How to recreate the look of parchment

Illustrator Tony Foti shows you the best way to give your digital art an aged, distressed look.

How to recreate the look of parchment

The line-art style of this classic fantasy creature works well with the aged look of the parchment

You can easily recreate the effect of an aged, tea-stained parchment without getting anything wet or travelling back in time. First though, we're going to need some line art, and I've chosen to depict a Chinese dragon. Overlapping its body in some areas can be a good way to push the depth.

For the aged parchment effects, I work with photo textures and overlay layers. You can collect pictures of old paper, coffee rings, tea stains, and anything else you think might emulate the antiquing effect. Once you've collected enough to feel ready, create a PSD and fill the background layer with a dull yellow (or whatever colour you want the paper to be).

With that placed at the bottom, drag and drop the images into Photoshop. Change the layer type from Normal to Overlay for each texture. Adjust the Opacity to make it more or less visible. In addition to changing the Opacity, playing around with the sliders in the levels window can emphasise or mute the intensity of your overlay texture.

With the paper feeling right, it's time to scan in that dragon. Either move the imported image (paper and all) under your texture layers, or separate the lines and place it on top (see my other Q&A article from this issue). Either way, your new drawing should now look sufficiently ancient.

Artist's secret

How to recreate the look of parchment

Rough brushes will help complete the ageing process

Use a rough brush to paint in some soft, roundish shapes, and then use another rough brush to smudge the edges around. The higher you turn up the strength of the tool, the more it will bleed

Words: Tony Foti

Tony is a US freelance illustrator who contributes to D&D and Fantasy Flight Games' Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings lines. This article originally appeared in ImagineFX magazine issue 103.