One of the many great things about Photoshop is that you can start with a basic idea and then just start experimenting (a.k.a. playing) to see what you get. Although the following technique was originally designed to make water droplets (and discovered through playing—I mean experimenting), it’s easy to apply the same idea to type and graphics of any kind.
1 MAKE NEW DOCUMENT; ADD GRADIENT
Create a new document in the size you need and fill the Background layer with a color or a gradient. In this case, we used the Gradient tool (G) with two shades of blue. To create a custom gradient, click on the gradient preview thumbnail in the Options Bar to open the Gradient Editor. Double-click on the color stops below the gradient bar to change their colors and click OK. With the Gradient tool, click-and-drag from the left edge of the document to the right edge.
2 ADD STRIPES; FLATTEN LAYERS
We need to add a series of slightly darker stripes. Click the Create a New Layer icon, choose the Rectangular Marquee tool (M), drag out a selection across your background, and fill it with a darker color. Press Command-J (PC: Ctrl-J) around 10 times (depending on the size of your document), then using the Move tool (V), Shift-drag each of the darker stripes to a new location, leaving space between. Do this until your document is filled with the alternating pattern. Select all of the stripe layers, then click the Distribute Top Edges icon in the Options Bar. Choose Layer>Merge Down, and change the blend mode to Overlay.
3 DRAW CIRCULAR SELECTIONS
Go to Layer>Flatten Image to merge all of your elements into the Background layer. Click on the Create a New Layer icon in the Layers panel. On the new layer, draw a few circular marquee selections using the Elliptical Marquee tool. To draw multiple selections, hold down the Shift key. (Tip: To reposition a selection while you’re drawing it, press-and-hold the Spacebar make sure you’re still pressing the mouse button, move the selection to the desired location, release the Spacebar, and then finish drawing your selection.)
4 USE LAYER STYLES TO ADD DIMENSION
Fill the selections with any color and then in the Layers panel, lower the Fill opacity to 0%. Click the Add a Layer Style icon at the bottom of the Layers panel and select Bevel and Emboss. Experiment with the Depth, Size, and Soften settings to create a soft edge. (We used Style: Inner Bevel; Technique: Smooth; Depth: 61; Direction: Up; Size: 24; and Soften: 14.) Change the Shadow Mode to Soft Light and click its color swatch and change it to white. (Optional: Change the Gloss Contour to add to the effect: here we used Rounded Steps.) Click OK.
5 CREATE A “DROPLET BRUSH”
Click on the Brush tool (B) and then use the Brushes panel (Window>Brushes) to edit the brush settings. Start with a 35-pixel hard-edged brush, click on Brush Tip Shape, and change the Spacing to 95%. Then in Shape Dynamics, change the Size Jitter to 50%, Minimum Diameter to 10%, Angle Jitter to 25%, and Roundness Jitter to 50%. In Scattering, use a high value for the Scatter (we used 650%), a Count of 2, and a Count Jitter of around 40%. Of course these are just guidelines: take advantage of the preview at the bottom of the panel to tweak your results.
6 PAINT IN SOME DROPLETS
On the layer where you originally created the ovals, press Command-A (PC: Ctrl-A) to select the shapes and then press Delete (PC: Backspace) to delete them. Now you can paint with your new droplet brush. (Since the Bevel and Emboss style is active on this layer, your brush shapes will automatically have the look we want.) (Note: Make sure that the blend mode of the brush is set to Normal in the Options Bar and that the Opacity and Flow are both set to 100%.)
7 ADD TEXT
Use the Type tool (T) to add some text using a handwriting- or grungy-style of typeface (we used A Bite, available from www.dafont.com). Hold down Option (PC: Alt) and click-and-hold on the word “Effects” under the droplet layer in the Layers panel and drag it onto the type layer (to copy the Bevel and Emboss layer style). Lower the Fill opacity of the type layer to 0%. If necessary, double-click on the Bevel and Emboss effect to adjust the settings for the type layer. In this example, we lowered the Size and Soften settings and set the Contour setting back to Linear.
8 MASK PORTIONS OF THE TYPE LAYER
If you used a smooth-style typeface as shown in this example, you’ll want to beat up the text a little to add to the water effect. Click on the Add Layer Mask icon at the bottom of the Layers panel to add a layer mask to the type layer. With your Foreground color set to black and a small round brush (not the droplet brush), paint over several areas of the type to create gaps in the text.
9 LIQUIFY THE BACKGROUND
To add to the look, we’ll liquify the areas under the droplets. First, hold down Command (PC: Ctrl) and click on the thumbnail of the droplets layer to load these shapes as selections. Then hold down Shift-Command (PC: Shift-Ctrl) and click on the type layer thumbnail to add the text to the selection. With the Background layer active, choose Filter>Liquify. Liquify will open with a mask based on your selection. Use the Forward Warp and Bloat tools to paint over the droplets to distort the stripes.
10 ADD OTHER ELEMENTS TO COMPLETE LOOK
In our final example, we added additional text and an image to create an ad for bottled water. I encourage you to experiment with this technique on objects, as well. Just use the Marquee tool to select any object, such as a person or can of soda, and then drag-and-drop the selection onto your striped background. After creating a layer and filling the selection with a color, lower the Fill Opacity to 0% and copy the droplet layer style onto this layer. Then added a few more drops with your droplet brush as needed.