Blurring Live Text with a Drop Shadow

I realize I owe you lovers of the graphic arts a Part 2 to my Illustrator Transparency, Photoshop Resolve article. (If that sounds familiar, it’s because I copied and pasted that sentence from last week.) But given that not a single person has expressed a problem with my delaying Part 2 — which makes me cry real, actual, enormous crocodile tears (below) — I’m guessing you’re okay waiting.

In the meantime, I discovered something quite by chance today that made me geek out and do the d’oh, slap-my-head, I-can’t-believe-I-never-figured-that-out-before thing.

Here’s the idea: Photoshop does not let you blur live text. Well, all right, that’s a lie. Photoshop does let you blur live text if you first convert the text to a smart object. But that’s a Big Italicized If. Converting text to a smart object restricts your access to it and requires you to edit the text in a separate window, which is an increduloppus painoloopamus in the hippopotamus.

Or so I thought until I made this amazing discovery:

  1. Make some text. With the type tool. And the typing. On the keyboard.
  2. Go to the Layers palette and set the Fill value to 0%. Yes, 0%. (Not Opacity, Fill.) Your text will turn invisible. No worries, it’s all part of the plan.
  3. Go to the bottom of the palette, click on the fancy cursive fx icon, and choose Drop Shadow.
  4. Set the Opacity value to 100%. This permits you the greatest control.
  5. Set the color of the shadow to whatever you want the color of your blurry text to be.
  6. Reduce the Distance value to 0. That way, the text will be right there where you expect it to be.
  7. Set the Size value to the amount of blur you want. (Yes, Size = blurriness. This kind of thing makes perfect sense if you’re an Adobe engineer.)
  8. Pause dramatically so as to stun yourself with the amazement of it. Then move your cursor down the dialog box and turn off the Layer Knocks Out Drop Shadow check box. (!)
  9. Pick your stunned carcass off the floor.
  10. Click the OK button. You now have blurry, editable text.

Here’s an example I came up with (based on photos from Attila Balaz and Jason Stitt of iStockphoto). See that brand on that genetically altered cow’s back? That’s live blurry text. (I also transformed and warped it, again all live and editable.)

The beloved antcow

I just know someone’s going to say, “Hey, dude, you’re behind the curve. McPhexpert the Photoshop Expert posted this technique back in August of 1912.” Because it really is that mother-ferret rhinobvious. But I just figured it out, so I felt compelled to share. That is my job, after all.

(Incidentally, this artwork hails from a video for an upcoming project that I can’t tell you about. Hint: It has nothing to do with genetic engineering.)

Follow the steps. Go to the Styles palette and save your work as a layer style. Then peel yourself a banana and be a fantanzee chimpanzee for all the rest of your live long days. After that trick, you deserve it.

Next entry:Signs of the Times in dekePod Episode 001

Previous entry:The Briefly Awaited Answer to dekeQuiz #1


  • That is pretty cool. As soon

    That is pretty cool. As soon as you said to drop the Fill, I figured out the rest before hitting the next word~ It’s one of those things that, once you see it, it’s just so obvious! Thanks a lot ^_^

  • Just remembered

    Here I am doing some training, and I recalled I had already long ago shared a way to blur live editable text in Photoshop using a centered Inner Glow effect. The technique appears in all my Photoshop One-on-One books and videos.

    I suppose I should (to quote myself), “geek out and do the d’oh, slap-my-head, I-can’t-believe-I-[already]-figured-that-out-before thing.”

    The upside of possessing an addeled mind is that I can discover things again and again and take pleasure in it. And besides, this technique is slightly better.

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