Photoshop Tutorial: Retro Grunge Flyer

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Contrary to what you may think, it is fairly easy to create that retro grunge effect and apply it to your marketing media. In Photoshop, you will just need to mix several grunge elements and a nice spattering of creative fonts to achieve what you are looking for. This guide will help you understand and learn about the tricks in achieving that design. Read the steps below.


First, let us setup the flyer document in Adobe Photoshop. You would like our document to be print ready, you should be precise with the settings, dimensions and guidelines. Open your Adobe Photoshop first and then press CTRL+N to create a new document. The new document window should appear letting you set the attributes of the design. For this tutorial let’s design a standard vertical portrait flyer with these settings listed below.


Before we go headlong into the design, you would first need to add guidelines for the margins and bleeds. The first set of guidelines that we are going to create are the bleed guidelines. Do this by making the ruler visible (CTRL+R) and then clicking and dragging the guidelines into place from the rulers. Just move your mouse over the horizontal or vertical ruler and drag the cursor to the design canvas. You will see the light blue guideline appear. Place 4 of these for each side of your flyer document.


The next step is to add the margin guidelines. Our goal is to have a 0.125 inches space from the edge to the margin line. While you can also use the same dragging technique above, for some it is hard to be accurate with it. So for those people who want to be precise, can go to View > New Guide… Then on the window that opens, you can set the orientation of the guideline that you want, as well as its distance from the top or left edge. Create four margins again using these settings below.
a.     Top: Horizontal – 0.125 inches
b.     Bottom: Horizontal – 8.375 inches
c.     Left:  Vertical – 0.125 inches
d.     Right: Vertical – 5.375 inches


Finally, you can add the bleed space. All you have to do is to go to Image > Canvas size… In the window that opens add 0.25 inches to both the width and height values. Also make sure that you select the center anchor. This allows for a uniform distribution of the extra spacing, adding 0.125 inches on all sides.


Once you press OK, you should have a standard blank flyer template ready for you to design. Make sure you save this.


Great! Now let us start the design. The first move is to paste in a grungy old paper texture. We downloaded a nice free one from deviant art here. Just copy and paste it into our design.


Of course, the background is a bit too vivid for your purpose. So, reduce its opacity to around 30%. Do this by selecting the image layer in the layers panel and then looking for the opacity slider. Just turn it down to 30.


With the layer of the background still selected, go to Image > Adjustments > Desaturate. This will remove all the color from the image. By doing this, you can easily add your own theme colors later.


Now, select the custom shape tool, this should be in the tools panel. Once selected, go up to the options bar to see the shape gallery. Look for the “registration target 2” shape. Click on it.


Then, just use the custom shape tool to create your shape. As you can see, this gives a creative sunray type shape. Hold down the SHIFT key to resize the shape so that it is resized with constrained proportions.


To integrate the sunray shape better, change its blend mode to “Color Burn”. Reduce its opacity to 30%. You can easily adjust these settings by selecting its layer in the layer panel and then adjust their sliders at the top part of the panel.


Great! Now you need to paste in one of our main image features. The image we are using here comes from deviant art. You can just copy and paste the main image into your design.


Then, with a soft eraser brush, remove the outer area of the image like so.


Also “desaturate” this layer. To make the process faster, just use the shortcut key, CTRL+SHIFT+U. Of course, you can still go to the traditional method of going to Image > Adjustments > Desaturate if you like.


Then, change the blend mode of the layer to “color burn”. Again, you can change the blend mode of the layer by adjusting it in the drop down menu at the layers panel. It should turn into a really subtle version of itself.


To make it more vivid, duplicate the main image layer. Create the duplicate image by simply right clicking on the layer and then choosing “Duplicate layer” on the context menu. Alternatively, you can also use the shortcut CTRL+J.


Next, you would need some vector clip-arts as additional accent details for your design. We got this great set of speaker vector images here. We download them and open them up in Illustrator. Just click on the shape that you want to use for your design.


Then, just press CTRL+C to copy the vector image to the clipboard. Go back to Photoshop and press CTRL+V to paste it. If a dialog window opens, make sure you select the option to “paste as shape”. Otherwise, you can import easily. Make sure to reposition it already to your preferred location. Also do not forget the fact that you can resize these images as needed by pressing CTR+T to transform them and drag their dimensions. Make sure to hold the shift key if you want to resize them with their scaling intact.


Then reduce the opacity of the layer to around 70% to slightly de-emphasize the speaker.


Duplicate the speaker layer (shortcut CTRL+J) and then move the duplicate image on the opposite side of the design. Press CTRL+T for the transformation. Next, right click on the duplicate shape and select “flip horizontal” from the context menu.


Repeat the process for the top image. This time though showing only one part of the speaker. Also, flip the duplicate shapes vertically to balance it out and maintain the symmetry of the design.


Now, add some finishing detailed touches. First, paste in a new image of a crowd from this generous person in flickr.


Then process the image, just like the main image before. Remove its color by desaturating it. Erase its top part with a soft brush and reduce its opacity to 30%. Take note that we added this image now just above the background texture image.


Just repeat the process on top as well for symmetry’s sake. Reduce the opacity of the crowd layer there to 15%. Do not forget to save the document. You are now ready for the text.


Now, add in our text. Use the text type tool for the text creation. The main title comes first. We have used a creative font style here named LEAD from This gives us that nice retro feel with a bit for the design. Remember that you can adjust character and line spacing attributes along with font style, color and typeface in the character panel.


You can just add the remaining text as needed. Here we used simpler, easier to understand fonts as these are smaller when compared to the title. Also note that we are using dark gray colors for the design here. Do not worry as we will add some theme colors as the final step.


Great! Now, create a new layer on top of ALL THE OTHER layers. To do this, press CTRL+SHIFT+N. Name this layer the “Color Layer”.


Select the gradient tool in the left tools panel. Afterwards, set the colors of the gradient by looking at the gradient color box in the options bar above. Beside the gradient color box you will also see several options. Choose the second one from the left for now.  Then, click and drag the mouse cursor from the center to the edge. This gives us a radial gradient.


Finally, we change the color mode of the layer to “Color”. Just choose it from the blend mode drop down menu.


You should then see the color applied to our design quite creatively and seamlessly. Take note that you can always vary the color layer above to any color or color style that you want. It is possible to just use brush tools, or all the other combinations of the gradient styles. That finishes our retro, grunge flyer design.  Just customize the steps if you wish to apply the same effect on a different media, say, for when you need to design and print postcards or posters.


Another example, this time we used color spot brushes. Just choose the style that you want.

Author’s Bio: Irene Thompson is a graphic designer. She’s addicted to Photoshop for a long time and been focusing in the area of print designs. She works at, a trusted online printing company that offers high quality printed marketing materials. Get impressive flyers printed at PrintPlace and reach out with them through facebook and twitter.

About Andrew Smith

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