How to Create a Grunge Style Illustration with Stains


Inspired by the article "18+ Sources of Inspiration from Coffee, Ink, Blood and other Stains," by Steven Snell, I decided to show my personal way of creating stain based designs in Photoshop. In this tutorial, we'll grab a picture, apply several filters to it and obtain a monochromatic stain, which combined with stain brushes and a texture will transform into an eye-catching grunge result. Let's get it started!

Final Image Preview

Before we get started, let's take a look at the image we'll be creating. Click the screenshot below to view the full-size image. As always, the layered Photoshop file is available via our Psdtuts+ Plus membership.

Final Click

Video Tutorial

Our video editor Gavin Steele has created this video tutorial to compliment this text + image tutorial.

Step 1

It's time to get dirty. For this tutorial you'll need to choose a picture, a portrait will be nice (I'm using this picture from stock.xchng). Open it in Photoshop, then make the image layer editable by double-clicking the locked "Background" layer miniature. Now name the layer "Girl" and add a new Fill Layer below using this color: #F6EDD6.

Step 2

Now, convert the image to black and white adding a Channel Mixer Adjustment Layer, for the Preset choose Black & White with Blue Filter (RGB). I'm using this because it increases the darkness of the red areas of the picture, like the lips and the flowers. Once you've applied the Adjustment Layer, merge it with the "Girl" layer. I'm leaving the original Adjustments in a Group in the source file and hiding it.

Step 3

Use the Burn Tool darken the lips, eyelids, eyebrows and hair of the "Girl" layer.

Step 4

There are many ways to create a two color (black and white) shapes from a picture, I'll describe my personal process. Select the "Girl" layer, use Filter > Filter Gallery > Artistic > Watercolor to add a watercolor style to the layer. Set the values as shown below.

Step 5

The image still has a lot of gray areas which must be lightened. For this go to Filter > Filter Gallery > Brush Strokes > Dark Strokes and set the values shown below. The Dark Stroke filter will reduce the amount of gray and darken the lips, hair and eye shadows.

Step 6

Increase the contrast by adjusting the Levels (Command + L) of the "Girl" layer, as shown the image below.

Step 7

Following, select all on the "Girl" layer and copy it (Command + C), then go to Layer > Layer Mask > Reveal all and Alt-click the Layer mask miniature. You should look at a full white image, there, paste the girl shape on it. Hit Command + I on your keyboard to invert the colors and click on the "Girl" layer miniature. To check if the mask is working OK, change the "BG" layer background to any other color but white.

Step 8

Using a soft black brush, paint over the "Girl" Layer Mask to hide the white visible areas over the shoulder and everywhere where the white is too intense. Finally, change the background color to #E1D3BC.

Step 9

Select the "Girl" layer, set the layer's Fill value to 0% and apply the following effects: an Inner Glow (#580200) and Color Overlay (#7F4141) 50%. I'm choosing this colors because want to create a wine stain detail, anyway feel free to try different colors. Duplicate the "Girl" layer and move the copy below it, then Alt-click on the "Girl copy" layer and click on Clear Layer Styles.

Step 10

Now the real stains, first of all, download this brush set from Brusheezy, a nice stain set created by Nissa previously featured on Steven Snell's inspirational post. I'm using the brush named "coffee 10." Set a black foreground and paint a stain over the Layer Mask of the "Girl." Do not paint directly over the "Girl" layer though.

Step 11

Add two or three more stains using the same technique as shown in the previous step, but use different brushes.

Step 12

Add more stains on the "Girl" Layer mask, but this time reduce the Opacity and Flow to between 50% and 75%. You can use the same brush set or mix some other. I'm using the water stains brush pack from Obsidian Dawn. Work it in as random as possible. Finally, you should have something like the bottom of the image below.

Step 13

Select the "Girl copy" Layer Mask and use a huge brush (I'm using the "brush13") from the Coffee stains set to paint a big stain on that layer.

Step 14

Repeat the previous step, but change the brush and set both the Opacity and Flow values between 50% to 75%.

Step 15

Using the "coffee7" brush, paint a big stain (#B99048) into a new layer below the "Girl copy" layer, feel free to add more stains if you want.

Step 16

Merge both the "Girl" and the "Girl copy" layers. You can put both layers into a group, duplicate it and merge the copy.

Step 17

Select the "Girl copy" layer and set the Eraser Tool's brush options to the one from the water stains of Step 12 and delete the girl's cheek. Change both the Opacity and Flow values to 50% and delete some little areas over the eyelids as well.

Step 18

Download this Coffee Stains brush set by Guerilla Graphics. Using the first brush of the set paint a bottle stain over girl's cheek into a new layer above all others, use this foreground color: #411516. Then select the Eraser tool, use one of the Water Stains brushes (see Step 12) and delete some areas of the new "stain" layer.

Step 19

Add more glass/bottles stains (#411516), over the shoulder and neck ares. Also, delete some areas over the face using a water stain brush. Finally, change the Blending Mode of these stains to Hard Light.

Step 20

Let's add some final small details, like those tiny spots of random Water Stain brushes (#4E3105). Paint them into a new layer and set its Blending Mode to Overlay.

Step 21

As a final touch, use the 3rd brush of the last "Coffee Stains" set to extract a splatter. Rotate the splatter and place it somewhere over the girl's face merging one of the vertical lines of her hair. Feel free to add more stains anywhere.

Step 22

Let's add a background texture. Paste this image into a new layer named "Texture." Then duplicate that layer into a new document called "map.psd" since we'll use it as a displacement map. On "map.psd" apply a new Adjustment Layer > Channel Mixer. Set the preset to Black and White With Red Filter (RGB). Then adjust the Levels and Hue/Saturation, as shown in the following images. Finally, save the document and go back to the main design.

Step 23

Group all the layers except "BG" and "Texture" into a folder, you may name it "Design" and convert it into a Smart Object. Then change the Blending Mode to Multiply.

Step 24

To add a little bit more realism, select the "Design" Smart Object and go to Filter > Distort > Displace. Then set both the Horizontal and Vertical Scale to 4. Hit OK and look for the "map.psd" file previously created in Step 22.

Step 25

Finally, select the "Texture" layer and adjust the levels as shows in the image below.

Step 26

As a final touch, add some text to the design, I'm using this font and this foreground color: #5B1B19. Change the text layer Blending Mode to Multiply and re-apply the Displacement Map filter (use exactly the same displace map image).


Have fun trying to create different designs using this style and these techniques. Thanks for reading!


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