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Article: Creating your own grunge papers »

FERDY CHRISTANT - DEC 11, 2008 (03:47:31 PM)

If you have been paying attention to the web design field, you may have noticed the latest rage: Grunge Designs. It seems like the days of shiny, polished, perfects shapes with reflections and bright colours are counted. Instead, Grunge is taking over. Grunge is about realism, organic shapes and distorted patterns, sometimes beautiful, sometimes aged and ugly. I think a good analogy to explain Grunge is the way jeans are marketed. The spotless, clean jeans cost 50$. The damaged, bleached, torn jeans cost 150$. If you still don't know what I mean with this web trend, just check out a few Grunge examples.

Anyway, in this short article I want to explain how to create one of these:

It is supposed to represent a very old piece of paper, yet it started out as a sheet of plain white printer paper, A4 size. Whilst you may not need an image of an artificially aged piece of paper every day, the technique I will tell you about can be used to create pretty much any grunge image from scratch, whether it is metal, wood, rock or paper. Next, you can use them as backgrounds for anything you desire.

The process

There are multiple ways to create grunge images. One would be to steal a texture from the web and then digitally process it. Another one would be to start from scratch in Photoshop and then unleashing some digital filter randomness until you get a somewhat realistic result. That's all good and well, but if you want the best results, be completely original (no stealing) and have fun in the process, we'll start the analog way:

  • Take a piece of plain white printer paper
  • (optional: draw some random pencil lines on it and then wipe the lines with your fingers to create dirty stains)
  • Crack the paper in your fist, and then straighten it out again
  • Pour some cold coffee in an oven scale and place the paper in it. Make sure both sides are soaked, yet make sure the paper is still strong enough to not fall apart
  • Put the paper on a heater for about 10 minutes. If you have a radiator, and you do not want the grill lines to be shown on the paper, put something in between the paper and radiator
  • When the paper is dry, light a candle. Next, randomly "burn" the image by holding it above the candle, be sure to vary your movement, speed and distance to the candle, to create a truly organic effect.
  • Scan the paper in a high setting (at least 600DPI)

Inhabitants of your house may think you have lost your mind, but hey, artists are never really understood, are they? At this point, you should have a scan of a fairly aged/damaged piece of paper. Most likely, it is still a bit too light and clean to be considered old. Therefore, the next thing to do is to apply some digital processing. Make sure to do the processing on a copy of the scan, as the scan itself can be used as a base for many images.

So, what are the steps for digital processing? There arent's many rules here, and it also depends on your input. Here's my approach:

  • Open the image in Adobe Lightroom. It has many sliders that show you results in real-time. Of particular interest are contrast (should be low), saturation, temp, and tint (should all be slightly increased), blacks (should be somewhat increased) and lens vignette, which marks the corners of the image as darker areas.
  • Next, I open up the image in Photoshop. Here I played around with the levels, color balance and brightness. Next, I used the clone stamp and heal tools to fix areas that don't look right.
  • Then I create one (or more) additional layer that will contain some kind of organic image data (for example Photoshop's render cloud) and then blend it back into the main image. When you look closely at the bottom of my example image, it shows some relief. This is due to the mixing of the 2nd layer.
  • Finally I use the gradient tool (with a start color of light grey and as end color no color) and then draw random lines on the background layer. This results in the illusion of variation in lighting across the image.

As you can see, there are not a lot of rules. As long as the result looks natural, worn, organic, GRUNGE...all is good. 

Note: Once you have your grunge background, be careful how you use the foreground. It should not look too sharp or modern, otherwise the effect is lost, it will look like the foreground is completely seperated from the background. Instead, you will want to blend them.

It is time to hand out the goodies! I have prepared 5 grunge papers that you can view here. If you open up a single image and then click the download link, you can download them in their original resolution, with insane detail (4600 x 7000px)

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DEC 2, 2012 - 08:31:38 AM

comment » thanks! «

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