In this tutorial I will explain how to realize funny letters that look like broken plates. We will start in Illustrator modifying the original font, then we will switch to Photoshop in order to play with textures and layer styles. Also we will deal with selection tools and simple methods to create 3d illusion always in Photoshop.

Step 1
The idea is simple: we have to create letters that look like plates, then realize the broken effect. So create a new document in Photoshop (mine is 1920×1200 pixels with resolution 72pixels/inch) and add a gradient overlay going from a light grey (#979797) to a darker one (#0e0e0e).

*Note for Mac users: Ctrl=cmd

broken plate text

Step 2
The texture used for the background is taken from our Wooden grunge textures set. This set contains 8 high-resolution textures that I obtained by combining wood and grunge images in Photoshop. Merge a texture of your choice into the canvas and, if necessary, re-size and rotate it (Ctrl+T).

broken plate text

Step 3
Desaturate the texture (Shift+Ctrl+U) and set the layer blending mode to overlay with opacity 70%.

broken plate text

Step 4
To complete the background, add a gradient map layer (Layer>New Adjustment Layer>Gradient Map) going from a light brown (#c8ab85) to a darker one (#371c04). Set this layer to overlay. At this point you can select and group (Ctrl+G) all the layers of the background.

broken plate text

Step 5
Before creating the “plate styled” letters, let’s see how these letters should be illustrated with the help of some reference images.

broken plate text

As you can notice from the following images, we have to create letters characterized by 2 shapes: a border, and the central area.

broken plate text

It’s difficult to create 2 shapes like the ones shown above – one shape inside the other and with the borders of the 2 shapes equidistant – in Photoshop. In example, if we create a letter B in Photoshop, and then we select its pixels and go to Select>Modify>Contract to create the inner shape, the result is not satisfactory (screenshot below). While if you copy and paste the letter and then re-size the copy, the borders of the 2 letters are not equidistant. You could try to create the inner shape with the Pen tool…but it’s so laborious! This is why we will use Illustrator for this purpose.

broken plate text

Step 6
Create a new document in Illustrator, the size is not important. Then write something, (“broken” in my case) using a rounded font. I’ve used Junegull, that is a cool free font. Font size is 200pt.

broken plate text

Step 7
Go to Type>Create Outlines to turn the letters into shapes. Then press Ctrl+G to ungroup the letters so you can work with each letter without problems.

With the Pen tool (P), create 2 shapes so that cover the letter apertures:

broken plate text

Step 8
Select the letter B and the two shapes, then press the unite button from the pathfinder (Window>Pathfinder) to create a unique shape.

broken plate text

Do the same with the letters R and O.

broken plate text

Step 9
Select the letter B. Here is the trick to create the inner shape: go to Object>Path>Offset Path and enter -10 as value and Round as joins option.

broken plate text

Step 10
We’ve so created the two shapes that we need for the first letter. We have to import them in Photoshop. Start with the first shape. Select it, press Ctrl+C, then switch to the Photoshop document and press Ctrl+V.

broken plate text

Do the same with the second shape (I’ve used a different color so you can easily recognize the 2 shape).

How to align two shapes? In order to align 2 or more shapes in Photoshop, you have to select them from the layers window, then use the align tool in the option bar (top).

broken plate text

Step 11
Select both the shapes, press ctrl+T and enlarge them. Then put them on the left. Hide the visibility of the inner shape. We will start modifying the larger one.

broken plate text

Step 12
Right-click on the layer thumb and select blending options to get access to the styles. Take in mind the photo we’ve seen before of the plates. This shape will be used to create the border.

Let’s start by adding a linear gradient going from #f9f5f2 to #e3e0db.

broken plate text

Then select Bevel&Emboss to add depth to the letter:

broken plate text

Finally add a soft inner shadow:

broken plate text

Step 13
Now make visible the inner shape and again open the blending options window. Start by adding a gradient going from #e3e0db to #e8e5e0.

broken plate text

Secondly select Bevel and Emboss with the following settings:

broken plate text

Step 14
Now that the styles are complete, select both the layers and press Alt+Ctrl+E to merge them into a new layer. From now go on, we will use only this layer, so hide the visibility of the 2 shapes layers. It’s time to realize the broken effect. With the pen tool in Paths mode create a path that covers the first piece you want to cut out. Notice how the path follows the form of the “plate”.

broken plate text

Press Ctrl+Enter to activate the selection, then press Shift+Ctrl+J to cut out the piece into a new layer.

broken plate text

Step 15
Repeat the same method to create different pieces, then move the layers at your pleasure to create a distance between them.

broken plate text

Step 16
Select one of the piece layer, press Ctrl+T to activate the Free Transform Tool and rotate it a little bit. Do the same with the other layers, so the final result will look more realistic.

broken plate text

Step 17
The technique to add the 3d illusion is very simple. Select one of the plate piece layers. Duplicate it by pressing ctrl+J, then move the duplicated layer below the original one. Press 3 times the bottom arrow on your keyboard to move down the layer.

broken plate text

Add a dark grey (#83817f) color overlay and a drop shadow to finalize the effect.

broken plate text

broken plate text

Step 18
Do the same with the other pieces. While necessary, zoom in and create small shapes with the Pen tool (P) in Shape layers mode to join the layers above with the ones below.

Here is the first letter:

broken plate text

Step 19
Now that you’ve learned the technique, you can apply it to create the other letters and finalize the composition. The process, as you have noticed, is very simple. So give a try and share your result with a link in the comments!

This is mine:

broken plate text