(*note: This tutorial assumes you have at least a cursory knowledge of the Pen tool.)
We’ll begin where all good Photoshop exercises do by opening a new document. Mine is 540x320px at 72ppi but as always you can adjust this to your hearts desire. Just remember that if you’re creating an image at a higher ppi or even larger on the canvas, you’ll need to adjust your layer styles to look right along the way.
Lets jump right in and create the outer ring of wax. Grab the Pen tool by pressing the P key, click a starting point and then click and bend the segments to create the exterior perimeter of the wax seal. Typically these seals have a smooth wavy outline like the completed path below.
Before we go any further lets click over to the Paths palette and name this new path Wax Outline.
Now lets draw the inner boundary for this area of our wax. With the Pen tool still selected make sure that the Exclude Overlapping Path Areas option is selected and then create a new lightly wavy inner circle as shown in the example below. Notice that both paths are contained in the Wax Outline path layer and the path layer thumbnail indeed shows the new path has subtracted the center area from our object.
With the outer area of the wax drawn as paths lets switch over to the Layers palette and create a new layer called Wax Edge. Press the A key to invoke the Path Selection Tool and click and drag a selection around the entire path on the stage to select the entire thing. Every point on your path should now show up as a solid black square.
Now that the entire path is selected Control-Click (PC: Right-Click) on the path and choose Create Vector Mask from the menu. This will create a mask on the Wax Edge layer based on the paths we have selected.
In the Tools palette change the foreground color to #bb362e and press Option-Delete (PC: Alt-Backspace) to fill the layer with that color. Notice that only the area exposed by the layer mask is showing through.
For reasons I’ll explain later we’re going to need a duplicate copy of this layer, so lets create that duplicate now by pressing Command-J (PC: Ctrl-J). Call the lower layer Shadow.
Make sure the Wax Edge layer is selected in the Layers palette and lets add a few Layer Styles to bring our wax edge to life. Command-Click (PC: Right-Click) on the Wax Edge layer and choose Blending Options from the menu to bring up the Layer Styles dialog box and add the following Drop Shadow and Contour. Be sure to check every single setting as many of them have been changed. Depending on the size and resolution of your object you may need to adjust the sizes of the styles accordingly to get a look you’re happy with.
Your Wax Edge should now be looking something like this.
Next we’re going to create the center of the wax seal by using pieces we’ve already created. Pay close attention here so you don’t get lost.
Click on the Shadow layer and duplicate it by pressing Command-J (PC: Ctrl-J). Name this new layer Wax Center. So that we can work with this new layer clearly lets hide the Shadow and Wax Edge layers by clicking on the little eye icon next to each in the Layers palette.
Press the A key to switch to the Path Selection tool if it’s not still selected. Click on the outer path to select it and then press Delete (PC: Backspace) to remove it. This will instantly switch the color to the inside of the inner circle.
This inner circle we’ve now created is the exact size of the center of our wax, it is common however in this sort of situation for a small outline of white to appear between the inner and outer pieces so we’re going to expand this inner area a bit.
Click on the path to select it and then press Command-T (PC: Ctrl-T) to invoke the Free Transform tool. Instead of clicking and dragging the corner points we’re going to use the Free Transform options bar to do all the work. Click the Maintain Aspect Ratio icon between the Width and Height size percentage fields to insure a perfect transformation, then enter 105% into the Width field and notice that the Height field changes to 105% instantly. Press the Return (PC: Enter) key twice to commit the transformation of the path.
Go ahead and unhide the Wax Edge and Shadow layers now and if you don’t want to see the paths on stage you can press Command-H (PC: Ctrl-H) to hide them.
Making sure the Wax Center layer is selected add the following Bevel and Emboss, Contour and Satin layer styles. These styles will allow the center of our wax stamp to blend with the edge softly and will create a nice rounded transition between the two. Remember to check each individual setting to insure you don’t miss anything.
If you got the layer styles right this is what your wax seal should be looking like thus far.
While we’re in the mode of adding layer styles, lets add a Drop Shadow and Outer Glow to the Shadow layer as well. Notice that I’ve changed the color and blend mode of the Outer Glow style to black and multiply. By doing this I can add an even outer shadow of just a few pixels around the whole object to make it look like it’s sitting on the surface a little nicer.
Remember when I said I’d explain why we’d made this duplicate of the Wax Edge layer? Well here you go… If we had added this Layer Style to the Wax Edge layer, the shadow would have also been cast across the Wax Center layer on the inside and would have ruined the effect, but by having a duplicate copy hiding at the bottom of the layer stack we can apply the shadow and it only shows up where it’s supposed to at the outer edge of our seal. Pretty tricky eh?
Now that our wax seal is built we can add a detail to the center of it that will finalize the effect. I’m going to use one of the shapes from my Heraldic Custom Shapes set, but you can use any custom shape you’d like, even text.
Create a new layer above the Wax Center layer (I’ll call mine Heraldic Shape since that’s what I’m putting on it). Press the U key to switch to the Custom Shape tool, make sure the Custom Shape blob is selected in the Options bar at the top of Photoshop and that the Paths option is also selected. Choose a custom shape from the Custom Shape picker and then click and drag your shape path onto the stage.
Just like we did earlier, lets convert this path to a Vector Mask by first switching to the Path Selection tool by pressing the A key and then Command-Clicking (PC: Right-Clicking) on the path and choosing Create Vector Mask from the menu. Now fill the layer with color by pressing Option-Delete (PC: Alt-Backspace) – any color will be fine because we’re going to drop the layer’s Fill opacity to 0% as well.
If you didn’t get that hint, now would be a good time to drop the Fill opacity of this new layer to 0% in the Layers palette.
Press Command-H (PC: Ctrl-H) to hide the paths and then add a Bevel and Emboss and Contour to this layer as well. Since we’ve set the Fill opacity of the layer to 0% but the Opacity is still set to 100% the bevel and emboss will show as highlight and shadow areas but will allow the underlying layer tones to show through.
The finished wax seal should now look like this.
In my final image I added a piece of string below the seal and some folded old paper for the wax seal to live on. You can learn to make both of these pieces in other tutorials I’ve written. I also added a clipping mask from the Heraldic Shape layer to the Wax Center layer which allowed even more of the color from the underlying layer to appear on the Heraldic Shape. You can see all of this in the file download at the end of the lesson.
Learn to make the string in my Custom Hang Tag tutorial (Steps 14-19).
Learn to bend the string’s shadows in my Adding Depth With Shadows tutorial.
Learn to make the old paper in my Creating Old Paper With Custom Brushes tutorial.
Lesson Files + Additional Resources
Download the free .PSD file and other lesson files Right Here.