Create Destructive Black and White Lettering with a Dramatic Splash Effect




Today, I’m gonna take you into the beauty of black and white design. We’ll make some expressive lettering, which includes thoughts connected with a central word. We’ll turn standard text into a stunning, destructive illustration, and give it a final unique look. So, let’s rock this one and learn all about the cool techniques included here!

Video Tutorial

Our video editor Gavin Steele has created this video tutorial to compliment this text + image tutorial.


While it’s hard to trace the exact origins of a concept, as they are developed over time, at least a couple artists influenced my visual thought process that lead up to this tutorial and I want to link to their work. Quite a while ago, I wanted to create something with splashes, back then I saw Peter Jaworowski’s work here, and I loved the black and white splashes used in this piece. Lately, I found some amazing black and white artwork from Pete Harrison that was influential as well.
In this work, I create typographic art using abstract lines. I connected all these ideas into one and decided to replace lines with splashes, and go into black and white mood by giving the overall design a nice expression and concept. Also, lust is the overriding concept behind this piece, which illustrates the mess and destruction that it’s causing in a human’s mind.
In this tutorial, our main task is to create covered typography. To better see what is going on, please click on the final image above to view the larger version. While preparing to create something like this, you need to find really good images that fit the main concept. I chose splash objects and found ones that are easily extractable.
The easiest way is just to buy them, because it’s very hard to find high quality splashes in free stock image sites. I mostly used, credits are not expensive and the images are really quality. So let’s take a look, then. To create the lettering, I used this one. If you want to achieve a greater variety of results, you can also grab these: image two or image three.
There are many ideas for covered typography, you may try do it with water, or use other splashes. In this tutorial everything is up to personal taste. All the splash positioning depends on what would you like to see in this work. So, there are numerous ways you can implement these techniques in your work.
Before we start, as long as this project is only for web graphics, you can stay with a resolution of 72px/inch, then you don’t need to buy larger photos. As for me, I always like to have a possibility to print my work, so I’ll go for a resolution of 300px/inch and buy some larger photos (they always might be useful). Now that we’ve selected our photos, let’s move on.

Step 1

Let’s reset the colors to default. First thing you need to do is hit D on the keyboard to make the colors change to black/white. Now create a new document of 1400px width and 1000px height, and let’s say a resolution of 300 px/inch
Make a new layer and name it “Lust.” Grab the Paint Bucket Tool (G), change your Foreground Color to black, and fill the background with it. Then change the color to white, grab the Type Tool (T) and create text in the middle of the image. As a font, I used Trajan Pro with the font style set to Bold.

Step 2

Let’s take care of the text. We need to add a touch of depth to it. Go to the “Lust” layer’s Blending Options and use the settings shown below.

Step 3

Create a new layer below the “Lust” layer, name it “Back stars.” Grab the Paint Bucket Tool (G), change the color to black and fill this layer. Next go to Filter > Noise > Add Noise. Set the Amount to around 12% and the Distribution to Gaussian, also check Monochromatic. Next, select Image > Adjustments > Levels, and make half of the dots blend in.

Step 4

Create a new layer above the “Back stars” layer. Switch your color to white, grab the Brush Tool (B) with Hardness set to 0% and Flow to 18%. Then make a few dots behind this type. Next, open this splatter image in Photoshop, left-click twice on the layer to unlock the background. Go to Image > Adjustments > Invert, to make the splatter white. Next, apply Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur with a Radius around 50px (not more).
Now when you drag this “Back blur” layer into our main project and change its Blending Options to Screen, the dark colors will almost totally vanish, and won’t disturb our illustration. So make around two duplicates (Command + J) of this layer, place it somewhere behind the text, and lower their Opacities somewhere between 10-20%.
There might be some bad looking parts with this blurred splatter. So help yourself with the Eraser Tool (E) with Hardness set to 0%, and Flow of 50%, and erase something if it’s necessary.

Step 5

Drag the “Blur back” layer again to our project document. Lower its Opacity to somewhere around 10% and place this layer below the “Lust” layer in the Layers Palette. Duplicate it four times (Command + J), and place each one in all four image corners. Now grab Smudge Tool (R), set the Strength to around 50-60% and smudge these four layers to make them look foggy.

Step 6

Now, find some messy splash/scratch black and white images. You can use the same one as I did. Open it in Photoshop (do not drag it to project document yet) and go to the Channels Palette. While holding Command, left-click on the “Gray” channel’s thumbnail, this will load the pattern selection. Next, go back to the Layers Palette and create a new layer.
In the channels palette we loaded the selection of the white area, but we want the black stains to get selected. So now hit Command + Shift + I to inverse the selection. Grab the Paint Bucket Tool (G), change your Foreground Color to white and fill the selection. By now you should have something looking similar to the fourth image below.
When you’re done, hit Command + D to deselect the selection.

Step 7

Drag this stains layer to our main project and name it “Back stains white.” It’s important to place this layer above the “Back blur” layers. Now resize it down using Edit > Free Transform and rotate Edit > Transform > Rotate. Now change its Blending Mode to Overlay and lower the layer’s Opacity between 50-90%. The opacity level is up to personal taste.
Now using Command + J, duplicate this layer a few times and position it as you like. Also, play around with those layer opacities. Help yourself with the Eraser Tool (E) with Hardness set to 0% and Flow around 40%. I erased some stains that bothered me.
And to achieve a better result, you can repeat Step 6, but this time color the selection with black, name this layer “Back stains black” and repeat the same process – making the background even more messy (look at the fourth image below).
Also, notice that the Overlay Blending mode in the “Back stains white” layers works only when you place them in non-black spots, so position those layers on gray blurred background. But the Blending Mode in “Back stains black” can be set to Normal, as it makes no difference in this case.

Step 8

Create a new layer, name it “Text gloss.” Grab the Elliptical Marquee Tool (M) and draw the ellipse. Next, select the white color, grab the Gradient Tool (G), set the gradient to Linear, and the preset to Foreground to Transparent. Drag the gradient from top to bottom. Hit Command + D to deselect.
Now hold Command and left-click on the “Lust” layer’s thumbnail to load its selection. Go to Select > Modify > Contract. And if your text is similar to mine, type 5 pixels. The amount of pixels depends on text thickness, the thicker it is, the more pixels you need to contract, to make the gloss look good. OK, next go to Select > Inverse and hit Delete on the keyboard. Finally, grab the Eraser Tool with Flow set to 30% and Hardness of 0%, and erase some bottom parts of this gloss.
Remember to play around with the “Text gloss” Opacity, lower it down to around 10-20%. When you’re done, hold Command and select the “Lust” and “Text gloss” layers in the Layers Palette, and hit Command + E to merge them. Name this merged layer “Lust.”

Step 9

Here we need to extract the splash from one-color background. So open this image, or select one of your own choice. For this step, I will refer to a technique that Nik Ainley used in his Mystic tutorial, in Step 8. It’s a great way to get this done really quick.
Of course, you can extract this splash using the Pen Tool (P), if this is the technique you prefer. Either way is fine.

Step 10

After accurately cutting this out, drag this image to our main project document. Name it “Black splash” and resize it down just a touch (Edit > Free Transform). Then hit Command + Shift + U to Desaturate this splash. Go to Image > Adjustments > Levels, and darken this image a little. Next, increase the brightness and contrast using Image > Adjustments > Brightness/Contrast.

Step 11

Our black splash is now ready to rock. Create a group called “Black splashes” on the top of the Layers Palette. Drag the “Black splash” layer into it. Remember to keep this group above the “Lust” layer in the Layers Palette.
Important! before we make any operation on this splash, always remember to duplicate it (Command + J). It’s good to have one splash backup – just in case. So make this duplicated layer invisible and name it “Splash backup.” Hit again Command + J to create another duplicate and work on this copy.
Go to Edit > Free Transform and rotate this splash to find the most comfortable position with the letter L. The arrows indicate one splash piece that we will use as a base.

Step 12

Using Lasso Tool (L), draw a selection around the splash that we chose to start with. Go to Select > Inverse (Command + Shift + I) and hit Delete on the keyboard. This will do all the dirty work for you. Instead of erasing everything else with Eraser tool, we just organized our way to make this simple and clean. Now when you hit Command + D to deselect selection, you can see that we are left only with one splash. And this is the way we will fill this whole text.
When dealing with splashes, always help yourself with the Eraser Tool (E) set to 100% Hardness and 100% Flow. Get rid of parts that do not fit the letter (look at the third image below).

Step 13

As I mentioned before, you always need to have a backup of the layer that we used as a cover. In this case, we are using a splash all the time. So make another copy of your backup splash layer (the one called “Splash backup”), rename it to “Black splash” and play around again with positioning and rotating (Edit > Free Transform).
Basically, you have to repeat Step 12, as many times as you need. Create a little cover for the first letter. But do not cover it entirely, we don’t want to create a mess. Take your time and add those splashes with precision.

The images below show my case when dealing with the letter L. I often got bad looking splash edges, and I helped myself with a hard eraser.

Step 14

Just not to get messy, remember to create a group for each covered letter, name them “L black,” “U black”… etc.

Step 15

Before covering the second letter, pay attention to how the connections between the letters are being made. Try to make it look like a fluent transition. Choose splashes carefully, and resize them or reposition them as you need. But don’t ever use Warp, the result might get blurry and fuzzy.
Try to make those splashes natural. In fact, there are something like ten smaller pieces of splashes here, but when properly positioned and edited, they look like one piece.

Step 16

While covering the second letter, try to use different positions, different splash sizes, and some new angles. I created the whole text, using only one splash image. You need to experiment and test what position and size fits the best. Keep the balance and don’t overdo with splash covering.

Step 17

As you see, the connection between U and S is pretty hard to make. I experimented with some various splash positions and it still looked bad, so I left it for the end. And I took care of the S. It’s a curvy letter, so the task wasn’t easy. If you get such a complicated letter in your own lettering, then remember the key is to cut lots of small splashes and mix them with bigger ones. Small splashes fit the best in the curve spots.
Don’t forget to help yourself with the Eraser Tool (E) with Hardness set at 100% and Flow at 100%. It’s a life saver.

Step 18

There is only one letter left in my text. It’s T, and as you can see, straight letters are easier to cover. Repeat the same process on the rest of your own text. When you’re done, take a look at the covered typography. It looks good but still lacks something.
First of all, it bothers me that this text has only one color of splashes. Second, those splashes look flat (they do not surround the text). So let’s pop them up, and give them some depth.

Step 19

Bring the original image of separated red splash in again. Hit Command + Shift + U to Desaturate it. Go to Image > Adjustments > Shadows/Highlights and give only values for the Shadows section. That is an Amount of 90% and Tonal Width of 100%. Then go to Image > Adjustments > Exposure, and you need to play around with those settings to get a good shiny, white result. Finally, touch it up with Image > Adjustments > Brightness/Contrast.

Step 20

Now we have a white splash. Name it “White splash.” Now repeat the covering process with cutting and positioning it. Remember to make a backup of this layer first. This process is up to your personal taste, you can place this layer below or above the black splashes, try to find the best looking position. All my white splashes were below black ones, as I liked it more this way.

Step 21

While creating white splashes cover, I found a good way to make the connection between the U and S letters. And in my opinion it fits really nice. So, when you’re making your own lettering design, always search for a new solution. And there is no better way than experimenting. Once again using small pieces, you can see that everything is possible.

Step 22

The variety of splashes has now a nice balance. But the image still lacks some depth. Instead of positioning those splashes behind the text, we’ll take away some letter parts to simulate the depth. This will also give a more dramatic effect to the final outcome.
Now make a duplicate (Command + J) of this “Lust” text layer. Name it “Text Pieces,” and hide this layer (simply make it invisible by clicking the eye icon). Select the “Lust” layer, add a Layer Mask to it. Change the Foreground Color to black, then grab the Brush Tool (B), and choose a nice grungy brush.
Since I’m not a brush fanatic, I mostly use standard Photoshop brushes. It’s a good way to show you that you can create something cool without having professional equipment. So I chose “Spatter 24 pixels” and brushes looking like this one. Basically, the best brush to do such a thing is a hard one with lots of sharp details.
OK, now as we have chosen the right brush, select the “Lust” Layer Mask and paint with black to cover some straight text spots. Remember to keep the brush Hardness and Flow set to the max. The arrows shown below indicate some spots that I chose to erase.

Step 23

Now recall the “Text pieces” layer (make it visible). Grab the Move Tool (V), and move this text a little more to the bottom of the image, to better see what’s going on.
We’ll work on the “Text pieces” layer. So grab the Lasso Tool (L), select each letter separately and while holding Command drag them a little, or rotate using Edit > Free Transform. After editing each letter hit Command + D to deselect the selection. Finally, grab the Move Tool (V) again and move this text back to its original place. Remember this technique, you’re gonna use it in next steps to shatter this text.

Step 24

Now let’s destroy the “Text pieces” layer the same way as the “Lust” layer text. But this time do not use a Layer Mask, instead of it, use the Eraser Tool (E) with max Hardness and Flow brushing, and just paint on the layer to erase. Choose the some grungy eraser brush (in the first image below, I point out a few brushes you may find useful). Then get rid of some parts of the rotated letters.
After erasing, go through the same process as in the step before, but this time apply it not to the whole letters, but to selected areas of the letters. So grab the Lasso Tool (L), select each letter piece separately. Next, while holding Command, drag them a little, and rotate them using Edit > Free Transform. After editing each piece, hit Command + D to deselect the selection. In the third image below, you get the idea.
This is a good way to create a destructive look, and the best part is that those shattered pieces have some nice depth. This is because they were created from styled and lightened text with a touch of 3D effect.
If something with the shatter applied to it doesn’t look right, always help yourself with the Eraser Tool (E) with 100% Hardness and 100% Flow.

Step 25

This was the most important effect, when you get the splashes and shatter effect done, it’s now heading to the finish line.
Let’s add some fantasy to this image. Create a new layer above all, name it “Line.” Change your Foreground Color to white, and make the brush size 1px big. Using the Pen Tool (P), draw a line across the whole illustration, right-click, and selected Stroke Path. Now duplicate (Command + J) this layer five to seven times. Next, position and rotate (Edit > Free Transform) those lines as you like. Also, play around with their opacities, make them fit in nicely.

Step 26

Create a new layer above all and name it “light.” Select the Brush Tool (B) with a Hardness 0%, and a very low Flow. Also, select white for the color.
Now use quite a big diameter and make one lighted dot, as shown in the first image below. Then decrease diameter size slightly and make a smaller dot (second image below). Keep decreasing the diameter size and each time make a smaller dot. And finally make a tiny, little dot in the middle of this light to simulate the shine. You can click a few times to make it brighter (fourth image below).
When you’re done make a few duplicates (Command + J) of this “Light” layer, position them wherever you like. The whole process needs to be created on one layer, do not create a new layer for each dot-brush, as it’s a waste of time.

Step 27

Now, let’s make the stars. Create a new layer above all, and leave it unnamed. Grab the Brush Tool (B) and change the brush settings to Flow 100%, Hardness 100%, and Master Diameter 1px. Make sure your Foreground Color is set to white. Now grab the Pen Tool (P) and draw line across the light. Next, right-click and select Stroke Path (make sure Simulate Pressure option is checked).
Now duplicate this layer (Command + J) and using Edit > Free Transform rotate it to create two crossing lines (second image below). Select those two lines in Layers Palette (hold Command and select each of these two layers), then hit Command + E to merge them. Name this merged layer “Star.” And use Edit > Free Transform again, to resize it down. While resizing hold Command + Shift; this will allow you retain the perfect shape.

Step 28

Make a duplicate of the “Star” layer using Command + J. Name this copy “Blur.” Go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur, and add just a touch of blur. Now duplicate (Command + J) this layer seven to eight times.
Select all these duplicates in Layers Palette (hold Command and select each of these layers), then hit Command + E to merge them. Name this merged layer “Blur” again. Now go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and add more blur than previously, but not too much (third image below). Then using Edit > Free Transform resize down this blurred layer, to create a glow effect.
When you’re done, go to the Layers Palette. While holding Command, select the “Star” and “Blur” layers, then merge them using Command + E. Name this merged layer “Star”. Duplicate it (Command + J) a few times, and it’s good to place it on every lighted spot (fifth image below).

Step 29

As a final touch up, I used the Type Tool (T) and typed on each line some thoughts connected with the main word, and gave each one a different opacity. After this, I felt like this illustration needs something more. So I went some steps back when we made the black splashes, and I used the same technique to create a new splash. To give the depth of field to this image I used one of the previous splashes and another one. I made them fairly big, and added a touch of blur (Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur).


OK, so this is the first thing I came up with is the word “lust.” Find something creative of your own and cover it with some expression. When experimenting with this, one idea will follow another, just focus on the word you’re illustrating. Thanks for reading this tutorial. I really enjoyed making it. You can view the final image below ..

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *