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Creating Grunge Effects in Illustrator

By Karl Rosencrants, Shutterstock Contributor

One of the more popular design elements these days isn‘t an element at all, it is really destroying the elements you already have in your design! Simply put, grunge.

We have all seen many 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.

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 Live Trace command in Illustrator, so you will need to have at least CS2.

In this tutorial, we are going to 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 will be starting with.

After starting a new document in Illustrator CS2 (or a later version), select File->Place, find your image, and drop it in the middle of your art board. Select your image, and click the Live Track button along top. Instead of just clicking the Live Trace button, you can click the small flyout arrow next to the button. This will give you a list of Live Trace presets which will give you different results. Check a few of them out. See which one gives you the best looking results. In this instance, I have used the “Detailed Illustration” preset.

I also changed my threshold setting to 80. This is what our image now looks like.

Clicking on the Expand button along the top changes your image file from a raster image to a grouped set of vector shapes. 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. Position your grunge elements over your star and modify the colors or apply different effects to the star and grunge texture to get the look you are going for.

Keeping the elements separate will enable you to easily adjust the elements if necessary.

For a more permanent application of the grunge, simply hold down the ALT key (OPT on Mac) when you click on the Subtract From Shape Area button. This completely subtracts the grunge shape from your star, leaving you with a group of vector shapes.

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

You can view KSR's gallery here.

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