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Create an Abstract Retro-Pop Wallpaper

In this tutorial, I’ll show you how to create a beautiful, vibrant, Retro-Pop abstract wallpaper. You’ll also learn how to add some wonderful texture to your designs and make some abstract shapes!

What We’re Making

In this tutorial, I’m going to show you how to recreate this wallpaper style:

Retro-Pop Wallpaper Sample


You’re going to need a few things before getting started with this tutorial:

  • RNS Bobo Dylan Font – Grab this awesome, free block font from Impactolaser.
  • Old Paper Stock Photo – We’re going to use this stock photo to add texture to our wallpaper. You’ll need a stock.xchng account to use it, which is free and quick to create.

Once you’ve got the font installed, and the stock image ready, open up Photoshop and get started!

Step 1

Begin by creating a new document. I run on a 1920×1200 display, so I’m going to create a new, 1920x1200px document.

Using the Paint Bucket Tool, fill the background layer with a dark color, such as #22282c.

Step 2 – Adding Texture

Transform the texture to fit the canvas

It’s actually very easy to add some basic texture to our design using a stock photo like the one we’ve chosen for this tutorial. Create a new Layer, and Copy-Paste the stock photo into the document.

Now, Transform the layer so that only the texture covers your entire working image area. For me, this involved rotating it, and scaling it down a bit so that no white was visible, and the texture covered my entire canvas.

Once you’ve properly fitted the texture over the canvas, Desaturate that layer (Image > Adjustments > Desaturate).

Set this Layer to Overlay.

Texture applied to the background

Enhancing Texture

Often times after resizing, an image may lose a bit of it’s sharpness, resulting in texture that lacks in effect. To fix this, sometimes I’ll use the Smart Sharpen Filter (Filter > Sharpen > Smart Sharpen) to bring back the sharp touch.

Step 3 – Adding Text

Create a new layer underneath the texture layer. Using the Horizontal Type Tool, add some text into your document with the font you downloaded earlier. I simply typed ‘Retro’ using a 142pt font. Make the color of your font a light green (#5ee67b).

Add Type to the design

As you can see, the texture layer we created earlier will automatically add a light texture onto anything underneath it (Unless it is pure white, or pure black since we are using the Overlay filter).

Step 4 – Begin 3D Type Effect

Duplicate your type layer. On your new type layer, change the color of the text to #3aad53, a slightly darker green.

Move the new type layer beneath the light green one. Now use the Move Tool to position it to the lower right of the original layer. Hold Shift while moving the layer so that it moves at exactly a 45* angle.

Start the 3D Effect

Step 5 – Filling in the blanks

We have a few gaps in our type that need to be fixed to give the full 3D Type effect. To fix these, we’re going to create some new shapes with the pen tool.

But first, we need to convert the lower type layer to a shape layer (Right Click Layer > Convert to Shape). Now that it’s a shape layer, we can add additional shapes directly into it with the pen tool.

Click the Vector Mask Thumbnail for your new shape layer to display the vector mask.

Show the Vector Mask for the Type Shape

Add to Shape AreaGrab the Pen Tool from the toolbox. In the Options Bar, make sure Add to Shape Layer is selected. Now when you draw shapes with the pen tool, those shapes will be added to the currently selected shape.

For this next step, you may want to zoom in a bit for best results.

Wherever you see areas in your design missing a 45* angle for the complete 3D effect, draw in a block with the pen tool. Start by making a single point where the angle should start, and then while holding shift, create a new point at the adjacent point of the other type layer. The diagram below better illustrates how to go about filling in the blanks.

Finish the 3D Type effect

Continue this process for all the additional blanks you notice. Once your finished, you should end up with a design like the one shown below.

Finished 3D Type Effect

Step 6 – Add a Shadow

Add a Drop Shadow Layer Effect with the following settings to your lower text layer:

Add a drop shadow

This will add a nice bit of depth to your design, as shown below. You may need to adjust some of the settings to your liking if you’re working with different dimensions from what I’m using.

Shadow adds depth to our 3D Text Effect

Step 7 – Adding a Splash of Color

Create a new Layer JUST above the background layer. Using the Pen Tool, we’re going to draw some funky shapes that will collectively add a nice splash of color in our design. You may want to look over our Pen Tool Basics Tutorial before proceeding if you’re not familiar with it already.

With a bright colored foreground color (such as #e65ee4), draw a swirl using the pen tool. If you are having trouble with the shape, try using the one shown below for reference:

Draw a swirl in Photoshop

Step 8 – Duplicate, Position, Repeat

Instead of making a bunch of custom swirls (Which would actually work great, it’s just time consuming), we can duplicate this swirl layer, transform it, and reposition it to add lots of swirls to the image. Here is an example of the single swirl we created duplicated and repositioned 3 different times.

Some Swirls Added

Now, Duplicate the swirl again, and change the color of your new swirl to a different bright color, such as #5e9ee6. Again, duplicate this new colored swirl and reposition it once or twice.

More Swirls Added

Step 9 – More Shapes!

The swirls are a great addition to our design, but too many might make things a bit boring eh? Try adding additional shapes with the Custom Shape Tool, or various other shapes. I’m going to use the Ellipse Shape Tool to create a bunch of multicolored ellipses around the text. I’ll also build a new ribbon shape and throw a few of those into the mix.

When placing the shapes, try overlapping some of them to create new shapes and styles altogether. You can also experiment with different blending modes to mix colors. I find the Lighten blending mode to work very well!

More Colors and Shapes Added

Step 10 – Scribbles

Using a 1px, 100% Hard, White Brush, scribble some lines behind your text (on a new layer). Try to make one continuous scribble throughout your painting, and put some effort into making it as messy as possible.

It’s a bit of guess work getting things to look alright, but after a try or two you’ll probably have something that looks decent. Set this layer to Overlay. For a more powerful effect, duplicate the layer, and add some new scribbles on that new layer.

Scribbles Added

Step 11 – Add a Soft Glow

Select every layer in your layers palette that has been used in the text, shapes, and scribbles (so essentially, everything except the background and texture layers). To do this, hold control while clicking each individual layer. Now duplicate these layers (While selected, go to Layer > Duplicate Layers…), and immediately after doing so, Merge the newly duplicated layers (Layer > Merge Layers or Ctrl + E).

Place this new merged set of layers on JUST below the texture layer. Set it to Overlay and apply a Gaussian Blur of 20-40 (Filter > Gaussian Blur).

Add a Soft Glow

Step 12 – Final Touches

We’re essentially finished with the effect, and it looks pretty darn good! We can finish things off with a few polishing touches, or stop here and admire our work!

If you choose to continue, there are a few things I could suggest:

  • Play with Shading and Highlights – It might look nice if we go over some of our layers with a soft white or black brush, and add some shading + highlights to our text and shapes.
  • Add Flares – Add some flares to the text and shapes to make them sparkle. I’ve written about creating flares towards the end of my 5 Essential Photoshop Reflections Tutorial.
  • Keep Playing with Shapes – Add lines, stars, and other shapes and see if you can create something truly wonderful. I actually added some long diagonal lines extending off the canvas in my final wallpaper.
  • Add a Vignette – Emphasize the subject by fading out the graphic into a dark color. Works great on my dark colored monitor!

Final Result with some Polishing Touches

As usual, you can grab the Sample PSD here to see how we went about doing certain things! Good luck, and enjoy!


  1. Add point Subtract point
    Dabananaboat (2 Points) February 14, 2011 at 6:13 am

    Awesome tutorial, I’m creating a website background image for my portfolio with it. Thanks for the tut! :D

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  2. Add point Subtract point
    โหลดเพลงฟรี (-1 Points) November 24, 2010 at 5:28 am

    thank you i like

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    โหลดเพลง mp3 ฟรี (0 Points) October 1, 2010 at 3:27 am

    thank you i like

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  4. Add point Subtract point
    DHECS (0 Points) July 31, 2010 at 3:20 am

    I like you sir! whoo your HOT!

    honestly,,,i like it!

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  5. Add point Subtract point
    Tess (0 Points) July 5, 2010 at 2:53 pm

    Awesome tutorial, I used to to make a fund raising flier. Keep up the good work!

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    โหลดเพลง mp3 (1 Point) June 9, 2010 at 4:56 am

    What can i say, excellent tutorial

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  7. Add point Subtract point
    โหลดเพลงฟรี (0 Points) May 29, 2010 at 2:05 pm

    Very nice disigns wallpaper , Thank you for your share

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  8. Add point Subtract point
    Joe (0 Points) May 12, 2010 at 8:42 pm

    What can i say, excellent tutorial, and heres what i came up with this tutorial.


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  9. Add point Subtract point
    Kerry (0 Points) May 3, 2010 at 11:28 am

    What about making it repetitive and having it match over seams?
    How do you make it tile and synch?

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  10. Add point Subtract point
    kavyasudah34 (0 Points) April 5, 2010 at 3:04 pm

    Great wallpaper , Thank you for your share!! post to webmaster “legitimate work at home jobs”

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  11. Add point Subtract point
    โหลดเพลง (-1 Points) March 29, 2010 at 4:29 am

    Great wallpaper , Thank you for your share!

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  12. Add point Subtract point
    Alex (-1 Points) March 7, 2010 at 1:14 am

    NICE! Thank you so much!

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  13. Add point Subtract point
    ดาวน์โหลดเพลง (1 Point) February 3, 2010 at 2:07 am

    wow Cool tip thank for sharing.144

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  14. Add point Subtract point
    เนื้อเพลง (-1 Points) February 1, 2010 at 11:24 pm

    wow Cool tip thank for sharing.130

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    เพลงใหม่ล่าสุด (0 Points) February 1, 2010 at 1:29 am

    wow Cool tip thank for sharing.124

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  16. Add point Subtract point
    เพลงใหม่ล่าสุด (0 Points) January 30, 2010 at 8:40 am

    thanks for sharing. So mush

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  17. Add point Subtract point
    Gadget Chris (1 Point) October 13, 2009 at 4:26 pm

    Thanks you for this. Although I am experienced with writing HTML code graphics packages is one thing I’ve always kept away from and got someone else to do. Well, I’ve just got myself photoshop for my macbook pro and think going through these free tutorials is probably the best thing to do. I’m going to try and make it all the way without resorting to looking at the sample file. Thanks again.

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    Someone (1 Point) October 10, 2009 at 2:05 pm

    Amazing tutorial. Mine came out similar and very cool looking, just I used the word “nitro” instead of retro.

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  19. Add point Subtract point

    Wow, nice man O.o
    Mine came out awesome. The text actually works better if it’s set to saturation ( it will be an awesome blue kind of color)

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  20. Add point Subtract point


    Great tutorial, but im stuck on step 5 (the convert to shape) well basically i right click the layer and select convert to shape but it says photoshop could noit complete the resquest because the type is using a faux bold style or something ? any help would be greatly appriciated thanks

    tom :)

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    Jordy – The Netherlands (1 Point) June 14, 2009 at 10:58 am

    Wow! What a amazing tutoarial!
    I made my version for my band “The Curlies”, check it out:


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  22. Add point Subtract point

    i cant seem to download the font…
    what am i doing wrong??

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  23. Add point Subtract point
    Havana (1 Point) June 5, 2009 at 11:05 pm

    Wanted to share with you what I did with your tutorial <3

    I had a lot of fun with it! :)

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  24. Add point Subtract point
    huwaw69 (1 Point) May 3, 2009 at 4:00 am

    The scribble effect is cool, i liked it!

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    marcos galli de bona (1 Point) March 27, 2009 at 4:18 pm

    Esse kra é muito bom, ta sendo uma grande influencia para mim.

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    Machiel (1 Point) March 6, 2009 at 8:43 am

    Somehow the font provided isnt the same as in this tutorial?

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  27. Add point Subtract point

    I’m a multimedia artist from the Philippines and I love your site. The tutorials are really helpful to me. You’re an inspiration. Keep it up! More Power!

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  28. Add point Subtract point
    Elizabeth K. Barone (1 Point) February 18, 2009 at 1:19 pm

    Thank you so much for this. I’ve been racking my brains trying to come up with a design for a new project, and thanks to this tutorial and the results that other people have posted, I am now inspired! I can’t wait to get out of work and try this out!

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  29. Add point Subtract point

    i love all your tutorials..

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  30. Add point Subtract point
    Rafael R.P (1 Point) November 24, 2008 at 4:00 pm

    Great tutorial!!
    Thx :)

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  31. Add point Subtract point

    This is a fun tutorial and I really enjoyed going through it.

    Here is what I made, feel free to use if you want!

    instead of retro I used “\sound” and i used a reflection too.

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  32. Add point Subtract point

    great tutorial….guys i found a site contains kool background ,wallpapers for ur window…dnt forget to check ths out

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  33. Add point Subtract point
    free wallpapers (1 Point) November 7, 2008 at 1:05 pm

    nice effects – gave me some ideas – thanks

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  34. Add point Subtract point
    Bill Biwer (1 Point) October 29, 2008 at 8:09 pm

    Very nice tutorial. Simple yet very effective.

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  35. Add point Subtract point
    MacBookLW (1 Point) October 25, 2008 at 5:07 pm

    Great Tutorial and stylish font.


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  36. Add point Subtract point

    so great! your explanation helped me so much! I always tried to learn how to create this kind of graphics (such as the background i.e: and I never couldn´t before and now I can create it!
    Thank you very much for your help.

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    Joefrey Mahusay (0 Points) October 15, 2008 at 5:50 am

    Great tutorial there David! I love retro design as it is very trendy on today’s design. :)

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  38. Add point Subtract point

    Awesome tut again David, great job on this one. Simply Incredible and Fantastic. I like it so I bookmarked it. Thank you for sharing

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  39. Add point Subtract point

    Great tut! My outcome looks AWESOME! Only one thing though, the font you posted is not the font you used. The font you used is found here

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    dayday (1 Point) August 22, 2008 at 8:30 pm

    Here is my attempt! I couldn’t really do the scribbles so I opted to use the brushes that you recommended on here, I’m happy with it tho. thank you so much for this tut!!! I love this site!!

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  41. Add point Subtract point
    dayday (1 Point) August 22, 2008 at 1:56 am

    This is simply amazing!! I’m going to try it now!!

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    @FBdesign: Love the designs you’ve done in the background FBdesign. They’re very… dare I say… poppy.

    @franklin: What’s going wrong in step one mate? I’m sure we could help if we had a better idea of what the problem is.

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  43. Add point Subtract point
    franklin (0 Points) July 20, 2008 at 4:58 am

    im having alottttt of problems i cant get right in the 1st step lol anyone help

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  44. Add point Subtract point

    Wow superb!! Keep em comin!!

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  45. Add point Subtract point
    Henrique (1 Point) July 6, 2008 at 6:36 pm

    Loved it!!!!
    Thank you SO much!!

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  46. Add point Subtract point

    It’s like the London 2012 Olympics logo.. but better!

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  47. Add point Subtract point
    mr.guillaume (1 Point) June 16, 2008 at 4:30 pm

    Hey Mr Leggett,
    great tutorial, I love it, exactly the kind os style i want to achieve, kind of neo retro
    The website link leads to my version of you tut, feel free to leave feedback

    keep up such good work,


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  48. Add point Subtract point
    Tyler Bramer (1 Point) June 15, 2008 at 6:41 pm

    It looks great. There is a great sense of focus on the Retro text and plenty of empty space for icons. The tutorial teaches some good concepts and leaves plenty of room for creation. One of the best tutorials here yet.

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    Cooper Shrieve (1 Point) June 15, 2008 at 2:43 pm

    Hi, I am entering a contest for a band t shirt and this would be PERFECT for it. I don’t have photoshop though. If mine is selected, i will give you $100. Email me so we can talk more!

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  50. Add point Subtract point
    Garrett Shaw (1 Point) June 13, 2008 at 11:46 pm

    You should try using the 3D extrude tool in Illustrator, you can use it with any typeface or shape…gives that same text effect…but you can import it as a vector smart object :).

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  51. Add point Subtract point
    Tutorials Guru (1 Point) June 13, 2008 at 6:33 pm

    this is a great tutorial. maybe you can put something about abstract wallpapers.

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  52. Add point Subtract point

    Still I do have a problem….I don’t have color?!

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  53. Add point Subtract point

    or do I actually have to choose Paths?

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  54. Add point Subtract point
    Jana (0 Points) June 13, 2008 at 2:42 pm

    When drawing the swirl, how do you just drag out the handles? Cause I just can’t drag them out to both sides! I can make this shape only in Paths not Shape Layers. I don’t get it?!

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    ToMiBoY (1 Point) June 12, 2008 at 12:57 am

    I really loved this tutorial. I learned alot of things I could definitely use in future projects. I did this with my name instead though and I went off on my own creativity so it looks quite a bit different but it came out beautiful. There were a few parts I got stuck on, when I got to the 2nd layer of text I think photoshop automatically made this next layer a non text. since it was a copy im guessing my first layer wasnt either. Just leave a hint saying make sure your layer has the T for text symbol otherwise you cannot convert to shape. It took me a while to figure this out actually. :P and I think this goes with the next part. I had a difficult time I actually did not get as accurate but on my 2nd text layer. I hit shift but when I made a the new paths they did not align with the first set of text. But that might have to do with the layers not being exactly the same. This could all be my problems only. Just a black bold hint at the end of that part would probably help other noobs out as well :P Thanks a bunch! & happy photoshopping!

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  56. Add point Subtract point

    Thanks folks =) Let me know if any of you run into issues with the tutorial!

    @ CJ.H – Haha =) Sometimes when I’m writing I HAVE to let some of my sarcastic nature slip in, otherwise my job becomes just another desk job. Well, not entirely, since I get so much interaction with the community, but you can probably imagine that writing can get tiresome :P

    Oh, and the smiley is a nice touch to our site, but we’re not like, the first site to do something like it. It’s actually something WordPress uses to help us track our statistics. That said, I very much enjoy him.

    @ Tyler – That tutorial is finished, and being scheduled actually, so you shouldn’t have to wait a whole lot longer! You can still catch Fabio’s on PSDTUTS while you wait.

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  57. Add point Subtract point
    Tyler Durden (1 Point) June 10, 2008 at 12:02 am

    YAY its released cant wait for the coldplay apple commercial one

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  58. Add point Subtract point
    CJ.H (1 Point) June 9, 2008 at 7:56 pm

    Thank you so much for this tutorial, Ive been waiting for it for a long time.

    “…scribble throughout your painting, and put some effort into making it as messy as possible.” -Best part of the tutorial.

    Also I noticed a miniature smiley on the bottom of this site. :)

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  59. Add point Subtract point
    liam (1 Point) June 9, 2008 at 6:47 pm

    Looks amazing, nice stuff. also loving your avatar, looks cool.

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  60. Add point Subtract point
    Sean Hodge (1 Point) June 9, 2008 at 5:13 pm

    David. It’s all set. Thanks for resubmitting.

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  61. Add point Subtract point
    website design (1 Point) June 9, 2008 at 4:45 pm

    This looks like the Trapper Keeper I had in fifth grade.

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  62. Add point Subtract point

    Thanks Ouchast and Roxi! I appreciate your kind words, and am very glad to hear that you like the effect shown here. If you ever have any ideas for how we can make things easier for you, I’m all ears!

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  63. Add point Subtract point
    Roxi (1 Point) June 9, 2008 at 3:44 pm

    Ok so I finally dared to post a comment and say that this is such a beautiful tutorial with amazing result!

    This is my favorite site.I’ve learned so much things about PhotoShop from here.
    Thank You!

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  64. Add point Subtract point
    Ouchast (1 Point) June 9, 2008 at 3:37 pm

    This was awesome David, the outcome is stunning :)

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  65. Add point Subtract point

    No worries Sean =) Appreciate you letting me know!

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  66. Add point Subtract point
    Sean Hodge (1 Point) June 9, 2008 at 3:14 pm


    On the PSDTUTS User Community Links I accidently hit delete on this submission. Feel free to submit it again, as I meant to approve this tut. Good job!

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  67. Add point Subtract point

    Thanks bl4kdev1l =) Appreciate the feedback mate!

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  68. Add point Subtract point
    bl4kdev1l (2 Points) June 9, 2008 at 9:48 am

    Cool!!! Two Thumbs UP Great Design!

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