How to Make License Plates in Photoshop


You can create artwork for a basic vanity license plate in any version of Adobe Photoshop in just eight steps. A license plate is basically a rectangle with rounded edges and letters. Many license plates have raised edges, but this article will walk you through creating a simple plate that is flat. You'll add drop shadows and other effects to the plate, which will help to give it a three-dimensional appearance. Then you'll add the letters and numbers to your vanity plate, plus any state or county names. Finally, you'll learn how to add renewal stickers.

  • Create a new document that is twice as wide as it is tall and make your document's canvas slightly larger than what your finished plate will be. This example uses a standard license plate size of 12-by-6 inches, so create a document 14-by-8 inches. Check your document's resolution: use 72 dpi for web images but use a resolution of 300 dpi for images that you will want to print. Set your background to medium gray.

  • Make sure your default colors are black and white. Create a new layer. Select the rounded rectangle tool on the tool palette, and draw a 12-by-6-inch rectangle. Fill it with white.

  • Bring up the layers palette. Select "Drop Shadow" and add a small drop shadow of approximately 5 pixels. Select "Bevel and Emboss" and choose a depth of about 100.

  • Add type to your license plate. Pick an easy-to-read sans serif font. Allow room at the top and bottom for state names and county names, and space for optional yearly renewal stickers, depending on how realistic you want your plate to be. Select layer styles for the type layer and select "Bevel and Emboss," "Contour," and select the "Ring" contour. Use the default values.

  • Add another layer for your state name. Pick a nice font and add the name. Move the type to the top of the plate and center it right to left. No need to emboss this type.

  • Add another type layer for the county name or state logo. Center this like you did the state name. Do not emboss this type, either.

  • Create a new layer for stickers. Set the rectangular marquee to 2-by-1.5 inches. Click to create a selection, and fill with a color of your choice. Red or dark blue are good colors. Do not deselect. Go to "Filter," "Add Noise," and add 4% uniform monochromatic noise. The sticker should look reflective. Deselect now.

  • Add another type layer above the sticker and add type to the sticker. Repeat steps 7 and 8 if you want to add another sticker to the license plate.

Tips & Warnings

  • Keep your history palette open so you can backtrack easily if you need to.
  • American license plates are 12 inches wide by 6 inches high.
  • Don't flatten your layers.

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