Create an effective call-to-action button in Photoshop (video)

Barin Cristian Doru

Hello, my name is Chris, also known as thislooksgreat. Today, we’re going to take a look at creating an effective call-to-action button, plus an issue about resizing and duplicating it.

Let’s get started:

The base of our button is going to be a rounded rectangle, so get that tool from the left panel. You can also press U then Shift+U to scroll through those tools. I’m using Photoshop CS6 and I have the align edges option available. Be sure to always have that checked because it prevents having fuzzy edges on your shapes. A good radius is something in between 5 to 10 pixels. Square buttons are really out of style, so do your best to stay away from them.

Let’s draw a long and stumpy shape. Ideally, the ratio should be around 3.5 to 1, but let’s not get too technical here. Ok, now go to the bottom of the layers panel and click the small fx button. From the pop-up, choose Gradient Overlay. From here, we’re going to click on the gradient bar, open up a new window and make a custom gradient.

First, the left side, which is the bottom region. I already have a nice blue color code. That’s 186be7, but you can use whatever you want. When you’re happy, select the color code and copy it with Ctrl+C. Press Ok, go to the other end and paste the code with Ctrl+V. Now, raise up your color picker so you get a lighter blue. In my case, I’ll set it exactly at 0f88f9.

Great. Now press Ok a few times and we have our base. We can actually name it just that: base. Ok, now we have this nice 3D look. Let’s build on it. Go to the fx button, hit it again and this time choose Stroke. The size should be 1 pixel, the position should be set to Outside, and now for the color. Click once to open the color picker then sample a dark blue from the base of our button. If needed, you can even drag it down slightly if you want an even darker stroke.

Ok, that’s done. One more effect left and that’s Inner glow. Select it, leave all the settings as is, except the size which should be set at 2 pixels. While having the base layer selected, press Ctrl+J. Move that duplicate underneath our base in the layers panel then nudge it 3 pixels down with your arrow key. Disable both the Inner Glow and Gradient Overlay by pressing on the eye symbols to their left.

Finally, double-click its thumbnail and change its color to a darker blue. In my case it’s 0f5dc7. To finish everything off, we need a bit of text. Press T and write a generic call to action. Download Now is just fine. For the font settings, I’ll use Calvert Mt, a great looking serif font. The size should be 24 pixels and its font-weight should be normal. Make it all white.

Underneath it, add a second line of text. No credit card required! is fine. This should be smaller in size. I’ll set it at 17 pixels and the color should really stand out. Here, I’ll use fbf802. Select both text layers while on the move tool, press the button up top labeled align left edges. Use Ctrl+G to group them into a folder, just for good measure. Rename that to text.

Great buttons are great for a reason and that’s usually because of their small details. Here, we’ll add something special to it with the help of a custom shape. You can get a bunch of them from the web, so no worries there.

I’ll use a down arrow because it goes well with our text. The color I’m going to use is: 1060b2. Of course it needs some effects so let’s go do that now. First the Inner Shadow. The settings should be:

  • distance: 1 pixel
  • size: 3 pixels
  • opacity: 28%.

This, of course, will depend on your color choices. The next effect we’re going to add is Satin. The settings:

  • opacity: 50%
  • angle: 0 degrees
  • distance: 2 pixels
  • size: 18 pixels

The last effect for this item is the Stroke. The settings:

  • size: 1 pixel
  • position: outside
  • opacity: 100%
  • color code: 1285e7

This really adds a very subtle, yet visible effect to our custom shape.

To separate our arrow from our text, we’ll use a nice technique. Grab the line tool from the left panel. Make sure the weight is set at 1 pixel and drag a vertical line from the top of the button all the way down. Make that line black. Then use Ctrl+J to duplicate it, nudge it 1 pixel to the right with the help of your arrow key and make that white. Great. Now lower the opacity to around 30% by pressing 3 on your keyboard. If you want 35, for example, just type it in: 35. Depending on the darkness of your button, you’ll probably have to adjust the black line as well. Take your time with it and find a good value for it.

Ok. Now group both lines into a folder and now comes the fun part. Go to the bottom of the layers panel and hit the mask button. Then press G and make sure you have the gradient tool selected. Take a look at the settings up top. From white to black, radial, opacity 100%, with dither and transparency checked.

Now, it’s time to start dragging. There’s no specific formula here. Hold shift and drag multiple times until you get the right effect. Try a short dragging action, then work your way into a slightly longer one so you can get your bearing. It’s important you drag from the center of the button, not from the top or bottom.

After a few goes, it should be ready. At this point, I could show you how to make it even nicer, maybe add a realistic shadow to it or maybe a reflection but those wouldn’t work in this case because of our perspective. We’re seeing it from the bottom so that’s why we’re going to leave those techniques for another tutorial.

What I will show you is a few ways in which you can add a gloss effect to it. The first one: group everything into one folder. Then use Ctrl+J to make a copy of it. Right click it and hit Convert to Smart Object. Get the Ellipse Tool and drag a shape like this. Be sure to make it white and center it with the button. You can either use the alignment tools up by selecting both layers or use the Marquee Tool. Whatever feels better for you. Then press Ctrl+Alt+G to create a Clipping Mask. What that does is hides the excess white.

Ok. Now, having only the new shape selected, press 1 on your keyboard to lower the opacity to 10%, and that’s it. That’s our first option.

Let me put that to the side. The second option goes like this. Go back to our initial button and draw a rectangle above it. It should be white. Aim for the middle, more or less. Now hold down Ctrl and click on the thumbnail of the base layer. It’s important to notice we’re still on the new rectangle layer. Now press the mask icon from the bottom and lower the opacity to 10%. And that’s it.

So that’s what I wanted to show you regarding call to action buttons. There’s still a lot to say, but I want to keep this as short as possible. I have a bunch of other free tutorials you can check out, as well as a premium 16 hours long tutorial where I show all of my secrets.

Back to this tutorial, the last part is regarding an issue with rounded shapes. As you probably know, if we want to enlarge our button, we can’t simply use Ctrl+T on it because the corner radius will be distorted. In order to maintain our radius but still enlarge our shape, whether it’s a button, a main menu a search bar or whatever, we need the Direct Selection Tool.

The shortcut is A and it’s the white arrow from the left panel, not the black one. So the technique is simple: click and select the 2 points from the top edge, then hold Shift and do the same for the bottom. Now go to the edge and drag. I also like to hold down shift so it will expand in a straight line. As you can see, the corners are perfect. Of course the button needs some adjusting but you get the idea. The problem I want to showcase is this: say you want to make a copy of it so you can use it in another element, in our case maybe as a main menu. Use Ctrl+J, right? Well, let’s see what happens.

On the left, we have square edges so clearly something went wrong. No matter how many times you do this, you’ll end up with the same result — a distorted shape. The problem is that you selected those 4 points previously, 2 from the top, 2 from the bottom and that’s what’s causing our problem.

To solve it, we have a few options. First, after you select those 4 points and you’ve enlarged your button, always, and I mean always press Enter. This will lock those points into place and now you can happily use Ctrl+J. So remember, after you’ve used the Direct Selection Tool, always press Enter, then move along with your work.

The alternative isn’t bad but I consider the first one better. So what you can do is use alt and drag to make a copy. Now even though you didn’t lock those points, the duplicate looks fine. I know for some of you this might not sound like a big deal but if you’re into web design, you’ll surely run into this problem at some point and since there’s no tutorial out there about it, I thought I should mention it.

That’s it for my tutorial. If you want more, be sure to leave a comment and let me know what you think. You can also find me at thislooksgreat.net or on Twitter @thislooksgreat so be sure to say Hi!

That’s it, my name is Chris, also known as thislooksgreat and I’m out!

Have any questions on how to make a button using Photoshop? Don’t hesitate to ask.

The author

Barin Cristian Doru
Barin Cristian Doru

Barin Cristian Doru aka 'thislooksgreat' is an experienced web designer and proud member of the 99designs community: http://99designs.com/people/thislooksgreat Besides creating awesome website designs, he is also an entrepreneur, an Android App Developer and a content creator. His work ranges from freebie PSD files to small tips & tricks in Photoshop, all the way to a premium 16 hour long course on how to succeed on 99designs.

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