Create a realistic folded paper text in Photoshop

Step 1

Create a new document in Photoshop. Mine is 1920×1200 pixels and, since the work is destined to be a wallpaper, the resolution is 72 pixels/inch.

*note for Mac users: ctrl=cmd, alt=option

folded paper text effect

Step 2

Fill the background with a dark green (#41514c).

folded paper text effect

Step 3

To create the textured effect of the background, I’ve used 2 of our soft grunge patterns created by Piervincenzo. Create a new layer and go to Edit>Fill. Open the patterns library and click on the small arrow on the top right of the window. Then click on load and select the soft grunge pattern file (.pat) you’ve just downloaded. In case you are not a member, you can try with soft grunge textures to achieve the same result.

folded paper text effect

Select the pattern2_380_hard and press ok to fill the background.

folded paper text effect

Finally set the layer to overlay with opacity 50%.

folded paper text effect

Step 4

Create another layer, this time fill it with pattern_9_380_hard.

folded paper text effect

Press ctrl+I to invert the colors of the layer and shift+ctrl+U to desaturate it.

folded paper text effect

Set the layer to screen with opacity 70%.

folded paper text effect

Step 5

Now that the background is complete, we can start with the letters. The process to create each letter is the same, so I will show you how I created the first letter and you can apply the same method for the others.

You need a bold sans serif font. I’ve used Nevis, which is an awesome free font. With the Horizontal type tool, write the first letter, which is F in my case. Font size is 260pt, but it depends by the size of your canvas.

folded paper text effect

Press ctrl+T to activate the Free Transform tool and rotate a bit the letter. By rotating with different angles all the letters, we will obtain a final result more realistic.

folded paper text effect

Duplicate the letter layer by pressing ctrl+J. Move this layer below the original one and hide its visibility. We will use it later to create the shadow effect.

folded paper text effect

Step 6

Add a light grey (#f6f6f6) color overlay to the letter (right click on the layer thumb>Blending Options>Color overlay).

folded paper text effect

For the next steps, we need to remove the style because we will use the dodge and burn tool, and they are not visible with the style active. So we need a layer with the shape of the grey letter F, but without any style. There’s a trick to obtain this result. Simply create a new blank layer, then select the new layer and the letter one, and merge them (ctrl+E). Done!

folded paper text effect

Step 7

With the pen tool in path mode, make a path as shown in the screenshot below:

folded paper text effect

Press ctrl+enter to activate the selection.

folded paper text effect

By pressing ctrl+J, you will copy the selected part of the shape into a new layer. Now you should have a layer with the entire letter shape, and a second one with only the shape previously selected:

folded paper text effect

Step 8

We have to remove the small shape from the letter. The aim is to have a layer with the small shape (that we already have) and a layer with the letter without the small shape. To do it, select the layer of the letter, then ctrl+click on the layer of the small shape to select its pixels. Hold down alt and press the “add layer mask button”. Finally hit ctrl+D to deselect.

folded paper text effect

Do you want to learn more about Photoshop layer masks? Check out this tutorial for Photoshop beginners.

Step 9

If you hide the visibility of the small shape layer, you can notice a white edge that we need to remove:

folded paper text effect

To remove it, select the mask, grab a black brush and paint over it.

folded paper text effect

Step 10

Make visible and select the small shape layer. Then go to Edit>Transform>Distort and drag the top-left anchor point a little bit to the right-bottom.

folded paper text effect

You can notice there’s a space between the small shape and the letter. To join the two shapes, select the mask of the letter, grab a white brush and paint over that space.

folded paper text effect

Step 11

While creating the folded effect, we have to take in mind the light direction. I decided that light comes from the top-right, so the folded piece of paper we’ve just created has to be lighter than the letter one. So with the transformed piece of paper selected, grab the Dodge tool (set on highlights) and paint over it.

folded paper text effect

Now select the main letter layer, grab the Burn tool, and paint over the area that confine to the folded paper piece, so to create a gentle shadow effect.

folded paper text effect

Step 12

With the same method applied to create the first folded paper effect, create a second piece of paper on the top right, this time use the burn tool over it.

folded paper text effect

Step 13

We have to create the shadow of this piece of paper. So with the pen tool in “shape layers” mode, create a shape as shown in the screenshot below:

folded paper text effect

Go to Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur and enter a radius around 2 px.

folded paper text effect

Reduce the opacity to 10% to make the effect softer.

folded paper text effect

Step 14

Select all the paper layers created till now and merge them. Now, do you remember the copy of the letter we made at the beginning (step 5)? As I wrote, we are going to use it to create the shadow effect. So make visible this layer and add a black color overlay to it.

folded paper text effect

Go to Edit>Transform>Distort and stretch the shadow as shown in the screenshot below:

folded paper text effect

Go to Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur and enter a radius around 5px.

folded paper text effect

Finally reduce the opacity to 30% and use the erase tool or a mask if you prefer to eliminate some parts of the shadow.

folded paper text effect

Step 15

As the final touch, we will use a texture to create the wrinkled paper effect. For this purpose I’ve used on of our paper textures, paper1.jpg. Paste the texture inside the document, re-size (ctrl+T) and desaturate it (shift+ctrl+U). Then if you switch the layer to multiply, you will eliminate the white areas and will see how the texture will affect the letter:

folded paper text effect

Once you’re satisfied, ctrl+click on the letter layer (all the layers merged together) to select its pixels and add a layer mask to the texture. Also if you want the effect stronger, duplicate the texture layer.

folded paper text effect

Step 16

This is the technique to create all the letters. Just play with the letter angulations and the opacity of the shadows to complete the word or the phrase. This is my result:

folded paper text effect

Step 17

As the last touch, merge all the layers into a new layer (select all the layers and press shift+alt+ctrl+E), then go to Filter>Render>Lighting Effects and set a lighting coming from the top-right.

folded paper text effect

Step 18

Set the layer to color burn and reduce the opacity to 60%. We’ve finished! I hope you’ve enjoyed this tutorial.

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