Cameron asked us to participate and we were happy to contribute. We’ve tried to articulate our process and we hope you find some helpful information here.
We like to use our own source files to create the analogue look—filters have limited uses and fight the philosophy behind creating unique look of aged items. We’re trying to mimic the real world after all. Our library of flatbed scanned files is quickly approaching 15Gb—it’s filled with tasty splotches, drips, folds, splats, stains, rips, tears, smudges and scrapes. Less important is the size of your library; more important is your creative manipulation of a few great files.
Some of our best finds have been at the library. Dig through the oldest books for good sources of scratched hardcovers, stained pages, ripped edges and badly worn canvas covers. Stop and pick up an old receipt on the sidewalk or photograph paint peeling off a wall. Think of how a few sources can be combined to create something really dynamic and original.
Our most excellent sources have come from playing with inks. Dilute some Higgins ink with water to brush on paper or wood (ink wash). Rub thicker ink into metal plates (copper sheets are good) that have been kicked, stepped on and thrown across the parking lot and make a paper print of that.
Experiment with 3rd generation photocopies of black squares where you scratch away the toner on the surface. Use dangerous chemicals like Xylene (wear chemical gloves and a mask, no kidding as that stuff causes serious brain damage; all available at Home Depot) to make drippy transfer prints of photocopies (color works best for good reproduction; b&w works best for messy and hard-to-control prints). A much less toxic solution is to use Acetone for rubbing transfers; more laborious rubbing is involved, but it’s much less toxic.
We’ve posted a few of our best on iStockPhoto; many others have followed our lead with some excellent photo edges (for easy masks), paper, books, torn notes, messy ink spots and all kinds of good stuff; check it out.
Make color range selections on a file to pull out grunge and use that selection as a mask on text. For a more convincing worn look use a color range that includes a full alpha range from 1% to 100%; grey values add a subtlety that stands apart from a simple threshold or posterize process effect.
Similar to masking is to make a color range selection but fill the selection on a new layer. This makes for "additive" grunge that is often missing from some analogue pieces. Removing pieces of text or background with masks is a good technique, but adding a bit of messy flare, drip or edge is often enough to create the contrast one desires.
Changing a stained paper texture layer from "normal" blending mode to "multiply" or "color burn" will make all the difference. This is a way to let those middle tones come thru on top of a solid color or text layer without the hassle of working with masks. Often this is the fastest way to create analogue backgrounds that give life and realism to solid color fields.
This is the most important concept to master. Thoughtful and creative manipulation of a few files will go a long way. We’ve been using the same 2 files of masking tape for over a year now, and each time we make sure to alter the tape edges, color, opacity, size, width, etc to give it different character. Even if the changes are minor, it’s a thoughtful touch that is appreciated.
We’re partial to flat bed scans of sources and our Epson 3170 Photo scanner is most excellent. USB 2.0 makes scanning a 16,000 pixel wide image a breeze in under 2 min. Much less intensive 300 dpi scans (poor for print and large artwork, but great for web) come in perfect at under 15 seconds.
Take a close look at the source PSD file of the header image to learn some of the above techniques. We hope our tips will prove themselves useful on the battlefield; just remember to use the analogue look for good, not evil! This
is was an election year and political wheat paste posters are just the outlet for thoughtful grunge.
We use these images on a daily basis for design and artmaking. Sometimes we'll use a scanned sheet of old paper as a subtle grunge layer in a Photoshop file.
This serves as great design elements for something old, grunge, stained and worn designs and layouts. You can select some of the grunge splatters out and use them as another layer in a new file, or you can fill that with black and use the spots as a mask for a photo to make it look worn and old.
These files are versatile and useful for designers who like the grunge/analogue/wicked worn look.