Old World Wax Seal

Old World Wax Seal

In this Photoshop tutorial I'll show you how to create an old world style wax seal using just a few layers, layer styles and the pen tool.

Step 1

(*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.

Step 2

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.

Step 3

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.

Step 4

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.

Step 5

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.

Step 6

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.

Step 7

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.

Step 8

Your Wax Edge should now be looking something like this.

Step 9

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.

Step 10

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.

Step 11

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.

Step 12

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.

Step 13

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.

Step 14

If you got the layer styles right this is what your wax seal should be looking like thus far.

Step 15

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?

Step 16

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.

Step 17

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.

Step 18

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.

Step 19

The finished wax seal should now look like this.

Step 20

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.

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69 Responses to Old World Wax Seal

  1. Jac Hill

    July 29th, 2008 at 12:42 pm

    Wow, very nice. Great use of layer styles.

  2. bodhi

    July 29th, 2008 at 2:41 pm

    Fantastic. Good job!!

  3. Gustavo Lemos

    July 29th, 2008 at 9:11 pm

    Nice one mate

  4. Jason Boyle

    July 29th, 2008 at 9:26 pm

    Whoa. Serious Zeitgeist happening here. I go to your website at least once a day now and I used the “old paper” tutorial to do my contact form. I was thinking to myself, a red wax seal for my send button would be a really cool touch, so I did some research and made one.

    Now here I go checking your site after I’ve made my wax seal and you have one. Awesome :)!

    Keep up the tutorials, you have a gift; not only for knowing how to use photoshop like you made it but also the ability to teach well and communicate clearly; something lacking on many other how-to-do-it pages.

  5. HERO

    July 29th, 2008 at 10:10 pm

    Thanks for the compliments, I’m glad you’re finding what I do here useful!

  6. RedLine RedApple

    July 30th, 2008 at 3:11 am

    Nice tut. Thanks!!

  7. crazyhunk

    July 30th, 2008 at 4:06 am

    hehe….really good one m8…

    thanx a lot

  8. Lori

    July 30th, 2008 at 11:53 pm

    I’ve always loved wax seals and they fit well with the website I’m designing. The technique you demonstrate here makes it look like the real thing. Thanks for the great tutorial as well as the wonderful custom shapes to go with it.

  9. bodhi

    July 31st, 2008 at 3:16 am

    Hi Hero.
    Again congratulations for the excellent results that you produce.
    I ask what inspires you to produce such works.
    Surely you have a lot of imagination and inventiveness.
    Do you have any models to follow or is your imagination that allows you to create everything?

  10. HERO

    July 31st, 2008 at 9:20 am

    I’m an unstoppable and overflowing fountain of creativity!

    Yeah… that’s not true. :)

    Believe it or not it’s actually a whole lot of work to come up with ideas for tutorials each week. When I’m feeling creative it’s easy, but on other days I sit in front of a blank screen for hours in frustration. I’ll scour magazines, TV, and the internet for some sort of starting point or inspiration. Other days I’ll mock up 3 or 4 different ideas before deciding that one is good enough for the site. Overall though I’d say it’s probably 10% creativity and 90% good old fashioned persistence, commitment and hard work.

    It sure would be nice to constantly be oozing with creativity though. I ask Santa for it every year but all I ever get is socks and underwear.

  11. Paulo Sales

    August 5th, 2008 at 9:07 am

    A fashion tutorial will be nice, please..then i can paint my socks whit some pattern style !

    great tutorial once more…

  12. mr. diggles

    August 7th, 2008 at 3:08 pm

    this is slicker than snot.

    not to sound too obvious, but it looks real. if i tried this without the tutorial it would look like an effin’ mess.

  13. Matol

    August 14th, 2008 at 3:49 am

    Yo man i really like your tuts, so i was wondering if you are interested to submit the link to your latest tutorials on your site so my visitors can find your new tutorials easy . This way u will get much more traffic . Please contact me by the mail all the best .
    P.S. it would be a good idea to add a contact page :P

  14. steve

    August 16th, 2008 at 12:30 pm

    Great tutorial – as always :) Thanks for sharing your ideas. Can’t believe you do it for free, I appreciate it.

  15. Carlo Mendoza

    September 2nd, 2008 at 4:41 pm

    I didn’t know Photoshop could do that.

  16. Abu Shamil

    September 2nd, 2008 at 10:48 pm

    Great tutorial !!!

  17. silentace

    September 5th, 2008 at 1:33 am

    Great tutorial. I have been checking out the site for some time (I think you had like 5 tutorials on when I first saw it). Keep up the good work

  18. afnan

    September 5th, 2008 at 2:11 am

    woOoo.. thanks dude..

  19. Jazz99

    September 6th, 2008 at 1:17 am

    Well written and it applies to various versions, Keep it up, always nice to have another one in the kitbag, As someone up there said, great job of using layer styles.

  20. Michael Binihakis

    September 9th, 2008 at 3:47 am

    its a great tut. it helped me divise a seal for WWFs kids’ greek magazine. thank you

  21. Marco

    October 21st, 2008 at 1:32 pm

    Awesome… great tutorial, this is allways useful.

  22. Trisha Lyn Fawver

    October 23rd, 2008 at 7:32 pm

    That is killer awesome. I love your tutorials – just subscribed to the RSS!

  23. Dainin

    October 24th, 2008 at 10:25 am

    Thanks a lot , very useful, simply amzing, …

  24. Michael Plant

    October 24th, 2008 at 6:42 pm

    Nice tutorial, I created something exactly like this for a candle making client of mine. About, oh… 6 months ago, wish I had made it that nice but I think mine still turned out good. Where did you get your idea?

  25. Travis

    October 30th, 2008 at 2:23 pm

    Wow……this is tutorial that i search for a long time…
    Thanks Hero your the greatest..

  26. davide

    November 1st, 2008 at 4:42 pm

    Awesome! Stumlbed, dugged, bookmarked

  27. Michelle

    November 27th, 2008 at 10:24 pm

    Whoo! Thanks a lot for this.

  28. Patricia

    December 6th, 2008 at 6:59 am

    Thank you!!
    I did it!

  29. Carol

    January 8th, 2009 at 10:46 am

    Thanks so much for sharing! This helped me tremendously when I was asked to do a job incorporating a wax seal!

  30. Tanya

    January 14th, 2009 at 9:44 am

    WOW!! I missed one step but I was able to pull it off. Thank you sooooo much!

  31. David

    January 23rd, 2009 at 7:17 pm

    Great work! Totally going to use it on my site.

  32. Revangel

    February 7th, 2009 at 1:32 pm

    Absolutely great!

  33. rrusch

    February 16th, 2009 at 3:03 am

    your work is amazing. guess you really are a hero!

  34. Maru

    March 3rd, 2009 at 4:47 pm

    This is amazing!
    Your tutorial is very well written.
    There’s no doubt that you are an excellent Photoshop user.
    However, not all photoshop masters can write tutorials as good as you – plenty of screenshots too.
    Can’t wait to find more of your work.

  35. Felipe

    April 15th, 2009 at 12:28 am

    nice work dude!! thank you very much!! you really help me.

  36. kadugu

    June 24th, 2009 at 1:52 pm

    Great. Your tutorials planned and written as if you are teaching to your own son/daughter with certain amount of personal and endearment touch. You seem to enjoy teaching as much as we enjoy learning the secrets..

  37. Dar??o

    June 28th, 2009 at 5:50 pm

    Hi, what an excellent tutorial, by the way, can I create my own “Heraldic Shape”? I’d love to… Thank you very much for this tutorial, really is very useful…


  38. Jen_D

    July 21st, 2009 at 6:06 pm

    The outcome is breath-taking! This would be so cool to apply to all sorts of different shapes – blood maybe too? Beautifully done, thank you! :D


    August 19th, 2009 at 5:35 pm


  40. G?©o No?´l

    August 27th, 2009 at 5:41 pm

    Fabulous!!! it¬¥s great to know make that…Thanks

  41. Savannah

    August 31st, 2009 at 9:29 am

    Wow, I have fallen in love with this tutorial (crediting you all over the site!) FYI you don’t have to use a “shape” for everything I use the ellipse tool to make a circle then reaterized and just nudged out the outline with the liquid filter. From there I did everything just like he said, and used black and white images for my “stamps”

  42. HERO

    August 31st, 2009 at 1:10 pm

    SAVANAH, I use Shapes because they’re Vector, so if I need to resize the seal later I won’t loose any quality.

  43. Dogo

    September 17th, 2009 at 12:36 am

    Awesomeness, one of the best out there. And thanks for the PSD!

  44. shiva

    September 26th, 2009 at 5:11 am

    wow while seeing these website iwas surprised because of every tutorial good especially, 3d logos is attractive and very good to see there is dirrerence between 3d’s max and photoshop

  45. Silken

    October 9th, 2009 at 4:35 pm

    Great tut! I loved! Tnx for share!

  46. Bella

    October 12th, 2009 at 6:15 am

    PSHERO! Thanks so much for this super straight-forward tutorial – you’re a great teacher.

  47. GAG

    October 27th, 2009 at 1:33 pm

    Very good instructions and images many thanks

  48. Benjamin Rama

    November 22nd, 2009 at 11:06 am

    love it tx

  49. Gfx-Dzine

    November 24th, 2009 at 7:11 am

    Wow man thanks really a lot!
    You know the drill – dealine, boss pressuring heavily, wants a wax-seal, I google, find & finished it.

    Great clear instructions with a fat PLUS factor :)

    Thanks again,

  50. Michelle

    November 28th, 2009 at 2:09 pm

    Thanks for making this so easy!

  51. ondergang

    November 30th, 2009 at 1:50 pm

    Thanks !! This is really awesome and well explained !!!

  52. tony g.

    December 21st, 2009 at 5:45 am

    Thankyou so much for the tutorial… I was able to make an awesome logo for my website!!!!

  53. Jonet

    January 26th, 2010 at 9:01 am

    Wonderful site/tutorials ~ you are my HERO to be sure.

    Question, how difficult would it be to use my family crest for this process?

    Thanks for educating us!

  54. HERO

    February 2nd, 2010 at 6:40 pm

    JONET, If you’ve got your family crest as a vector it’d be super easy, otherwise it’s as complicated as tracing it with the pen tool and making the vector yourself.

  55. Tyran Choy

    March 11th, 2010 at 2:46 am

    Thanks for your sharing, it’s easy and simple.

  56. Jill

    March 12th, 2010 at 11:28 pm

    That was really fun! :)

  57. Mike Kenny

    March 13th, 2010 at 1:01 pm

    Is it possible to do this same logo in illustrator instead of photoshop?

  58. HERO

    March 15th, 2010 at 7:44 am

    MIKE, Yes, it’s possible to do this in Illustrator, though the techniques would be completely different and many of the 3 dimensional qualities achieved here with layer styles would need to be created by hand.

  59. Debi Sementelli

    April 1st, 2010 at 8:19 pm

    I have a seal design I made in Illustrator that I am having an actual wax seal stamper made out of. I would like to use the artwork to create a wax seal graphic, like this. But after 3 hours trying to figure out how to make it work, I am stumped. I’m pretty much a newbie at all this. Any ideas?


  60. omnibreed

    April 5th, 2010 at 2:59 am

    i love the graphix design community. out of all my tutorial exp. this one was the best. a true test of one skill but done right “remarkable” thx

  61. Amber

    April 17th, 2010 at 7:50 pm

    I used this in black. It looks so sinister and awesome but the embossed part really needed to be white@around 10-20% fill. Only because the detail on the graphic itself gets absorbed by the blackness otherwise. Great tutorial! Thanks heaps!

  62. Hypnogogial

    May 10th, 2010 at 1:43 pm


    This tutorial was great! Not only does it look wonderful when you are done, but it covers simple paths and bevels (which were new to me when I started), and it forced me come up with a logo. It was several lessons in one.

    I am very grateful for the neat reason to consider something I wasn’t even thinking about…this tutorial made me figure out what belongs in the middle of the seal.


    This is my favorite tutorial so far and I have linked to it (of course). Check it out. But much thanks for spurring me on.

  63. Hobittual

    August 3rd, 2010 at 5:07 pm

    You are very thorough with your explanations. Not tiresome in the process, you use plain talk
    and communicate your intentions very well. So much better than other tutorials I have encountered. I will follow your blog and promote it whenever I can. Well done.

  64. prashant

    August 28th, 2010 at 4:39 am

    Wonderful website.
    Great Thanks for free material.
    God Bless You.

  65. icarus ve

    December 5th, 2010 at 9:45 am

    Your job is interesting and the final design is excellent!

  66. Elizabeth

    December 27th, 2010 at 2:18 pm

    Awesome tutorial! Well-written with excellent screen caps so I could follow along without a problem! Thank you!

  67. Dave

    January 3rd, 2011 at 1:52 pm

    Excellent tutorial! Very easy to follow, thanks. Looks great on my Harry Potter Uni Project!

  68. Kim

    March 8th, 2011 at 8:46 am

    Tutorial was amazing! really easy to follow with great results! thank you

  69. paul

    March 14th, 2011 at 4:11 am

    Thanks, great, well done, BRAVO!