How to Turn a Grid Style Layout Into a Distressed, Artsy Layout

I love creating linear, grid style layouts. Be that as it may, it’s easy to change a grid style layout into a grungier, more organic, artsy style layout. For my example I am using a page I created last week. When I started my page I created a simple block layout to showcase a set of 6 photos. When I was done, you can certainly still see the base grid design, but I had a more distressed, artsy style page. Below you will see the simple grid base template I initially created set beside my page as it appeared when I was done with it:



As you can see from the bones of the page I created, my initial idea for the page was pretty basic. The first thing I did after creating the simple photo blocks was clip my photos to the photo spots. I then added an artsy background paper from Jen Maddocks Designs Bliss. kit. Once I had the basics in place I took a look at the page and decided to add a simple white frame to the square closeup images. I added the frames simply by adding the following layer style to the square photo masks:


  • Stroke: Size: 25 Pixels, Color: White, Position: Inside, Blend Mode: Normal, Opacity: 100%
  • Drop Shadow: Distance: 14, Spread: 0, Size: 15, 45 degree angle with a light source on the right, a Linear Burn Blend Mode with an Opacity of 45%
  • Outer Glow: set to the default settings


This is what my page looked like at this point:


Jen Maddocks Designs: Bliss Papers and Elements


I liked the look of my page with the addition of the frames, but I decided to add a little more interest to the layout by distressing the three tall, thin images. I did that by altering the photo blocks I created for the bones of my page. I achieved the look using a variety of grunge brushes. While I could have loaded some grunge brushes to the Eraser Tool and simply erased away parts of each of the photo blocks, I prefer to make nondestructive edits. It’s important for me to be able to change my mind so I don’t use the Eraser Tool very often. Instead I added layer masks to the photo blocks so that I could more easily play around with the look. I’ll walk you through the steps for “grunging up” (yes, I made that up) one of the photo blocks:


STEP 1: Highlight the layer thumbnail of one of the long photo masks in the Layers Panel.


You do this by clicking on the thumbnail of the photo mask.


STEP 2: Add a white layer mask.


You do this by clicking on the “Add Layer Mask” icon (the white square icon with circle in the middle) in the Layers Panel, or, if you prefer, click on Layer > Add Layer Mask > Reveal All (the Reveal All means Photoshop will create a white layer mask). At this point nothing will look any different. (FYI … if you choose Hide All, Photoshop will create a black layer mask.)


STEP 3: Load a grungy or distressed-style brush to the Brush Tool.


You can activate the Brush Tool using Hotkey B. Set your foreground color to black (Hotkey D).


STEP 4: Confirm that the new layer mask is active in the Layers Panel.


You can tell that the layer mask is active when it has a white bounding box around it. If it’s not active, the white bounding box will be around the photo mask.


STEP 5: With black as your foreground color (Hotkey D) begin distressing the photo block by masking out (concealing) portions of the layer mask.


If, like in my example, you have already clipped your photos to the photo masks, you will see the effect on your photo immediately. If you haven’t clipped your photos yet, that’s fine, you just will just see the effect on the photo mask. Now it’s time for the fun part! Just play around. You can change the brush you’re using, change the angle of the brush, change the opacity of the brush. If you decide you’ve removed too much, simply change the foreground color to white and brush back in portions. Play and be creative!


Once you’re happy with the distressing you’ve done on the first photo block, move on to the other photo blocks and do the same thing.


Once you’re done distressing your photo masks, you can move on and embellish your page to your heart’s content. For my layout I added a layer on top of each of the the tall thin photos (NOT clipped to the photo mask) and added a black stroke in the shape of the unaltered photo mask. I put my frame layer styles on their own layers and warped my shadows. I added a little tag and some journaling and a little brush work here and there.


Here’s the final page I created using this technique:


Jen Maddocks Designs: Bliss Papers and Elements


FYI, I created my page using Jen Maddocks Designs’ Bliss Papers and Bliss Elements available at The Digital Press.


If you have any questions, I’d be happy to answer them. Simpy ask away in the comments and I or one of the other Peers at Scrapaneers will be back to answer them. Until next time … happy scrapping!



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  • Lori P. September 16, 2016   Reply →

    What a great idea! Love this “twist” on a simple page to make it more artsy. Thank you!

  • Gwen September 16, 2016   Reply →

    Thank you for the tips in your article. Fun ideas for easy scrapbook pages.

  • willimena September 25, 2016   Reply →

    Thankyou. I was looking for a way to make my multiple photo pages more interesting and this will help!

  • Carol E. Johnston June 30, 2017   Reply →

    Great tutorial, thanks.

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