Graphic Design: Create a Liquid Ink Effect

Intermediate level Adobe Photoshop Adobe Photoshop


When starting a new project, I always wonder which tools I’d need to carry it out. We often step back and don’t deal with projects because they look too complicated to accomplish when we take a look at the final result. For this project, you’ll only need a bit of patience and some knowledge of the basic Photoshop's tools. No excuses: you can start out your own project right now! Are you in?

The first thing we need to do is select the topic we'll be working with in our design. We have to look for a visual element that can be easily intertwined with the graphic resources and the text. I decided that I wanted to use smoke. For this tutorial, I've used a Freepik image that you can find in the attachments tab, or you can download  it clicking on here. You can also try out other pictures or messages to obtain different results. If you are not sure about something throughout the course, remember that you can ask in the forum. When you finish the tutorial, share the result with us by creating a project so that the Tutpad community can see how your work was and how well you coped with the techniques.


Some things to consider before starting

Step 1

It's very important that, before working on the document, we take some things into consideration. Is our project destined for the Web and social media? If so, we'll create a document with RGB color mode and a resolution of 96 ppi. On the other hand, if you want to print the project, you should choose the CMYK color mode and at least a resolution of 254 ppi.

Before working on any project, it's crucial that you define the color mode and the resolution. You'll avoid issues later on and you'll be able to see how the final colors will look like.

Step 2

Let's create a new document. First, you'll need to create it (Ctrl / Cmd + N) using either the same size as the image you're going to use, or the size you'd like the project to be. For this design, I decided to create a document that has the same size as the image I'm going to use (4500x3289 px). Then, to insert our image in the artboard, we can go to File → Place Embedded or, while having the document open, we can drag the image to it.


Another way to do this is going to the folder where you have your image and then right-clicking → Open with → Adobe Photoshop.


Step 3

As you can see, this picture has some stains that could get in our way while creating the design. In this case, as we have a white background, we just need to paint over them with the Healing Brush Tool (or even the Brush Tool and using the same white color as the background). After getting rid of those stains, we would be ready to edit our image. 


We're good to go!

Creating the outer frame 

Step 1

Create a square in the center of our image. It should cover most of our design, but there should be some parts of the ink sticking out of it. For this, I opted for a 1950x1950 px square, with a 70 px inner stroke painted with orange (#e9a74c).



Step 2

Create a layer mask, from which we'll be erasing the excess parts so that the smoke and the square look like they're intertwining. To create the layer mask, select the frame layer and click the button that looks like a circle within a rectangle, located in the lower part of the Layers panel.


Step 3

With the layer mask selected, take the brush with black color and begin to delete the excess parts. We could also do this with the Eraser Tool, but this would prevent us from going back if we made a mistake. So it's better to work with layer masks, as we would be doing a non-destructive editing. This means that we can go back to a previous state anytime. If you need to better see which parts you must paint over, reduce the opacity of the frame layer and/or use the selection tools to select the clipping parts as precise as possible. 


You can do these adjustments in as many ink stains as you want, but the result should look like this:


Adding the text

Step 1

Let's type in the text we're going to use in our design. In this case, it will be the word "Smoke", using the Bebas Neue Bold font. Don't worry about the size or the color. 


Step 2

Now, make sure that the text is properly written. After that, right-click on the text layer and select "Convert to Shape".


Once the text has been converted to shape, increase the size until it is big enough to cover the design. 


Step 3

With the Path Selection Tool (A), individually select every letter and distribute them all over the design. 


As I said before, you can adjust this as you wish. In this case, I decided to leave the design as seen in the following image, because I'll have great flexibility that way.


Step 4

Now, as we did with the frame layer, select the text, create a layer mask and adjust it to the image. 


Once you have a result that you like, you can adjust the image to give it more realism.


Adding shadows

Step 1

Create an empty layer just below the one where you have the text and then, with the brush and black color, paint the shadow that each letter should project on the ink or on the frame. An easy way to do this would be, while holding the Control key, to click on the layer mask that we have on the text layer, paint with black all over the selection and, when it is fully painted, press Control + D to unselect it. Finally, go to Filter → Blur → Gaussian Blur. With this, we'll simulate a black shadow around our figure. Then, we would only need to delete the excess parts (you can do so with the Eraser Tool or, as we've been doing so far, with a layer mask).


Step 2

With the previous step, we finally have all the shadows from the text. To get the shadows from the smoke parts that overlap the frame or the text, create a new empty layer. Then, grab the Brush Tool (B) and paint around the outline of the figure. You can try and make the shadow directly over the specific area or you can use the selection tools, just like we did in previous steps.


With this, we would have already finished the editing proper. We would only need to keep adjusting the colors to our liking.


Final color touches

Step 1

To adjust the colors of the image, let's use solid color layers. We'll begin by adjusting the background color. As it is white, it could be interesting if you place the solid color layer below it and set the original layer's blending mode to Multiply. For the background, I used the #fff0b3 color.


To create this solid color layer, we have two options:

Click on Layer → New Fill Layer → Solid Color…


Or click the button that looks like a black-and-white circle, located in the menu bar of the Layers panel, and select Solid Color…


Now, repeat these steps with the text and the shadow. 

Step 2

To color the text, create a new solid color layer, but this time place it above the text layer. You'll see how the solid color layer paints with white everything that is below it, not letting you see anything. To make this layer affect just the one below it, which in this case is the layer text, place the cursor between the adjustment layer and the image and, while holding the Alt key, just click. With this, the white solid color layer will only affect the text layer. 


Step 3

Now, repeat the previous step, applying it to the two shadow layers. Using black for shadows is not always the best option, so I'll change them to a brown color. To be specific, #6b4610.


Step 4

Even though this step is optional, I recommend organizing and naming the layers in a proper way so that we know all the time what does each one and whether we need to delete any of them. 


End result 

OK, our work is done. You can always go over the shadows again or add new ones if you think your project needs so. I hope you found it easy to follow this tutorial. You can write any doubts that you may have during the project, so I can help you. Now, the only thing left is to share with us your end result by going to the "Create a project" tab. See you in the next tutorial! :)


What do you think of this tutorial?


Give your images an ink effect with this tutorial, in which we'll be learning to intertwine elements within an image in order to get a really cool and eye-catching result. So, what are you waiting for?

Tut Details

Intermediate level 30m 7,310 views