Reverse Grunge – Easy Texture Technique in Photoshop

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I want to show you an easy and quick way to make a grunge-textured background in Photoshop. Of course, this isn't the only way, but it's not hard to do if you have a decent set of brushes to work with.

If you find yourself without a decent set of grunge brushes, you can download my Hi-Res Splatter Brushes and Hi-Res Watercolor I and II, here on Bittbox. They aren't necessarily grunge brushes, but they are very large and detailed, and I used them to make all of the examples you see below in this tutorial.

Reverse Grunge - Easy Texture Technique in Photoshop
View and download the High-Res Image above Here.


In a nutshell, what I mean by “reverse grunge” is starting with a solid,filled layer and using an eraser to create the grunge instead of a brush. I will go over in detail exactly how to do this, but I want to start with a visual aid. The image below is a diagram of the anatomy of the example you see above. I only used 3 layers on top of a background gradient, and the only tool I used was an eraser. (with a splatter tip shape) Advanced Photoshop users may want to use this same technique with layer masks for non-destructive grunge effects.

The layers used in this approach

The trick is to play around with the opacity of your layers, the blending mode of your layers, and the flow and opacity settings when using the eraser.

Step By Step:

1. The Background

This part is up to you. You can use a solid color, a gradient, a pattern, an image. . . Anything really. I simply used a gradient as my background:

Gradient background

2. Make a new layer, and fill it with a color (usually a dark color at first)

In order to make our ‘reverse grunge' effect, we need to make a layer on top of the background and fill it with a solid color. An easy way to do this is to create a new layer in the layers palette, then hit Shift + F5. That is the shortcut for a fill. You can experiment with your own shades of color, but usually darker colors work well for this effect.

New fill layer

I filled my top layer with black at 100% opacity, so black is all I see right now.

100% opacity in black

3. Start Erasing

In order to get our grunge effect all you need to do is select the Eraser Tool with a grunge or splatter tip shape and start hacking away at your solid black fill. I usually do this using different ‘opacities' and ‘flow' settings for the eraser in order to get a more diversified effect. This enables us to fill with a solid color then erase at different opacities.

You will find the Opacity and Flow settings in the main menu bar at the top, when you have the eraser selected.

Eraser settings

Download my Free High-Res brushes if you need some to follow along. These are the brushes I used for the tip shape of my ‘eraser:'

The Result:

This is the result after ‘erasing' the black fill at different opacities with the Eraser Tool and a (few) grunge brush tips:

Finished texture

And another example. Both this and the previous example only have 2 layers: A background, and a black fill on top that got erased with a splatter brush.

Another example

A 3 step example:

Here is an example of a few of the ‘erasing' steps. I used a deep burgundy fill in this this example instead of black. You will notice more and more of the gold gradient background being exposed as I hack away.

Erasing step 1
Erasing step 2
Erasing step 3

Tips for Exploring this on Your Own:

  • Make multiple layers – Fill a layer, hack it up, then make another fill layer, and start hacking away again.
  • Experiment with different blending modes for your grunge layers.
  • Use different colors for your fills before you use your ‘grunge eraser.' Different colors behave differently when playing around with layer blending modes. For example. In some layer modes white becomes invisible. Same for black. So, don't hesitate to branch out and try a weird color, you may like the effects after the blending mode is changed.
  • Use different sizes, orientations, opacities, and flow settings for your eraser. The more divers, the more realistic the result. (most of the time).