How to Create Inset Typography in Photoshop

How to Create Inset Typography in Photoshop

In this beginning-level design tutorial, I’ll show you how to apply a beautiful and super-easy text treatment in Photoshop: the inset text effect. It’s also often called the letterpress effect because it looks similar to text created by a Letterpress printer.

Final Result

Here’s a preview of what we’re about to create.

Creating the Photoshop document

1 Let’s start with the basics: setting up the Photoshop document. Open up Photoshop and create a new document (Ctrl + N). We’ll start with a small canvas, a 550px by 550px document, but know that later on, you’ll be able to adjust the canvas size of your project.

Creating the Photoshop document

Styling the Background Layer

2 We’ll add a Gradient Overlay layer style onto the default Background layer. To do this, we need to make the layer editable. Double-click on the Background layer in the Layers Panel, which will result in opening the New Layer dialog box. Enter a Name for the layer (by default – it’s Layer 0); I’ve named mine Background.

Styling the Background Layer

3 Double-click on the Background layer’s thumbnail in the Layers Panel to open up the Layer Styles dialog box. We want a vertical color gradient that transitions from darker blue (#003471) at the bottom, to a lighter blue (#448CCB) at the top. To begin, check the Gradient Overlay checkbox to apply the layer style. Then click on the color gradient on the right of the Gradient option to open up the Color Gradient Editor.

Styling the Background Layer

4 Double-click on the left Color Stop and enter the color value of a dark blue shade (#003471) which will be the color at the bottom of the canvas. Do the same for the right Color Stop, but this time, enter a lighter blue color (#448CCB). Let’s move the Color Midpoint to a Location of around 60% to make the darker blue color more dominant in the color gradient.

Styling the Background Layer

5 Lets give the background a light source from the top left corner of the canvas. Grab the Brush Tool (B) from the Tools Panel. Set the brush tip to a rounded brush (I used Airbrush Soft, but feel free to explore your options). Set the Diameter option to 500px, Opacity option to 60%, and Flow option to 70% in the Options Bar.

Styling the Background Layer

6 Create a new layer (Ctrl + Shift + N) on top of the Background layer where we will apply the light source, call it Background light source.

7 Set your Foreground color to white (#FFFFFF). With the Brush Tool (B) still active, click on the top left corner of your canvas.

Styling the Background Layer

Styling the Background Layer

Creating the Inset Type

8 Use the Horizontal Type Tool (T) to write some text onto the canvas. When choosing a font family, it’s best to choose something that’s bold and thick to more readily show the inset effect. This type effect also works best on larger font sizes. I used Rockwell Std set to Bold and with the font size set to 30px (you can set these options in the Options bar). The color doesn’t matter because we will use a Gradient Overlay layer style (later on) that will supersede whatever foreground color you used.

Creating the Inset Type

9 Let’s center the text in our canvas. In the Layers Panel, make sure the text layer is the active layer. Select the entire canvas by choosing Select > All (Ctrl + A). Then choose Layer > Align Layers to Selection > Vertical Centers. This will center the text vertically. With the canvas still selected, align the text horizontally by choosing Layer > Align Layers to Selection > Horizontal Centers to center our text in the middle of the canvas.

Creating the Inset Type

Creating the Inset Type

Creating the Inset Type

Adding the Inset Typography layer styles

10 We’ll be adding three layer styles on the Inset Typography text layer: a Gradient Overlay, an Inner Shadow, and a Drop Shadow. This is all we’ll need in order to get the inset text effect. Start by right-clicking on the Inset Typography text layer in the Layers Panel and then choosing Blending Options – this will open up the Layer Styles options dialog (alternatively, double-clicking on the layer in the Layers Panel will perform the same action of opening the dialog box).

Adding the Inset Typography layer styles

11 Lets work on the Gradient Overlay first. Check the box beside Gradient Overlay to apply this style to the text. We’ll want a similar color gradient as the background: a vertical color gradient with a darker color at the bottom of the text, and a lighter color at the top.

Adding the Inset Typography layer styles

12 Double-click on the color gradient beside the Gradient option to open up the Color Gradient Editor. For the left Color Stop, choose a dark blue color (darker than the dark blue color of the Background layer). I chose #022854. For the right Color Stop, choose a lighter blue color than the left Color Stop, but still a little darker than the dark blue color of the Background layer. I chose #0F498C.

13 Because the Inner Shadow layer style that we’ll apply next will be at the top left of the text, lets make the lighter blue color more dominant in the color gradient to make the Inner Shadow more visible; do this by moving the Color Midpoint Location to around 30%.

Adding the Inset Typography layer styles

Adding the Inset Typography layer styles

14 Let’s apply the Inner Shadow layer style next. Check the box beside Inner Shadow . Keep the angle at 120o so that the Inner Shadow’s light source comes from the top left, congruent with the light source we created earlier.

15 Changing the values of the Opacity, Distance and Size options will determine how pronounced or how subtle the inset effect will be. I chose to set the Opacity at 50%, the Distance at 2px and the Size at 3px because I wanted it to be visible, yet not exaggerated. Experiment with these option values until you get just the right inset effect.

Adding the Inset Typography layer styles

16 Finally, we’ll apply a Drop Shadow to make the text effect consistent with the light source. We want it to be very subtle, just enough to accent the text effect. Start by checking the box beside Drop Shadow.

17 Change the Blend Mode option to Normal to make the drop shadow less feathered.

18 Change the Shadow color from the default (which is black) to a bright blue color. I used the Eyedropper Tool (I) from the Tools Panel to sample a color from the top left corner where the light source was to start, and tweaked it until I got the color I was happy with: #A8C9E6.

19 I wanted the drop shadow to be subtle and small, so I used 1px for the Distance option to locate the drop shadow just at the bottom right of the text, and 2px for the Size option. I then lowered the Opacity option using the slider so that the drop shadow isn’t too prominent, and I was satisfied with it at 30% opacity. Also, note that it’s important to keep the angle of the drop shadow at 120o so that it’s consistently angled with the background’s light source and the Inner Shadow layer style.

Adding the Inset Typography layer styles

Adding the Inset Typography layer styles

We’re done!

Didn’t I tell you it would be super-easy?

Share your work!

Let’s see how yours ended up: upload your work to the Six Revisions User Group on Flickr.

Download the source file

If you’d like to check your work, you may download the PSD file for this tutorial.

Related Content

About the Author

Jacob Gube is the Founder and Chief Editor of Six Revisions. He’s also a web developer/designer who specializes in distance-learning education, front-end development, and web accessibility. If you’d like to connect with him, head on over to the contact page and follow him on Twitter: @sixrevisions.

This was published on Sep 10, 2009


Andy Feliciotti Sep 10 2009

great post, Chris spooner did a good job with a tutorial on this also
has some examples and tutorial on the bottom

gagahput3ra Sep 10 2009

This is a very useful tutorial, thanks :D

qalih Sep 10 2009

A nice simple tutorial on letter press effect. Great stuff.

wow, great tutorial, thanks @sixrevisions

Was always missing the #18 step, thank you for sharing.

Roberto Sep 11 2009

Very good tut. Thanks!

sandeep Sep 11 2009

Good one:-)

cypherbox Sep 11 2009

This is cool and easy to follow. Thanks for this tuts!

Marcel Sep 11 2009

This is something that’s done with Fireworks in 3 or 4 clicks :)

Simple tutorial but very useful, thanks

Niranjan Thilak Sep 11 2009

Now i should try and see whether it will be good to add that extra gradient ,which i didn’t apply on my site’s text . :D. I didn’t know that gradient would make that paper press look good. !…Lazy me :).

AtiKuSDesign Sep 11 2009

Such a simple technique that you see being used a lot these days!

Thanks for the tut

Holger Sep 11 2009

very nice tutorial. The bright blue drop shadow really does the trick.

Carol Sep 11 2009

Excellent, easy to follow tutorial, and highly adaptable even for a novice like me!!! Many thanks.

Jacob Gube Sep 11 2009

Thank you everyone for the positive comments and I’m glad many of you find this useful. Please don’t forget to upload your work by joining our community Flickr Group: Six Revisions User Group.

@Andy Feliciotti: Yep, great tutorial by Chris. I’m also putting together a showcase of inset typography on the web, stay tuned for my version! :)

@z0r: That step is very subtle, yet very important. It makes the type a bit more three dimensional, as well as remaining consistent with the light source from the top left of the canvas.

@Niranjan Thilak: It works without the color gradient as well. The text is a lot more subtle that way.

Arun Basil Lal Sep 11 2009

I liked the style or writing. Thanks for including the psd too!

George Sep 11 2009

Ewww Windows ;)

Great tutorial thanks for the tip!

Nils Rasmusson Sep 11 2009

I was just about to start searching for this effect when I decided to check some favorite sites first. Such timing. Great tutorial – thank you!

Robert Simpson Sep 11 2009

Nice tutorial, but instead of applying a drop shadow why not apply a downward outer bevel and turn that effect’s shadow element opacity down to zero? That way it would feel more like it was actually cut into the page, as opposed to an inverted drop shadow. I’m probably just being pedantic, the shadow thing would bug me!


Gjergji Kokushta Sep 11 2009

that was cool, before i am contented using the bevel and emboss

Jacob Gube Sep 12 2009

@Arun Basil Lal: You’re welcome – I think that it would be useful to include the PSD so that you may check your work against mine, or maybe build on it, or tweak it.

@Gjergji Kokushta: Thanks for sharing that link on Line25 – I believe it uses CSS3.

@Mars: Inner Bevel works similarly, but this technique gives you greater versatility in terms of getting the effect that you want.

Khoi Nguyen Sep 13 2009

Nice work here. Very simple, yet super elegant.

Vitezslav Valka Sep 15 2009

Lovely :) We’re just incorporating this into new refined design. MacHeist and Pixelmator started all that… :-)

Kerrick Sep 16 2009

Thanks! I’d been trying to get this effect, but couldn’t get it to where I was happy with it. As it turns out, I hadn’t been doing the light-colored drop shadow.

Alessandro Sep 16 2009

Great work! Sep 17 2009

Great and easy-to-use example. Thanks. Added into bookmarks.

This is technically not “inset” type. Traditionally it’s known as “debossing” the opposite of “imbossing” where the letters would be raised. It’s a classic, though, and the addition of the light source is a nice twist on the age-old technique.

Here’s a tutorial that puts it into a marbled background, and a wood background…

Redstage Magento Sep 17 2009

Great tutorial. Simple and easy to execute. Thanks!

James Sep 18 2009

Great tutorial… Quick question that’s a little off topic… Is Rockwell STD a font that’s included in Photoshop? I don’t seem to have it.

A simple, but very effective tutorial. Excellent stuff.

Jacob Gube Sep 19 2009

@James: It’s included in Adobe’s Fontfolio, but no, it does not come standard with Photoshop unfortunately.

Ashley Adams : Postcard Printing Sep 22 2009

Inset typography in photoshop sounds interesting….and you have a great tutorial here. It’s really very easy to follow. Thanks

studio-Cs Sep 23 2009

Simple and easy to understand tutorial. Great sharing!

Thank you i’ve looked at a few inset type tuts and they all do it different, but this is easy and simple.
Nice !

Which version of Photoshop was used here, because this tutorial was useless to me?
There are several cases of ‘click this then alter that’ where ‘clicking this’ doesn’t actually do what your screen-shots are showing! At least not on CS3 anyway.

Jacob Gube Sep 24 2009

@Phil: I used Adobe Photoshop CS4.

Lauren Jordan Oct 03 2009

Funny thing…I never knew it was this easy! I actually figured out how to do it when I was messing around with Photoshop before I read the tutorial. When I figured it out on Photoshop, I was thinking maybe I was doing it wrong and it couldn’t be this easy….but, it was. =)

Damilola Oct 20 2009

This was a great tutorial. I used this in creating the header for my (yet to be launched) blog. Thanks for taking the time to share this and I hope to get more inspiration from your blog in the future.

xRommelx Nov 06 2009

really good wordk, i love it

Mary Hutson Nov 12 2009

Very nicely done. More detailed than other tutorials on the same subject.

Anish Dec 21 2009

great tutorial. Thanks for explaining all the details so precisely with those screenshots.
-Anish Kumar

Shavit Jan 05 2010

What about the accessibility and SEO issue?
isn’t it the best to html the menu and just add css?
how you can get over it with this technique ?

maybe add background and add some shadow to the text with css?

I’ve been searching for that effect quite a while now and it’s one of the best I stumbled upon.

You can see my attempt here since I don’t have a Flickr account:

Joe Fletcher Jan 12 2010

Very cool! That tutorial nailed it – very easy to follow… and I even worked off the mobile version of this article with the smaller mobile-sized images not knowing I bookmarked it from my phone.

good tut man

exceLLency Feb 25 2010

Great tutorial. Simple and easy to execute. Thanks!

U can get similiar effect just by seting drop shadow on:
color white,blend mode “soft light”,distance 1px, size 0.

This and your way works if text is darker than background ofc.

Brian Jones Apr 09 2010

Nice tutorial – thanks Jacob! Mine has been posted.

since i found, i never late to read every days, niche, share and fuel of soul here…Dear Jacob …can you explained about the art of adobe photoshop ??? any one known how to imaging our soul into canvas or layer???
Best Regards

KarlMarx23 May 21 2010

Nice tutorial! very easy to understand!
I love it!

I’ve been looking for this forever! And you solved two problems for me 1) Inset Typography and 2) How to get that splash of white in the corner.


gameuber Jun 10 2010

Simple tutorial with stunning result..Thanks for sharing this

bvsmohan Jun 16 2010

good tutorial with simple steps to learn and understand,

donna Sep 22 2010

easy to understand tutorial. I’ve been working on a book cover project with this effect. Thanks for sharing!

jwight Sep 22 2010

Great tutorial Jacob! You do a great job of going the little extras such as providing specific visual aids that makes a big difference in the end. I love that I can still change my font afterwards and see how this looks with other text. Thanks!

richtaur Sep 23 2010

Love the effect. Thanks for being so thorough too, most tutorials don’t explain enough IMO …

seylom Sep 25 2010

thumbs up! Very easy to follow! and the effect is just great!

Savioursix Sep 30 2010

Great and simple tutorial, I love it. Regarding fonts in Photoshop, there are no “installed fonts”. On loading, ps reads your font folder in the user library, and generates its list from the ttf and otf files there. Consider fonts as plugins.

Thanks for such a nice tutorial.

abdessamad Oct 14 2010

thx man for this !!!! nice 1, im using it in my blog :)

wow, great tutorial.
many thanks

kapil thanju Mar 18 2011

nice tut thank you

Carlos E. Quevedo Jun 21 2011

Finally I had found the letter effect inset typography; and not just that, explained to the detail to the point that you (I) learn new things. Jacob keep the good job up. I am a beginner to this, but willing to learn from the pro like you.

Thanks a lot.

Alexsh Jul 30 2011

thanks…nice tutorial…! :D

Ovidiu Pp Sep 26 2011

Thank you for this excellent tutorial. You made my day :)

Nice tutorial…
Out of topic a bit, why comment system in Six Revision doesn’t use direct reply to specific comment? I find it in other blog so you don’t have to put “@someone” to pointing at who’s comments you are replying to. That would be nice i think :)

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