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How to Create a Retro 90s Grunge Photo Effect in Adobe Photoshop

Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

Nineties grunge was an explosive era in American culture, filled with the sounds of punk rock, heavy metal, and electric guitars. If you need to create an eye-catching grunge flyer to revive the 1990s aesthetic, keep reading. In this tutorial, you'll learn how to make a grunge photo effect in Photoshop for a flyer template.

And don't worry if you don't have the software installed on your computer. Scroll down after this grunge photo effect Photoshop tutorial and learn how to make a grunge flyer template in your browser, with Placeit.

What You Will Learn in This Grunge Photo Effect Tutorial

  • How to make a grunge photo effect in Photoshop
  • How to make a picture look 90s
  • How to make grunge photos using multiple assets
  • How to apply a 1990s aesthetic to a flyer design
  • How to make a grunge poster design without Photoshop

Follow along with us over on our Envato Tuts+ YouTube channel:

Tutorial Assets

The following assets were used during the production of this grunge photo effect Photoshop tutorial:

1. How to Create the Background

Step 1

Let's begin the 90s grunge Photoshop template. Open the Watercolor stock in Photoshop. Go to Image > Image Rotate > 90 Degrees Clockwise to turn the stock from a landscape to a portrait orientation.

Change the orientation of an Image to Portrait

Step 2

This watercolor image will serve as our 90s grunge background, so let's desaturate it a bit. Select the layer and go to Image > Adjustments > Hue and Saturation and lower the Saturation to -100 to turn the photo black and white. Use the Move Tool (V) to lower the stock and show a peek of the white background underneath.

Turn a photo to black and white with hue and saturation

Step 3

Now go to the bottom of your Layers panel and select the New Adjustment Layer for Posterize. Set the Levels to 8 for a nice grunge effect.

Use Posterize for grunge effect

Step 4

Now create another New Adjustment Layer, this time for a Gradient. Create a Linear Gradient that goes from a dark red color #901026 to white. When you're finished, set the Layer Blend Mode to Soft Light to apply the gradient to the grunge background. 

Add a Gradient Fill for Color

2. How to Manipulate the Subject

Step 1

Now for the next step in learning how to make a picture look 90s. Open the stock of your Rocker into Photoshop and use the Magnetic Lasso Tool (L) to create a rough selection around the person. Copy and Paste the rocker on top of the grunge background layers.

Extract Your Subject with the Magnetic Lasso Tool

Step 2

Your Photoshop template is looking better. Create a New Layer underneath your subject. Use the Polygonal Lasso Tool (L) to create a cutout shape behind him with rough edges. Fill the shape with white using the Paint Bucket Tool (G) when you're finished.

Create a Cutout with the Polygonal Lasso Tool

Step 3

To add some grunge to your subject in the Photoshop flyer template, we'll need a filter. Select the Rocker layer and go to Filter > Filter Gallery > Artistic > Film Grain, and add the following settings:

  • Grain: 0
  • Highlight Area: 5
  • Intensity: 10
Use the Filter Gallery to create a Grunge Effect

The first pass of this filter allowed us to create more contrast and intensity. Now go to the same Film Grain filter again and apply a slight grain with the following settings:

  • Grain: 7
  • Highlight Area: 3
  • Intensity: 3
Add a Film Grain to Your Grunge Effect

3. How to Colorize the Subject

Step 1

We're almost done with your Photoshop flyer template. Let's add some color. Right-click and select the Blending Options for your subject's layer. Create a shiny, copper-like Linear Gradient Overlay with the following settings, making sure to set the Blend Mode to Overlay so that it colorizes your subject.

Add a Copper Linear Gradient Overlay
The Result from the Linear Gradient

Step 2

To tie in the red from the background, create a New Layer and set the Layer Blend Mode to Color. Right-click to set the layer as a Clipping Mask to your subject and use a Hard Round Brush to paint bright red #d14456 all over his T-shirt.

Color a Shirt with the Color Blend Mode

Right-click to select the Blending Options for the Red layer. To make the color look better on his shirt, create a transparent to black Linear Gradient Overlay with the following settings.

Create a Linear Gradient Overlay for Better Coloring

Step 3

Bump up the intensity of this effect, by setting a New Adjustment Layer of Levels as a Clipping Mask to your subject. Adjust the RGB Channel with the following settings:

Adjusting the Intensity with Levels

4. How to Add Finishing Touches

Step 1

Now that the base of our grunge effect is complete, let's add some finishing touches to the Photoshop template. First, open your Splatter Reference in Photoshop. Select it using the Rectangular Marquee Tool (M) and go to Edit > Define Brush Preset to create your own brush. Feel free to also use different splatter brushes from Envato Market.

Create a Custom Splatter Brush in Photoshop

Step 2

Use the splatter brush you created to add some splatter onto your 90s grunge effect. First, select the Red layer and paint some splatter on his hair using the same color as before. Then create a New Layer underneath your subject and paint a white splatter in the bottom left corner.

Paint Splatter for a Grunge Effect

Step 3

Finish this effect with some text! Use the Rectangle Tool (U) to create two white rectangles in the bottom right corner of the image.

Create Boxes for Text with the Rectangle Tool

Add whatever text you would like to the rectangles using this free Marker Twins font or by using a selection of great grunge fonts from Envato Market.

Duplicate the original black and white watercolor stock twice, and then set one of the copies as a Clipping Mask to the larger text. Set the Layer Blend Mode to Lighten to apply the grunge look.

Add Grunge Text to your Photo

Finish off the effect by dragging the second copy of the watercolor effect above all the other layers and setting the Layer Blend Mode to Soft Light. This helps to make everything look a little more "grungy."

Duplicate the layer for more grunge

Your Grunge Poster Design Is Done!

You can get a lot of inspiration for your designs by looking at different eras in culture. I hope you enjoyed this grunge photo effect Photoshop tutorial. Have fun creating your own unique 90s grunge effect for your next flyer template, and feel free to show us your results in the comments below!

90s Grunge Photo Effect Photoshop Tutorial by Melody Nieves

How to Create a Grunge Flyer Template Without Photoshop

I hope you liked the grunge photo effect Photoshop tutorial, and you feel inspired to create a Photoshop flyer template.

But what if you don't have Photoshop? Well, I'll tell you how to make grunge photos without any design software installed. 

You can make a grunge flyer in your browser with Placeit, an online flyer maker that's really easy to use.

Check out our grunge poster designs below, edit them to your heart's content, and buy your high-resolution grunge flyer!

1. Music Festival Grunge Flyer Template

Music Festival Grunge Flyer Template

If you're designing a grunge flyer for a music event, this is a really nice option. See the 1990s aesthetic in the design and how the band's picture is the center of attention.

2. Underground Music Festival Grunge Flyer

Underground Music Festival Grunge Flyer

This flyer template is another example of the cool 1990s aesthetic. You can create a professional grunge poster design with endless customization possibilities. 

3. Music Battle Grunge Flyer Template

Music Battle Grunge Flyer Template

This is a very cool way to present a music battle in a grunge flyer template. You can change the fonts, colors, and images, and create your own grunge music battle flyer.

4. Grunge Concert Flyer Template

Grunge Concert Flyer Template

This grunge poster design is simple and effective. Let the performer's picture take all the focus in this flyer template.

5. Punk Vibe Grunge Flyer Template

Punk Vibe Grunge Flyer Template

The grunge aesthetic often uses a darker color scheme than this, but why not try something different? Or if pink and green are not the vibe you're going for, it's easy to switch up the colors in your browser using this simple online flyer maker.

Discover More 90s Design Inspiration

You've learned how to make a picture look 90s and how to create amazing grunge flyer templates with our online flyer maker.

Now, I'm sure you're hungry for more 90s design inspiration! Check out these cool resources below:

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