Create Distressed Headlines Or Text in Photoshop – Easy Photoshop Effects

By | November 1, 2017

Grunge design is more popular than ever now. How long it will last is anyone’s guess. But for now it is a style every designer should be comfortable with.

One aspect of grunge design is the treatment of type by “distressing.” There are hundreds of “distressed” or “grunge” fonts available for purchase or via free font sites. While they do have their uses, there are drawbacks – ie: characters are not variable so every time you use an ‘e’ for instance , it looks exactly like the ‘e’ you last used – to me, THAT is a drawback.

This tutorial is going to detail an easy way to use whichever font you want and keep it editable. Another great thing about this method is that it can be used for print (300 dpi) and online (72 dpi).

You’re going to need a distressed, dirty, aged or grungy background. Scan a piece of old wood or take a digital pic of a beat up wall, cardboard scrap, a rusty piece of metal or something. Or search images online for grunge background.

Step 1
Once your background image is open, create a new layer and type something using your favorite or chosen font. Color of font is not important at this point – just make it dark or light enough so you can read what you typed.

(You now have two layers – the background image and the type layer)

Step 2
Click off (or hide) the type layer in the LAYERS PALLET (you won’t be able to see the type now).

Highlight the background image layer and select COLOR RANGE from the SELECT menu tab. From the drop-down menu choose SAMPLED COLORS. (I prefer to click the SELECTION radio button but you should try it and the IMAGE radio button and decide for yourself).

At this point you have to make a decision – if the background image is light in color you should sample the darker or contrasting areas of the background using the eyedropper tool in the COLOR RANGE dialog box. Conversely, if it’s a dark background use the eyedropper tool to select the lighter areas.

Using the slider bar, you’ll be able increase or decrease the amount of color or value you’re selecting

When satisfied, click OK.

(Still only two layers)

Step 3
You’ll see the marquee’d selection. Making sure you’re working on the background image layer, copy the marquee’d selection and then paste it in a new layer (it should create it’s own new layer but to be on the safe side just create one first). You’ve just created your distressed layer – so label it as ‘distressed 1’.

(Three layers – the background image, ‘distressed 1’ and the type layer)

Step 4
In your LAYERS PALLET activate the type layer (you will be able to see the type now).

Move your ‘distressed 1’ layer above the type layer and voila! You’ve distressed your font while keeping it editable! And every character has it’s own unique distressing.

Add layers and images as your design warrants. Experiment with less and/or more distressing… change background images… add multiple background images… use different settings on your layers… instead of NORMAL on the LAYER PALLET, use COLOR BURN or OVERLAY or whatever looks best to you. Try changing the color of your font and it’s opacity – you can do whatever you want, because…

Hey, you’re the designer!

Free and easy Photoshop techniques and tutorials from a veteran graphics design industry professional specializing in freelance design that is On Time, On Budget and Good. Go to for more information.

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