By Karl Rosencrants

This blog post was updated by Cristin Burton on June 29, 2015.

One of the more popular design elements these days isn‘t actually an element at all – it’s really just destroying the elements you already have in your design! Simply put, grunge.

We have all seen tutorials on creating grunge elements and grunge brushes in Photoshop, but I would like to show you that it is just as easy to apply grunge elements to your vector art work in Illustrator. This tutorial is designed to work in Adobe Illustrator CS2 or a later.

Let’s jump right in and discover how simple creating grunge elements can be.

Here is what we will be creating: a grungy star.

It is important to note that we will be using the Image Trace command in Illustrator, so you will need to have at least CS2. 

We’ll start with a photograph of a concrete wall. Selecting your starting image is important; the more contrast and more random the texture in your image, the better your grunge will look. Here is what we’ll be working with.

After starting a new document in Illustrator, select File > Place, find your image, and drop it in the middle of your art board. Select your image, and click the Image Trace button in the top tool bar (in older versions of Illustrator, this is called Live Trace). You can also click the pulldown menu next to the Image Trace button for other type of Image Trace. For this type of project, I have just clicked the button and used the default, because that gives me a black and white Image Trace, which is what we need.

Next, click on the Expand button in the top tool bar, which changes your image file from a raster image to a grouped set of vector shapes. You’ll also want to remove the white part of the vector by direct selecting it and deleting it. I was able to select a white area by going to the menu and choosing Select > Same > Fill Color. This will select all the white parts of the vector. Then hit delete to remove them.  

You have now created the groundwork for your grunge element! Nice work. Now let‘s apply that grunge to a design element.

Draw a five-point star using the Star Tool and make it the color of your choice. You can resize and position your grunge elements over your star where you want them over the star. You can move the star to back by selecting it and clicking  command-shift-[ (or cntrl-shift-[ on a PC). 

For a more permanent application of the grunge, select both the grunge elements and the star. In the pathfinder palette, click on Minus front. In older versions of illustrator this might be called subtract from shape area. If you have a new version, hold down option (alt on a PC) while clicking this and you’ll create a compound shape and subtract from the shape area. This way you can still maintain all of your grunge elements.

You can use this simple method to add a grunge element to any of your vector art work and create some great designs!

This tutorial originally appeared in the Shutterstock newsletter.



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