Creating a Grunge Typeface

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In keeping the entire layout consistent, grunge fonts can be incorporated to further enhance the distressed look of a design. Grunge typefaces can be grainy, scratched, or broken, with irregular-sized and characters and unusual letter spacing. They frequently contain artifacts that make them look aged, eroded, sloppy, or dirty. Like all the other grunge elements, grunge fonts are available for free online from multiple sources. Here is a place to start searching:

Of course, there is no law that says you can’t deteriorate your own fonts which require a little extra elbow grease but is definitely worth the trouble for the sake of uniqueness and creativity.

Creating a grunge typeface is relatively simple if you follow these steps in Photoshop.

  • First, generate the type with black as the font color. A relatively bold typeface works best. I used Futura Condensed Extra Bold. Alter the baseline shift and the letter spacing of each character with the Type tool and the character panel.
    grunge font
    Generate the type with black as the font color.
  • Go to the Layers menu and choose Rasterize Type.
  • Rotate each of the characters so their angles are irregular. Some of the characters can overlap slightly.
  • Select the characters with the Magic Wand tool.
  • Choose or make a texture brush and paint the characters with white. Change the opacity of the brush with a few passes over the characters.
    Fig 11C
    Choose or make a texture brush and paint the characters with white.
  • Open a texture document in Photoshop and drag the background layer to the Type document.
  • In the Layers panel, apply a Hard Light Blend mode to the layer.
    fig 11d
    In the Layers panel, apply the Hard Light blend mode to the layer.
  • In the Layers panel double click the texture layer to reveal the Layer Styles dialog box.
  • With the Gray Channel selected in the Channels menu, drag the black Blend If – This Layer slider to the right until most of the surrounding texture disappears. Let a few artifacts show through.
    fig 11e
    When blending, let a few artifacts show through.
  • Go to the Adjustments panel and choose the Photo Filter. In the properties panel, choose a color and density for the Photo Filter.
    fig 11f
    Apply a Photo Filter adjustment layer to color the text.

You can stop here, or just for fun, duplicate the text layer and reposition the text on it. Reduce the opacity to 10-20% for a shadowy effect.

fig 11g
Duplicate the text layer and reposition the text on it to create a subtle shadow.

The process of making a graphic look beat-up, eroded, or dirty is really fun because you can be creative and destructive at the same time. There are dozens of online tutorials that will teach you methods to produce grunge effects. Here are some resources to get you started:

Stephen Romaniello

Stephen Romaniello

Stephen Romaniello is an artist and educator teaching digital art at Pima Community College in Tucson, Arizona, for over 20 years. He is a certified instructor in Adobe Photoshop and the author of several books on the creative use of digital graphics software. Steve is the founder of GlobalEye systems, a company that offers training and consulting in digital graphics software and creative imaging.

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