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Easy Photo Grunge Effect

In this tutorial, we’re going to explore some non-destructive image editing. With these techniques, you can bring out the best in an image, or absolutely destroy the graphic, but still keep the original photo intact.

So to begin, find a photo that you’d like to make dirty. Something that might feel bland as is, and could use more of a grungy feel. Here is what I’ll be using:

The original photo used in this tutorial

Crank the Colors

Now, we want to increase the contrast and the intensify colors of the photo, but do it in a non-destructive way (by non-destructive, I simply mean we do not want to lose the data from the original image as we modify the appearance of our graphic). How do we do this? We use layers, of course.

First, Duplicate the Layer. Then, go to the layer’s blend modes and select Hard Light. This setting will multiply any color darker than 50% grey and screen any color lighter. In this case, since both the base layer and the blend layer are identical, the light colors become lighter and the dark colors become darker, with no quality lost.

The result of the added layer

As you can see, we’ve increased the image’s sharpness as well as its saturation.

High Pass for Sharpness

The High Pass filter gives a photo that refined, sharp look that is hard to obtain using only a camera. Once again, this is a non-destructive way of adding more life to your photos.

Make a new duplicate of the original layer. For now, you can make the first duplicate invisible. Set the new duplicate’s blend to Hard Light as well.

Now, Go to Filters > Other > High Pass.

The High Pass filter sets it’s source image to 50% grey, and as you increase the amount on the slider, it reveals more of the image, in higher contrast areas at first, such as edges or lines.

The amount you should use of the filters varies. Too little causes no effect. To much, and the image gets halo’s and uneven blotches of more intense color. The the amount you should use really just depends on the kind of results you desire.

The result of the added layer

Mix and Match

Right now, in your layers panel, you should have three layers: the original as the background, the high pass layer, and then the direct duplicate. Both additional layers, if you haven’t tried by now, can be turned visible and invisible. Depending on your personal preference, you can choose one of these methods or the other, or even repeat a method, and combine these layers for different results. I just stuck to one of each layer for this image.

Tint and Grain

Now that our photo is more defined and sharper, we can add the finishing touches to really grunge it up.

Create a new layer and set its blend mode to Overlayd. Pick two similar colors, one light and one dark to paint as a gradient. For this photo, I picked two browns, to give the image an earthen tone.

Fill the blank layer with the gradient. It can be vertical, horizontal, radial, whatever you find looks good. For this I chose a nice horizontal fade. If the color is a bit stronger than what you wanted, just lower the Fill amount to the point you’d like.

The result of the added layer

Now, the image is tinted, and looking fantastic. It’s time to mess it up a little. Go to Filter > Noise > Add noise. Make the noise monochromatic, and set it so somewhere around 30%.

The resulting grain looks good, but it’s a bit too unnatural. A Guassian Blur (Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur) at about 2 pixels smooths it all out, and viola!

The image before and after editing

We have a natural, sharp, dirty photo, and with very little effort!


  1. Add point Subtract point

    Thanks for this tutorial ! Excellent :)

    At the end you say “and viola!”… you met “and voilà”… because what you wrote means “and rapped”…

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  2. Add point Subtract point
    Guitar Loop Pedal (1 Point) October 27, 2010 at 2:07 pm

    Wow that is a cool effect. I am going to try that on my next project. Thanks for making this tutorial.

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  3. Add point Subtract point
    Preston Racette (3 Points) October 9, 2010 at 3:42 pm

    You stuff is tight my man! Keep this stuff comming!

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    Women’s Underwear (0 Points) September 7, 2010 at 7:31 am

    Thanks for this effect – I’ve been looking for something quite like it for a long time now!

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  5. Add point Subtract point
    Roberta (0 Points) September 6, 2010 at 8:54 am

    Thanks Adeolu, have thoroughly enjoyed using this tutorial!

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  6. Add point Subtract point

    Easy to follow and great results – thanks for teaching me yet another simple yet stunning technique :)

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  7. Add point Subtract point

    its a nice approach towards image processing

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  8. Add point Subtract point

    How do you fill the blank layer with the gardient? I can only fill it with back/foreground color, history, pattern, white, black.

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  9. Add point Subtract point

    Well explained :)
    Thank you very much Adeolu.

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  10. Add point Subtract point
    David Hardwick Photography (0 Points) May 14, 2010 at 3:16 pm

    Great way to improve the photo. Thanks for taking the time to post. I will try this out

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    custom gates (1 Point) April 25, 2010 at 10:21 pm

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    Morrocan (1 Point) March 24, 2010 at 8:57 pm

    Simple et très Jolie, ca permet de gagner du temps tout en realisant de belles productions, merci beaucoup pour ton effort ;)

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  13. Add point Subtract point
    mbie grunch bandung (1 Point) March 12, 2010 at 4:47 am

    thank you so much,i’m blind about this edit n stuff,and this is so much helpfull.

    thank’s a lot.

    mbie grunch,bandung indonesia.

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    Custom Garden Gates (1 Point) March 8, 2010 at 2:34 am

    Dude you Rock!. That was the simplest way to make a dull photo look Great. I have all night to work on this and will be putting this to good use. Thanks Again for the straight forward tutorial.

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  15. Add point Subtract point
    ghillie suits (1 Point) February 24, 2010 at 3:08 am

    Great tutorial. I am going to do this to my tshirts.

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  16. Add point Subtract point
    โหลดเพลงฟรี (1 Point) February 3, 2010 at 2:45 am

    Great reading! Thanks for sharing137

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  17. Add point Subtract point
    แจกเพลง (1 Point) February 1, 2010 at 11:56 pm

    Great reading! Thanks for sharing130

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  18. Add point Subtract point
    โค้ดเพลงhi5 (1 Point) February 1, 2010 at 2:03 am

    Great reading! Thanks for sharing125

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  19. Add point Subtract point
    TheAlbinoBaby (2 Points) January 18, 2010 at 4:15 pm

    Thanks a bunch for the tutorial, really interesting stuff in here.

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  20. Add point Subtract point

    great and very helpful tutorial..thx

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  21. Add point Subtract point

    The result is so good. I’ve also found this while looking for grunge effect:
    Not as customizable as this but easy

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  22. Add point Subtract point
    Curtis Copeland (1 Point) October 31, 2009 at 3:53 pm

    Nice grunge photography tutorial! Thanks for sharing!

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  23. Add point Subtract point

    Thanx learned so much from this site. Hi five!!!

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  24. Add point Subtract point
    SB Landscape Photography (1 Point) July 17, 2009 at 12:08 am

    Thanks for sharing, simple but effective.

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  25. Add point Subtract point

    Im so lost, I can’t find the download link…Is this one downloadable?

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  26. Add point Subtract point
    freddy (1 Point) May 27, 2009 at 1:14 pm

    I’m just learning PS and this is great lesson.

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  27. Add point Subtract point
    ShaBlanken (1 Point) May 9, 2009 at 10:37 am

    Terrific tutorial and written to be easily understood! Great job!!!

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  28. Add point Subtract point
    huwaw69 (1 Point) May 3, 2009 at 4:20 am

    Wow great grunge tutorial!

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  29. Add point Subtract point
    Elizabeth K. Barone (1 Point) February 19, 2009 at 1:47 pm

    Really simple, but the results are slick! It’s given me an idea for something. Thanks!

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  30. Add point Subtract point

    simple`great. thanks so much“

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  31. Add point Subtract point

    Incredible, just incredible. Very simple steps that end up in a completely different, more lively, picture.

    Thanks for this, I’ll reproduce it as soon as I can.

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  32. Add point Subtract point


    Yeah, I definitely can see some Nissan family in it I’d have to agree, I’m leaning towards CA18 too, which is kinda cool cause of it being a less-popular engine usually

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  33. Add point Subtract point
    Greg Madden (1 Point) January 4, 2009 at 12:15 am

    I must say, this is a wonderful tutuorial. It has helped me with my design work, and my website banner. take a look at My result PEACE!

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  34. Add point Subtract point

    Thanks for this great tutorial!

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  35. Add point Subtract point
    Justin Bailey (1 Point) November 3, 2008 at 2:51 pm


    I said the same exact thing! At a glance I thought it was an RB25 from a Nissan Skyline but now I’m leaning more towards a CA18 or something smaller.

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  36. Add point Subtract point

    hey, that engine looks familiar… what is that from?

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  37. Add point Subtract point
    Rolf Siegen (1 Point) June 13, 2008 at 11:35 am

    Fantastic. With a little bit of fiddling around i managed to apply this to a person and.. Well it looks awesome. Thank you.

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  38. Add point Subtract point
    ahmad (1 Point) June 2, 2008 at 9:14 am

    همي اصلي خوس قسنگتره

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  39. Add point Subtract point
    Mr Kuzio (1 Point) May 26, 2008 at 6:16 am

    This tutorial is fantastic!

    I have finished just now to try it. It’s great!

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  40. Add point Subtract point
    Blue Buffalo (1 Point) May 23, 2008 at 7:22 am

    Nice effects using layers! I like it.

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    Binesh (1 Point) May 23, 2008 at 2:50 am


    Nice and simple effect.
    Please write another tutorial on the other types of grunge effects you usually see in background designs, using brushes I think.

    Thanks for this one.

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    CJ.H (1 Point) May 22, 2008 at 6:27 pm

    Wonderful! Now I can have some techniques to touch up my not to great camera.

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  43. Add point Subtract point
    Ouchast (1 Point) May 22, 2008 at 3:22 pm

    Indeed simple, with a great result.

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  44. Add point Subtract point
    liam (1 Point) May 22, 2008 at 2:16 pm

    Simple, subtle, great look.

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