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How to Create a Rusty Texture in Photoshop

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In this tutorial, we'll learn how simple it is to texturize objects using different fusion mode layers, adjustment layers, color tweaks and some very simple filters in Photoshop. You can use this simple technique in more complex illustrations of your own creation. Let's get started with learning these techniques!

Final Image Preview

Take a look at the image we'll be creating, as shown on the right below. We'll be transforming the image on the left and giving it a rusty texture. 

Before and after PhotoshopBefore and after PhotoshopBefore and after Photoshop

Video Tutorial

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


With some imagination you can create stuff as easy and eye-catching as this one I created from SOSFactory.

Texture PhotoshopTexture PhotoshopTexture Photoshop

Step 1: Removing Perspective

I searched the web and found a picture of a metal grille (I emailed to the image's owner asking permission, which was granted, thanks to Prearco). You can work with an image of a metal grille of your choice for this tutorial.

This image doesn't have a full frontal perspective so I've transformed it (Command + T), and then right-click and Distort, to remove the perspective. Make sure to use a high resolution image or it will become blurry when transforming.

Photoshopn transformationPhotoshopn transformationPhotoshopn transformation

Step 2: Adding Good Contrast

If we want to work with the fusion mode layers, we have to decrease the lightness and contrast in our image. You should use a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer, so you can always go back and make any correction (non destructive action). You need to do a selection of the grille (Command-click on the layer's thumb) and click the Create New Fill Adjustment Layer icon button, as shown below.

Adjustment layer

A menu will pop up, I set the Saturation to zero and I decreased the Illumination to -50.

Hue and saturation in PhotoshopHue and saturation in PhotoshopHue and saturation in Photoshop

By decreasing the Illumination, the image looses contrast, so we better give the shadows some strength by adding another Adjustment Layer, this time I choose the Levels corrector and used the settings shown below. And now our object is ready to texturize!

Levels correctionLevels correctionLevels correction

Step 3: Adding Noise

When it comes to texturizing a rusty object, noise is the key. To add noise, I create a new layer and put it in Overlay mode. Then I fill it with a mid gray (#808080) and I use the filter Noise > Add Noise with the settings shown below.

Adding noise in PhotoshopAdding noise in PhotoshopAdding noise in Photoshop

As you can see, the layer in Overlay mode with mid gray and noise is the equivalent to add noise to the image itself, but we have the advantage that our original image won't be modified (non destructive action).

Step 4: Adding Color

To color the image we add a new layer in Overlay mode and fill it with the color #551c08 (just double-click the color picker in the tools palette and paste the code at the bottom).

Overlay modeOverlay modeOverlay mode

Step 5: Adding Dirt

Now I create a new layer, and I added some stains courtesy of Gomedia (you can download numerous freebies from them here), with variations of the same brown I used before (#551c08). You can use the Dodge Tool, the Burn Tool, layers in Multiply mode, cut, paste and rotate... until you get something similar to that shown below.

Rust in PhotoshopRust in PhotoshopRust in Photoshop

Try to be creative, our purpose is to get different tones. Then we put the layer in Overlay mode and play with opacity, which gives us the following result.

Rust overlayRust overlayRust overlay

Step 7: Blurring the Noise

I repeat Step 3 to add noise, but this time I also add some blur to make the grain blur a bit and mix everything. Notice how it manages to make the lines not so perfect or clean.

Glaussian blurGlaussian blurGlaussian blur

Step 8: More Levels Correction

The image is too dark so I added another Adjustment Layer and modified the Levels again to give the image more lightness and saturation.

More level correctionsMore level correctionsMore level corrections

Step 9: Color Correction

The image is a bit monochrome, so we are going to vary the highlight and midtones a bit. I add a new adjustment layer and choose the Color Balance modifier for this.

Color correctionColor correctionColor correction

Step 10: More Stains

Let's add a little more dirt on the top. So repeat Step 5, but this time put the layer in Multiply mode with 44% Opacity.

More rustnessMore rustnessMore rustness

Step 11: Backup and Flatten the Layers

OK, we're almost done so I'm going to group all the layers and save a backup:

  1. Select all the layers but the gray background.
  2. Click Command + G to group them.
  3. Drag the group to the new layer button at the bottom of the layers palette to duplicate it.
  4. And finally select the second group and press Command + E to flatten all the layers. This is our final image and the group is our backup.

Step 12: Adding Some More Grain

I used the Dodge Tool with a grainy brush to add a little more grain and saturation to certain areas - especially the edges.

Rusty BrushRusty BrushRusty Brush

Final Image

You can continue adding noise, blurring, modifying the colors, adding different modes of layers, until you get the effect you want. If you're creative, you can make very eye-catching creations. The final image is below.

Rusty BrushRusty BrushRusty Brush
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