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Answers: How I get that distressed look

I often get emails from other designers asking how I achieve the distressed feel in certain pieces of my work. Usually I respond vaguely with some basic hints, as I ultimately feel that the best part about learning some creative techniques is discovering them on one’s own. However, my thoughts have changed as of late. I suppose that if someone has found my work and taken the time to email me with a question then I suppose they have discovered something on their own. Why should I not share? So, I have put together a quick, simple how-to showing the process in which I digitally distress some of my images.

Keep in mind that in lot of cases I create my work by hand using analog tools and that’s what helps the pieces feel warm and textured. The info below applies to achieving this feel by digital means. Also, this represents only one way of doing it; my own. There are many ways of achieving similar effects.

Note: I work primarily in Illustrator, so this particular how-to only applies to this program. However, you can of course get the same results in Photoshop but the steps are slightly different.

Here goes nothin!

Step No.1: Create your design
Do your thing. You don’t need my help here!


Step No.2: Create your distress
Use Photoshop to create a distress file. You can create these from pretty much anything. I scan in pieces of paper or ephemera that I feel may work. You’ll need to export your distress file as a Bitmap. I won’t go into how to do all of this here. This is where you will need to do some of your own research! Don’t forget to make sure that your file is big enough to cover the area you wish to distress.


Step No.3: Place your distress over your design
Once you have your distressed Bitmap file ready, open it in Illustrator open it and place it over the area in which you wish to feel distressed.


Step No.4: Color your distressed file
Once you have your distressed Bitmap file in place, make it the same color as your design’s background. (In Illustrator you can color Bitmap files in the same way you color any other element.) This creates the effect that the element in the foreground has been distressed.


So there you have it. It’s a simple concept that is easily executed and expanded upon. Go try it and explore how you can make this technique your own.

Sky’s the limit! Have fun!

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