

Choosing the Black, White gradient.

Set the Blend Mode to Overlay, the Opacity to 100%, the Style to Linear, and the Angle to 90 degrees, and then click OK:

The Gradient Overlay options in the Layer Style dialog box in Photoshop

The Gradient Overlay options.

Applying the black to white gradient directly to the layer group and setting its blend mode to Overlay turns the flat color in each letter into a gradient, with a lighter shade of the color at the top and a darker shade at the bottom:

The letters in the text now appear filled with gradients

Adding a Gradient Overlay to the group is a quick way to turn flat colors into gradients.

Related: How to draw gradients in Photoshop

Step 10: Select the Move Tool and set it to Auto Select Layers

At this point, all that's left to do is move the letters closer together so that they overlap. Select the Move Tool from the Toolbar:

Selecting the Move Tool in the Toolbar in Photoshop

Selecting the Move Tool.

Then in the Options Bar, make sure Auto-Select is turned on (checked), and that it's set to Layer, not Group. This will let us select each letter just by clicking on it:

Turning on Auto-Select Layer for the Move Tool in Photoshop

Turning on Auto-Select and setting it to Layer.

Step 11: Drag the letters together so they overlap

Click on a letter with the Move Tool to select it. The Shape layer for that letter will highlight in the Layers panel. Then, drag the letter over to the letter beside it until part of the letters overlap. Hold Shift as you drag to make it easier to drag straight across. Here, I’ve clicked on the second letter (the green “O”) and I’ve dragged it over and slightly into the first letter (“C”). Notice that in the areas where the two letters overlap, the colors from each letter are blending together:

Overlapping the second letter in the text with the first letter and blending the colors together

Click on a letter to select it, then drag it over part of the letter beside it.

I'll click on the third letter ("L") to select it, and then I'll drag it to the left while holding Shift until part of it overlaps with the letter "O". Make sure you click once to select the letter first, release your mouse button, and then click a second time to drag it over, otherwise you'll end up selecting and moving two letters at once. In other words, make sure the Shape layer for the letter you want to move is highlighted in the Layers panel before you move it:

Overlapping the third letter in the text with the second letter in Photoshop

The overlapping text effect is taking shape.

If you do accidentally select and move two letters at once, press Ctrl+Z (Win) / Command+Z (Mac) to undo your last step. Click anywhere in the white background to deselect the letters, and then click on the letter you need to select it.

Moving the remaining letters

Continue dragging the remaining letters together until they all overlap. Again, remember to click once on a letter to select it, release your mouse button, and then click a second time to move it. You can also nudge letters left and right using the left and right arrow keys on your keyboard. Here's my result after overlapping the remaining letters. The only problem is that, after moving the letters closer together, the word now looks too small in the document. We'll finish off the tutorial by learning how to resize it next:

The overlapping letters effect looks too small in the document

The effect after moving each letter to overlap them.

Step 12: Resize the text

Since all of our letters are on separate layers, to resize the effect, we'll need to resize the layers as a group. Click once again on the "Letters" layer group at the top of the Layers panel to select it:

Selecting the layer group in the Layers panel

Selecting the layer group.

Press Ctrl+T (Win) / Command+T (Mac) on your keyboard to quickly select Photoshop's Free Transform command. Then, just as we did earlier, press and hold your Shift key and drag any of the corner handles to resize the text. Move the text to reposition it by clicking and dragging inside the Free Transform box:

Resizing the overlapping letters text effect with Free Transform in Photoshop

Resizing the effect with Free Transform.

Press Enter (Win) / Return (Mac) on your keyboard to exit out of Free Transform, and we're done! Here, after making a few minor adjustments to the spacing of the letters, is my final "colorful overlapping letters" text effect:

How to create an overlapping letters text effect in Photoshop

The final effect.

And there we have it! That's how to create an overlapping letters text effect, and how to blend the overlapping colors together, in Photoshop! Be sure to check out our Text Effects sections for more tutorials!


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