by Weston Maggio

Use a Wacom tablet to Draw in the Sand in Photoshop

With Summer on the way (as of the time of this posting), I’m thinking about fun things to do at the beach, at the park and anywhere else sand is found. I remember the days when I would draw and write messages in the sand with my finger or a stick. It was fun then, and remains fun to this day, but if you can't make it out to a sandy spot or lose your handiwork to a rogue wave near a body of water, it's also fun to recreate the effect in Photoshop.

In this tip I show you how to draw in the sand—and as a bonus, I show you how to create the sand if you don’t have any.

Experienced Photoshop users may have guessed that this effect is accomplished through Layer Styles, and you would be correct! Through the use of layer styles, you can create an unbelievable amount of textures and effects that resemble natural materials.

Some of my favorite styles are Bevel & Emboss, and of course the most popular, Drop Shadow. For this effect, we are going to be carving into the sand, so Bevel & Boss is what's needed.

Watch the video below to learn how you can create a sandy scene, and then write message in it.

I point them out in the video, but I’ve included the steps for creating both the sand and the Layer Style below. You can use them as a reference. 

Making Sand:

Drawing in the sand looks more realistic when you have an actual photo of a beach. Absent of a beach, here is a down and dirty way of making some sand to draw in. 

1)    Create a new document

2)    Create a new layer and fill with a sand color

3)    Go to: Filter > Noise > Add Noise… Enter # just enough to add texture.

4)    Create a new layer, and set the foreground color to something darker than the color that you previously selected.

5)    Go to: Filter > Render > Clouds

6)    Rotate the resulting layer to 45ish degree angle using Free Transform.

7)    Once again, using Free Transform, stretch out the clouds to cover layer.

  1. TIP - Trim to reduce file size!

8)    Lower opacity of “textured sand” layer to 30%, or something to your liking.

9)    Merge down this second layer and rename the result, “Sand”.

Making the Layer Style:

The following settings for your Layer Style are a good starting point. Keep in mind that the size and resolution of your image can affect these settings and the look of your drawing. Additionally, the size of your brush or font can affect the settings as well. Start with what I offer below and then tweak them to your liking.

Blending Options: Set Blend Mode to Soft Light.

Bevel & Emboss: Make Structure and Shading Adjustments as seen below.

Bevel & Emboss > Texture: Make Texture adjustments as seen below. 

Inner Shadow > Make Structure and Quality adjustments as seen below.

Bonus: If you think that this is something that you may want to do on more than one occasion, consider saving the Layer Style that you created.

To save the Layer Style, open the Styles panel. Click on the drop down menu in the upper right-hand corner of the panel, and select New Style. Name it and then click Ok. Now, the next time you want to write in the sand, simply draw or create some text and click on your new Sand Layer Style. Enjoy your summer!

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