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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Vintage Letterpress Effect

In this GIMP 2.8 tutorial you will learn a quick and easy way to give your typography an ink-stamp-style effect that originated from the old letterpress printing technique.

Letterpress printing is a technique of relief printing using a printing press.Movable type is composed and locked into the bed of a press, inked, and pressed against paper to transfer the ink from the type.

This can result in some texturing, especially if some areas of the printing surface receive little or no ink. Back in the day, this would be seen as a flaw in the print, but now we try to fake this kind of texturing to simulate an aged and nostalgic appearance.

The letterpress effect is created from a texture file. The texture can be anything with plenty of fine grainy detail. Concrete, rust, or grunge textures all work well. For this exercise, I used a rusty metal texture that can be downloaded free from Image*After.

Desaturate the Texture, Colors - Desaturate…, Choose shade of gray based on Lightness. Open the Levels dialog, Colors - Levels…, and use the slider handles to increase the contrast of the image (80, 0.70, 208). Try to generate harsh white details that will represent the paper showing through the ink.

I used the Text Tool to create a layer of text, then added a mask to that layer, Layer - Mask - Add Layer Mask… .

Select all of the Texture layer, Select - All (or ⌘+A), then copy the selection, Edit-Copy (or ⌘+C). You can now hide or delete the Texture layer.

Then right-click the Layer Mask’s little thumbnail in the Layers pallet to make it the target. Paste the copied texture into the layer mask, Edit - Paste (or ⌘+V),  then anchor the layer to the mask, Layer - Anchor Layer (or ⌘+H).

The texture has now been applied as a mask and is rendering black areas of the mask transparent and white areas opaque. Adding a background layer of a solid color will show the effect more clearly. If too much of the text is currently being erased, as is the case here, inverting the colors may result in a better effect, Colors - Invert.

Finally, I added an old paper texture layer to enhance the effect, File - Open As Layers… .

The final effect gives the text a popular vintage look by simulating the pressed ink appearance of those old letterpress prints.

This tutorial was derived from a Photoshop tutorial by Chris Spooner.

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