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How to Create a Retro ‘Saved by the Bell’ Inspired Text Effect in Adobe Photoshop

Final product image
What You’ll Be Creating

The bold, colorful, and busy sitcom title art of the 80s and 90s definitely encapsulates the design trend of an era. It is a weird mixture of nostalgia, cringe, and a lot of fun at the same time. Add the old TV screen feel, and those titles are on another level of fascinating for sure!


This tutorial will show you how to use Photoshop’s 3D tools and settings, shapes, and filters, to create a retro 80s/90s text effect inspired by sitcom title art. Let’s get started!

This text effect was inspired by the many Layer Styles available on GraphicRiver.

Tutorial Assets

The following assets were used during the production of this tutorial:

1. How to Adjust the Grid Settings

Step 1

Go to Edit > Preferences > Guides, Grid & Slices, and change the Gridline Every to 50 Pixels and the Subdivisions to 5.

Guides Grid  Slices

Step 2

Create a 700 x 300px New Document, and go to View > Show > Grid.

Show the Grid

2. How to Create a Simple Zigzag Shape

Step 1

Pick the Pen Tool, and choose the Shape option in the Options bar. Click once to add anchor points as shown below to create a zigzag lightning shape.

Create the ZigZag Shape

Step 2

After creating the shape, make sure its Fill Color is Black and that the Background is filled with White.

Go to Edit > Define Brush Preset, and change the name to ZigZag Shape.

Define Brush Preset

3. How to Create a Background Texture

Step 1

Create a 1000 x 800px New Document, and set the Foreground Color to #87568e and the Background Color to #38124d.

Duplicate the Background layer, rename the copy to BG Texture, and Fill it with the Background Color.

Right-click the BG Texture and choose Convert to Smart Object.

Create the Background Texture Layer

Step 2

Go to Filter > Filter Gallery > Texture > Grain, and use these settings:

  • Intensity: 40
  • Contrast: 50
  • Grain Type: Stippled
Grain Filter

Step 3

Click the New effect layer icon at the bottom right corner of the Filter Gallery window, go to Artistic > Poster Edges, and use these settings:

  • Edge Thickness: 1
  • Edge Intensity: 0
  • Posterization: 1
Poster Edges Filter

Step 4

Add another New effect layer, go to Sketch > Photocopy, and use these settings:

  • Detail: 7
  • Darkness: 10

Click OK.

Photocopy Filter

4. How to Create Text Layers

Step 1

Create the text in All Caps, each line in a separate layer, using the fonts Go Long for the first line, Fontdiner Swanky for the second, and SansBlack for the third.

Use the font Size you like for each line. Here, the Size values used are 130 pt for the first line, 75 pt for the second, and 150 pt for the third.

Create the Text Layers

Step 2

You can also change the Tracking values as needed, especially for the second line, to separate the characters and get a cleaner 3D mesh. The Tracking value used here for the second line is 50.

Tracking Values

5. How to Create 3D Layers

Step 1

For each text layer you have, select it and go to 3D > New 3D Extrusion from Selected Layer.

New 3D Extrusion from Selected Layer

Step 2

Select all 3D layers and go to 3D > Merge 3D Layers.

Merge 3D Layers

6. How to Work With the 3D Scene

Step 1

To access the 3D mesh settings and properties, you’ll need to open two panels: the 3D panel and the Properties panel (both found under the Window menu).

The 3D panel has all the components of the 3D scene, and when you click the name of any of those, you’ll be able to access its settings in the Properties panel. So make sure to always select the tab of the element you want to modify in the 3D panel before you change its settings in the Properties panel.

3D and Properties Panels

Step 2

If you select the Move Tool, you’ll find a set of 3D Modes for it to the right of the Options bar.

When you choose one of those, you can then click and drag to perform changes (on the selected element in the 3D panel).

Use those modes to change the Current View into an angle you like.

Move Tool 3D Modes

Step 3

Select all the 3D mesh tabs in the 3D panel, click the 3D panel menu icon, and choose Move Object to Ground Plane.

Move Object to Ground Plane

7. How to Adjust the 3D Mesh Settings

Step 1

Select the first 3D mesh tab in the 3D panel, and change its Extrusion Depth in the Properties panel to 12 px.

Extrusion Depth

Step 2

Select the second 3D mesh tab and change its Extrusion Depth to 10 px.

Extrusion Depth

Step 3

Select the third 3D mesh tab and change its Extrusion Depth to 17 px.

You can use any other Extrusion Depth values or change them anytime you like, as the results might differ depending on the text you have and the final camera angle you want to use.

Extrusion Depth

8. How to Adjust the 3D Cap Settings

Step 1

Select the first 3D mesh tab, and click the Cap icon at the top of the Properties panel.

Change the Bevel Width value to 5, the Contour to Half Round, the Inflate Angle to 20, and the Strength to 2.

Cap Settings

Step 2

Select the second and third 3D mesh tabs, click the Cap icon, and change the Inflate Angle to 90 and the Strength to 2.

Once again, you can use any other values that you think suit your text better.

Cap Settings

9. How to Create Simple 3D Materials

Step 1

Select the first 3D mesh’s Material tabs, and use these material values in the Properties panel (the color values used are in RGB):

  • Diffuse: 74, 173, 207
  • Specular: 169, 169, 169
  • Shine: 90%
First 3D Mesh Material Settings

Step 2

Select the second 3D mesh’s Material tabs, and use these material values:

  • Diffuse: 222, 177, 228
  • Specular: 169, 169, 169
  • Shine: 90%
Second 3D Mesh Material Settings

Step 3

Select the third 3D mesh’s Material tabs, and use these material values:

  • Diffuse: 229, 230, 137
  • Specular: 169, 169, 169
  • Shine: 90%
Third 3D Mesh Material Settings

10. How to Adjust a 3D Scene’s Lighting

Step 1

Select the Infinite Light 1 tab, change its Intensity to 70%, and make sure that the Shadow Softness is set to 0%.

Infinite Light 1 Settings

Step 2

Use the Move Tool to move the light around to get a result you like, or you can click the Coordinates icon at the top of the Properties panel and use numerical values instead.

Move the Infinite Light

Step 3

Click the Environment tab, and change the Ground Plane Shadows Opacity to 0%.

Shadows Opacity

11. How to Adjust a 3D Scene’s Rendering Settings

Step 1

Select all the 3D mesh tabs, and uncheck the Cast Shadows box in the Properties panel.

This will make sure that the meshes don’t cast shadows, which will help create a flatter effect.

Uncheck the Cast Shadows Box

Step 2

Click the Scene tab, and change the Surface Style to Cartoon. This will also help create the flat retro effect.

Cartoon Style

12. How to Transform and Move 3D Meshes

Step 1

For each 3D mesh tab you have, select it and go to 3D > Split Extrusion.

This will separate the letters and place them in a Group.

Split Extrusion

Step 2

Next, you’ll need to randomly select and edit some letters, to create a more dynamic effect.

Pick the Move Tool, and use the 3D Axis to transform and/or move the selected letter mesh.

The arrows at the ends of the axis move the mesh, the part below them is used for rotation, and the cubes are used for scaling. The cube in the center is used to scale the object uniformly. All you need to do is click and drag the part you want to make the changes.

3D Axis

Step 3

You can also click the Current View tab, and choose from the different presets available in the View menu in the Properties panel to help you better make the changes.

View Presets

Step 4

Choose the final camera angle, make sure that everything looks fine, and make any final adjustment needed.

Final Camera View

Step 5

Go to 3D > Render 3D Layer. The rendering should take a couple of seconds since it’s a Cartoon style.

Once the rendering is done, right-click the 3D layer and choose Convert to Smart Object.

Render 3D Layer

13. How to Adjust a Brush Tip Settings

Step 1

Pick the Brush Tool, and open the Brush panel.

Choose the ZigZag Shape tip, and use the settings below for the Brush Tip Shape and Shape Dynamics tabs.

These settings will help you get dynamic brush shapes every time you click to add the brush.

Brush Settings

Step 2

Set the Foreground Color to #c6960e, create a New Layer on top of the BG Texture layer, and name it ZigZag.

Click once over different areas to add the shape behind the text.

Add the ZigZag Brusn

14. How to Create Smart Object Filter Layers

Step 1

Create a New Layer on top of all layers, name it Filters 1, and press the Shift-Option-Command-E keys to create a stamp of all the layers you have.

Right-click the Filters 1 layer and choose Convert to Smart Object.

Filters 1 Layer

Step 2

Duplicate the Filters 1 layer, rename the copy to Filters 2, select both Filter layers, and change the Opacity value to 50%.

Filters 2 Layer

Step 3

Hide the Filters 2 layer by clicking the eye icon next to it, and select the Filters 1 layer.

Work with the Filter Layers

15. How to Apply Noise Texture Filters

Step 1

Go to Filter > Filter Gallery > Artistic > Poster Edges, and use these settings:

  • Edge Thickness: 0
  • Edge Intensity: 0
  • Posterization: 2
Poster Edges Filter

Step 2

Add a new effect layer, go to Brush Strokes > Spatter, and use these settings:

  • Spray Radius: 1
  • Smoothness: 15

Click OK.

Spatter Filter

Step 3

Go to Filter > Blur > Shape Blur, change the Radius to 5, and use the Flower 5 shape.

Shape Blur

Step 4

Go to Filter > Distort > ZigZag, change the Amount to 1, the Ridges to 5, and the Style to Pond Ripples.

ZigZag Filter

Step 5

Go to Filter > Noise > Add Noise, change the Amount to 5 and the Distribution to Gaussian.

Add Noise

16. How to Create an Old TV Screen Effect

Step 1

Show the Filters 2 layer, and apply the same Filter Gallery filters and values as you did for the Filters 1 layer in the previous step.

Filter Gallery Settings

Step 2

Go to Filter > Pixelate > Pointillize, and change the Cell Size to 3.

Pointillize Filter

Step 3

Expand the Filters 2 layer’s filter list, and double-click the Pointillize filter’s Blending Options icon.

Double click Blending Options

Step 4

Change the Opacity to 35% and click OK.

Change the Opacity

Step 5

Go to Filter > Blur > Shape Blur, change the Radius to 5, and use the Flower 5 shape.

Add a Shape Blur

Step 6

Go to Filter > Distort > ZigZag and change the Amount to 1, the Ridges to 5, and the Style to Pond Ripples.

Add a ZigZag Filter

Step 7

Go to Filter > Noise > Add Noise and change the Amount to 5 and the Distribution to Gaussian.

Add Noise

Step 8

Double-click the Add Noise filter’s Blending Options icon, and change the Opacity to 50%.

Blending Options Opacity Settings

Step 9

Go to Filter > Pixelate > Mezzotint and set the Type to Short Strokes.

Add a Mizzotint Filter

Step 10

Double-click the Mezzotint filter’s Blending Options icon, and change the Opacity to 7%.

Adjust the Blending Options

17. How to Adjust the Vibrance

Step 1

Command-click the 3D layer’s thumbnail to load a selection.

Load a Selection

Step 2

Click the Create new fill or adjustment layer icon at the bottom of the Layers panel and choose Vibrance.

Change the Vibrance to 50 and the Saturation to -5.

Vibrance Settings

Congratulations! You’re Done

In this tutorial, we created a couple of text layers, converted them into 3D meshes, and adjusted their settings. Then, we worked on the material, lighting, and render settings of the 3D scene, and rendered it in a cartoon style.

After that, we used a bunch of different filters to achieve the retro TV screen effect. Finally, we added a final adjustment layer to finish off the effect.

Please feel free to leave your comments, suggestions, and outcomes below.

How to Create a Saved By the Bell Text Effect in Photoshop