Get a Rubber Stamp Effect In

Rubber stamp sculpture
Douglas Sacha/Moment/Getty Images

Distressed images, like text that looks like rubber stamps or faded billboards, are popular for album covers, modern art and magazine layouts. The creation of these images isn't difficult, requiring just three layers and a sample image. The steps used to simulate a rubber-stamp effect can be applied to many different situations to great artistic effect.

If you're a GIMP user, this same technique is covered in How to Make a Rubber Stamp Effect with GIMP. You can also find rubber stamp effect tutorials for Photoshop and Photoshop Elements.

Open a New Document

Open a new blank document by going to File > New. You'll need to supply a file size.

Find a Photo of a Texture

Use a photo of a rough textured surface, such as stone or concrete, to produce the distressed effect of the final graphic. You could use a digital camera to take a picture specifically for this purpose or use a free texture from an online source, such as MorgueFile or stock.xchng. Whichever image you choose to use, ensure that it is larger than the graphic that you are producing. Whatever the surface, it'll be the "imprint" for distressing, so a brick wall will end up making your final text look vaguely brick-like.
Whenever you use images or other files, such as fonts, from online sources, always check the license terms to ensure that you are free to use them in your intended way.

Open and Insert the Texture

When you've selected your texture image, go to File > Open to open it. Now, with the Move Selected Pixels tool (you can press the ​M key to shortcut to it) selected from the Toolbox, click the image and go to Edit > Copy. Now close the texture image, which returns you to your blank document.
Go to Edit > Paste into New Layer.

Simplify the Texture

Next, simplify the texture to make it more graphic and less like a photo by going to Adjustments > Posterize. In the Posterize dialog, ensure that Linked is checked and then slide one of the sliders to the left. This reduces the number of colors that are used to make the image. Consider starting with a set of four colors, so the darker gray areas of the image will produce the distressed effect—but the setting may vary depending on the image that you're using.
You want an irregular speckled effect and you can turn the Linked setting off and adjust the colors individually if necessary. When you're satisfied with the distribution of the image's posterized colors, click ​OK.

Add a Text Layer

Unlike Adobe Photoshop, doesn't automatically apply text to its own layer, so go to Layer > Add New Layer to insert a blank layer above the texture layer.
Now select the Text tool from the Toolbox and click the image and type some text. In the Tool Options bar that appears above the document window, you can select the font that you want to use and adjust the size of the text. Bold fonts are best for this work—for example, Arial Black. When you've finished, click the Move Selected Pixels tool and reposition the text if necessary.

Add a Border

Rubber stamps usually have a border, so use the Rectangle tool (press the O key to select) to draw one. In the Tool Options bar, change the Brush width setting to adjust the thickness of the borderline.

If the Layers palette isn't open, go to Window > Layers and check that the layer with the text is highlighted blue to indicate it is the active layer. Now click and drag on the image to draw a rectangular border around the text. If you're not happy with the position of the box, go to Edit > Undo and try drawing it again.

Select Part of the Texture With the Magic Wand

The next step is to select parts of the texture layer and then use these to finally remove parts of the text layer to produce the distressed effect.
Select the Magic Wand tool from the Toolbox and, in the Layers palette, click the texture layer to make it active. In the Tool Options bar, set the Flood Mode drop-down box to Global and then go to the image and click one of the colors of the texture layer. Pick a dark color and after a few moments, all the other areas of the same tone were selected. If you click the thumbnail, you'll see how the outlines of the selected areas are visible and show which parts of the text layer will be removed.

Delete the Selected Areas

If you want more to be deleted, change the Selection Mode to Add (union) and click another color in the texture layer to add to the selection.
In the Layers palette, click the checkbox in the texture layer to hide the layer. Next click on the text layer to make it active and go to Edit > Erase Selection. This process will leave you with your distressed text layer. If you're not happy with it, click on the texture layer, make it visible and use the Magic Wand ​tool to select another color and then remove this from the text layer also.

Many Applications

These steps reveal a simple technique for removing random parts of an image to produce a grunge or distressed effect. In this case, it has been used to simulate the appearance of a rubber stamp on paper, but there are all sorts of applications for this technique.