Create a Colorful Grunge Portrait in Seconds

Create a Colorful Grunge Portrait in Seconds

This effect is so simple and fast, but produces such a stunning and unique appearance, that you’ll instantly love it. In fact, I’m willing to bet that you’ll spend quite some time playing with variations, brushes and different photos to see what sort of looks you can create. Let’s jump right in.

Here’s a look at what we’ll be creating.

Step 1 – A Good Texture Base

First off, you need a good worn paper texture. I’m using one from our Free High Res Paper Texture Set. I bumped the contrast a bit using ( Image | Adjust | Levels ). My document is 558×837 at 72dpi.

Step 2 – Apply Your Portrait

I found this great portrait of John Lennon to use for this example. I copied and pasted it to a layer above my texture.

Next, I bumped up the contrast using ( Image | Adjust | Levels ), the amount will vary based on your photo. Then I applied a ( Filter | Artistic | Watercolor )… Again, the settings will vary based on your photo. Basically, you want to give the image a nice painted effect, like the one below.

Step 3 – Begin Painting

Next up, create a new layer above all others. Now switch over to view the channels panel and ( Cmd + Click ) the RGB channel thumbnail to create a selection.

Now back over to the layers panel, press the layer mask icon with the new top layer selected. This will apply a mask from the selection you made on the channels panel. You can release the selection by pressing ( Cmd + D ). With the mask thumb selected press ( Cmd + I ) to invert the colors. You can now delete the original portrait layer.

Now we’re ready to paint. Choose the top layer and using a nice grunge brush ( I’m using this set, but any good grunge brush will do ). Begin painting by randomly clicking around the layer using a different bright color each time.

Keep building up your colors until you feel it is complete. Part of the fun is determining when you’ve reached that point.

Here is my completed grunge portrait. As an optional final step, I added a border by filling a selection with 60% white.

I hope you have fun experimenting with this technique!

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Nathan Brown

Nathan Brown is a graphic designer who loves working with various media. He combines traditional art styles with a little experimentation and digital flare. Nathan's works have contained everything from ink and paint to leaves and a box of dirt. Everything is fare game when it comes to his approach to art. Nathan lives in Austin, Texas where he has been working as a designer for 10 years.


(+add yours)
  1. cant wait to try this!!

  2. Chris

    I don’t understand
    If i create a blank layer above all and go to the channels menu i have to have them all selected whit blue.
    Ok. But after that on wich layer i should make the selection on the stock image layer or on this layer?
    Because if i make the selection on the new layer and then applying mask if i press invert it says that the selected area its empthy

  3. Hi Chris, When you switch over to the channels panel, select the RGB channel by (Cmd+Click) the channel’s thumb. Then with the selection made, switch back over to the layers panel, create a new layer, then press the create mask icon at the bottom of the panel. That should create mask based on the selection. Now click the mask thumbnail and invert it (Cmd+Shift_I).

    Then begin painting on the new layer containing the mask you just created. You won’t see anything on the layer until you start painting.

    • Chris

      I got it.
      I forgot to invert the mask.
      Thank’s :D

    • lindsi

      hi nathan! so when i invert it, it makes the eyes black and teeth white. in yours, it looks mroe normal. am i missing a step?

  4. Make colorful portrait in the rapid way is not as much hard for the beginner web designers because this post proved it for the beginner web designers as well as will become good source to learn “How to create portrait” for them.

  5. ramakrishna

    Thank you for this great collection. It really helps me professionally.

  6. Jegiboy

    i cant get the colors i want it’s only black and white help!

    • Mohammad Al khalid

      Hi Jegiboy,
      you probably selected the vector mask while painting. just click on the layer thumbnail and hen try painting.
      hope you found this helpful…

  7. Fantastic Tutorial, i’m a total newbie to the world of design, but heres my effort.
    You tutorial is so easy to follow and love the effects you can achieve from this portrait.

  8. Hi Nathan.
    ??? I don’t get it? Nothing happenings when I try to paint? I got to the delete the layer bit and then nothing works?

  9. Jeff Shepard

    I am having the same issue as Nathan. I know I am looking at this tutorial well after it was first put up, but if anyone could give some tips on how to get past this point, it would be great.

  10. Ana

    this tutorial is so hard ! I don’t get how this paint to get like this … do you have a video or something ?

  11. thank u very munch for post.

  12. Liz

    Great tutorial! Clearly written and very easy to follow. I posted the portrait I made and a link to your site, giving credit to you, on a flickr group devoted to learning new techniques. You can see it here if you’re interested:

    Many thanks for sharing your knowledge and resources.

  13. michael

    I am very new to photo shop….I really love the look so cool…however I agree with the others so hard to follow I got the first couple of parts right I think! Then the masking/painting part did nothing like you showed. Would love to see in a video.

  14. Nithin

    Thank you very much.That effect is exellent!!

  15. david

    Can you suggest how to paint??

  16. I tried it, myself. It was easy to follow and I liked the results! Thank you so much for the brushes and the tut!

  17. Thank you very much., You are a good writer.
    In addition to art that will give you good
    I congratulate you

  18. training.’m Very happy that I was familiar with your site., For teaching that I
    thank you for your site

  19. morrie

    Problems ! from step 3 i get nothing to work like you said,the layer mask are black, where must i paint, layer mask or new layer side. when i delete original image then you cant see anything of it, when i start to pain only the texture get painted with no face nowhere to see, help

  20. Tutorial to make smoky effect is really very creative. Smudge Tool of the Photoshop mostly is used for making background things of the photo blurry for giving most important to the foreground image but this type of above effects will possible to make with this tool with your own creativity.

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  23. It’s really good. Thanks

  24. It’s really good. Thanks

  25. Hi everybody, here every one is sharing these kinds of experience, so it’s nice to read this website, and I used to go to see this website everyday.

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  28. John

    Thanks appreciate the tutorial

  29. Hi. It’s very good tutorial. Thanks a lot for sharing.

  30. Great post and so helpful for me. Thank you so much.

  31. sudarshan

    glad to found your website i was searching for a website containing text tutorials that can be used even with mobile phone…..

    your work is “SIMPLY EXCELLENCE”

    keep it up sir…..

  32. Albi

    Hi, I’m using Elements 14 and am very happy up until step 3, then I’m not sure what to do as Elements doesn’t have the same channel controls or a channel panel. Any ideas on a work around to get a similar effect as I’m really keen to try. Thanks, Albi

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