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Ivan's picture

Burning pages

This tutorial may require a little bit of experimenting to create a realistic burn pattern, but don't get too scared. :)

Start by drawing a pale yellow rectangular on separate layer. Cut out little triangles of different size and shape from it on the sides. Use the Lasso tool and press Alt (Option) to draw straight lines for selection and just press backspace to delete the chips off from your rectangular. You can also make other irregularities to your page to make it more used.

Apply the Filter/Distort/Wave with small wave length and small amplitude and than the Filter/Distort/Ripple with small settings at 50% to distort your perfect page. Experiment until you're satisfied with what you see in the preview window. Apply Filter/Noise/Add Noise with 1px to add some texture to the page with any settings. Alternatively you can also apply Filter/Render/Clouds to have a much stronger texturizing effect, but if you use clouds you'll have to select the right combintion of colors for the light and dark areas and also, you'll have to clean the middle part of the page to get rid of excess clouds.

Now comes the hard part. You need to make a loose selection around the cut triangles, select a medium size Feather, invert the selection (Apple-Shift-I) and at last intersect your selection with the shape of the page by clicking the layer of your page while pressing Apple-Alt-Shift. Now you can create a new layer (Apple-Shift-N) and fill (Alt-Backspace) your selection with a medium brown color. This will give you a general burn effect.

Now you gonna have to go closer to your edges of the page and your triangles and select a smaller Feather and repeat the above described method to fill a new layer with a dark brown color to accentuate on the burned edges. You may want to experiment with different selections, colors and several layers to achieve the desired effect.

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charlie don't surf's picture

Simpler method (looks better too)

Get a sheet of paper and a cigarette lighter. Scorch paper edges and scan it. Adjust scan to suit, or composite the scorches onto another rippled square.

Why are people always trying to digitally recreate effects that are easily achieved with nondigital methods? It reminds me of a Japanese design magazine I bought recently. It is a very expensive magazine and usually full of intense digital graphics trickery. But this issue I bought was entirely about integrating nondigital methods into your workflow. It was amazing, a whole computer design magazine about paper, pencils, watercolor pigments, Scotch tape, etc. And some of the effects would be almost impossible to create digitally. I do a lot of this sort of thing, even before I bought that magazine. Like for example, the custom 404 page on my site. I challenge anyone to duplicate my smeary type with Photoshop alone. I used a water-soluble crayon and a wet fingertip.

Ivan's picture

Thanks for your comment. I agree with you that non-digital effects can look really great. If you post a copy of your version of a manual burned page here, I'll give you a digital version of your error page. Deal? ;)

Balázs's picture

Dont understand you Charlie.
Without a scanner, how should I use your lofty ideas?

I agree, putting real life objects, scans and anything you find around you is pretty good idea. But you can not do that all the time.

Besides, your custom 404 is (pardon me), a joke.

charlie don't surf's picture

sensed, you are correct, my 404 page was done as a joke. It even has a misspelling. But it took me a whole 5 seconds to produce. It will take a lot more effort to reproduce digitally.
My overall point is that artists should use their whole repertoire when producing artworks. An experienced artist knows when to use analog techniques and how to use them in combination with other methods like digital imaging. I've been using Caran D'ache Neocolor II Aquarelle water-soluble crayons for many years, they're not well known even amongst traditional artists. Every artist has their little tricks-of-the-trade and there are many more tricks in the analog world than the digital one. Why reinvent the wheel? Artists have been developing these tricks for several thousand years, starting back when a paleolithic man slapped his muddy hand on a cave wall and noticed it left a handprint.

Anonymous's picture

Does anyone use Painter? It has had an automated burn feature since version 5 (1998). I find it to be a greate program for realistic looking digital effects.

sPECtre's picture

I created a burn layer style, very useful because it is dynamic...
but your method is elegant too, Ivan!

Anonymous's picture


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