Neon Sign Effect Illustrator & Photoshop Tutorial

How's it going everyone this is Chris from Spoon Graphics back with another video tutorial Today we're going to create a bright neon sign effect using the powers of Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop

While it is possible to construct the entire artwork in Photoshop alone, Illustrator offers some useful tools for producing the initial layout with its vector shape building capabilities Where Photoshop really shines is with its various layer style options that can be configured to create vibrant lighting effects, which are perfect for depicting a realistic, illuminated neon sign Real neon signs are made out of glass tubes that a bent into shape, so to help with the realism of our neon sign artwork, the linework will be created in a way so there's a start and end point for each segment with no overlaps Photographs of real neon signs show intense brightness from the tube that appears almost white, but with an ambient glow of a vibrant colour This will be replicated using Photoshop's Inner Glow, Outer Glow and Drop Shadow effects

Open up Adobe Illustrator to begin and create a new document I'm using Pixel units and the RGB colour mode, but the document size doesn't really matter too much Select the Spiral tool from under the Line tool menu group and clear out the default white fill While dragging out the spiral shape, use the cursor keys to reduce the number of curls so the spiral is almost just a complete circle Hold the CMD key and drag the shape so the start and end points are fairly close

Switch to the Move tool and squash the shape vertically and reposition it to represent the top of the cocktail glass In the Stroke panel, increase the weight to around 6pt and check the Round Cap option Select the Pen tool and click on the open end of the spiral to continue its path Dragging out a bezier handle before releasing the mouse helps continue the path with a smooth curve Draw the rest of the cocktail glass profile by clicking and dragging points and bezier handles

Stop at the halfway point at the bottom of the glass shape Ensuring Smart Guides are enabled will help you snap to the centre line Use the Direct Selection Tool to draw a selection over those new points, then hit CMD+C to Copy and CMD+F to Paste in Front Go to Object > Transform > Reflect to flip this path and position it on the other side Make any adjustments to the overall shape of the glass by altering the position of the points if necessary

Because one of the key features of the neon effect is to mimic how the tubes would be formed in a real neon sign, the path needs to have a clear start and end point with no overlap Use the Scissors tool to snip and delete the path in the upper right area Continue constructing the cocktail glass sign with some additional elements, such as a simple circle to represent a slice of fruit The Scissors tool is needed again to prevent any overlapping paths Snip both the glass path and the fruit path before and after the intersection, leaving a little space, and delete the unwanted portion

Click a few points to draw a straw shape with straight lines, then go to Effect > Stylize > Round Corners to turn the sharp corner into a bend Toggle on the preview and select a suitable Radius, such as 40px Next, go to Object > Path > Offset Path Enter around 7-10px to produce parallel lines Go to Object > Expand Appearance to permanently apply the effect, which will allow you to delete the original path

This straw shape is both a continuous outline and it overlaps the other paths, so more Scissors work is required Snip and delete the ends, then close the top end back up with a straight path using the Pen tool Go to Object > Stylize > Round Corners and apply a smaller radius of 8px or so to just subtly round off the corners of the straw tip Use the Scissors tool to break up the paths where they intersect, leaving a small gap between them Depending whether you cut the glass or the straw shape, the illustration will have an illusion of depth where one element appears to fit inside the other

To finish off the sign artwork, add a text element with the wording of your choice Choose a bold font, with italics in my example Right click and select Convert to Outlines Switch the default black fill over to a stroke and set it up with the same 6pt weight, plus round cap and corner options Zoom in to the text and use the Scissors tool to process each letter by cutting out a small portion so each shape is produced by an open-ended path

Adding a Round Corners effect of just a few pixels also helps eliminate the hard corners to produce a more realistic result Go to Object > Transform > Shear and enter 10 degrees in the Shear Angle option, then scale and position the text within the sign composition Use the Scissors tool again to fix any overlaps, so the entire artwork is made of a series of lines that don't cross or touch anywhere Hold the Shift key and use the Move tool to add all the elements of a particular colour to the selection Alter the Stroke colour to a specific swatch, then press CMD+X to Cut these elements

Add a new layer and hit CMD+F to paste them back in place Do the same with the next selections of paths in each colour, adding them to their own layer Once the design is complete, go to Object > Export As Choose PSD, then ensure the Write Layers option is checked Remember to also save a copy of your Illustrator file so you can make future edits if you ever need to

The second half of the process is conducted in Photoshop using the newly created PSD file Begin by enlarging the canvas with the Crop tool to provide some additional space, then fill the background with black You'll see each coloured segment of the artwork is on its own separate layer Open up a brick wall texture to use as a backdrop for the neon sign artwork Select All with CMD+A, Copy with CMD+C, Paste with CMD+V, Transform and scale with CMD+T, then Desaturate with CMD+Shift+U

Use the Levels tool, the shortcut for which is CMD+L, to darken the texture by dragging the white output levels slider inwards Retain enough of the brick so it's still subtly visible The vibrant neon glow will be produced by a 'cocktail' of Layer Styles Double click the top layer and begin with an Inner Glow Click Reset to Default to we're working from the same starting point

Change the blending mode to Linear Dodge, max out the Opacity to 100%, then check Center as the source and move the slider to around 7-10px, enough to leave a portion of the original colour fading in around the edge of the tube Add an Outer Glow next Reset to Default, then alter the settings to Overlay, a Size of around 100% and an opacity of around 75% just to take the hard edge off the tubes with a soft glow instead The main coloured glows will be produced using the Drop Shadow effect Reset to Default first, then change the settings to Linear Dodge and choose a colour that matches the original colour of the tubes

Max out the opacity, then bump up the Size to around 24px with zero Distance to add a small coloured glow around the lines Click the little Plus icon next to the Drop Shadow effect to layer up another This time bump up the Size to around 150px to extend the glow further Layering these two effects helps spread the ambiance without losing the intensity closer to the tube Add another Drop Shadow, but this time Reset to Default

Configure these settings to Overlay with black, with a Distance and Size of 10px to add subtle shading to the tubes Set the opacity to around 50% Add the same layer style effects to the other layers, but alter the colour of the two Drop Shadows to produce the correct ambient glows for each coloured tubes Add a new layer above the brick texture and set up a soft brush tip Choose a colour that closely matches each of the neon tubes and dab a few spots over and around each shape

Change this layer's blending mode to Soft Light and reduce the opacity to around 40% to add further vibrancy to the glow effect Zoom in to the document and add another new layer Draw a small circle over the end of one of the tubes and fill it with black, then add a Bevel and Emboss layer style with maximum depth Turn off the Auto-Select option for the Move tool to make this step easier, then hold the ALT key to drag out a series of duplicates, placing each one at the end of every neon tube This step is a nice finishing touch that helps improve the realism a little by grounding each tube into the background

It probably doesn't look quite as real on a brick wall, but it's a detail that enhances the overall effect The final result is a bright neon sign effect with an array of colourful glows Taking the time to construct the artwork out of linework that doesn't cross or intersect helps produce a believable neon sign design that looks similar to the appearance of real sign designs The Photoshop steps then bring it to life by illuminating those shapes into fluorescent tubes So if you enjoyed this tutorial or learnt anything new be sure to give the tutorials a thumbs up

Subscribe to the channel to stick around for more, and join my mailing list at spoon Graphics if you want to get your hands on my free design resources bundle As always thank you very much for watching, and I'll see you in the next one

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