Rain Drops

A Rain Drops Effect
Original BG image created by Greg Vander Houwen
Note: This tutorial was specifically designed for users of Photoshop 5 or 5.5. This is a reworking of Greg Vander Houwen's PS6 version. So if you're using version 6 or newer, please go to PhotoshopTechniques.com. That is where you'll find Greg's version, done for PS6.
Someone asked Greg for a PS5 version, so I offered to create one. For those that don't know it, the filters used for this are different in PS5 than in PS6.

Ok lets start by having you right-click on this sample background image provided here (below) and choose 'Save Target As...'. Then open the image into Photoshop. Don't worry, it's much larger than it looks here

Raindrops background image

Step 1
Ok, there's just a couple things you'll need to do to prepare before creating this effect. The first one being, create some text... anything will do. Hey I know! Why not just use the same text I did?! 'Rain Drops'.

Pick a normal, thin to medium thickness font - I used one called 'Poetry'. It's a little cartoonish looking in it's normal state. And use a straight-edged font if you can ok (sans serif). PC users can use 'Arial Round' and Mac users can use a roundish version of 'Helvetica' if they have it. If not, just use something with a thin, round quality to it's look. For the size of document we have, use something near 150 for the font size. And also within the Type Tool window, set the 'Leading' to about 80, and the 'Tracking' to about -10. All we want is for our words to get close to each other. If parts of our letters are actually touching, then that's even better. That'll create a nice effect.

Before we get to applying the effect, we need to make our text look as if we used our finger to spell out a word. Or at least something along that line.

When you have the text done, change your Foreground color to a middle gray - 50% gray actually. Click on your Foreground color swatch and in the RGB text boxes put the number 128; in ALL of the boxes. Why this color you ask? Great question I say! Because of the type of filters we'll be using and their specific kind of settings - i.e. to create transparency - we need our text (and any other shape we'll use) to be a neutral color, that will not have a visible effect in our image when we set it to Hard Light mode. And only a 50% gray color will give us that. I bet you're glad you asked that now, huh?!

Good, now Fill your text with the 50% gray color. Just press Alt/Option+Delete. Or use the Fill command under the Edit menu.

Step 2
Now, we'll mess up our text a little, using another couple of filters.
Messing Up the Text
Create a new layer, and fill it with white. Move this new layer to just below the type layer. Activate the type layer again by clicking on it, then press Ctrl/Cmd+E to merge the type layer down into the white layer.

Open the Filter menu and choose Pixelate/Crystallize... When the filter opens, set the amount to 6, then click OK. (This number can vary depending on the size of your text. Larger type needs a higher setting, and vice versa.)

Apply a 3 pixel Gaussian Blur to the layer now.
Press Ctrl/Cmd+L now to open the Levels filter.
Drag the black arrow to the right, and stop at about 140; watch the Input Levels at the top of the window. Then move the white arrow to the left to about 150. Click OK if your text looks clean again. The edges MUST be clean, sharp and hard looking. If they look a bit blurry still, just continue to move either the black or white arrow inward until the edges become sharpen.

We need to remove the white from the layer now.
Grab the Magic Wand selection tool. In the Options for this tool, make sure that 'Anti-Aliasing' is ticked ON, and the 'Contiguous' option is unticked. Tolerance is 0 (zero), and 'Use All Layers' is OFF (unticked). Click the wand on the white color in the image. Then hit Delete, and deselect (Ctrl/Cmd+D).

Your text should be black now, right? We need it to be 50% gray remember? But leave it black for now. In a few minutes, you'll see exactly why we need it to be 50% gray .

T I P: If your text still looks a little too thick, and has no visible breaks in any of the letters, you might still be able to create some. Open the Filter menu again and choose OTHER/Maximum... Set it to only 1 or 2 pixels. If this helps, then click OK. You want to create some small broken areas in your text. So use whatever pixel number gives you that effect. Use your own judgment here. And if this filter doesn't help, then try using the Eraser tool, with a hard-edged brush to manually create spots in your text where the letters get thinner, and even break open. Oh and... make sure you can still read what the word says! ;)>

And that's all the prep work you'll need.
It's time to create the effect...

Step 3
There's not a lot to tell you about creating the actual effect. And that's because it's created using the 'Layer Effects' filters. So basically, I'll be giving you the settings I used in each filter, and then you can go through each filter yourself and explore exactly why each one produces the effect it does, and makes ordinary color shape turn into gentle little rain drops.
    Highlight: Mode=Overlay / Color=white
    Shadow: Mode=Color Dodge / Color=white
    Style: Inner Bevel
    Angle: 110 / 'Use Global Angle' is ticked ON
    Depth: 4 pixels / Tick the DOWN option on
    Blur: 4 pixels

    Mode: Soft Light / Color=black
    Opacity: 25%
    Angle: 110 / 'Use Global Angle' is ticked ON
    Distance: 5 pixels
    Blur: 2 pixels
    Intensity: 0%

    Mode: Color Burn / Color=black
    Opacity: 60%
    Blur: 2 pixels
    Intensity: 20%
    Tick the EDGE option on.

Ok so now we have the general effect done. To make the effect transparent, set the type layer's Blend Mode to Hard Light instead of Normal.

Hey the text is still black, and there's no effect on it?! What gives?!
Ok now this is where you need to refill your text with a 50% gray color; like we did in the beginning. As soon as you do that, you'll see what I was talking about earlier. And the text should then look transparent.

Step 4
One final step to help embellish the effect.
Duplicate the text layer, and set the dupe to Overlay Blend Mode. Then reduce the original text layer's Opacity down to only 25%.
And now the text should be finished.

If you're going to add water drops around your text, then you can just use the single layer, set to Hard Light Blend Mode, and 100% Opacity. We doubled the text layer because the text has more surface area, and we wanted it to have a slight highlight discoloration around the edges of the letters. Water drops would generally be too small to produce this effect. However, you're more than welcome to use 2 layers for the water drops if you like.

One thing I will tell you, that I enjoy a lot about using these 'Layer Effect' filters, is that you can create a new empty layer, then apply any of these filters, and THEN grab a brush and start painting on the canvas. You'll see the filter get applied to the paint in real-time. It's quite a thing to see happen when you have the filters setup to produce a 3D effect - like this rain drops effect.

After you've created the effect, and have seen how it works, create a new blank layer. Then right-click (MAC: ctrl-click) on the effects icon at the right side of your previous layer, choose 'Copy Effects', and then right-click on your new empty layer and choose 'Paste Effects'. Now grab a hard-edged brush and begin painting on the layer with any color You should see your paint strokes immediately have the layer effects applied to them.

Experiment with this stuff. It can be quite entertaining AND a good learning exercise.

That's all for now.

Copyright © Mark Anthony Larmand
For help, advice, tips and tricks, challenges, feel free to visit our Photoshop forum

Free Photoshop Resource