Speech Bubbles in Photoshop - Part 1

Here’s how to add speech or thought bubbles to an image in Photoshop.I won’t refer to quick keystrokes, as they differ from Mac to PC, I’ll just refer to the “menu bar” at the top of the page, so here we go:1. Launch Photoshop, and “File”...“Open” to find the image on your hard drive you want to mess with.2. If the image is a jpeg, which most digital photos are, then go to: “File”...“Save As”. In the dialogue box that appears, re-name your image in the “Save As” field, then in the “Format” field, on the menu change from “JPEG” to “Photoshop”, this will create a .psd (PhotoShop Document) as the extension name, and will allow you to work in multiple layers.3. If your “Layers” palette isn’t open, then go to “Window”...“Layers”, if there’s a check mark by the word “Layers”, then it’s already open on your screen somewhere. In the “Layers” palette, you’ll see one layer, probably says ‘background’ and it has a padlock icon on it, that means you can’t change that layer....Wanna bet? You can, but don’t need to here, so maybe I’ll tell you that one another time, I’m open to requests.4. At the base of that “layers” palette are some icons. Click on the one next to the trash can icon, it will give you a new layer, above the first one.5. In the toolbox, usually on your left, if you can’t find it, then “Window”...“Tools” and it will open, keep that to the left of your screen at all times, you use it....A LOT! Now click on the “T” icon in your toolbox, this is you way of adding text. Now click your cursor anywhere on your image, preferably somewhere light in color, and start typing the quote, then highlight them by dragging your cursor over the type.6. If your character palette isn’t open, the “Window”...“Character”, once open you can change the font, point size, color, leading etc to your heart’s content (try and imagine it in a bubble, middle lines longer than outer ones etc, maybe centered, you change the paragraph format in the “Paragraphs” palette which accompanies the “Character” palette, or at the top of the page)......Now I know I may be missing the odd thing here and there, things that I take for granted, and maybe also using unknown terminology too, if that’s the case, just ask and I’ll try and help.7. If you haven’t already got rulers at the top and left of your window, then go to: “View”...“Rulers”, and they will come.8. Now you are going to make the bubble. First click on the background layer in the “Layers” palette, now your next move will create a layer above the background layer and below the text layer. Click on the left ruler and drag a “Guide” across to a little left of the text, then one from the top ruler to just above the text.9. Open your “Swatches” palette: “Window”...“Swatches”, and click on the color white. In the “Toolbox”, two icons down from the “T” icon, click and leave your cursor there until a menu appears, now scroll down to “Ellipse Tool”. Then click your cursor at the crossroads of the guides and drag down and right and a white bubble will appear. Don’t worry too much about whether it’s the right size, it can be changed. It may also be over the top of your text, if so click on the text layer and drag it to the top of the pile, that’s what happens when you don’t read all of point #8. “So why don’t we do the bubble before the text?”, I hear you ask, no other reason than you know how big your text is, it’s a preference thing. And when you’ve done a few of these, you’ll find you’re better at guessing the size of the bubble at first shot.Now click on the layer that has the bubble on it, and you’ll see that the bubble now has handles on it, and by grabbing those handles you can change the shape and size of the bubble. When happy, click on the “Move Tool” the first icon on your “Toolbox”, and a dialogue box comes up and you click “Accept”.At this point I’d just like to say, there may be other more experienced Photoshop users out there, who have quicker or better ways of doing things than I, I’m happy to learn new tricks, so chip in, using any software never stops being a learning curve, I just hope I’m explaining this easy enough for anyone to follow.10. At this point, if you want to move your speech bubble, you have to move each layer, but there’s a way around that. In your “Layers” palette, the icon at the base that looks like a folder? Click that and a ‘special’ layer called “Group 1” appears. Grab your text layer and drag over the top of “Group 1” folder and drop it into it, then the same with the bubble layer, you can shuffle them around within that folder to change which layer is on top. Now if you click on the “Group 1” layer, you can with the “Move Tool” icon highlighted in your “Toolbox” move the bubble anywhere you want.11. Now for those extra bits. Personally I prefer thought bubbles to speech bubbles because I like to believe that animals think, even though I know they can’t speak, and they are easier. So with “Group 1” layer still highlighted, and the “Ellipse Tool” clicked on, you can drag more bubbles onto your image, in ever decreasing sizes towards the head of the animal. As with the main bubble, you can change their size and placement by clicking on each bubble layer and doing what you have to do. Now all of those graphics you just created should all be in the “Group 1” folder and you can move everything at the same time. Now “Save”!I’ve decided to present this in 2 parts, because drawing the pointy spiky thing from the subject’s mouth to the speech bubble is the trickiest thing to do, and probably warrants a separate lesson. So let me know how you get on. I was considering using visible aids with this, but thought I’d have a go trying to communicate by the written word alone, if you’re screaming with mercy, let me know, and I’ll provide some pictorial help. If you are ready to upload to the web, then you need to re-format the .psd into a jpeg, so “Save As”....format “JPEG”, and you’re good to go. In lesson 2, I’ll also deal with ‘cropping’, so be patient!That’s it for, I hope you enjoy.Kevin

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  • I succeeded in making a speech bubble. Thanks for the step-by-step instructions. You would think there was a simpler way to do it! Which version of Photoshop do you use? Some of your instructions were different on my version. How important is it to upgrade? I currently use Photoshop 7.0. Thanks, Barbara
    • Hi Barbara, if you read the posts above from Jane and Guinness, you'll see that unknown to me, there is. I use Photoshop version CS3. The importance to upgrade is up to you, each upgrade makes some tasks simpler and the odd changes are made, but I make it a policy not to upgrade with each version as it gets to expensive. If you are using a PC rather than a Mac like I do, then there will be other differences too.
  • Kevin, this is too funny. It clearly was an accident. Two icons down from the "T" in my toolbox is an icon that let's you pick what shape you want. I know your directions said it was the Ellipse Tool" but I think it's something different in my Photoshop. Anyway, one option was that speech bubble that already had the "pointy thing" attached. So, I selected that and I was all set. I just had to position it in the right place around the text and I was good to go.
    • You see, even us pros learn something new every day. On my version, I have to go to that icon where the ellipse tool is, select custom tool, then change the shape from a menu at the top of the page. That's teally cool. If you want to know how to make the pointy bit face the other way, just let me know.
  • Kevin, you are the best! I followed your instructions, and it worked! Here are my first two photos with bubbles....

    • Where?
    • I just added them to my page. They were embedded in the text of my message, but they disappeared.
    • I'll try again to add them in here...

    • As Steve Martin says as Inspector Clouseau in the Pink Panther movies...."Good one!"
    • I'm so happy that I finally got to do this after many months of trying. Your instructions were the "bomb"...foolproof.
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