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Sep 04

Creating grunge brushes

2006 at 11.32 am posted by Veerle Pieters

My recent tutorial about creating pattern backgrounds sparked some questions from readers if I could do the same for something that is referred to as “grunge”. The pattern tool is ok for repeating items but the grunge look gets it effectiveness just from the randomness I think. So I think it would be better if I show you how to make a grunge brush instead. I know several of those are available for download but there is nothing more rewarding then creating your own :)

So in this article I'll show you how to create 2 types of brushes that can be used to create the grunge effect. Like always this is just one way of doing things as I'm sure there are others also. In a next tutorial I'll explain another way to create a similar effect in Photoshop if you just want borders. A brush is better because you can apply it everywhere and it gives you more creative freedom then the other technique.

Creating a random grunge brush

Choosing and preparing the image

Grunge brushes - step 1

First of all you have to find a perfect suitable photo to start from. I've found a lot of good material on the TextureKing website to start from, but you can start from any image you like. Next you desaturate your image : Image > Adjustments > Desaturate (command/control + shift + u). Then you play with the levels : Image > Adjustments > Levels (command/control + l). The values shown are different for each image and each result you want to achieve, but in most situations you'll have to drag the outer sliders more towards the middle, so you get a more back and white effect. Make sure you don't exaggerate, make sure there are some grey areas left.

Select a suitable area and clean up

Grunge brushes - step 2

Now select the Lasso tool from the Toolbox and select an area which you think would be perfect to create the brush. Copy this selection and past it into a new document. Now select the Erase tool from the Toolbox and select the Rough Round Bristle brush from the Brush palette. If you have removed the default brushes you need to reset the brushes to get to this brush. Now, clean up the borders of your selection so you don't see the edges. Reduce the size of the brush if needed.

A grunge brush is born

Grunge brushes - step 3

When you're done, go to Select > All (command/control + a) and go to Edit > Define Brush Preset and name your brush. The brush will appear in the brush palette now (last one in the row). Now you can test the result, by selecting a color and choose the Brush tool from the Toolbox and click in your document.

Creating corner brushes

Grunge corner brushesYou can also create corner brushes. Just select another area from the image that would suit as a grunge corner and repeat the same steps. You can rotate your image to create similar other corners.

The final result of my grunge design

Final result of my grunge design

Save your brushes

Creating these brushes requires a lot of experimenting, but it's fun. You can create your own set of brushes by saving them in the Brush palette located in the Options Toolbar. This is of course important since your brush will be saved permanently as a Brush Set (.ABR file), so don't forget this. Otherwise as soon as you reset your Brush palette, your brush will be gone. Click the little arrow button on top right and select Save Brushes from the menu. You have to make sure that only your brushes are loaded in the palette, otherwise the other default brushes are saved as well in that set. By saving them in an .ABR file you can create your own collection of brushes.

Want to learn more?

VECTORTUTS+ Vector Tutorials and More A good and not expensive source to learn more about Illustrator, Photoshop, or web design is by joining the Tuts+ sites. You get access to the source files for just $9 a month. So your ONE membership gives you access to members-only content for ALL the Plus sites. I've written a tutorial for the Vector Tuts section.




permalink this comment colin Mon Sep 4, 2006 at 12.04 pm

I usually use this method for creating the grunge effect, but I never considered creating reusable brushes.



permalink this comment valentina Mon Sep 4, 2006 at 12.07 pm

after a few days as a lurker, now I’m here, as an active participant :)
I’m writing you from Italy (sorry for my english), and I want to thank you for this beautiful and very useful site! I visit you every day, and I always find something new and interesting.
What do you think about the relationship between the designer and the client? I’m doing my first works as a webdesigner and sometimes it’s difficult to establish a good feeling… I would like to know your experience and thoughts!

Thank you,



permalink this comment Kalle Mon Sep 4, 2006 at 12.35 pm

How neat! I’ve been using grunge brushes for quite some time but never thought about making my own.



permalink this comment Abdul Mon Sep 4, 2006 at 12.45 pm

Never used grunge before. I was under the impression they took ages to go about creating.

Thanks for the tut!



permalink this comment Enrique Mon Sep 4, 2006 at 12.52 pm

Un artículo genial, como todos. Enhorabuena ;-)



permalink this comment Adam Mon Sep 4, 2006 at 01.37 pm

Thanks for another great tutorial!



permalink this comment erika Mon Sep 4, 2006 at 02.27 pm

Thanks Veerle! ;) I wish you had the time to write one article per day! Erika ;)



permalink this comment Natalie Jost Mon Sep 4, 2006 at 04.33 pm

Having been stuck in classy mode, I’ve been terrified of trying to do anything with a grunge feel. It’s been outside my box. It’s days like this when I feel… not so scared. Thanks!



permalink this comment Peter V. Tue Sep 5, 2006 at 02.02 am

Wow Veerle, those are pretty! When are you going to put your brushes on eBay so we can buy them? Better yet, you can open your own on-line store and call it The Veerle Store. :D



permalink this comment henry Tue Sep 5, 2006 at 02.33 am

Hey Veerle,

thanks alot for the tutorial… been trying all sorts of method to do such grunge style and this really helps



permalink this comment Mike Yarmish Tue Sep 5, 2006 at 12.16 pm

This is very nice technic. I always wanted to experiment with grunge style and now I have an ability to do that. Thanks =)



permalink this comment Ruben Tue Sep 5, 2006 at 01.09 pm

@Erika: Do you think the clone tool will work with Veerle? :-)
Oh wait… having more Veerles could be a serious hazard for the rest of us fellow designers!

@Veerle: I’m j/k of course! :D



permalink this comment Miguel Tue Sep 5, 2006 at 07.37 pm

Beautiful tutorial. I usually can’t get to the bottom of these tutorials seing as the design usually is so bad that it hurts my eyes. Your site is not only pretty, but contains awesome material. Keep your groove on, and keep rockin’.



permalink this comment The Anime Blog Tue Sep 5, 2006 at 10.50 pm

That’s a great effect and a really nice tutorial! Thanks for sharing!!!



permalink this comment Willie Honig Tue Sep 5, 2006 at 10.52 pm




permalink this comment Bex Tue Sep 5, 2006 at 11.30 pm

I love this tutorial!  Thanks for taking the time to write it :D



permalink this comment Carlos Eduardo Wed Sep 6, 2006 at 05.27 pm

Very useful tutorial :)



permalink this comment SFAUSTINA Wed Sep 6, 2006 at 08.24 pm

Sweeeeeet website. Keep up the great work veerle.


get some brushes here



permalink this comment Jason Beaird Thu Sep 7, 2006 at 01.29 pm

Great tutorial!  There are a lot of good grunge brush sets floating around for download, but many of them are so overused.  I’m definitely guilty there.  I should really start creating more brush sets.



permalink this comment Jeff Fri Sep 8, 2006 at 10.10 am

Great tutorial.  I never thought about making brushes from photographs until now.  Thanks!



permalink this comment e-man Sun Sep 10, 2006 at 02.33 am

Nice tut! Makes for a nice change from all the web stuff as well!



permalink this comment carl Mon Sep 11, 2006 at 04.24 pm

Great Veerle. I’m glad I suggested it :)



permalink this comment Pelle Sat Sep 16, 2006 at 10.09 pm

Awesome! I have wondered for soo long how one does stuff like that and now you are showing it in such a simple way. Thanks!



permalink this comment Matt Sun Sep 17, 2006 at 08.58 am

This is a great tutorial.  I will certainly be using this for my next photo exhibition. Thanks!



permalink this comment sal Sun Sep 17, 2006 at 11.16 pm

Sweet thanks a lot. I’ve tried making brushes before, but they always come out looking terrible. This explains it a little better.



permalink this comment Devlin Mon Sep 18, 2006 at 01.28 am

Great effect, you’re very good at this. :)



permalink this comment donald Mon Sep 18, 2006 at 02.10 pm

Thanks Great site



permalink this comment barns Tue Sep 19, 2006 at 01.16 pm

I love your tutorials but do have one suggestion. Would it be possible for you to have a printer friendly version available for each? You can see the problem if I were to do a print page for this tutorial. Just a thought to make this excellent site more user friendly.



permalink this comment Veerle Tue Sep 19, 2006 at 02.48 pm

barns said:

Would it be possible for you to have a printer friendly version available for each?

I just checked it on my end with Mac in Safari and Camino and on WindowsXP in Firefox and IE6. All browsers print well, no dark background or what so ever and black text. Only in IE6 it doesn’t scale to fit the page. You can use landscape to solve the problem or you can enter 70% (or smaller) in the Advanced options in the Preferences of your print dialogue box…. Or even better use a smarter browser and all problems solved ;)

Also, keep in mind that I’m sharing this info already for free, putting a lot of time and efforts in this.



permalink this comment Didi Fri Sep 29, 2006 at 04.37 am

I enter your site every several days.
Your tutorial really help me. Thank you for your sharring.



permalink this comment sabine Sat Sep 30, 2006 at 01.37 am

Wonderful tutorial. All went smooth but I cant get my own brushes to save in a complete new set. How do I do I make sure that only my brushes are in the palette before I save?
thank you



permalink this comment Veerle Sat Sep 30, 2006 at 01.20 pm

sabine said:

How do I do I make sure that only my brushes are in the palette before I save?

The only way (as far as I know) is to make sure there are no other bushes currently loaded in the palette. You have to delete all other brushes one by one by holding down 2nd mouse button on the brush (or hold down the control key) and select “Delete Brush” from the menu. I’m not sure if there is a faster way to do this, to delete more then one and have them deleted all at the same time, or if it is possible to save only a few brushes of the palette. If you only have the default brushes loaded at that time, you don’t have to worry about deleting them since you can reset the brush palette at any time once you have saved your brushes.

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