Rubber Stamp Effect Photoshop Elements Tutorial

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Rubber Stamp, Grunge or Distressed Effect Introduction

Grunge, Distressed or Rubber Stamp Effect in Photoshop Elements
Grunge, Distressed or Rubber Stamp Effect in Photoshop Elements. © S. Chastain

This tutorial will show you how to apply a stamp effect to text or an image with Photoshop Elements. In this case, we will mimic a rubber stamp, but this effect can also be used to create a grunge or distressed effect on text or graphics. I'm using Photoshop Elements 8 for my screen shots, but the tutorial should be compatible with older and newer versions of PSE as well.

Photoshop, GIMP, and Paint.NET versions of this tutorial are also available.

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New Document

New Document Properties
© S. Chastain

To begin, open a new blank file with a white background large enough for your stamp image.

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Add Text

Add Text
Add Text. © Sue Chastain

Using the type tool, add some text to your image. This will become the stamp graphic. I'm just using the word "Stamp" but you can use anything you like. Be sure to use a bold font, and type your text in all caps for the best result. You can make your text black for now, but we'll change it later with an adjustment layer.

The font I used is Cooper Black. If you need to, switch to the move tool and resize and reposition the text.

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Add a Rectangle

Add a Rectangle
Add a Rectangle. © Sue Chastain

Next we'll add a border around the text. Select the rounded rectangle shape tool from the toolbox. In the options bar, make sure the color is set to black, and put the radius to about 30 to begin with.

Draw the rectangle a bit larger than your text so it surrounds it with some space on all the sides. The radius determines the roundness of the rectangle's corners, so you may need to undo and adjust the radius up or down after drawing your rectangle.

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Subtract from Rectangle to Create an Outline

Subtract from Rectangle to Create an Outline
Subtract from Rectangle to Create an Outline. © Sue Chastain

Now your solid rectangle is covering up the text, so we need to chop a hole in it to make it an outline. In the options bar click the button for "Subtract from shape area" and adjust the radius down a few pixels from whatever you used for the first rectangle. In other words, if your first rectangle used a radius of 30, change it to about 24.

Draw your second rectangle slightly smaller than the first, taking care to make it even. You can hold the space bar down before releasing the mouse button to move the rectangle as you draw it.

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Round Rectangle Outline

Round Rectangle Outline
Round Rectangle Outline. © Sue Chastain

The second rectangle should chop a hole in the first, creating an outline. If it didn't, undo, then make sure you selected the subtract mode in the options bar, and try it again.

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Align the Text and Shape

Align the Text and Shape
Align the Text and Shape. © Sue Chastain

Now we need to align the text and shape. Select both layers by clicking one, and then shift clicking the other in the layers palette. Activate the move tool, then in the options bar, choose Align > vertical Centers, and then Align > Horizontal Centers.

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Merge Layers

Merge Layers
Merge Layers. © Sue Chastain

Check for typos now, because this next step is going to freeze the text so it will no longer be editable. Go to Layer > Merge Layers.

In the layer's palette click the black and white icon for a new fill or adjustment layer, and choose "Pattern…"

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Add a Pattern Layer

Add a Pattern Layer
Add a Pattern Layer. © Sue Chastain

In the pattern fill dialog, click the thumbnail to get the palette to pop out, then click the tiny arrow at the top and load the "Artist Surfaces" pattern set. Choose the "Washed Watercolor" paper for the fill pattern, and click OK in the Pattern Fill dialog.

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Add a Posterize Adjustment Layer

Add a Posterize Adjustment Layer
Add a Posterize Adjustment Layer. © Sue Chastain

Once again, click the black and white icon in the layers palette, but this time create a new "Posterize…" adjustment layer. The adjustments panel will open, and you can move the levels slider to 5. This reduces the number of unique colors in the image to 5, giving the pattern a much grainier appearance.

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Make Selection and Invert It

Make Selection and Invert It
Make Selection and Inverse Selection. © Sue Chastain

Go to the magic wand tool, and click on the most predominant gray color in this layer. Then go to Select > Inverse.

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Rotate the Selection

Rotate the Selection
Rotate the Selection. © Sue Chastain

In the layers' palette, you can hide the Pattern fill layer, and the Posterize adjustment layer by clicking the eye in the layers palette. We only needed them to make this selection.

After hiding those layers, make the layer with your Stamp graphic the active layer.

Go to Select > Transform Selection, and in the options bar set the rotation to about 6 degrees. This will make the grunge pattern a little less regular, so you don't see repeating patterns in the stamp graphic. Click the green checkmark to apply the rotation.

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Delete the Selection

Delete the Selection
Delete the Selection. © Sue Chastain

Press the delete key and deselect (Ctrl-D). Now you can see the grunge effect on the stamp image.

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Add an Inner Glow Style

Add an Inner Glow Style
Add an Inner Glow Style. © Sue Chastain

Go to the Effects palette, show layer styles, and then restrict the view to "Inner Glows." Double click the thumbnail for "Simple Noisy."

Now switch back to the layers palette and double click the FX icon to edit the layer style. In the style settings, change the inner glow color to white. (Note: If you use this effect with a different background, you will want the inner glow color to match the background.)

Adjust the size and opacity of the inner glow to your liking. This just softens the edges of the stamp and makes the imperfections more defined. I found that size of 2 and opacity of 80 worked well on my image. Toggle the Inner glow checkbox off and on to see the difference with and without it. Click OK when you are satisfied with the inner glow settings.

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Change the Color with a Hue/Saturation Adjustment

Change the Color with a Hue/Saturation Adjustment
Change the Color with a Hue/Saturation Adjustment. © Sue Chastain

To change the color of the stamp, add a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer (that black and white icon again). Check the Colorize box and adjust the Saturation and Lightness to a red color you like. I used Saturation 90 and lightness +60. If you want a stamp in a color other than red, you can also adjust the Hue slider.

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Rotate the Stamp Layer

Rotate the Stamp Layer
Rotate the Stamp Layer. © Sue Chastain

Finally, click back on your Shape layer with the stamp graphic, press Ctrl-T to free transform the layer, and rotate the layer slightly. Rubber stamps are rarely applied in perfect alignment.