Creating retro stamp/letterpress effect


Retro looking lettering and a letterpress effect is in fashion these days. Lettering or lines that look like they were stamped on to the surface and some of the ink didn’t rub of the stamp or press in certain places is one of the looks people are going for. But how do you emulate that in a digital environment?


First we need to find a good texture that we can use to emulate the effect. Any grainy texture will do. I found this texture of concrete using google images.

The texture

Now we need to prepare the texture. First open the image in Adobe Photoshop and desatureate it (image/adjustment/desaturate). Now navigate to image/adjustment/levels (or cmd+L). Adjust the levels so that you achieve a good contrast between the black and white colors.

Adjust the layer

Now open up your illustration file. Select the layer or folder you wish to add the texture to and create a new layer mask.

Go back to your file with the texture, select everything (cmd+A) and copy it (cmd+c). Now go back to you illustration and select the layer mask you created. Now paste (cmd+v) it in to the mask. Everything that is black in the mask is now transparent. Voila! You have your retro effect. Try scaling and moving the textures around to create different effects.


Doing this in Illustrator takes a little bit of image tracing. First use Photoshop to adjust your texture image just like in the upper tutorial and save the image. Create a new image and place (file/place) the previously saved image in to the new file. Now select the image and trace it. It depends on what kind of image you are using you may want to use some of the presets that are available with the tracing options to get different effects. Now expand the image (object/expand).

Now open your illustration file. Select the paths you wish to add the texture to (in my case everything because I only used black paths). Navigate to window/transparency and with your paths still selected create a mask. Unmark the clip box.

Go over to your pattern file and select everything (cmd+A) and copy it (cmd+c). Go back to your illustration and click on the mask while holding alt. The screen will go white, don’t worry. You are now editing the mask. Paste (cmd+v) the texture in to the mask. Scale and rotate to adjust it for you illustration. Now click back on to your illustration to exit the mask-editing screen.

There you go… Adjust the mask if needed by clicking on the mask icon and selecting everything (cmd+A) and scalling and draging the selection around.

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