With graphic design resources becoming increasingly available online, the allure to use them can be overwhelming. Talented designers from all over the world are consistently distributing new (and often free) graphic design tools – including, but not limited to, Photoshop brushes i.e., Splatter Brushes and grunge fonts with many of these often listed in various graphic design “trends” articles.
Yet there is a trap one can succumb to of following a trend and applying these resources to designs, without taking the time to perform proper analysis. As designers, we should always know what our intentions are – ask yourself what is the desired effect that you are looking to create? Your answer to this could very well illustrate to you that the fantastic (yes, they’re often brilliant) free brushes or fonts you just found are not right for that particular project.
Creating your own textures gives you the flexibility to view (and analyze) an example of an effect that you would like to achieve. Creating such things via a real, “tactile” method is far more natural and effective than the use of 100% computer tools and resources. Through the use of inks, brushes, sponges, ink droppers, charcoals, and so on, you can create a library of textures – ready to scan and convert into Photoshop masks. One of the things to be aware of is that different mediums and techniques will produce different effects, and half the fun is often through experimentation.
For example, if a poster print were run over by a car on a road, then the print would wear off in a certain way. If you were to take a sheet of white paper, lay this on the surface of the road, and then rub charcoal over the sheet, the result will be a texture that, when applied as a mask within Photoshop, emulates the effect. There are other benefits in committing to this time consuming work – make no mistake about it; it does take more time than downloading a plug-in or font! However, I personally feel that the benefits add more value to designs.
Take advantage of altering the pressure you apply, which is a wonderfully simple, natural aesthetic technique. Where you are using graphic elements together with words, you can now apply a consistent effect over the two. There are no doubt some excellent grunge fonts available online, however one major problem with using these becomes clear when a double letter is used (as seen in the graphic example below). If your intention is to create a vintage/worn look, then stay clear of these – nothing screams “Fake!” more than two letters used side-by-side that display identical ‘worn’ treatments.
Never stop trawling the net for resources – we can all use these for a great deal of projects. However, try to stay focussed, don’t be swept up by “trends”, and always be aware of your intentions and the natural options that are available to you.