Cowboy Grunge - Illustrator/Photoshop Tip  E-mail
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Written by Craig Watkins   
cowboy grunge I recently had to design an article lead-in for a motorcycle sportbike freestyle event in Nashville, TN. I wanted something that looked new and hip because the photo I chose to use of one of the riders was really sharp looking, but I wanted it to have a kind of country-western feel to represent what most people think of when they think of Nashville. (I know Nashville people... Nashville is a thoroughly modern city and not all about the country music scene, but I was going for the home run here!) So what I wanted was a combination of Nashville, "cowboy looking" and grunge.

I found an old tutorial somewhere about how to create a wood burned effect in Photoshop, like a brand, and got to work. I abandoned the tutorial about halfway through and just started playing around. Here's the final design I came up with...


i decided early on that a photo-realistic image wasn't going to work with the whole brand/cowboy/Nasville look. I wanted a more solid graphic look. Illustrator Live Trace to the rescue! Here are the steps.

1) I started with my cool picture of the rider.

2) Cut out the picture in Photoshop to get rid of the background and aid in tracing in Live Trace.

3) Save the picture as a layered Photoshop file.

4) Open the picture in Illustrator and use Live Trace. (Make sure to select "Flatten Layer to a Single Image" when prompted.)

5) Expand the artwork.

6) Select the white background with GROUP SELECTION TOOL and then go to SELECT>SAME>FILL & STROKE to select all of the white in the artwork.

7) Delete all white in the artwork. This will leave you with only the black artwork.

8) Select the artwork with the SELECTION TOOL. Copy the artwork.

On to Photoshop!

9) For the Nashville effect I decided to go with a wood texture I found (for free!) from

10) Open wood texture in Photoshop and adjust to your liking. (I made a square document of about 7" x 7" for this tutorial.)

11) Paste the Illustrator artwork into Photoshop as a Smart Object.

12) Add some type. (You can create the type in Illustrator and use the same steps if you'd like.)

13) Make sure to get the layout just how you like it at this point!

14) Create a new layer between the background and artwork and fill the layer with white. Name this layer BURN.

15) Turn off the visibility for the artwork and type.

16) Holding down Command (Mac) or Control (PC) and SHIFT, click on the layer thumbnails for the artwork and type to make a selection marquee for both.

17) Go to SELECT>MODIFY>EXPAND and expand the selection about 10 pixels.

18) Fill your selection with black.

19) Now go to FILTER>BLUR>GAUSSIAN BLUR and set the blur to about 10 pixels and hit OKAY.

20) Next, go to FILTER>STYLIZE>WIND, choose FROM THE LEFT and hit OKAY.

21) Repeat the wind process choosing WIND>FROM THE RIGHT.

22) Go to EDIT>TRANSFORM>ROTATE 90 CW and repeat the wind procees from the LEFT and RIGHT.

23) Go to EDIT>TRANSFORM and choose ROTATE 90 CCW. This should return the layer to the original position and you should have something that looks like this:

24) Change the LAYER BLENDING MODE to COLOR BURN and decrease the OPACITY to 50%.

25) Now invert the layer by choosing COMMAND>I (the letter "i") on a Mac or CONTROL>I on a PC.

26) Turn your type and artwork layers back on, change the BLENDING MODE on the layers to COLOR BURN and set the OPACITY to 80%.
(I added a GRADIENT OVERLAY (white to black) and INNER SHADOW to mine as well. Duplicate the layers to your liking to make them show up better.)

26) On the layer named BURN, select FILTER>BLUR>GAUSSIAN BLUR  and adjust the slider to your liking to expand the brighter color behind you artwork and type and hit OKAY when you have it how you like it.

There you have it! This is not completely an Illustrator tip I know, but Illustrator does play an important part. By creating the artwork in Illustrator and using it as a Smart Object, I have the option to make the image much, much larger if needed without losing any quality.

Hope you enjoyed the tip!

If you did, please tell someone about it...


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