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I'm trying to recreate an effect I've seen a few times where some text is placed over a background image, and the fill opacity over the background image is transparent but the fill of the rest of the text stays as normal. Also the stroke of the text doesn't change, essentially giving an outline over the image and filled text outside of it.

Here is a reproduction of the effect I was able to emulate to give an idea of what I mean.

enter image description here

I was only able to make this work by turning the text into shapes, then setting the fill blending mode to difference. However this only works with black text and nothing in the background. As soon as you change the colour of the text, or put anything else behind the text the effect changes and doesn't output the desired effect.

Any help would be appreciated. Ideally keeping the text as a text layer, but it's not the end of the world if it has to be turned into shapes.

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This isn't done with any blend modes.

It is merely 2 text objects and a photo.

  • One no fill, solid stroke, text object/layer in front of the photo.
  • Photo
  • One solid fill and stroke text object/layer behind the photo.

Using Photoshop You may need to create proper transparency around the subject by removing any background - Below I did this via a Layer Mask.

enter image description here

Layer Style Stroke is set to Inside.


Essentially the same thing In Illustrator. You will also need a clipping or opacity mask for the photo in Illustrator to remove any background.

enter image description here


It can be easy to pigeonhole yourself into thinking everything is done with single layers. The reality is it's quite common that multiple duplicates of a layer may be necessary to actually pull off a visual.

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  • Amazing thank you. Cleary I was trying to make it more complicated than it needed to be! Aug 4, 2023 at 10:03
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One simple way to do this in Illustrator and maintain editable text is to put your picture (or shape) in between 2 text layers in the layers panel. The bottom text layer has a fill and no stroke. The top text layer has a stroke and no fill.

By using the layers panel to select and lock layers you can edit the text layers individually. Obviously care should be taken to keep alignment of the 2 text layers.

enter image description here

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