Getting the Right Brush—Distressing

with 19 Comments

Sometimes GETTING the right brush is more important than knowing what to DO with it.

Adobe Photoshop and Photoshop Elements come packaged with enough “right brushes” to keep you busy for a very long time. But, wouldn’t it be nice to have a clue what brushes are good for what tasks without having to spend hours and hours experimenting?

Rolled Rag - Terry Brush

In this post, I’ll draw your attention to a brush I use on a regular basis—Rolled Rag – Terry.

Rolled Rag – Terry can be found in the Faux Finish Brushes folder. To access it:

  • Get the Brush tool.
  • In the Tool Options, open the Brush Preset Picker.
  • Open the drop-down menu and choose Faux Finish Brushes. (Photoshop: Open the fly-out menu, choose Faux Finish Brushes, and click OK.)


Most of the time I used the Rolled Rag – Terry brush to distress things—like type, shapes, or embellishments.

In the image above I have black type (American Typewriter) on top of craft paper (by Studio Flergs). On its own, the type looks great. I love the font. But, distressing it opens up a whole new world. To achieve this distressed look:

  • In the Layers panel, activate the type layer.
  • In the Menu Bar, choose Layer > Simplify. (Photoshop: Choose Layer > Rasterize > Layer.)
  • In the Layers panel, click on the Lock Transparent Pixels icon.
  • Change the Blend Mode to Multiply.
  • Press the letter D to reset the Color Chips to the default of black and white.
  • Press the letter X to make the Foreground Color Chip white.
  • Get the Rolled Rag – Terry brush as stated above.
  • In the Tool Options, set the Opacity to 100% and the Mode to Normal. (Photoshop: Also, set the Flow to 100%.)
  • Use the Right and Left Bracket keys to change the size of the brush to be around 1/2 the size of the type.
  • On the document, click on the type to distress. Do not drag.

Elements from Sports Mad by Studio Flergs

Like I said, you can also use the Rolled Rag – Terry brush to distress embellishments. This particular technique makes them look like a distressed stamp.

Because of the way papers and embellishments blend together, you’ll want try different settings to achieve the look you’re after.

Here are some more distressing tips:

  • You cannot distress vector layers without using a mask. Simplify (PS: Rasterize) things like shapes and type before distressing them.
  • Lock the transparent pixels of the layer you wish to distress.
  • Try different Blend Modes for the image in the Layers panel.
  • Try different Blend Modes for the brush in the Tool Options of the Brush tool.

Chime In 

This is just one tiny idea in the whole wide world of Adobe. Let me know what you think.

How else would you use the Rolled Rag – Terry brush?

When distressing, what other specific brush within Photoshop Elements do you like to use?


jenwhite-48x48Author: Jen White
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19 Responses

  1. Sherry Johnson
    | Reply

    Hello Jen,
    I am new to digital scrapbooking so be gentle. I’ve noticed in several of the tutorials I’ve watched it says to “lock the transparent pixels”. Why do we do that?

    • Jen White
      | Reply

      That’s a great question, Sherry.
      If you “lock” the transparent pixels on a layer, and then paint on that layer, no paint will applied to the transparency pixels.
      Does that help?

    | Reply

    It would be really nice to see an update to this tutorial…none of the headings apply in 2019…I could not find these brushes anywhere–until I looked at the date. Now they are under the Legacy brushes.

  3. Elke
    | Reply

    I tried and translated . . . and I got it! Thank you for this fine tutorial.

  4. Cheryl M
    | Reply

    This is such a great tip! There’s so much I still don’t know about Photoshop and Photoshop Elements.
    There’s NO PLACE like Digital Scrapper and the talented team to learn so many things!
    Thanks so much Jen for sharing your talent!

  5. DorrieH.
    | Reply

    Jen, You are so talented and I’m always amazed at the little things you come up with to share with us. Nice brush tip. I’ll try to remember it. 🙂

  6. Shirl
    | Reply

    Let’s face it. I am addicted to brushes, actions, and styles. Therefore, this certainly drew my attention. I appreciate your heads up on the appropriate Adobe brush to use and the reason why. I will definitely try this one out. I very rarely use the brushes included in PSE, unless it is associated with a tutorial here. I will just have to pull this into my Adobe and turn it into a PDF. Linda spoiled me in our organization class. Thanks for stirring out brain cells. Hugs. 🙂

  7. Sharron Lamb
    | Reply

    Jen, when I followed your instructions, using the brush tool, the color of my element changed (because of using Multiply). I was using it on a blue element, and it turned dark navy blue. So then I tried using just the eraser with the Rolled Rag–Terry brush (NOT ticking the lock layer box), and got the result I wanted. First off, am I doing something wrong? Secondly, the eraser method seems way simpler. Is there a disadvantage to using it? And BTW, the element I am using is not a vector layer.

    • Jen White
      | Reply

      Hi Shar. Nope. You are not doing anything wrong. Different elements and papers can/will produce a completely different result. Trial and error is about the only way to go. Using the Eraser tool is also a good option. Thanks for mentioning it. 😀

  8. Leisa
    | Reply

    I really enjoy your articles, but I miss the button you used to add where it was so simple to just save the .pdf of your article. That was much quicker than having to copy/paste/save the article.

    Keep on sharing your great ideas/info with us!

  9. Victoria
    | Reply

    Thank you, this is such a great tip. Now I wish these little gems had a pdf button so I could print it out (ok, I know how to do that little work around).

    I’m addicted to brushes they do so many wonderful things.

    • LINDA
      | Reply

      I also love the tutorials. I have many files saved in case I need to refresh my memory, which is quite often!
      If the tutorial does not have a “PDF buttom” to quickly save the file I use the snipping tool in windows.
      If it is more than a one page view, I insert the snipped image(s) into a word document, and save it with the appropriate title.
      To locate the snipping tool in Windows
      All Programs
      Accessories folder
      snipping tool will be inside this folder
      (icon: small scissors cutting paper)
      I pinned mine to the start menu because I use it so often when I want to save a quick image.
      This works well for me so might be helpful to others.

      • LindaHT
        | Reply

        Linda – THANKS for reminding me about the snipping tool; I’ve used it in the past, but forgot all about it until you mentioned it. Soooo useful for saving non-PDF tutorials!

      • Sherry
        | Reply

        Yet another option (in Windows) is the Notebook. That way you can select the tutorial and the comments and put them on a page in a “Scrapping” notebook. This way the URL is saved as well.

  10. Roxi
    | Reply

    I really love how that shoe looks. I’ve been meaning to try this brush for a long time.

  11. Jen (rfeewjlj)
    | Reply

    Jen, this is an awesome idea – can’t wait to try it out! 🙂

  12. Peggy Merton
    | Reply

    Thanks for more great information. So many brushes…so many questions!

  13. Pat
    | Reply

    Wow, I never seem to experiment with brushes. Thanks for the insight.

  14. Sirscha
    | Reply

    Excellent time-saving tip — thanks for sharing! The brushes do my head in too!

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