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How to Make a Rubber Stamp Effect with Paint.NET

Use Paint.NET to Produce Distressed Grunge Textures

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This little tutorial will show you how to produce a rubber stamp like graphic. Rubber stamps don't produce perfect prints when applied to paper and the technique we use to replicate the imperfect impression can also be used to produce grunge style effects where text and images are manipulated to look distressed. For this tutorial I'm using Paint.NET, but the same effect can be produced in other pixel-based image editors, such as GIMP.

I actually got the idea for this tutorial yesterday after producing a banner for Start a New Hobby Week, so you can see an example of this technique in action.

Note: If you're a GIMP user, this same technique is covered in How to Make a Rubber Stamp Effect with GIMP. You can also find rubber stamp effect tutorials for Photoshop and Photoshop Elements.

1. Open a New Document

New document opened
© Ian Pullen

Firstly you need to open a new blank document by going to File > New and setting the size of the document to suit how you intend to use the finished graphic – I used 1280px X 800px.

2. Find a Photo of a Texture

Concrete texture
© Ian Pullen

We're going to use a photo of a rough textured surface, such as stone or concrete, to produce the distressed effect of the final graphic. You could use a digital camera to take a picture specifically for this purpose or use a free texture from an online source, such as MorgueFile or stock.xchng. Whichever image you choose to use, ensure that it is larger than the graphic that you are producing.

Note: Whenever using images or other files, such as fonts, from online sources, do always check the license terms to ensure that you are free to use them in your intended way.

3. Open and Insert the Texture

Texture inserted in empty document
© Ian Pullen

When you've selected your texture image, go to File > Open to open it. Now, with the Move Selected Pixels tool (you can press the M key to shortcut to it) selected from the Toolbox, click on the image and go to Edit > Copy. Now close the texture image which returns you to your blank document.

Now go to Edit > Paste into New Layer.

4. Simplify the Texture

Posterize adjustment applied
© Ian Pullen

Next we need to simplify the texture to make it more graphic and less like a photo. This is done by going to Adjustments > Posterize. In the Posterize dialog, ensure that Linked is checked and then slide one of the sliders to the left. This reduces the number of colors that are used to make the image. I've set the sliders to four as I think that I can use the darker gray areas of the image to produce the distressed effect, but the setting may vary depending on the image that you're using.

You want an irregular speckled effect and you can turn the Linked setting off and adjust the colors individually if necessary. When happy, click OK.

5. Add a Text Layer

Add some text
© Ian Pullen

Unlike Adobe Photoshop, Paint.Net doesn't automatically apply text to its own layer, so go to Layer > Add New Layer to insert a blank layer above the texture layer.

Now select the Text tool from the Toolbox and click on the image and type in some text. In the Tool Options bar that appears above the document window, you can select the font that you want to use and adjust the size of the text. Bold fonts are best for this and I've selected Arial Black. When you've finished, you can click on the Move Selected Pixels tool and reposition the text if necessary.

6. Add a Border

Add a border
© Ian Pullen

Rubber stamps usually have a border and we can use the Rectangle tool (press the O key to select) to draw one. In the Tool Options bar, you can change the Brush width setting to adjust the thickness of the border line. If the Layers palette isn't open, go to Window > Layers and check that the layer with the text is highlighted blue to indicate it is the active layer. Now click and drag on the image to draw a rectangular border around the text. If you're not happy with the position of the box, you can go to Edit > Undo and try drawing it again.

7. Select Part of the Texture with the Magic Wand

Make a random selection
© Ian Pullen

The next step is to select parts of the texture layer and we will then use these to finally remove parts of the text layer to produce the distressed effect.

Select the Magic Wand tool from the Toolbox and, in the Layers palette, click on the texture layer to make it active. In the Tool Options bar, set the Flood Mode drop down box to Global and then go to the image and click on one of the colors of the texture layer.  I clicked on an area of dark gray and after a few moments all the other areas of the same tone were selected. If you click the thumbnail, you'll see how the outlines of the selected areas are visible and show which parts of the text layer will be removed.

8. Delete the Selected Areas

Final image
© Ian Pullen

If you want more to be deleted, change the Selection Mode to Add (union) and click another color in the texture layer to add to the selection.

In the Layers palette, click on the checkbox in the texture layer to hide the layer. Next click on the text layer to make it active and go to Edit > Erase Selection. This will leave you with your distressed text layer. If you're not happy with it, you can click on the texture layer, make it visible and use the Magic Wand tool to select another color and then remove this from the text layer also.

9. Conclusion

This shows a simple technique for removing random parts of an image to produce a grunge or distressed effect. In this case it has been used to simulate the appearance of a rubber stamp on paper, but there are all sorts of applications where you could use this technique.

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