How To Place Text Behind an Object in Photoshop

In this tutorial, you will learn how to easily place text behind an object in Photoshop!

This is a popular text effect often used in magazines and movie posters.

In this Photoshop tutorial, you will learn how to easily recreate the text behind a person’s effect using non-destructive techniques. The example below shows you the image that we’re going to work with, and what the text will look like behind the model.

Text Behind Person in Photoshop

This is a straightforward tutorial that will teach you about selections, Layer Masks, and Text Layers. You will also learn useful techniques that will help you with any project.

Here’s the image that I’ll be using. You can download a free watermarked version from Adobe Stock. But you can follow along with any photo

Tutorial Index:

Step 01 – Type and Style Your Text

The first step is to type a word over your photo.

Start by selecting the Horizontal Type Tool from the Toolbar. You could also press the T key on the keyboard to select it.

Horizontal Type Tool

The font is not essential to the tutorial, but I am using Gotham Light in this example. Feel free to use any font that you like.

Gotham Light Font

Style Your Text

Before you type over your image, apply any character styles that you like. For example, if you want your text to be in all caps open the Character Panel by going to Window > Character.

Then click on the All Caps icon.

Character Panel

You could also change the Leading, Tracking, Kerning, and other attributes from this panel.

Type Over Your Image

Type anything that you like over your photo. I will type the word “Behind” over to the left of the photo.

Type Text in Front of Photo

Remember to commit your changes by pressing Ctrl Enter (Mac: Command Return) or by clicking on the checkmark in the Options Bar.

Commit Changes

Step 02 – Resize Your Text

If your text is too small (or too big), you can scale it just like you would any other layer.

Press Ctrl T (Mac: Command T) to enter the Transform mode. Then hold Shift and click-and-drag on any bounding box corner handle to scale the text.

Holding Shift as you transform allows you to scale the text without distorting the proportions.

Scale Text

Press Ctrl Enter (Mac: Command Return) to commit your transformation.

Step 03 – Move Your Text Into Position

You can use the Move Tool to place the Text Layer anywhere that you like.

Center The Text on Canvas

If you would like to center your text to the canvas, you can use this neat little trick.

Press Ctrl A, (Mac: Command A), to make a selection around the entire canvas.

Then select the Move Tool by pressing V on the keyboard. In the Option s Bar, you can click on the Align icons to align the Text Layer.

Click on the Align Vertical Centers and on the Align Horizontal Centers to center the text layer to the center of the canvas.

Align Horizontal/Vertical Centers

Press Ctrl D (Mac: Command D) to deselect.

Disable The Text Layer

Once you have positioned the text exactly where you want it,  you can disable the Text Layer by clicking on the eye icon.

Eye Icon Text Layer

Step 04 – Make a Selection Around the Main Subject of Your Image

To create the illusion that there is text behind the model, you will need to create a Layer Mask that will selectively hide parts of the text.

Start by making a selection around the main subject of your image.

One of the easiest ways to make a selection in Photoshop is by using the Quick Selection Tool.

Quick Selection Tool

You can drag across your main subject to make a selection.

Select Subject (Photoshop CC 2018 and Newer)

If you are on Photoshop CC 2018 or newer, then there’s a tool that can help you get started quicker.

With the Quick Selection Tool active you will notice that the Options Bar has a button labeled Select Subject.

Select Subject

When you click on Select Subject Photoshop will use Adobe Sensei, Adobe’s Artificial intelligence, to make a selection out of the main subject of the photo.

In this case, Adobe Sensei does an excellent job. There are only a couple of areas that you need to fix to get a good selection.

Select Subject Selection

Select Subject will never make a perfect selection; you will always need to fine-tune it. But it gives you a jump-start in the selection process, and it saves you a little bit of time.

Since this tool is using artificial intelligence, I think that in newer releases of Photoshop this tool will get much better.

Step 05 – Fix Problem Areas with Your Selection

Whether you used the Quick Selection Tool or Select Subject, you will need to refine your selection and fix problem areas.

Remember that with the Quick Selection Tool you can hold Alt (Mac: Option) to subtract from the selection.

Don’t spend too much time fine-tuning your selection; you don’t need a perfect selection at this point. Later on, you can focus on fine-tuning areas that require it.

Step 06 – Refine Your Selection with the Select and Mask Workspace

Once you’re done making your selection, you will need to refine it.

You can refine your selection by clicking on the Select and Mask button in the Options Bar.

Select and Mask Button

If you are using Photoshop CS6 or older, then this option will read Refine Edge. The interface will be a bit different, but all the tools and settings that we use in this tutorial are also available in the Refine Edge dialog.

Note: If you are on Photoshop CC and you want to bring back the old Refine Edge/Refine Mask dialog you can follow this tutorial.

View Mode

Start by changing the View Mode to “On White” to make the edge refinement adjustments easier to see.

View Mode on White.jpg

Also, set the Onion Skinning opacity to 100%.

Onion Skinning

Edge Detection

In the Edge Detection options enable the Smart Radius, to create a variable edge width around the edge of your selection.

This option works great for images that include both hair and straight edges. For example, hair requires a larger refinement area than the shoulders where the edge is straight. The Smart Radius helps create that variable width in the refinement area.

Then increase the Radius which determines the size of the selection border in which the edge refinement occurs.

Smart Radius

Global Refinements

The following adjustments may vary depending on your photo. But in most cases, you will need to make Global Refinements to improve your selection.

Consider using the Smooth slider, so, that your edges are not jaggy. Also, adding Contrast and Contracting the selection inward can help in removing edge halos.

Global Refinements

Refine Edge Tool

If you have hair on your image, then select the Refine Edge Tool, and paint directly over the flyaway hairs in your photo.

Refine Edge on Flyaway Hair

Photoshop will do its best to extract the flyaway hairs from your background, but unfortunately, you will not get good results unless you are working with a solid color background.

Again, don’t spend too much time making the perfect selection. You don’t want to spend too much time refining areas that are not going to be needed.

When you’re done refining your selection, press OK.

The Marching Ants should still be active.

Marching Ants Around Model

Step 07 – Create a Group To Hold The Text Layers

Create a group by clicking on the New Group icon in the Layers Panel.

Rename the group “Text.” You can change the name of any layer or group by double-clicking on the name.

Drag your Text Layer into the new group.

"Text" Group

Step 08 –Apply the Selection As a Mask To The Group

Layer Masks make the text behind an object effect possible. A Layer Maks allows you to selectively show or hide pixels of a layer or a group.

In this tutorial, we’re going to apply the Layer Mask to the group and not the Text Layer. Having the mask on the group allows you to have multiple layers controlled by one Layer Mask.

So any layer that you throw into the text group will appear as if it were behind your selected object.

In this tutorial, we are only going to work with one text layer, but using Layer Masks in groups is an important technique to learn.

With the selection active, and the group selected, hold Alt (Mac: Option) and click on the Layer Mask icon to create an inverted Layer Mask.

Make a Layer Mask on The Text Group

Step 09 – Refine The Layer Mask

Now that you can see how the text layer affects the portrait, you can spend some time fine-tuning the mask in areas that require it.

Mask Issues

Click on the Group Layer Mask and select the Brush Tool. You can paint with black or white to hide or reveal pixels.

Remember that you can toggle between Foreground and Background colors by pressing the X key on the keyboard.

Step 10 – Paint in Details

In some areas, the text will hide detail that it is too difficult to mask, like the flyaway hairs around the model’s head.

Instead of spending time trying to mask those hair strands, you can paint in the detail from scratch. Much like we did in the Advance Hair Masking Tutorial.

Start by creating a new layer and rename it “Hair.” Then drag the Hair layer inside of the Text group.

Hair Layer

Select the Brush Tool by Pressing B on the Keyboard. Then in the Options Bar click on the Brush Settings icon.

Brush Setting Icon

In the Brush Settings Panel, bring the Spacing down to 1% and the Size to 1 pixel.

Brush Settings

You can temporarily enable the Eyedropper Tool to select colors by holding Alt (Mac: Option). Then click anywhere on the canvas to choose a color. Chose a color that is similar to the flyaway hair.

Select Color

Then paint hair strands using that color. Do the same with several other colors found in the hair. Use the brightest and darkest colors to make the flyaway hair seem more realistic.

Step 11 – Match The Depth of Field

Notice that the flyaway hairs that you painted are sharp, while the hairs in the photo are blurry.

Flyaway Hair - Sharp

The depth of field of the photo is causing the blurriness, and you need to match this blurriness to make your flyaway hairs more realistic.

You can blur your Hair layer by going to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur.

Gaussian Blur Dialog Box

With the Radius input box active, you can press the up and down keys on the keyboard to fine-tune the blur by 0.1 pixels.

Flyaway Hair - Blurry

The detail on these flyaway hairs is so small that in the final image they will not be noticeable.

In your image, you may need to work on more details. But always look at your 100% view to make sure that the details you are working on are noticeable.

This is what my final image looks like:

Final Image

Your Turn!

And there you have it! That’s how to easily place text behind an object with Photoshop! Check out our Photoshop Text Effects section for more tutorials like this!

If you create something using this tutorial you can share your results on Instagram with the hashtag #ptcvids!

Final Image

Drag The Slider To See Before & After

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Len Goforth

Excellent! Any newcomer can get back to that thing he missed on how to get where, when.

I’d do this differently though. Why not just copy the subject and place it on a layer above the type. Then you could turn off the type layer and find where you need that hair painted in.

I learned what the contrast adjustment does under Global Refinements. I also learned that .3 pixels is right for blurring hair strands.

There’s only one missing, but it’s very simple: I don’t have good finger dexterity. I turn smoothing on and set it to 36%.

All in all, much better than a tube. The newcomer can get back to where he forgot how to get to a control. Is also faster to read than wait for a video. Good job! Well done!

Sreedevi Asok

This was a super cool tip! Thank you.

Sreedevi Asok

This was a super cool tip! Thank you.

Denise Cordovil

I liked the video very much,