Ripped and Torn Edges and Stuff

Photoshop allows you to create that ripped, torn and distressed effect that has been seen around lately. It’s a simple practice in masking and brush settings. This tutorial will show you how to achieve that ripped effect with little effort, and a lot of flexibility.

I was looking through a recent print magazine in which they were displaying artwork around the world. I saw a lot of grungy, torn, ripped and generally distressed design trends. I like trendy things, so I figured I’d show a way of recreating these effects in Photoshop.

Start with a blank document and make a square selection with the Marquee tool [M] a little smaller than your document.


Create a Solid Color Adjustment Layer and fill it with whatever color you want. In this case, I used #6D665B.


Now choose the Brush tool [B]. Select the Brush menu at the top, in your Options palette, and select the Chalk 17 pixels brush. NOTE: If you are having trouble finding the brush, when your Brush palette drops down, select the small arrow in the upper right corner, then select Small List. It should make your palette look like mine.


Press [D] to set your colors back to default. Bring up your Brush Options by pressing [F5] or going [Window > Brushes].


Click on “Shape Dynamics” and change the settings similar to mine:


Size Jitter: 100%
Minimum Diameter: 0%
Angle Jitter: 50%
Roundness Jitter: 25%
Minimum Roundness: 25%
Flip X Jitter: Yes
Flip Y Jitter: Yes

NOTE: I use a Wacom Tablet ( ) so my brush tip shape preview probably looks different than yours. Mine is feathered at the edges.

Click on “Scattering” and change the settings similar to mine:


Scatter: 100%
Both Axes: Yes
Count: 1
Count Jitter: 0%

Next, click on “Texture”. Click on the texture preview window, and choose the second texture from the left.


Then, change the settings:


Scale: 100%
Mode: Color Burn
Depth: 50%

Click on “Other Dynamics” and change the settings to:


Opacity Jitter: 50%
Flow Jitter: 0%

And finally, click on “Wet Edges” and make sure “Smoothing” is checked.

Now, just brush along the edges of your color square, and watch how it works.


You’ll probably want to save your brush settings. Click on your Brush Presets menu again, and choose “New Brush Preset…”. Name the brush whatever you like.


Go back to the Brush Preset menu and choose the “Spatter 24 pixels” brush.


Go back to the Brushes window and check the same settings you had earlier. When you click on each box, it should remember your settings from the previous brush. The only difference, is we’re going to set:
Scattering: 1000%


Set your foreground color to a light gray, I used #B6B6B6.

Now, don’t click and drag. Just point and click once, randomly across your image. This should add a little more distress.


Now, we’re going to create another Solid Color Adjustment Layer. Make it slightly darker than the color of your first one. Then press [Ctrl + G] to create a Clipping Mask. CS2 users have to use [Ctrl + Alt + G].

Press [D] to set your colors to default. Press [Ctrl + Backspace] to fill the mask with black. With white as your foreground color, use the same brush and same technique as above.


Now, to finish it off, you can add some Noise to the top layer by going [Filter > Noise > Add Noise]. Adjust the settings to your liking and apply.

The great thing about this technique, is that you can experiment with many of the different brushes and their settings to get different effects. I’ll leave it up to you to get creative.


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Comments Spill 25 Comments »

  1. June 3, 2008 12:14 pmElizabeth Jaring

    THANK YOU!!! I’ve been trying to figure this out forever! I never tried doing it from scratch like that….i thought there was a filter I could apply. But this helped a lot. Thanks!

  2. July 26, 2008 9:35 amJo

    Whoa!, I never thought about creating a brush preset for the torn edges, I’ve always made them manually, this technique saves a lot of time. Thank you for sharing.

  3. August 4, 2008 5:33 amDaniel

    Fantastic! I *knew* there was a way Pshop could do make this effect “real time” and you ferreted it out for the rest of us. Thanks SO MUCH! Great tutorial!

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  10. December 1, 2008 7:48 pmsholt

    Fantastic! I have seen lots of lame attempts to do this, but your technique was the best, and now I have the brush to use going forward. Bravo!!

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  12. March 5, 2009 2:00 pmKelsey

    When i go in to set my texture i only have two of them. I want the one you have so i can do this. I thought that there was automatically supposed to be more than two. Do you know how i can get them?

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  14. March 11, 2009 8:44 amRasheed

    Nice thanks please keep up the good work.

  15. March 17, 2009 4:25 amfaze one Studio

    really awesome tutorial, thanks for taking the time to make it

    : )

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  19. May 22, 2009 9:55 amAmy P.

    Thanks a bunch. I usually don’t have the patience to do it from scratch but your screen shots of the settings really helped. Brushes work well, too.

  20. May 25, 2009 10:19 amJohn

    Great Technique! Try a Outline in a complimenting color at a 75 transparency to finalize the worn edge.

  21. May 28, 2009 9:34 amElle

    Kelsey, I have CS4 and I found the brush used in this tutorial under the “Patterns” category, it was the fifth brush in there, HTH :)

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