Illustration • How-To How to Make Spray-Painted Type in Adobe Photoshop

Add a handmade touch to decorative text.

See how Erica Larson creates a dissolving text effect with Photoshop’s blend modes and blur filters.

Photograph of Erica Larson

Graphic artist Erica Larson dreams up inspired designs every day as an associate creative director on the Adobe Studio team. In other words, she makes stuff that makes others want to make stuff.

Decorative white ampersand with spray-paint effect applied on a black background and Adobe Photoshop icon in the lower left

Take a one-minute look at Larson’s technique in this video; the steps are written out below.

Before You Start

Use this sample file if you’d like, or practice with your own. Sync your favorite font from Adobe Fonts before you try this technique. The font used in this tutorial is Blenny Black.

Step 1: Convert the Type

Larson used the Type tool to add an ampersand (using the Blenny Black font with anti-aliasing set to Smooth). Then she right-clicked the type layer and converted it to a Smart Object so she could add special effects.

Type tool icon shows in upper left, white ampersand in the middle, and Layers panel with type layer highlighted

Step 2: Dissolve the Layer

To create the scattered-paint look, Larson set the blend mode for the type layer to Dissolve. (The change is not noticeable yet.)

White ampersand is on a black background & Layers panel shows the ampersand is a smart object and Dissolve blend mode is set

Step 3: Set the Blur Points

Larson used the Field Blur tool (Filter > Blur Gallery > Field Blur) to selectively apply different spatter effects. When she used the tool, Photoshop placed the first pin automatically. Larson moved the pin, and then she added a second pin to the upper right and increased the blur amount.

Blur tools panel to the right of the ampersand, one blur pin is on the ampersand and a second is just outside on the right

Step 4: Make It Blurrier

By the time she’d finished, Larson had added multiple pins, each with different blur amounts, to emphasize the effect on the outer edges of the ampersand.

4 blur tool pins appear on the ampersand and 3 are just beyond the edges

Step 5: Choose a Soft Brush

Next, Larson selected the Brush tool to add a bit more detail. She chose a Soft Round brush and reduced its opacity.

Brush options panel appears over the white ampersand with the soft round brush selected and set to size 300 and opacity 15%

Step 6: Add Grit

Larson wanted to create a distressed look, so she added a layer mask to the type layer. Then she painted with a black brush on the mask to reveal the dissolved pattern on parts of the ampersand.

Layers panel shows layer mask on the ampersand and the color swatch shows black is selected

Step 7: Soften the Edges

As a final touch, Larson right-clicked to convert the layer to a Smart Object and set the blend mode to Normal. Then, she used a Gaussian Blur (Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur) to soften the edges.

Gaussian blur dialog shows Radius set to .5 points

Disintegrate Your Designs

Save the paint cans and create your own spray-painted designs in Photoshop.

Ampersand with spray paint effects applied displays on a wall in a living room scene

Note: Project files included with this tutorial are for practice purposes only.

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