Create a realistic folded paper text in Photoshop

Create a realistic folded paper text in Photoshop

Today we will learn how to realize a folded paper text effect from scratch in Photoshop. We will firstly create the background using a couple of patterns, then we will work on the type treatment with the help of the pen tool, layer masks and other useful techniques related to dodge,burn and the transform tool. This tutorial is very simple to follow, so I suggest to everyone to give a try.


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Step 1

Create a new document in Photoshop. Mine is 1920×1200 pixels and, since the work is destined to be a wallpaper, the resolution is 72 pixels/inch.

*note for Mac users: ctrl=cmd, alt=option

folded paper text effect

Step 2

Fill the background with a dark green (#41514c).

folded paper text effect

Step 3

To create the textured effect of the background, I’ve used 2 of our soft grunge patterns created by Piervincenzo. Create a new layer and go to Edit>Fill. Open the patterns library and click on the small arrow on the top right of the window. Then click on load and select the soft grunge pattern file (.pat) you’ve just downloaded. In case you are not a member, you can try with soft grunge textures to achieve the same result.

folded paper text effect

Select the pattern2_380_hard and press ok to fill the background.

folded paper text effect

Finally set the layer to overlay with opacity 50%.

folded paper text effect

Step 4

Create another layer, this time fill it with pattern_9_380_hard.

folded paper text effect

Press ctrl+I to invert the colors of the layer and shift+ctrl+U to desaturate it.

folded paper text effect

Set the layer to screen with opacity 70%.

folded paper text effect

Step 5

Now that the background is complete, we can start with the letters. The process to create each letter is the same, so I will show you how I created the first letter and you can apply the same method for the others.

You need a bold sans serif font. I’ve used Nevis, which is an awesome free font. With the Horizontal type tool, write the first letter, which is F in my case. Font size is 260pt, but it depends by the size of your canvas.

folded paper text effect

Press ctrl+T to activate the Free Transform tool and rotate a bit the letter. By rotating with different angles all the letters, we will obtain a final result more realistic.

folded paper text effect

Duplicate the letter layer by pressing ctrl+J. Move this layer below the original one and hide its visibility. We will use it later to create the shadow effect.

folded paper text effect

Step 6

Add a light grey (#f6f6f6) color overlay to the letter (right click on the layer thumb>Blending Options>Color overlay).

folded paper text effect

For the next steps, we need to remove the style because we will use the dodge and burn tool, and they are not visible with the style active. So we need a layer with the shape of the grey letter F, but without any style. There’s a trick to obtain this result. Simply create a new blank layer, then select the new layer and the letter one, and merge them (ctrl+E). Done!

folded paper text effect

Step 7

With the pen tool in path mode, make a path as shown in the screenshot below:

folded paper text effect

Press ctrl+enter to activate the selection.

folded paper text effect

By pressing ctrl+J, you will copy the selected part of the shape into a new layer. Now you should have a layer with the entire letter shape, and a second one with only the shape previously selected:

folded paper text effect

Step 8

We have to remove the small shape from the letter. The aim is to have a layer with the small shape (that we already have) and a layer with the letter without the small shape. To do it, select the layer of the letter, then ctrl+click on the layer of the small shape to select its pixels. Hold down alt and press the “add layer mask button”. Finally hit ctrl+D to deselect.

folded paper text effect

Do you want to learn more about Photoshop layer masks? Check out this tutorial for Photoshop beginners.

Step 9

If you hide the visibility of the small shape layer, you can notice a white edge that we need to remove:

folded paper text effect

To remove it, select the mask, grab a black brush and paint over it.

folded paper text effect

Step 10

Make visible and select the small shape layer. Then go to Edit>Transform>Distort and drag the top-left anchor point a little bit to the right-bottom.

folded paper text effect

You can notice there’s a space between the small shape and the letter. To join the two shapes, select the mask of the letter, grab a white brush and paint over that space.

folded paper text effect

Step 11

While creating the folded effect, we have to take in mind the light direction. I decided that light comes from the top-right, so the folded piece of paper we’ve just created has to be lighter than the letter one. So with the transformed piece of paper selected, grab the Dodge tool (set on highlights) and paint over it.

folded paper text effect

Now select the main letter layer, grab the Burn tool, and paint over the area that confine to the folded paper piece, so to create a gentle shadow effect.

folded paper text effect

Step 12

With the same method applied to create the first folded paper effect, create a second piece of paper on the top right, this time use the burn tool over it.

folded paper text effect

Step 13

We have to create the shadow of this piece of paper. So with the pen tool in “shape layers” mode, create a shape as shown in the screenshot below:

folded paper text effect

Go to Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur and enter a radius around 2 px.

folded paper text effect

Reduce the opacity to 10% to make the effect softer.

folded paper text effect

Step 14

Select all the paper layers created till now and merge them. Now, do you remember the copy of the letter we made at the beginning (step 5)? As I wrote, we are going to use it to create the shadow effect. So make visible this layer and add a black color overlay to it.

folded paper text effect

Go to Edit>Transform>Distort and stretch the shadow as shown in the screenshot below:

folded paper text effect

Go to Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur and enter a radius around 5px.

folded paper text effect

Finally reduce the opacity to 30% and use the erase tool or a mask if you prefer to eliminate some parts of the shadow.

folded paper text effect

Step 15

As the final touch, we will use a texture to create the wrinkled paper effect. For this purpose I’ve used on of our paper textures, paper1.jpg. Paste the texture inside the document, re-size (ctrl+T) and desaturate it (shift+ctrl+U). Then if you switch the layer to multiply, you will eliminate the white areas and will see how the texture will affect the letter:

folded paper text effect

Once you’re satisfied, ctrl+click on the letter layer (all the layers merged together) to select its pixels and add a layer mask to the texture. Also if you want the effect stronger, duplicate the texture layer.

folded paper text effect

Step 16

This is the technique to create all the letters. Just play with the letter angulations and the opacity of the shadows to complete the word or the phrase. This is my result:

folded paper text effect

Step 17

As the last touch, merge all the layers into a new layer (select all the layers and press shift+alt+ctrl+E), then go to Filter>Render>Lighting Effects and set a lighting coming from the top-right.

folded paper text effect

Step 18

Set the layer to color burn and reduce the opacity to 60%. We’ve finished! I hope you’ve enjoyed this tutorial.


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(+add yours)
  1. Oh my. This is absolutely amazing! Most realistic folded paper effect I’ve seen. :)

  2. Great tutorial!

  3. Really great and useful tutorial..

  4. Thanks guys! I’m working right now on new awesome type treatments

    • jado

      Good tutorial. However, in step 12, I am abit stuck when trying to do the second folded shape of the letter coz I notice that at the beginning, it is better to determine all shapes before you actually do the add control mask thingy. Or am I missing something? How do u actually did and add the second folded shape in step 12 again or do you have another layer mask again?

  5. 7oda

    very nice , it looks realistic !

    thanks for sharing

  6. Very realistic. If I don’t the tutorial, I’ll say this is real.

  7. Tanja

    Tutorial is great! But wouldn’t be much easier to do Step 9 with simple command Layer – New – Layer with a Cut?

    • Hi Tanja,

      Yes, you’re right. I’ve learned a new and more simple method. ;-)

  8. Great tutorial !
    Thanx for sharing

  9. Nice Result also you can do best of that !

  10. robert

    thank YOU !

  11. Hugo

    Great Tutorial. I would only change the position of the lighting effect to be consistent with the shadows. Keep it up. Thank you.

  12. Excellent tutorial! I love the realism of the paper. Great job.

  13. Wouldn’t it have been quicker to cut out some bits of paper, lay them on the floor then take a photograph?


    • No. Crafting the paper by hand would be quite a gentle art + no “undo” + setting up the lighting and appropriate backgrounds for the paper to be photographed perfectly would take a considerable about of time, effort and equipment, if not, you’d take it into Photoshop for a lot of post-work anyway. Creating the look in Photoshop from scratch is actually quite effective / far less resource intensive.

  14. This is pretty nice! I love this! Please keep going with these tutorials!

  15. Jordan

    This is the best paper effect tutorial ive seen! So subtle and so great. Good job! Keep up the good work.

    -God bless you

  16. chinna

    i got quite confuse on opening ,by seeing the new dialog box picture screened image height size.Its k anyway great tutorial.
    thanks for sharing


    its awesome

  18. Dutchy

    Hey, first of all great tut, but you havent explained how you added that grid on your artwork

    • Hi mate,

      it’s explained in step 4. The grid is one of our textures.

  19. simple and amazing

  20. I didn’t know it was so easy to do this effect … Thanks for sharing it — Kathleen :)

  21. Hey Sebastiano,

    You have done a great job by posting this blog, dude. It was a nice tut for design a realistic folded paper effect with the effective & useful notes which are simple to understand & easy to follow & also with the proper, clear illustrations.

    Thank you very much for this sharing. Keep on posting good stuffs like this. Looks forward to your new awesome type treatment.

  22. it is very nice .
    I like it..

  23. i like it ?

  24. thanks for sharing ! great and original tutorial

    i have a tips for the step 9. Instead of painting the white edge that we need to remove, we can just select the path with ctrl, then go to the menu “select > contract” , chose 1 pixel. On the layer’s letter with this selection, create a mask. And for the other pieces of paper just “fill” (ctrl + F5) the selection with black in the mask.

    I don’t no if it will help but i find it faster ^^

    ps : scuse my english, i’m a french girl :x

    • Thanks for the tip Vava :-)

    • anne

      vava..i tried doing what you taught but I don’t really get what you mean with the other pieces and such. Do explain more in detail. thanks!

  25. Oh a little correction : “And for the other pieces of paper just “fill” (ctrl + F5) the selection with black in the mask. ” <<<— make "contract 1 pixel " before.

    This tips can also avoid a part of the step 10 u will see :)

  26. Traci Brennan


  27. Ania

    wow… great tut!!! :)

  28. I want to try this tut :)

    tnx for share

  29. ya ya thats nice but change the style

  30. very good tut , thank you

  31. That ‘s a nice text. I am a PS newbie so that tut is sou useful !

  32. A guy

    great tutorial, but for the rest of the word, do you have to redo all the tutorial just for another letter?

  33. Thanks for this very detailed tutorial!

  34. wanz

    hahaaaahaa….i like it…it’s so funny..

  35. Awesome tutorial, I will try this jus now. Thanks for sharing…

  36. Well done! This tutorial is easy to follow and Sebastiano is VERY generous with his knowledge.

    Although I think there are faster ways to do this, when I followed Sebastiano’s step by step method, i learned alot about the different tools in Photoshop that i have not used before. He is an excellent designer and a pretty good teacher too!

    Kudos to SEBASTIANO!

  37. excellent tutorial. thanks for sharing this. :)

  38. anne

    Good tutorial. Learn some new tips. However, in step 12, I am abit stuck when trying to do the second folded shape of the letter coz I notice that at the beginning, it is better to determine all shapes before you actually do the add control mask thingy. Or am I missing something? How do u actually did and add the second folded shape in step 12 again or do you have another layer mask again?

    • jado

      it is not an answer to your query. I just have a same questiion as yours. Did you got the answer to your query? If so, where can we find that?

      • coltoday

        I have the same question….do you get the answer now? I really want to know how to do it,could you plz tell me?
        (sorry for my bad english)

  39. ariyatsu

    Paper-scissors-camera, anyone use hardware anymore?
    Wer’re not cyborgs already are we?
    P.S. Step 15 is basically “insert the real thing to make the
    fake thing more realistic; DO NOT use your own picture
    of a piece of physical paper; you must freeload one”

    • Digital Jedi

      Yeah, because that’s more efficient and the whole point of Photoshop. Chalk you up for missing the point by miles and miles and miles…

  40. WEBER


  41. Probably be quicker to actually do it manually and take a photo

    • Digital Jedi

      Says the guy who’s never tried it, or ever taken a decent photo. Ever.


  43. meucu


  44. JAZIB

    WO ho ho… what a great technique just amazing love it… thanx

  45. bad angle of light effect

  46. Bookmarked for future references. This tutorial explained this as easy as 1 2 3…

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  47. relay u r doing grate job.

  48. Thanks for tutorial, it is very useful for beginners like us.

  49. thanks a lot for the share…

  50. G

    And Why not Use Transform ->Warp?

  51. Leonardo

    excellent tutorial, you are great!, but i’d like to recive your tutorials in my inbox, because my connection of internet is very bad, Is this possible? If not, no problem, then I would resign myself to read it

  52. Wow!! Superb!

  53. Hasitha

    i use it…great i love it…

  54. djc

    Hi i am stuck on part 8, it isnt letting my select add layer mask? i have followed step by step and cant get through this part.. also by your pictures it looks like there is a linked layer in there before this point? am i insanely stupid or what haha

  55. Jaehour

    Nicely done, needs some hard work but very useful. thanks!

  56. I love your tutorials, a long process to make it beautiful

  57. gb zhang


  58. ners

    hi, i want to know if this tutorial will work with any PS version? lets say Photoshop CS?

  59. Thank you very much, this really helped.

  60. thanks sebistiano great amazing tutorial…….
    thanks alot man u really helped me.

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    Great tutorial!!

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  69. really nice Photoshop trick! Thank you!

  70. Wow !!! this is really nice tips !!! thanks :)
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  77. A really nice Photoshop trick! Thanks for sharing.

  78. Come across here by chance and learned this very nice tips…a good day for me..:)

  79. Clear steps by steps and so amazing tips. Thanks for sharing.

  80. Fantastic Photoshop trick !!! Thanks you!

  81. Adrian

    Can’t’ get past step 9 – using CS3.

    Selecting letter – then control click the smaller shape….. then hold alt and try to make layer mask? It’s greyed out.

  82. Very nice photoshop tips…:) really enjoy learning this

  83. This is such a great technique I’m looking for.

  84. great tutorial sir :) …….hehe new inspiration.

  85. Bravo! How do you even come up with such a great idea? I saw similar design on Creative Market and was wondering how I can make one myself.

    Thanks for the tutorial!

  86. Thank you for sharing fantastic Photoshop trick…

  87. Everything is very open with a really clear clarification of the challenges.
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  88. Thank you for your article that makes me know a new knowledge about photoshop!!!!

  89. Thanks you for your sharing fantastic trick!!!!!!

  90. such a nice photoshopping technique

  91. ?t will be easier to take a picture of real folded and cut-out papers on some clean background :D but its great and usefull way if you dont know how to cut, how to take a photos :D

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