How to Fill Text With Images in Photoshop

CreativePro’s original feature on filling text with images has been hugely popular since it was published back in 2009. Ten years later, it’s time for a fresh take – and there’s a new way of doing it with Photoshop CC 2019.

Step 1: Choose an image

This image of a surfer is free to download, courtesy of pixabay – and you can download it here. It’s an ideal background image.

Step 2: Add your text

Choose a bold, ideally sans serif font. Thin fonts won’t work nearly as well, as you won’t be able to see enough of the background through them. Here, I’ve added the word SURF in Acumin Condensed Black.

Step 3: Tighten it up

To avoid getting big gaps between the letters, it’s worth bringing them close together. With the Type tool, click between each pair of letters and use the shortcut alt + left cursor key to bring the letters towards each other.

Step 4: Move the background

Double-click the background layer to turn it into a regular layer, then drag it above the type layer. Choose Layer > Create Clipping Mask, or use the shortcut Command Option G / Ctrl Alt G. Here’s how the Layers Panel should now look – that little arrow to the left of the background shows it’s using the type as a clipping mask.

Step 5: The result

Here’s how it looks: the background will only show up where it overlaps the text.

Step 6: Add a new background

That checkerboard background appeared when you turned the original background into a regular layer. Make a new layer, and choose Layer > New > Background from Layer. This will give you a new white background. But the surfer is positioned a little awkwardly.

Step 7: Move the background

You can move the surfer layer independently of the text, and it will move inside it. Here, I’ve moved it so that the surfer is fully visible inside the letter R.

Step 8: A different approach

In this version, we’re going to make a word stand up on top of the background. This image of a forest comes from Wikipedia, and you can download it here.

Step 9: Add your text

As before, create your text in a bold sans serif font. Position it towards the top of the image.

Step 10: Add a blank area

Make a new layer beneath the text layer, and sketch out a rectangle with the Rectangular Marquee tool, covering all the text. Press D to make your foreground and background colors the default black and white, then use Command Backspace / Ctrl Backspace to fill the selection with the background color.

Step 11: Duplicate the background

Select the background layer and use Command J / Ctrl J to duplicate it to a new layer. Drag it to the top of the layers stack, above the Type layer, then use Command Option G / Ctrl Alt G to use the type layer as a clipping mask.

Step 12: The result

The top of the forest now blends into the lettering, with the bottom part fully visible below it.

Step 13: The Photoshop CC approach

Photoshop CC 2019 has a new and easier way of producing this technique. We’ll use this image of London from Wikipedia, which you can download here.

Step 14: Add your text

Add the text as before. I’ve set the word London so that the ascender of the ‘d’ lines up with the clock tower.

Step 15: Make a frame

Select the text layer, and choose Layer > New > Convert to Frame. As it’s a text layer, it will use the text as its name.

Step 16: The frame layer

Here’s how the frame layer looks: you can just make out the text as blue outlines.

Step 17: Put the background in the frame

Double-click the background layer to make it into a regular layer, and Photoshop will automatically put it into the frame. Your Layers Panel will now show just one layer.

Step 18: The result

Here’s how it looks: the background is now incorporated within the text layer. You’ll see a thick gray border around the layer when it’s selected, but that won’t appear when you choose a different layer or save the file.

Step 19: Moving the content around

The layer consists of two parts: the frame and the content. If you select the frame, on the left, then you’ll move the type along with its contents. But if you select the contents, on the right, then you can move (and scale) the background inside the type.

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Posted on: May 20, 2019

Steve Caplin

Steve is a freelance writer, artist and designer, and the author of over a dozen books, including the popular How to Cheat in Photoshop series and the Amazon #1 best-seller Dad Stuff. His training videos can be seen on lynda.com, Retouch Pro and elsewhere.

5 Comments on How to Fill Text With Images in Photoshop

  1. Thank you. Always good to see old/new features together.

  2. Nifty trick. But I had to drag the unlocked background layer onto the type layer for this to work. Double-clicking did not automatically merge the layers. Did I miss something? Seems pretty simple. I tried Option and Shift -double clicking and that didn’t work either. I’m on PS version 20.0.4. Thanks.

    • Hi Nick – it seems you’re right: you have to drag the background into the frame layer after you’ve made it into a regular layer. Strange, the first time I tried this it worked automatically. Oh well. Still, not a major problem.

  3. You didn’t mention the method using “knockout” in the layer options.

  4. I'm Basil,and I don't sense orbit

    July 10, 2019 at 10:20 am

    (:Reuploading:) You didn’t mention the method using “knockout” in the layer options.

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