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The bold, the faux bold, and the beautiful: Three easy ways to create bold text

Added on Wednesday 2nd of November 2011 03:43 am EST

by Matt Gebhardt
Adobe Photoshop CS2/CS3/CS4/CS5
Operating Systems:
Macintosh, Microsoft Windows


Making your text bold is often necessary to draw emphasis to certain words in your designs. However, adding a suitable bold effect isn’t always as straightforward or foolproof as you might imagine. We’ll clarify different ways to apply bold formatting to your text so you can always be on top of the matter.


To help you add just the right bold effect to your text, we’ll show you how to:

  • Use a bold font via the Type tool options bar for a simple bold formatting application.
  • Apply a bold effect to any font with the Faux Bold command, and fill you in on potential problems it presents.
  • Create a custom bold effect using the Stroke command for an easy workaround to your bold formatting woes.


If you’ve worked in other Adobe applications such as InDesign or Illustrator, you’ve no doubt worked with the Paragraph and Character panels to format text for your document. Photoshop offers much of the same text control, but because it renders type in pixels (unless you save your file in PDF) you may experience different issues with your text, specifically when it comes to boldface. Never fear, we’ll steer you in the right direction as you decide how to go bold.


Make it bold; straight-up
If you ever create designs in Photoshop that involve text, you probably already know the most basic technique for applying a bold effect to your text. Here it is in a nutshell.


To create bold text via the Type tool options bar:

  • Select the Horizontal Type tool from the Tools panel.
  • Select the text in your design that you want to bold.
  • Choose Bold from the Set The Font Style pop-up menu in the Type tool options bar, as shown in Figure A.



The limitation of this technique is obvious when you try to use a variety of fonts—you need to have the bold version of your chosen font installed in order for the option to be available. But, don’t fret—there’s more than one way to bold text in Photoshop.


Make it bold; the faux way
The easiest alternative to using a bold font is something called Faux Bold. Unlike the Type tool’s Bold command, Faux Bold doesn’t replace your font with a different, bold font. Instead, it does a little magic to make your selected font appear bold.


To create bold text using the Faux Bold command:

  1. Choose the Horizontal Type tool from the Tools panel.
  2. Select the text you want to bold.
  3. Choose Window > Character to display the Character Panel.
  4. Click the Faux Bold button in the bottom-left corner of the Character Panel Menu, as shown in Figure B.




Tip: You can also apply Faux Bold by [control]-clicking (right-clicking in Windows) on selected text and choosing Faux Bold from the resulting shortcut menu.


As you may have guessed, this seemingly perfect alternative approach does have its dark side—especially if you need to export or print your design (and isn’t that just about everybody?). See the warning box for details.



Two Faux Bold warnings:
First, you can’t warp type that has Faux Bold formatting. Second, while Faux Bold certainly looks nice on the screen i...