I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: Photoshop is more than just a retouching and photography tool; it’s also an extremely versatile and fun creative tool. There’s nothing I like more than starting a project with a blank canvas and seeing what can be pulled out of all the tools and features
in Photoshop.

As a huge typography geek, I always love design with type. One part of the type features in Photoshop that you may not be aware of is all the extra characters that are included with fonts, known as glyphs. 

So what are glyphs? They’re the funky little characters that range from your basic question and exclamation marks to copyright signs to foreign characters. These are all displayed in the Glyphs panel found by going to Type>Panels>Glyphs Panel. 

Some fonts have very few glyphs, while others have a plethora of options. And while these additional characters have a particular purpose in life, they also make for great shapes to use in typographical poster designs—but let’s not stop there! I was looking for a fun effect for this issue to make glyphs more interesting when I noticed my daughters had a 3D book that uses the anaglyphic style, which is mainly an overlap of the same image in magenta and blue to create a 3D effect when wearing 3D glasses. We’re not aiming to make a 3D image in this tutorial but we’ll go for that style. 

For our example, we’ll use a typeface (font) from Adobe Fonts. If you have a Creative Cloud subscription then you have thousands of fonts at your disposal; otherwise, just use anything interesting on your system that has a decent number of glyph options. 

Step One: Start by creating a new document (File>New) that’s 10×10″ at 300 ppi. 

Step Two: Sync the Bungee front from Adobe Fonts by going to Type>More from Adobe Fonts. When the webpage opens, search for “Bungee,” and then click the Activate Font buttons next to the fonts you want to sync to Photoshop. 

Step Three: There’s no rhyme or reason to the layout we’re going to create; we’ll just randomly pick some glyphs, and then resize and position them on the canvas. We’ll work on the anaglyph side of the design later. 

First, let’s set up a grid in our document to use as a guide. Open the Photoshop Preferences (Command-K [PC: Ctrl-K]), and go to the Guides, Grid & Slices options (see next page). Set the Grid­line Every field to 0.25 Inches and Subdivisions to 4. I also changed the Grid style to dots, leaving the default color as gray. You’ll find the solid line, dash, and dots option in the drop-down menu to the right of the Color drop-down menu in the Grid section. Then, go up to the Guides section, and change the Canvas color from its default Cyan to Green, as we don’t want the guides to blend in with the colors we’re going to use in our design. Don’t click OK yet. 

Step Four: Here’s a quick tip before we add any type: By default in Photoshop 2020, when you select the Type tool (T) and click on the canvas, you get placeholder text that says “Lorem Ipsum.” You can turn this off for this project by going to the Type section in Preferences, and unchecking the Fill New Type Layers with Placeholder Text. Now when you click with the Type tool on your canvas, it will be blank. Click OK to close the Preferences. 

Step Five: Next, go to View>Show>Grid to activate the grid in your canvas. Now we can draw out our first glyph. To add a glyph, switch to the Type tool, select the Bungee font in the Options Bar, and select the Foreground color you want to use (we used a magenta: #ff00ff). Then, go to the Glyphs panel, double-click on any character, and it will appear as type in the canvas. Let’s begin with my favorite glyph: the ampersand (&). I love this character because it can be completely different from one typeface to another. 

Step Six: Along the top of the Glyphs panel, you’ll notice there are spaces for recently used glyphs. If you see some glyphs already there, you can clear them by going to the panel’s flyout menu and selecting Clear Recent Glyphs. Now as you build your artwork, the glyphs you choose will appear in those spaces, making it easier to select them again. You might even start by going through the Glyphs panel and double-clicking on the glyphs you want to use in your project to add them to the Recent Glyphs section, making it easier to select them as you go. As I mentioned earlier, I’m going to pick glyphs randomly, starting with the &. 

Step Seven: Next, resize and position the initial glyph. Then, press Command-R (PC: Ctrl-R) to show the rulers and pull out some guides to help with positioning the other glyphs as you add them. Start placing other glyphs around the canvas. Be as creative as you want; you can overlap them, resize them, and rotate them—your design, your rules. 

Remember to try out as many of the glyphs as you can, including any shapes or wingding-style characters, to give it a more graphical look. This is what my final glyph layout looks like. 

Step Eight: Now that we’ve added, resized, rotated, and duplicated our characters, let’s look at what we can do to turn it into an anaglyphic style. First, click the top text layer in the Layers panel to make it active, and then Shift-click the bottom text layer to select all the glyph layers. Right-click on one of the selected layers and choose Convert to Smart Object. Double-click the name of the smart object layer in the Layers panel and rename it “Left.” Now with that layer active, press Command-J (PC: Ctrl-J) to make a duplicate layer. Name this layer “RIGHT.” 

Step Nine: We need to change the color on the RIGHT layer, so click the ƒx icon at the bottom of the Layers panel and choose Color Overlay. Click the color swatch in the Layer Style dialog, select a cyan color (#00ffff), and click OK to close the Color Picker. Click OK again to apply the layer style. This gives us a nice color contrast between the two layers. 

Step 10: Double-click to the right of the LEFT layer’s name in the Layers panel to bring up the Blending Options in the Layer Style dialog. On this layer, we need to uncheck the R in the RGB Channels in the Advanced Blending area. Click OK. 

Step 11: We need to repeat Step 10 for the RIGHT layer, but this time we’re going to uncheck the G in the RGB Channels. Click OK in the Layer Style dialog. 

Step 12: Next, let’s move the two glyph layers apart, so activate the LEFT layer in the Layers panel, and then with the Move tool (V) selected, tap the Left Arrow key on your keyboard about five times to nudge the layer to the left (depending on your preference). Then, activate the RIGHT layer, and gently nudge this layer to the right using the Right Arrow key. You’ll now see that between the two layers, you have three offset colors to give us the anaglyph effect for which we’re looking. The dark blue color is a result of the two layers blending together based on the channels we turned off and the Color Overlay layer style.

Step 13: But we’re not done! We can make this even more interesting by adding an image and playing with some blending modes to give it another dimension. Before we do, hide those guides and grid by going to View>Show>Guides and then View>Show>Grid. 

Step 14: I found this image of a woman wearing 3D (red/blue) glasses on Adobe Stock. You can download the low-res preview version of this image by clicking here, logging in with your Adobe ID, and then clicking the Save to Library button. Drag the image from your Libraries panel (Window>Libraries) into your glyphs image. If you’re using your own photo, use the File>Place Embedded command to add the image.

Resize the image to fill the whole frame, making sure the 3D glasses are quite prominent in the frame. Press Enter to commit the image, and ensure it’s the topmost layer in the Layers panel. 

Step 15: Here’s where you can have some fun. Click on the blend modes drop-down menu near the top left of the Layers panel, and hover your cursor over various blend modes in the list to preview how they’ll look in the image. We’re showing three different ones here, just for contrast: Lighten, Difference, and Hue. Each gives a completely different look. 

Step 16: Let’s go with Lighten mode, but to bring some of those glyphs back, reduce the Opacity of the image to about 50% in the Layers panel. 

Step 17: We still have one more effect to add, and that’s a Halftone Pattern from the Filter Gallery. First, make sure the Foreground color is set to black and the Background color is set to white by pressing D. With the image layer active in the Layers panel, go to Filter>Filter Gallery. Expand the Sketch folder and select Halftone Pattern. Set both the Size and Contrast to 5. Make sure Pattern Type is set to Dot via the drop-down menu, and click OK. Apply the Halftone Pattern again, but this time set the Pattern Type to Circle instead of Dot. Click OK to complete the effect.

So, we started with some simple glyphs, added some color, applied an RGB blend, added an image, applied a blending mode, and finally added a Halftone Pattern. We could add more, and that’s the beauty of designing in Photoshop, experimentation! Everything is completely nondestructive. Even the glyphs are still live text so you can go back and edit them in the smart object. 

I hope you’ve had some fun playing with glyphs. If you have any specific design tutorials you’d like to see, please leave a comment in the Community members forum and we’ll look to include some of them in future issues. In the meantime, keep having a blast in Photoshop!

This article originally published in the September, 2020 issue of Photoshop User magazine.