Recipe 4.3. Creating a neon sign

Of all forms of lighting and illumination, neon is arguably the most evocative. The result of applying an electrical charge to a tube filled with the inert gas, neon, is a light that glows with vibrancy and color. The effect of these lights, synonymous with night clubs, late-night cafés, and the famous gambling strips of Las Vegas, is relatively easy to recreate in Photoshop.

Many tutorials tell us that this can be done using the Glow family of Layer Styles, and while this is true to some extent, the effects produced with those techniques tend to lack subtlety. Here, we're going to use a less automated method, but one that produces far more realistic results.

The key to the technique is the Type tool. With this tool, we can establish the framework for the individual letters and generate pixel-accurate selections that can then be stroked with color. The Gaussian Blur filter is called into service to supply the glow around the tubes of light, and we'll also tailor the perspective of the newly created sign with the Transform function to seamlessly fit it into the image.

Once the essentials of the technique have been mastered, the potential for creating custom neon elements to add to digital photographs is almost limitless.

1 Open the nighttime street ...

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