XCOM Text Effect in Photoshop

XCOM Text Effect in Photoshop

Skill level

XCOM, a new sci-fi game that recent hit the market, has caused a lot of tutorial requests on the title’s text. Today, I’ll show you how to create one yourself!

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XCOM Text Effect in Photoshop


Like most projects, the size of your document is completely up to you. 1280 x 720 pixels should work great for this project. I’m also creating at 143DPI, as I’m using the Retina display MacBook Pro.

Once the document has been created, a simple black background should do the trick.

The Text

Text is another aspect of your project that’s flexible. For my example, I chose to use Futura at 200pt with the color set to #00c0ff.

Layer Styles

Once your text is typed out, it’s time to add some Layer Styles! Doubleclicking on the layer in your Layers Panel will bring up your Layer Styles. You can also access it under the Layer menu at the top. We’re going to add an Inner and Outer Glow.

Once the Layer Styles have been added, you should have a design that looks something like what you see below. Of course, if you’re working with large or smaller text, you may need to tweak the Layer Styles to get a similar result.

Layer Mask

In the orignal XCOM text, there’s a gap going through the middle of the COM. We can easily achieve this effect using a Layer Mask. First, go ahead and create the selection. You can do this using the Rectangular Marquee Tool, which can be found in your Tools Bar.

When your selection has been made, in your Layers Panel, hold down Option (Mac) or Alt (Windows), and click on the Add Layer Mask icon.

Lose That Focus

Right now, the text is very sharp. Too sharp. We need to soften it out a touch. This can be done with a Gaussian Blur filter. BUT, before you add a filter to a text layer, you’ll want to convert it into a Smart Object first! This will ensure that you can go back and edit the text/Layer Styles at a later point if necessary. You can easily convert your layer by selecting Convert for Smart Filters under the Filter menu.

Now that your text has been converted, you can safely add filters, such as a Gaussian Blur, without rasterizing and losing your text properties.

The Pattern

On the XCOM text, there’s a ‘scanline’ effect that goes horizontally across the letters. We’re going to create that pattern in a new document, then apply it on the Smart Object that we just converted.

The Document

The document that will house our scanline (yes, a single scanline), will be very small! 14 x 14 pixels. Creating only one scanline will allow Photoshop’s pattern generator repeat them across a layer.

When the document has been created, it’s going to look tiny on your screen. You’ll want to zoom in as far as you can go. Command/Ctrl + 0 (zero) will zoom that tiny document as far as it can go.

When you can see your new 14px document at a larger size, you’re going to want to fill the middle with a ‘blurred’ black line. To do this, we can use the Gradient Tool, which can be found in your Tools Bar, set to Black to White, and set to Reflected.

Now that your gradient settings are in place, it’s time to create the gradient. Because you have a Reflected gradient selected, you’ll want to start in the middle of the document, and drag to the bottom, as shown below. Remember, you can hold your Shift key down to ensure that the gradient is perfectly vertical.

By creating a reflected gradient, instead of a solid black box, you are adding a slight ‘blur’ to the scanline. If you don’t want blurry scanlines, simply create a black box in the middle of the document. Once you’ve created your single scanline, you need to save it as a Pattern. This feature can be found under the Edit menu. Select Define Pattern, and give your scanline a name.

Applying the Pattern

At this point, the Pattern is complete. It’s ready to be used! Hop back over to your XCOM document, and double-click on the Smart Object to bring up it’s Layer Styles. We want to add a Pattern Overlay. When you go to select a pattern in the Pattern Picker, your newly saved pattern should have been added right at the bottom of the current list.

Once you have selected the new pattern, without changing the Blend Mode, it should appear exactly as you saved it. Black and white, blurry scanlines.

If you want the scalines to blend with the color of the text, you can change the Blend Mode to Hard Light, and decrease the Opacity as needed.


This effect is almost complete! The last small detail I want to cover, are the scanlines that run through the ‘gap’ in the text. They shouldn’t be there. Let’s take care of this with another Layer Mask. With your Rectangular Marquee Tool, create another selection where the current gap is.

Now to ensure that there are no harsh edges once the scanlines are removed, we’ll want to Feather (soften) the selection. This can be done by going to Select > Modify > Feather, and then entering a value. The higher the value, the softer the selection will be.

When your selection has been Feathered, add a Layer Mask to your Smart Object by holding down Option (Mac) or Alt (Windows) and clicking on the Add Layer Mask icon at the bottom of your Layers Panel.

Final Tweaks

If you find that the text or colors are not looking ‘right’, you can always add Adjustment Layers, or go back and tweak the Layer Styles, if needed. Below, I added a simple Levels Adjustment Layer to brighten up the highlights, then masked out the top and bottom of the text, or eliminate some of the excess glowing.