Here’s my run down of the essential tips, tricks and tools you’ll need to get started with adding grunge or retro design elements into your work. Everything from brushes & tutorials to vectors and fonts!
One of the easiest ways to add some soft grunge to your work is to use a ready made Photoshop brush. Using brushes is something you get used to very quickly and adding these brushes to your digital toolbox is a must!
10 Hi-Res B&W Paper Brushes
10 Hi-Res B&W Paper Brushes. Created by my friend and co-worker Gerren Lamson these Hi-Res Paper Brushes are ideal for print & web work.
All Hands Brush Set
All Hands Brush Set is a perfect example of the soft subtle grunge brushes I think these are ideal for building up texture in your work.
9 High Resolution Texture Brushes
9 High Resolution Texture Photoshop Brushes are created by Photoshop Hut, whom I don’t know much about – but I do know these brushes rock.
Function Subtle Grunge Sets 1-3
Function Subtle Grunge Brushes – Yep these are ours, but they’ve been downloaded thousands of times and used by countless designers.
Function Subtle Grunge 4
50 Subtle Grunge Brushes – again by us! The easiest way to add soft hints of texture to your work, and the best set we’ve ever made.
Rolled Paint Brushes
Rolled Paint Brushes by FudgeGraphics are a set of brushes that come in handy all of the time. The rolled paint effect gives a great worn look.
Vintage Brush Kit
Vintage Brush Kit – “30 of my favorite textures from my vintage texture packs refined for use as highly versatile and high quality brushes”
Tuff Textures Vol.2 are an incredible pack of high-res Photoshop brushes. Apply a vintage, distressed look to your projects quickly and easily.
Free Subtle Brush Set
Free Subtle Brush Set 15 Photoshop brushes; sizes range from 750-950px – free for personal and commercial use.
Vector Grunge Textures
When working with print it’s a good idea to use vector textures over brushes. These high-res vector textures are fun to play with and give a ready made worn look in seconds. Plus vector textures are fully scalable!
Halftone Textures by GhostlyPixels – 10 vector EPS textures.
Free Vector Texture Pack by Chris Spooner
Free Vector Texture Pack by Chris Spooner – Chris’ free pack is perfect. Check his post to see an example of how to use vector textures too.
Hi-Res Subtle Grunge Vector Textures
Hi-Res Subtle Grunge Vector Textures created by seanwes. Soft scalable grunge textures that are great to work with.
15 Free High-Quality Subtle Grunge Vectors
15 Free High-Quality Subtle Grunge Vectors by ThinkDesign are beautifully made, just drag and drop for instant (subtle grunge).
40 Vector Background Textures
40 Vector Background Textures contains a varied collection of a number of different vector surfaces. It’s hard to not love this pack.
Vintage Vector Texture Pack
Vintage Vector Texture Pack created by Matt Borchert includes 30 high quality vector textures pulled from 100+ year old sources.
Cardboard Texture Pack 1
Cardboard Texture Pack 1 – This package has including 8 black 2200 px x 2200 px 600 DPI jpgs + 8 vectorized EPS formats and 8 white 2200 px x 2200 px 600 DPI jpgs + 8 vectorized EPS formats cardboard textures.
Tools, Actions & Presets
Here’s a few time-saving tools that can help speed up your work flow and allow you to quickly create some beautiful effects that you can tweak as needed. These one click tools are incredibly handy.
RetroSupply – Retro Photoshop Kit
RetroSupply – Retro Photoshop Kit by Dustin has quality become one of the most popular items on CreativeMarket – and it deserves ever bit of success. A Huge Set of Brushes, Actions, Textures and more.
RetroLab – Photo Actions
RetroLab – Have you ever wished you could create retro photo effects with ease? RetroLab gives you control over how you process your photos.
RetroPress – Photoshop Actions
RetroPress makes it easy and fun to add an authentic retro printing press look to your designs. Just select your artwork, click a RetroPress action and you have a retro look in seconds.
RetroLift – 3D PSD Actions
RetroLift – 3D PSD Actions Make beautiful authentic retro 3-D letter effects with just one click. Easy to use Photoshop actions.
Old Movie Titles – Smart Kit Vol. 2
Old Movie Titles – Smart Kit Vol. 2 – Inspired by the original titles of American Famous Films and Film Noir of 1920-1950.
Subtle Patterns Photoshop Plugin
PSKiss PHOTOGRAM – 70’s in Photoshop
PSKiss PHOTOGRAM – 70’s in Photoshop PHOTOGRAM is a beautiful, first of its kind Adobe Photoshop app. Think of it as a Instagram for Photoshop.
Patterns & Textures
Textures and Patterns can be used as backgrounds, or vector masks – These beautiful textures are well worth having in your collection and they make adding that element of grunge to your work a whole lot easier.
50 Seamless Subtle Grunge Patterns
50 Seamless Subtle Grunge Patterns – again these were made by me, but it’s still a very useful pack to have in your collection. A variety of 50 seamless patterns, just click to add instant texture. JPG’s included.
Rough It Up – Texture Pack
Rough It Up – 20 hand made, high quality, extremely high-res textures that will help you achieve that beat up vintage look on any piece.
Raw Ink Vol 1
Raw Ink Vol 1 – Thick and heavy textures, made with ink by hand and scanned to fine tune. Uncropped to show raw edges.
Halftone Wood Textures Vol. 2
Halftone Wood Textures Vol. 2 – 15 Hi Res .TIFF files that are all easily scaled and customized in Illustrator and Photoshop.
Wood Pattern by Nick Slater
Wood Pattern by Nick Slater – Nick’s style is much loved and he was kind enough to share his Wood Pattern with the world. Great set.
Woodgrain Texture is inspired by Nick’s freebie above, but it’s certainly worth having both in your collection. Two fantastic resources.
Vintage Letterpress Ink Texture Pack
Vintage Letterpress Ink Texture Pack – These letterpress-inspired textures by Brandon Herbel create a subtle, dried-ink look — perfect for giving a painted feel to thick, blocky letters or plain backgrounds.
Grit It or Quit It Vol 1
Grit It or Quit It Vol 1 24 high resolution textures, made by hand. Thick and gritty textures, with a small handful of more detailed subtle textures.
Vector Wood Patterns Vol 1
Vector Wood Patterns Vol 1. A nifty set of hand drawn, seamless wood patterns. Give your next design project the nostalgia of family camping trips, snowy winter cabins and summer camp.
Halftone Grunge Texture Set No. 1
Halftone Grunge Texture Set No. 1 – 5 Hi Res .TIFF files that are all easily scaled and customized in Illustrator and Photoshop.
Distress Texture Pack: Vol. 2
The Distress Texture Pack Vol. 2 includes 30 high quality, high resolution textures that were all made by hand and then digitally perfected for use in your designs and illustrations.
Seamless Tileable Textures
Seamless Tileable Textures 10 different tileable textures. These textures were designed to be used together (which will give you more than 10 options). Each texture is on a transparent background.
Unchained Texture Pack
Unchained Texture Pack – Contains seven textures, all of which were scanned at 600 DPI and are ready for use in high-resolution artwork.
Unchained Texture Pack 2
Unchained Texture Pack 2 another seven high res texture scanned at 600 DPI. This pack also includes some handy actions.
For me, typical grunge fonts don’t really cut it. All too often they are over-the-top dirty and over-worked. I much prefer using fonts that compliment the grunge feel, and adding my own texture to them if needed. Big bold fonts, and natural fonts are the way to go. Here’s a few of my favourites:
Thick Hand Drawn Font
Thick Hand Drawn Font. This is how to use fonts with that grunge feel without being overly harsh with the grit and dirt.
Festivo Letters is a handmade layered font family which includes several textures, shadows and ornaments. A stunning font.
GARDA – Perfect font for posters, covers, vintage apparel and much more! A lovely bold font with a retro feel, great to play with and grunge up.
Lunchbox is a uniquely handdrawn typeface that gives infinite customizable options and a fully authentic look. This unique font comes in light, regular and bold and includes a wide array of other languages.
Franchise Bold is a powerful new display typeface meant to communicate your message quickly and with power. The characters were meticulously drawn to achieve a unifomity without compromising style.
Brush Up Font
Brush Up is the cool handpainted typeface you are looking for. Swiftly painted on paper and carefully translated into a font.
Veneer Complete Family
Veneer Complete Family is a high resolution hand-crafted letterpress font that’s vintage and authentic with a touch of grunge.
Citizen Slab isn’t a grunge font at all, and that’s exactly why it’s perfect. It compliments the grunge style perfectly, and you can add your own texture. Quite simply one of the best free fonts I’ve ever seen.
Muchacho Free Font
Muchacho is a Free a western-style serif font with quirky legs, available in 3 weights. A beautiful retro looking font.
Mathlete contains four different styles (Skinny, Skinny Slant, Bulky, and Bulky Slant) and a pre-packaged @font-face kit for use on the web. You’re free to use this in commercial & personal work.
Lovelo Font is a free geometric sans serif typeface with two line versions by FontFabric. A nice bold font perfect for adding texture to!
36 Hand Painted Type
36 Hand Painted Type – A collection of 36 hand painted slab serif letters and numbers. Each letter and number are 1300×1500 px. Not a font, but you can assemble the high-res letters as needed.
Langdon Free Font
Langdon, the new typeface from XLN Telecom. A typeface that is solid, serious and dependable. Langdon is available as a free download and can be used privately and commercially with no restrictions on usage.
Tips & Tutorials
There are a bunch of techniques that are worth learning when trying to achieve a worn/grunge look in your work. My biggest advice is to just keep it soft, and build up texture as you go. Here’s just a few helpful tutorials that should give you some valuable tips and tricks.
How To Make a Letterpress Texture Effect in Photoshop
How To Make a Letterpress Texture Effect in Photoshop – “show you a quick & easy way to give your logos and typography that ink stamp style effect that came from the old letterpress style printing technique.”
Crafting a Textured Halftone Look
Crafting a Textured Halftone Look – Halftone is a beautiful historic printing process that uses dots to reproduce the tones of an image. Using some custom hand-drawn type, I’ll share my methods to blend distressed vectors with experimental halftones to create a unique textured look. A very in-depth look at halftones by my good buddy Gerren Lamson.
Create a Stamp Texture in Illustrator
Create a Stamp Texture in Illustrator – Add a distressed stamp texture to vector artwork in Adobe Illustrator.
Load and Use Brushes and Patterns in Photoshop
How to Load and Use Brushes and Patterns in Photoshop is a free preview video from Treehouse. They walk you through the process of using my brushes to add texture to your work. Very helpful if you’re new to brushes.
Custom Dusty Type Treatment
Custom Dusty Type Treatment by Vectips – “With just a couple tips and some custom artwork you can create 100% vector artwork that is grainy, dusty, dingy, and awesome.”
Using Textures as Layer Masks
Using Textures as Layer Masks is a technique well worth learning. It took me a long time to understand the power of layer masks when I first started photoshop. Well worth learning.
Creating Tileable Textures
Creating Tileable Textures – “walk through how I make an image tileable, the tools I use, as well as how I even out the tones to create an overall seamless look.” Video tutorial by Phil Coffman.
3D Type Tutorial
3D Type Tutorial – “here’s a tutorial on how I turn my flat type drawings into fun typographic illustrations.” A step by step look at turning flat text into illustrative retro style 3D text. A fun effect you can have fun with.
VSCO Cam effect in Photoshop
Easy to accomplish VSCO Cam effect in Photoshop a very thorough tutorial on GoMedia’s blog teaching you how to achieve the popular VSCO Cam look on your own photos inside photoshop.
If you’re serious about enhancing your techniques, or want to have a deeper look at how some of these resources are created it would be well worth dedicating some time to follow some of these online courses.
Digitizing Hand Lettering
Digitizing Hand Lettering by Seanwes will tech you how to create a deliverable vector from a hand-lettered sketch. – “I want to show you the methods and processes I’ve discovered for getting the best results when converting hand lettering into digital format. I’m going to share the different techniques I use for various types of projects so you can apply what works best for you.” – Sean is incredibly passionate about hand lettering, and has a ton of experience. Well work the $19.
Textures and Halftones for Screen Printing
Poster Design: Textures and Halftones for Screen Printing – Create press-ready artwork for screen printing. – “This class is for designers who want to bring their artwork to life in the form of a screen printed poster. We’ll teach you the steps to convert your digital design to screen-printable color separations and along the way you’ll learn how to create realistic textures and use halftones to maintain detail in your work.”
Hand-Drawn Typography 101: Create Your Own Font
Hand-Drawn Typography 101: Create Your Own Font – “This course is designed for anyone interested in learning how to make their own hand-drawn font. Even if you’ve uttered the famous words; “I can’t draw”, this course is for you.” by the talented Mr. Kyle Steed.
Illustration and Lettering: A Hands-on Approach
Illustration and Lettering: A Hands-on Approach to Label Design – “This class is perfect for anyone looking to learn about label design, composition, branding, and how to properly apply your illustration style in a graphic sense.” – Jon’s work is stunning, so who better to learn from?
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Just posted: Roundup of Essential Grunge Design Resources: http://t.co/5FUtQOzRa1
— Liam McKay (@liammckay) November 11, 2013
All Done. More to come
There we go, my essential collection of tips, tricks, tools and tutorials to help you create grunge elements and effects in your work. Remember to keep it simple, and build up realising textures and effects without pushing it too far. Often the more subtle effects are best, but when a harsher distressed look is required you still need to know how to execute that tastefully – hopefully these resources help.
Want more resources? Check out my digital goods board on Pinterest.