Illustrator Tutorial: How to Create a Retro Grunge Style Poster

In this tutorial I am going to show you how to create a retro grunge style poster using patterns, gradients and brushes in Illustrator. You will also learn how to make a rough grunge texture in Photoshop using only Adjustments Layers.

The whole tut comprises of thirty steps and you will need CS versions of Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop to implement all of them properly.

End result:
How to Create a Retro Grunge Style Poster Final Image

avatar CorneliaMladenova

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Practice tutorial

Step 1

Create a new .ai document with dimensions: height: 2000px, width: 1500px. If you intend to print your final image, choose 300px ppi and CMIK color mode. If not, better set your resolution to 72 ppi and choose RGB color mode as I did for the purpose of this online tut.

Take Rectangle Tool and draw eight rectangles on your art board each one of different width, and length bigger than the length of the art board. It is not necessary to apply my colors if you prefer different colors combinations but here it is my choice:

First Rectangle (from top to bottom): R=217, G=224, B=33

Second Rectangle: R=0, G=169, B=157

Third Rectangle: R=247, G=147, B=30

Fourth Rectangle: R=204, G=153, B=254

Fifth Rectangle: R=199, G=178, B=153

Sixth Rectangle: R=193, G=39, B=45

Seventh Rectangle: R=140, G=198, B=63

Eighth Rectangle: R=194, G=61, B=194

Select all rectangles with Selection Tool and navigate to Object, Group (Ctrl+G).

Step 2

Keep selected the group of colorful rectangles and rotate it using Selection Tool or go to Object, Transform, Rotate, enter -45 degrees in the dialog box.

While the group of rectangles is selected, move them to the upper left hand side of the image as you see on the following screenshot.

Step 3

Now we are going to use Clipping Mask to make the rectangles fit the art board.
Take Rectangle Tool, choose any Fill Color and draw a rectangle the size of the art board. Holding Shift select this new rectangle together with the group of colorful rectangles, right click and choose Make Clipping Mask.
See the next step’s screenshot to get the impression about the resulting image.

Step 4

Keep the masked rectangles selected, navigate to Stroke option on the Control Palette, select Black for Stroke Color and 5px for Stroke Weight.

Step 5

For your convenience in this step I have made invisible all objects created before.

Select Pen Tool and draw a diagonal rectangle as you see on the following screenshot. Disable Stroke Color. Go to Window, Swatches, select Patterns, Nature, Nature_Foliage and select Blossoms from the swatches.
Now your beautiful rectangle will look like made of lace.

Step 6

Position the previously created lacy shape below all objects, i.e. select it and go to Object, Arrange, Send to Back ( Shift+Ctrl+[ ). The result on your art board should resemble the image on the following screenshot.

Step 7

Select the group of colorful rectangles (without the lacy one), navigate to Appearance panel (Window, Appearance), click on the tiny black arrow at the upper side of the panel to call the fly out menu, and select Add New Fill. From Swatches select Patterns, Nature, Nature_Foliage, Tulips Color.
This pattern adds an exotic touch to your design, doesn’t it?

Step 8

Take Rectangle Tool and draw eight vertical rectangles, each one of different width. Set the Stroke Color to Black and Stroke Size to 5px. We are going to add different fill to each rectangle. As you can see on the screenshot, I have chosen these colors:

First Rectangle (from left to right): R=46, G=49, B=146

Second Rectangle: R=159, G=0, B=93

Third Rectangle: R=7, G=100, B=56

Fourth Rectangle: R=27, G=20, B=100

Fifth Rectangle: R=51, G=51, B=51

Sixth Rectangle: R=184, G=64, B=28

Seventh Rectangle: R=99, G=33, B=99

Eighth Rectangle: R=0, G=105, B=88

When ready, select all eight rectangles and press Ctrl+G to group them.

Step 9

Keep selected the previously created group of rectangles and press Shift+Ctrl+[ to send the grouped object to back. See my result on the screenshot.

Step 10

Now comes the fun part. We are going to create text without using Type Tool.
For the purpose select Brush Tool, open the Brush Libraries Menu and select Vector Packs, Grunge Brushes Vector Pack. Grab the first brush- Grunge Brush Vector Pack 01, set Stroke Color to Black and Stroke Weight to 2px and disable Fill color, then paint the word Retro at the upper part of the art board. Try to resemble my result on the screenshot.
Now change the Stroke Weight to 1px and paint the word Grunge at the bottom left hand side of the art board.

Select all the components of the word Retro and press Ctrl+G to group them. Repeat the same action on the word Grunge- select all of its segments and press Ctrl+G to put them in one and the same group.

Step 11

Firstly select the word Retro with Selection Tool, duplicate it (Ctrl+C) and paste it in front (Ctrl+F). Press once Up Arrow key and Left Arrow key to move the duplicated word in upper left direction. Then change the Stroke Color to Cyan.

Repeat the same action on the word Grunge. Move it up and left by pressing once Up and Left Arrow key, then change the Stroke Color to White.

Step 12

Let us add some decoration to the text at the down side of the image. Take Pen Tool (White Stroke Color, 1px Stroke Weight, disabled Fill Color) and draw wavy shape starting from the bottom side of G letter. Go to Brushes pane, select Decorative, Elegant Curl Floral Brush Set, and choose Elegant Curl Brush to stroke the Pen Tool path.

Step 13

Use the same method described in the previous step to add more decorative elements to the word Grunge. Take Pen Tool again (1px Stroke Weight, White Stroke Color, disabled Fill Color) and draw a few more curves around the letters. This Time stroke the Pen Tool curves with Floral Stem 3 Brush from the same Elegant Curl Floral Brush Set.

Step 14

Create one more curve with Pen Tool, this time coming from G letter and stroke it with Floral Brush 11 (Stroke Weight 1px) from the same Elegant Curl Floral Brush Set. With the stroked curve selected, go to Transparency pane and reduce Opacity to 90%.

Use the function of Object, Arrange, Send Backward ( Ctrl+[ ) to position some of the curves behind the letters.

Step 15

Take Pen Tool and while holding down Shift (to keep the line straight), draw two lines. Stroke both lines with Dots Brush (from Elegant Curl Floral Brush Set), use Black Stroke color and 0.75px Stroke Weight (Fill Color disabled).
Position the first longer line behind T-letter of Retro word, and the shorter line behind O-letter, by going to Object, Arrange, Send Backward or Ctrl+[ - press the hot keys twice in order to place the lines behind the black text.

Step 16

Draw another line starting from letter R, but this time use 0.5px Stroke Weight and orange (R=238, G=28, B=36) for Stroke Color. Stroke again with Dots Brush (from Elegant Curl Floral Brush Set).

Step 17

Take Rounded Rectangle Tool (Corner Radius 20px) and draw a small shape placed at the end of the previously created dotted line hanging from letter R. Use cyan for Fill Color, dark purple (R=102, G=45, B=145) for Stroke Color and 9px Stroke Weight.

Step 18

Duplicate (Ctrl+C) the rounded rectangle created in previous step and Paste it in Front (Ctrl+F) then holding down Alt+Shift reduce its size. Change the Fill Color to Green and Stroke Color to Orange, 5px Stroke Weight.

Step 19

Add concentric ellipses and rounded rectangles to the other two dotted lines “hanging” from letters T and O the same way you did it in the previous step. Change only the tools- Rounded Rectangle and Ellipse Tool.

Step 20

This is how your image should look if you have implemented all previous steps.

Step 21

In this step we are going to use one of the vignette gradients to create a really nice effect of circle in the middle and darker edges.
Grab Rectangle Tool and draw a rectangle which covers your art board. Disable Stroke Color. As for the Fill Color, go to Swatches, Gradients, Vignettes, Leather Vignette.

Step 22

Go to Transparency Panel and change Blend Mode of the Leather Vignette Gradient to Overlay.

Step 23

Let us add some relief and texture.

Using Rectangle Tool, draw a new rectangle of any color covering the whole art board. Switch off Stroke Color.

In order to add a new fill, navigate again to Swatches, Patterns, Nature, Nature_Foliage, Leaves Color.

Step 24

Change Transparency of the patterned rectangle to Overlay and reduce Opacity to 70%.

With this step our work in Illustrator is finished.

Select all objects on your art board and group them (Ctrl+G).

Export the file in .png format, i.e. go to File, Export, from the drop down menu of Save as Type select PNG and press Save button.

Step 25

Open your .png file in Adobe Photoshop.

Go to Layer, New Adjustments Layer, select Black and White from the menu. Leave the settings as by default and don’t worry that your image looks B&W at the moment. Everything will be changed in the next step.

Step 26

Press D to set your Fore- and Background colors to the default black to white.

Select Brush Tool, Spatter Brush (50% Opacity) and start brushing in your image while the vector mask of the Black and White Adjustments Layer is selected. Our purpose is to clean the middle area of the Adjustments Layer and to leave the side parts and edges almost intact. It is important to use Spatter, not round brush as the spatter brush gives nice “torn” effect.

On the screenshot I have shown how my vector mask looks after the spatter brushing. In the next step we are going to give it a nice relief due to the Bevel and Emboss layer style.

Step 27

Right click on the Black and White Adjustments layer, select Blending Options, Bevel and Emboss and insert these settings:

Style: Pillow Emboss
Technique: Smooth
Depth: 327%
Direction: Up
Size: 32px
Soften: 0px
Angle: 30 degrees
Use Global Light: checked
Altitude: 30 degrees
Gloss Contour: Linear
Anti-aliased: unchecked
Highlight Mode: Hard Light
Color: #f39758
Shadow Mode: Multiply
Color: #00394c

Step 28

The next adjustment layer we are going to add is Color Balance. Well, navigate to Layer, New Adjustments Layer, Color Balance and change only the settings of Midtones option:

Cyan-Red: -26
Magenta-Green: +2
Yellow-Blue: -100

The Color Balance Adjustments layer must be placed on top of Layers Palette.

Use the same Spatter Brush, size 400-500px to brush while the Vector Mask of Color Balance Adjustments Layer is selected. This time I preferred 70% Brush Opacity.
Erase again most of the middle part and leave the area of the Grunge word almost intact.

On the following screenshot you can see what parts I have erased with the black spatter brush.

Step 29

We need one more adjustments layer to apply in this step, so go again to Layer, New Adjustments Layer and this time select Photo Filter. When the Adjustments dialog box appear, from the drop down menu of Filter option select Sepia and move the slider to 100%.

Grab again a large sized Spatter Brush of 50-60%Opacity and brush randomly on the canvas while the Vector Mask of the Photo Filter Adjustments layer is selected.

Step 30

In order to add more relief to our grunge textured retro poster, right click on the Photo Filter Adjustments Layer, select Blending Options, Bevel and Emboss:

Style: Inner Bevel
Technique: Smooth
Depth: 1000%
Direction: Up
Size: 5px
Soften: 0px
Angle: 30 degrees
Use Global Light: checked
Altitude: 30 degrees
Gloss Contour: Linear
Anti-aliased: unchecked
Highlight Mode: Screen
Color: #fc214b
Shadow Mode: Multiply
Color: #000000 (black)

Step 31

This is the final result.

Certainly you can play with your own settings, brushes and patterns to create even more retro and grunge image.

Good luck and have fun :)

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avatar George55
George55 says:

Cornelia, my friend. Thanks for sharing your tutorial with us, very informative and easy to follow. Illustrator is an interesting program that I should try more often.

(2 years and 206 days ago)
avatar CorneliaMladenova

Thank you so much for the nice comment and support, my friend

(2 years and 205 days ago)
avatar Alan2641
Alan2641 says:

With this detail maybe even I can get something out of the program

(2 years and 205 days ago)
avatar CorneliaMladenova

Thank you very much, Alan

(2 years and 205 days ago)
avatar lchappell
lchappell says:

Wow very detailed, that's a lotta tutorial!

(2 years and 204 days ago)
avatar CorneliaMladenova

Thank you very much for the support, Lloyd

(2 years and 203 days ago)
avatar renchisam
renchisam says:

it is very beautiful tutorial

(2 years and 160 days ago)

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