How to Make a Torn Paper Edge in Photoshop

Create a tattered edge effect using Photoshop CC

Creating a torn paper edge effect in Photoshop is a fairly straightforward process. However, because it requires the use of a small brush, it can be time-consuming if you're applying the effect to a large image.

Instructions in this article apply to Adobe Photoshop CC for Windows and Mac.

How to Make a Torn Paper Effect in Photoshop

Apply this technique to any image element where you want to create the appearance of torn paper:

  1. In Photoshop, open a file that contains an image you want to add a torn-paper edge to. Select the Lasso tool in the Tools palette.

    The Lasso tool selected in the Photoshop toolbar

    If the Lasso tool isn't visible, click and hold the third icon from the top and select Lasso tool.

  2. Click and drag to draw a jagged oval around one side of the image, with one side on the image representing the torn edge and one side extending onto the canvas.

    A jagged selection along one edge of an image in Photoshop
  3. Release the mouse button to complete the selection.

    Make sure the selection goes all the way through from top to the bottom and outside of the image.

    Release the mouse button to complete the selection.
  4. Select ​Edit in the Photoshop menu bar and choose Clear in the drop-down menu to remove the selection from the image.

    File > Clear selected in Photoshop
  5. Repeat the process on the other side of the image.

    Repeat the process on the other side of the image.
  6. Go to Select > Deselect to remove the selection.

    Select > Deselect chosen in Photoshop
  7. Select View > Zoom In to get a close up look at the edges.

    View > Zoom In selected in Photoshop
  8. Select the Smudge tool from the Tools palette.

    If the Smudge tool isn't visible, click and hold the Blur or Sharpen tool and select Smudge tool from the list.

    The Smudge Tool in the Photoshop toolbar
  9. Select the the Brush Settings in the top toolbar and set the Size to 1px and the Hardness to 100%.

    The Photoshop Brush settings
  10. Place your cursor just inside one of the torn edges of the image and then click and drag outside of the image. You should see a fine line drawn out of the image that tapers off.

    A close up view of the torn edge in Photoshop
  11. Continue painting smudged lines like this at random out of the edges of the image. It may not look very impressive at this size, but when you zoom out, you will see that it produces a subtle effect similar to paper fibers.

    Continue painting smudged lines at random out of the edges of the image.

When you are satisfied with the effect, save your image as a PSD file or in your preferred format.

A piece of parchment paper with torn edges created in Photoshop CC 2019

You can add a shadow to the image to give it depth and make it look more realistic.