Photoshop tutorial: Create distressed textures for digital paintings

Are your images slick and polished, when you’re after a rougher, more urban feel? Mess things up a little: David and Sarah Cousens show you how.

Photoshop can help you make great images, but the images can sometimes look a bit too clean and manufactured. This tutorial will show you how to incorporate some gritty textures and get a little dirty.

We’ve included a whole load of fun extras for you on the right, including our custom brushes for flat colouring, shading and sketching so if you want to make the image right from the start, you have everything you need to start drawing directly in Photoshop.

Don’t panic if you’re not into drawing, we’ve included the high-res lines for this image so you can dive in at the colouring stage. There are also some images that we spray-painted for you, as well as a texture from May Ang’s brilliant texture archive, which you can find at This tutorial requires Mac’s Remove White filter, which you can download from

Step 1
We started by roughly sketching the character and tracing over it. If you’d rather start with out traced version, open Adrenaline- Lines.jpeg from the cover disc, make a new layer from the background, and name the layer ‘Lines’.

Run Mac’s ‘Remove White’ filter to eliminate the white pixels. Click ‘Lock Transparent Pixels’ in the Layers palette. Immediately below ‘Lines’ make a layer called ‘Blends’, followed by ‘Hair’, ‘Clothes2’, ‘Clothes’, ‘Skin’ and ‘Background’. Make one final layer called ‘Above’ and place it above the ‘Lines’ layer.

Step 2
Block in the flat colours on their respective layers using Dave C’s flat colour brush (from the cover disc), ensuring that no sections of different colour on the same layer are touching. Use the square brackets – [ and ] – to reduce and increase the brush size respectively. Use the biggest brush possible to speed things up here. Starting with ‘Hair’, Cmd/Ctrl + left-click the thumbnail of each layer to select everything on that layer, and hit Backspace on each layer below to delete any overlap between layers. This will make shading much easier.

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