Graffiti Text Effect in Photoshop

Skill level

Graffiti text in Photoshop has been a pretty popular request over the years. Today, I finally get around to showing you guys how simple it is to create great graffiti in Photoshop!

Written tutorial

Our starting image is going to be a simple brick wall, which you can find anywhere, but if you’re looking for high quality images, Shutterstock has you covered.

Displacement Map

Before we start with our text, we’re first going to create a displacement map, which will come in handy later on. A displacement map, which is usually a high-contrast black and white version of your image, will help ‘form’ our eventual text to the bricks of this wall.

First, start by converting your image into black and white. This can quickly be done with the Command/Ctrl + U shortcut.

Once the saturation has been drained from your image, we’ll need to boost it’s contrast. There are several ways to achieve this, but I found that using Levels to boost the shadows and highlights will do the trick.

This will leave you with a high contrast black and white image, which will work great as a displacement map. At this point, you need to save this as a PSD file. VERY IMPORTANT that it’s saved as a PSD, otherwise you won’t be able to select it later on.

The Text

Now that the displacement map is out of the way, let’s move on to the text. To ensure that you don’t mess up the displacement map, open up your original [color] image again.

The Font

You’re free to use any font that you wish, but to get the ‘graffiti’ feel to your design, it’s recommended that you use a graffiti style font. Over at, there’s a great font called Zit Graffiti. The neat thing about this font, is that when you type in lowercase letters, the letters are filled in, and when you type in uppercase, you get just an outline. As I want my text filled in, I’ll type my name in lower case letters.

Usually, graffiti is not only one color. It contains gradients, shadows and borders. This is where the magic of Layer Styles comes into play! Using Layer Styles can help add all of these elements to a single text layer. The settings that I used can be found below, but feel free to experiment to get the result that you’re after.

Once your Layer Styles are in place, you should be left with something like this:


Now that the text is in place, and the colors are set, it’s time to make good of that displacement map we created earlier. The Displace filter can be found under the Filter > Distort menu, but before you add any filters, it’s always a good idea to convert your layer into a Smart Object. This will allow you to edit your text and color scheme at a later point if needed!

Once the layer has been converted, under the Filter > Distort menu, you’ll find the Displace option.

The Horizontal and Vertical Scale values will control how effective the displacement is. The higher the value, the more distortion is applied to the layer. As we’re not looking for anything drastic, 3 or 4 should work well. Once you press OK, you’ll want to locate the PSD file that you saved earlier.

When the file is selected and opened, you should see a result that similar to the one below. Photoshop used the black and whites of the displacement map to distort the layer, giving the impression that it’s ‘part of the wall’.

Blending In

Obviously, the text needs to be blended in with the wall. The displacement did a great job at pushing the text away from perfectly straight lines, but now it needs some blending. There are a few ways this can be done, including experimenting with the different Blend Modes, but I’d like to show you a slightly different way of blending; Blend If.

Blend If

To access the Blend If controls, hop into your Blending Options section within Layer Styles (Layer > Layer Styles > Blending Options).

The Blend If controls, highlighted above, contains two bars. One for the current layer, and one for the layer underneath. Both contain a shadows and highlights slider, which allows you to blend either of the two from the current layer, and/or the layer underneath. In this case, we want to blend the shadows and highlights from the brick wall (underlying layer) with the text.

On the Underlying Layer bar, pulling the shadows slider to the right, and the highlights slider to the left, will blend the current layer with the layer underneath, in this case, the brick wall.

Simply pulling on the sliders will typically give you a very harsh result. Of course, if this is what you’re looking for, than great! However, if you’re looking for a bit more of a blend, the sliders can actually be split. Holding your Alt/Option key will allow you to split each slider, resulting in a much cleaner blend.

The advantage to using Blend If versus Blend Modes, is that you will usually end up with more ‘true’ colors to what you started with. Changing Blend Modes tends to alter the color of your layers in order to blend them in. Of course, experiment to see which method you prefer.