Neon Sign Text Effect Tutorial in Photoshop

November 11, 2010

I love all the old Las Vegas style neon signs that still litter the streets of our cities. There is something nostalgic about them that always makes me feel like a kid again. Today, I want to show you how you can easily create this same effect with text in Photoshop. We are going to be playing a lot with layer styles here which, in my opinion, is one of the greatest features in Photoshop. This is an intermediate Photoshop tutorial that you may want to bookmark because you never know when you might want to add a neon sign text effect to one of your designs.

Here is the final image that we are going to be creating:

Final Image - Neon Sign Photoshop Tutorial

Step 1: The Set-Up

Open a new Photoshop document that is 1024x 300px. Fill the background with black by going to Edit -> Fill... -> Use: Black. Add the text that you want to add your neon light effect to. I used the text 'Pixellogo' in Arial Black at 140px and in a reddish colour #bb4263.

step 1 neon Sign Photoshop Tutorial

Step 2: Adding Layer Styles

Go to Layer -> Layer Style -> Drop Shadow... and add the values below. Once you are done with Drop Shadow, add the values specified below for Inner Shadow, Bevel & Emboss and Stroke.

Drop Shadow - Neon Sign Photoshop Tutorial

Inner Shadow - Neon Sign Photoshop Tutorial

Bevel & Emboss - Neon Sign Photoshop Tutorial

Stroke - Neon Sign Photoshop Tutorial

Step 3: The bulb

Thanks to Mykl Roventine on Flickr, I was able to find the image below that is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic. You will need a photo like this one to add light bulbs to our neon sign. If you want to use this image, click here to download the image from Mykl Roventine's Flickr page.

Mykl Roventine's image from Flickr

Open the image in Photoshop. Copy one of the light spots and add it to your sign. Convert it to a smart object by going to Layer -> Smart Object -> Convert to Smart Object. Click on the smart object bulb in your layers palette to edit the bulb image. Go to Image -> Adjust -> Hue/Saturation.. and change the Hue and Saturation values to those below so that your bulb is a bright yellow colour.

Hue & Saturation - Neon Sign Photoshop Tutorial

Resave the bulb image and return to your text. You will notice now that your bulb has changed colours because of the modifications that you made to its smart object. Resize the bulb so that it fits inside your text using the Transform tool (Edit -> Free Transform).

Copy your bulb image and fill up the letters in your sign. After you have placed all the bulbs, select all the bulb and go to Layer -> Group Layers. Next, you want to merge the bulb group into one layer by going to Layer -> Merge Group.

You should end up with something like this:

step 2 - neon Sign Photoshop Tutorial

Step 3: The Finishing touches

Select the bulbs layer and go to Layer -> Layer Style -> Drop Shadow. Add the values below for both Drop Shadow and Outer Glow.

Bulb - drop Shadow - neon Sign Photoshop Tutorial

Bulb - outer Glow - neon Sign Photoshop Tutorial

Duplicate this bulb layer. Go to Filter -> Blur -> Gaussian Blur and add a Radius of 20px. Put this layer in a folder by going to Layer -> Group Layer. Finally, change that layers blending mode to Color Dodge. That's it... you're all done.

If you want to tweek your neon sign a little more, you can always add lens flares to some of the bulbs to give some of them more pop.

Here is a 2-part video tutorial to guide you through the steps above:

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