Photoshop Tutorial: Old Paper

Image © Richard D. LeCour

I often create neat effects in Photoshop, but I just as often forget how to recreate them simply because I quickly move on to other unrelated projects. I began to piece together some neat old treasure-map-like paper yesterday and realized that I didn’t want to forget how to make it this time. Thus, this mini tutorial on the creation of old, burned paper was born.

  1. Create a new transparent image, filled with black. I started with 800 by 600.
  2. Use the rectangular marquee to select a rectangle about 50 pixels inside each edge.
  3. Fill the selected area with white, and deselect
  4. Apply filter -> brush strokes -> spatter, set at a mid-range smoothness and whatever radius looks good to you. I used a radius of 21 and smoothness set at 8.
  5. Using a contiguous, aliased magic wand with a low tolerance, select the white in the middle of your image.
  6. Invert the selection, delete, then deselect.
  7. Rename this layer ‘paper’, and lock the transparent pixels.
  8. Create a new normal layer called ‘background’. Fill it with black, and put it behind the ‘paper’ layer.
  9. Select a medium parchment-like foreground color, and a medium-to-dark brown background color. It will be lightened later.
  10. Apply filter -> render -> clouds.
  11. Apply filter -> texture -> grain, with a low intensity of your choosing, contrast set to 50, and grain type as contrasty.
  12. Create a new color burn layer called ‘burn’, positioned in front of the ‘paper’ layer.
  13. On the ‘burn’ layer, use a medium-sized, soft-round airbrush with a medium brown color to brush the edges. Repeat up to four times, each time with a darker brown color and smaller brush than before. I started with a 100-pixel brush and ended up painting the final black with a 45-pixel brush.

Eureka! The islands and images seen on the example I later added for effect.