In this tutorial, I am going to show how you can create your own fully customisable grunge or distressed looking text in only a few minutes. This is very easy to do in Photoshop and all it takes is a layer mask and a brush to add the distressed grunge effect.

This technique will work with any font and because we are not going to directly affect the text we retain the ability to change the words or the typeface at any time.

Lets Begin

Creating the Text

My File: 1920 x 1080 pixels

So with your new document open, create a bit of text using the type tool. My text is “Punch in the Face” – I have just been watching some boxing 🙂

My Text:

  • Font – Impact Regular
  • All upper case
  • Size – 200px
  • Black

The text layer will automatically be created on a new layer. Don’t flatten the layer we want to keep the text editable throughout the entire process.

Creating the Grunge Layer Mask

With the new text layer selected, select from the main drop-down menu Layer > Layer Mask > Reveal All

This new mask layer is where all of our grunge distressed looks will be created. At the moment nothing is affected because the entire mask is white.

Next, select one of the Photoshop brushes which has a slightly rough look to it. This alone is already enough to create a decent rough grunge text effect.

With the brush set to black, anywhere you paint on the layer mask with black will be erased from the text layer. I did this with the mouse by clicking and dragging near the edges of the text. A graphics tablet is not essential for this tutorial. As you can see in the image above all of the brush strokes are on the mask layer and the text is still fully editable.

Easy as that!

That’s the basic technique, but you can do much more.

Custom Brushes

To keep this tutorial accessible I am going to stick with this standard default Photoshop brush. The sky is the limit really, the more you modify the brush the more different the end effect will be.

In this version, I set the brush mode to scatter and then I applied an opacity jitter. This creates a more faded and dusty look.

You can mix and match brushes and you can use other tools such as the smudge tool.

The main bonus from this technique is the ability to alter the text and the font at any time regardless of the brushes/effects used. You can also add layer effects such as drop shadow which will update with the layer mask.

This is only one aspect of creating a rough distressed design but I hope you can see the benefit of this technique. With this trick, you no longer need to search the internet for a free font that looks rough. You can create your own in only a few minutes and you have full control over it.

This trick is great for online ads and promotions. If you enjoyed this article you might like my article on creating professional looking web banners and ads in Photoshop.

Creating Professional Web Banners in Photoshop



Graphic Designer and Website Designer. Studied Animation and has been using and learning design software for over 15 years.