Deke’s Techniques 183: Creating a Hobbit Movie Logo Effect in Adobe AI and Photoshop

183 Creating a Hobbit-like text effect

This week’s installment of Deke’s Techniques shows how to create type that looks just like the logo for The Hobbit movie poster. Which is an insanely great effect.

As many of you know, Peter Jackson and company decided to divide The Hobbit—a 310-page book—into three movies. At the beginning of my video (the one above), I joke that the first movie (An Unexpected Journey) covers the first 36 pages of the book. Today, I took my boys to see the movie. And, as it turns out, I wasn’t joking!

I timed it: The movie doesn’t get to the beginning of the book, The Hobbit, until 37 minutes in! And it takes another 15 minutes (or thereabout, didn’t time it) to cover the first page of the damn thing. After that, we discover that Thorin (the lead dwarf) hates elves, a wizard named Radagast the Brown rides on a sleigh pulled by bunnies, Saruman has something to do with this story, Cate Blanchett and Ian McKellen can speak to each other telekinetically, Bilbo (with no prior knowledge of swordsmanship) slays orcs and goblins (who attack ad nauseum and at various sizes), there are Stone Giants (why?), and Bilbo is tempted to kill Gollum but he manages to trick a trio of trolls instead. None of which happens in the book! The movie is mildly entertaining (I got up and ordered popcorn at one point b/c I was so bored, after which I fell asleep twice), but it has Precious little to do with The Hobbit.

So here’s my advice: Wait for the Blu-ray. And if you’re making a movie based on a popular children’s novel, diverge from it as much as possible and milk it for all you’re worth.

Meanwhile, if you want to make your type look like The Hobbit movie logo (which is awesomely cool!), watch my video. Here’s the official description from

In this week’s free Deke’s Techniques video—based by the release and movie poster of The Hobbit—Deke McClelland starts with the unsuspecting, decidedly un-heroic text and takes it on a Middle Earth-inspired adventure in lands of Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop. The result is that this ordinary-ish text (on top in the figure below), ends up looking as though it’s been chiseled and chewed all the way “there and back again,” with all the seasoned character one would expect (as you can see in the second image):

Deke starts his project in Illustrator, where it’s easier to manipulate the shapes and sizes of the letter forms. The first step is to turn the text into outlines with editable paths that can be manipulated by Deke’s wizardry. He stretches the T, shrinks and adds an embellishment to the E, and adjusts the Q’s swash:

After swapping the stroke and fill colors and reducing the stroke width, Deke roughs up the edges with the aptly name Roughen effect. Choosing Effect > Distort and Transform > Roughen, he sets the Size set to an Absolute 1.2 points and the Detail (i.e. the number of roughening wiggles) to 17 per inch:

Having suitably stylized the text shapes, Deke copies the outlines and pastes them into Photoshop. Note that when you paste this group of paths from Illustrator, Photoshop gives you four choices for the type of Paste you want to perform. For this project, picking the final Shape Layer option means you will retain the vector-based path outlines.

If Illustrator’s task is to help create the shapes, then Photoshop’s destiny is to provide the texture. After changing the Fill to white to improve visibility, Deke applies a layer effect, Gradient Overlay,  using a couple of orangish shades for the gradient:

To give the letterforms some volume, Deke next adds a Bevel & Emboss effect using the Chisel Soft technique and appropriately adjusting the blend modes of the Highlights and Shadows (to Linear Burn and Linear Dodge, respectively).

The chiseling effect is a good start, but to really sell the effect, Deke adds a texture layer (created from a Fotolia photograph) and clips it inside the letters. Then he duplicates the texture, flips is around, and creates another clipping mask. After supplying a Color Overlay effect and a dose of the Noise filter, along with some blend mode tweaking, the result is letters that look like they’ve survived a battle or two:

To really distress the text, Deke uses the pen tool to draw some paths that look like proper battle scar, dwarf-bite style divots, and then uses the Subtract Front Shape command in the options bar to remove those areas from the shape layer.

To keep the larger holes from boring all the way through the letters, Deke fills in the backs of the letters with a perfectly registered layer of properly colored texture, masked to take care of the letters’ more violent wounds:

Finally, Deke adds in some supplementary, self-deprecating text and, voila:

The background of this image, by the way, is not actually Middle Earth or even the stand-in for Middle Earth known as New Zealand. It’s the Cliffs of Moher on the west coast of Ireland (which did actually stand in for the Cliffs of Insanity in the movie The Princess Bride, so it’s still a motion-picture-worthy locale). In this week’s members’ exclusive video, Deke demonstrates how he enhanced a regular vacation photo to make this cinematic background.

Deke will be back in the new year with another Deke’s Techniques episode.

Next week, I’m off for Christmas. But I’ll be back Wednesday, January 2, right after New Years. With a demonstration on how to make a cool 2013 calendar!

Next entry:Deke’s Techniques 185: Creating a Custom, Entirely Accurate New Year’s 2013 Calendar in Illustrator

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  • I can’t see the photo’s in this article, is that normal? Thanks!