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Grunge Fusion: Creating Stunning Textures with Blending Modes and Filters

posted by Matt Ward on Jan 8, 2011.

In this tutorial, we will be looking at how to create and collect a variety of photographic resources and then use Photoshop’s blending modes, filters and adjustment layers to combine those resources into a cool and interesting grunge texture.

Back around Christmas time, I released a pack of really bold, gungy textures that I had created specifically for Echo Enduring readers. One of the comments that I received suggested that it might be a good idea to provide a tutorial on the process I used. So, while each texture was actually a bit different, I have decided to write a generalized overview of some of the techniques that I used to create those textures.

Kicking it Grade School Style

I don’t know about you, but back when I was in grade school, I remember having a few different projects where I had to do something “creative”. One such project was to create the last will and testemant from some character from a novel set in the Renaissance or Victorian England. Honestly, I can’t remember all that much about it, except that I wanted to make it look old and weathered. So, with the help of my mom, I set about staining paper, tea bag style.

This is a really old and simple trick, but sometimes those can be the best! Basically, just boil up some water and make yourself a nice big pot of tea. Good old-fashioned English breakfast tea works really well. Once it’s brewed, follow these directions:

  • If so inclined pour yourself a cup. Then, pour the remainder into a dish that would be would be wide enough to set a piece of paper in.
  • Take a piece of paper (plain old printer paper works find) and crumple it up into a ball. Then, carefully uncrumple it again.
  • Set the paper into the tea so that it is fully submerged.
  • Wait. How long you wait is up to you, but the longer you wait, the more of stained the paper will become .
  • Take the paper out of the tea and set it somewhere to dry

Once it’s dried, you will have a nice brown-stained sheet that will work well as the base for our texture. At this point, you can either scan it into computer or photograph it. I chose to photograph mine, because we will also be using the camera to capture a couple of other resources, so the image dimensions will all be identical.

Just a bit of tea and plain old paper were used to create this texture

Just a bit of tea and plain old paper were used to create this texture

Finding the Grunge

I like to think that my wife and I keep a fairly clean household, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t a few places where I can find some awesome, grungy surfaces. One of those places is the garage floor. Made from poured concrete, and victimized by all kinds of dirt, mud and other substances, it is a wonderfully stained, textured and even cracked surface that yields all kinds of grungy awesomeness. I’ve taken all kinds of shots of my garage floor for texture purposes. Here is the one we will be using today!

My garage floor offers all kinds of opportunities to find grunge

My garage floor offers all kinds of opportunities to find grunge

Another prime spot in my house is the wash basin downstairs. This old, battered plastic sink was in pretty rough shape when we moved in, and after having been the site of many different cleanups, it’s developed its own grungy character! So, I snapped this shot of that spot, and will be using this as the third and final resource for our process today:

Another grungy photograph from a surface in my basement

Another grungy photograph from a surface in my basement

Blending And Adjusting

Start by opening up the paper texture in Photoshop. Then insert a new layer with the garage floor texture. You can either use open-copy-paste to insert it, or place it in as a Smart Object. Next, set the blending mode of the to top layer to multiply. This will essentially merge the two textures together:

Use the multiply blending mode to merge the two source images

Use the multiply blending mode to merge the two source images

By combining these two layers together, the entire thing is a little dull and drab, so let’s use some adjustment layers to bring a little vibrancy to the overall piece. We’ll start with by adding a Levels adjustment layer, with the following properties:

Use an adjustment layer to tweak the levels and make the image a bit brighter

Use an adjustment layer to tweak the levels and make the image a bit brighter (values of 23, 1.04 and 192)

Next, we’ll also use a Brightness/Contrast layer to bring out even more of the texture:

Next, use a Brightness/Contrast adjustment layer

Next, use a Brightness/Contrast adjustment layer with a brightness of 18 and a contrast of 16

Now it looks much more interesting, with more contrast and lighting that allows you to really see all of the details. It also sets things up for the next step, where we will be bringing in even more grunge through our third resource.

First, though, let’s add a little more colour into the mix. Create a new empty layer, then set your foreground colour to a medium brown and your background colour to a sort of kiwi-ish green. Create a a linear gradient from one corner to the other

Create a layer with a coloured gradient

Create a layer with a coloured gradient

Then, set the blending mode to Hue.

Set the blending mode of the coloured gradient to Hue to give a slight colour treatment to the image

Set the blending mode of the coloured gradient to Hue to give a slight colour treatment to the image

The effect is subtle, but it adds a bit of extra visual interest into the composition and brings a certain sense of atmosphere. For a different kind of feeling, you can try different combinations of colours. If you’ve never really used the Hue blending mode, I really suggest taking the time to play around with it a bit. It’s become one of my favorites.

Alright, now lets import our third photograph. Again, you can either paste it in or place it as a Smart Object. The first thing we’re going to do with this one is to use another adjustment layer to bring up the brightness and contrast a bit:

Slightly increase the brightness and contrast of the texture.

Slightly increase the brightness and contrast of the texture.

This will give the texture a slightly “overexpossed” look. We’ll loose some of the detail, but that’s okay, since what we really want the most out of this one is the big patches of rust stains. Once we’re satisfied with the contrast here, we’ll want to commit to our adjustment. You can either do a hard commit by merging the texture layer and the adjustment layer, or you can be less destructive and select them both and create a new Smart Object. It’s up to you.

Whatever choice you make, you are next going to want to set the blending mode of our adjusted texture to Linear Burn.

Altogether, the blending and adjustment layers combine to create this

Altogether, the blending and adjustment layers combine to create this

Now that is a dirty, grungy and intense bit of grunge!

Finishing Filters

Once we’ve come this far, another thing that I like to do is mess around with some lighting filters, just to bring a little extra finish. Of course, we can’t apply a single filter to all the seperate layers, so the first thing that I always do is to select all the layers and convert them to a Smart Object, by right clicking on the selected layers in the Layers panel and selecting the Convert to Smart Object option.

With this done, we can actually use a Smart Filter, which is basically just a filter that is applied to a Smart Object. The key difference, however, is that Smart Filters can actually be edited later, which is an incredibly useful tool.

In this instance, we will use the Filters » Render » Lighting Effects filter, with the following settings:

Use these settings on the lighting filter

Use these settings on the lighting filter

One key thing to note, is that we are using the Texture Channel option, with the green channel selected. In addition to adding some lighting, this will add a bit of extra bit of grainy texture.

The lighting filter also adds an extra bit of grainy texture

The lighting filter also adds an extra bit of grainy texture

Lastly, we’ll use just one more Brightness/Contrast adjustment layer to finish things off:

Use one last Brightness/Contrast adjustment layer

Use one last Brightness/Contrast adjustment layer with brightness 20 and contrast 10

Conclusion

And there you have it! One totally totally homemade texture, complete with all kinds of gritty, grungy and interesting details, which you can now use in any number of ways, such as incorporating it as the background for a poster.

Our final, homemade texture

Our final, homemade texture

And that’s exactly what I’m going to do. I have a poster to do for a local youth event, and this will make an excellent start! Regardless of what you choose to do with the texture, though, the important thing about this exercise is to just have fun and experiment. Play with different blending modes and adjustment layers, maybe even a few filters. This kind of thing is a great way to familiarize yourself with features and behaviours and just start to learn your way around Photoshop. Plus, it can give you some really awesome textures to use in your designs.

So go ahead and have some fun! If you end up creating something awesome that you use in a design, feel free to drop the link for everyone to see!

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Also from Echo Enduring Media:

An Unfolding Tale

About the Author

Matt Ward is a digital artist who lances freely under the moniker of Echo Enduring Media, and specializes in graphics design, illustration and writing. He is also the Creative Director for Highland Marketing, a creative direct marketing company based out of Waterloo, Ontario. You can follow Matt on Twitter

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Comments

Jan 9, 2011

Karen says:

Awesome! Thanks!

Jan 27, 2011

Poul says:

Very nice) And easy in use )
Thanks!

Feb 7, 2011

felipe says:

Awesome result and very simple to do!! thanks for share

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