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InStep: Creating Mosaic Tile Effects with Illustrator & Photoshop

CreativePro Magazine Issue #1 coverThis article appeared in Issue 1 of CreativePro Magazine.

The subway system in New York (and, indeed, like that of many cities around the world) is known for the tiled signs that display the names of the stations. In the example below, showing the mosaic at Carroll Street Station in Brooklyn, the text is three tiles thick throughout.

Wall of subway tiles with "Carroll St."

(Image courtesy of Ben Franske, under Creative Commons.)

Creating this effect is a somewhat tricky procedure, as each letter has to be drawn by hand as simple outlines. But as the effect is more hand-lettered than mechanically typographic, any vagaries in the letterforms only add to the overall effect.

In this tutorial, you’ll start creating the artwork in Illustrator, as that program allows you to run a pattern along a path. After you’ve created the basic text, you’ll take it into Photoshop for modification. Grab on to something; here we go.

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Steve Caplin is a freelance photomontage artist based in London, whose satirical illustrations have appeared in newspapers and magazines around the world. He is the author of the best-selling How to Cheat in Photoshop, as well as 100% Photoshop, Art & Design in Photoshop and 3D Photoshop. He writes regularly for CreativePro and is an instructor at LinkedIn Learning. His YouTube channel 2 Minute Photoshop is a library of over 100 Photoshop tutorials, each just two minutes long, hosted at When he’s not at his computer Steve builds improbable furniture, which can be seen at