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Gold Rush

A simple way to create editable faux-metallic letters.




EVERYONE LOVES A gilded sign. There’s no substitute for the warm glow of sumptuously gleaming letters. The ancient craft of attaching 14k gold “leaves” to a sign is a marvel to behold, and yields unique and attractive results.

With just a few easy steps, and an eye for detail, your printed signs can also benefit from this classic style. With that in mind, I thought I’d share with you my technique for creating digital “gold.” I’m using Adobe Photoshop here, but you can approximate this process in most image-editing programs.

Basically, type out the text you want to transform, manipulate it as shown in the following easy steps, and vóila, you have added the look of handsome metallic type, suitable for high-resolution digital output. No burnishing required!

A few tips to keep in mind during output and production, though. First, create the text as close as you can to the size that it will print (the example you see here is 80-point type). Image-editing programs push pixels, not vectors, so working at scale is key.

Also, when you’re done tweaking the metallic reflections, close the file, make a copy and put that copy away for later use. The text is still editable, so you’ll be able to use it whenever (and wherever) you want.

Next, with the backup safely stored away, flatten the original image, put it on a new layer and save as a layered file (.psd, in this case). Then integrate it into any of your designs just as you would any image. Remember, once you flatten the file, it’s no longer editable. You can always return to the backup of the original file if you need to make changes.


There are other, more complex ways to achieve this look, but they take a lot more time only to produce similar results.


Jeff Russ is a content studio manager for SmartWork Media and was the senior art director of Signs of the Times from 1996-2021. A graphic designer and illustrator with an interest in sign design and sign history, Jeff documents important, interesting and notable design trends in the sign industry as a contributor to Signs of the Times. He has written dozens of features for Signs, and his column, Design Matters, was published for more than a decade.



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